- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2009

DALLAS | As coach Flip Saunders said Tuesday night, Gilbert Arenas “did his talking on the court.”

Arenas, who was reluctant to speak to the media in the preseason, fielded questions from reporters after the game but was not interested in talking about himself. When asked about his performance - 29 points and nine assists in the Washington Wizards’ 102-91 season-opening victory over Dallas - he said, “I did fine.” Later it was, “I felt fine.”

But when asked about his teammates - particularly offseason acquisitions Fabricio Oberto and Randy Foye - Arenas had no problem giving his take. His teammates praised the three-time All-Star for making the game easy for them, but Arenas credited Oberto and Foye for easing his load.

Oberto started in place of injured forward Antawn Jamison. Although his final stat line read five points, three rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes, he made an impact in other ways: defending, setting picks and making impressive passes to set up teammates for easy baskets.

And according to the increasingly popular plus-minus statistic, Oberto posted an impressive plus-15.

“He gives us that [balance] that we didn’t have in the past: a veteran big who knows how to play the game of basketball,” Arenas said. “He showed us in the preseason, and he showed it again today. He’s just going to fight and do whatever it takes to win.”

Arenas and Oberto hooked up on a sweet give-and-go late in the fourth quarter. Arenas dumped the ball down low to Oberto and immediately cut to the basket. Oberto made an outstanding wraparound bounce pass that split two defenders and hit Arenas in stride. The guard went up for an easy layup that restored a 10-point lead.

“Fab is the ultimate teammate,” center Brendan Haywood said. “He’s the guy that every winning team needs. He plays hard, practices hard, doesn’t care about his stats, doesn’t care about self, is always in the right place. To be successful, every team needs an Oberto, and we’re just glad we have one.”

Arenas also came away encouraged by the fast start he and Foye got off to in their first extensive playing time together. Arenas and Foye - who scored 19 points in 30 minutes off the bench and posted a plus-minus of plus-16 - rarely played together during training camp or the preseason. Saunders often pitted them against each other in practice and used Foye to spell Arenas in games.

Nevertheless, Foye appeared right at home playing off Arenas. In the second half, he scored 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting and added three rebounds. Arenas’ second-half line was similar: 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting with five assists.

Arenas and Foye possess the ability to play point guard and shooting guard, and each can attack the basket, create his own shot and score from anywhere on the court. In some situations, players with similar skill sets are not effective playing together, but Arenas said the similarities let them work well.

It also reminded him of a special thing he had going several years ago.

“Randy brings that Larry Hughes element back where we can both play [point guard and shooting guard] depending on who’s hot and who’s not,” Arenas said. “I work [one] side of the floor, and he works the other.”

Arenas and Hughes formed the Wizards’ backcourt from 2003 to 2005, and they had been teammates before that with Golden State. Hughes left for Cleveland via free agency in the summer of 2005, and Arenas has never quite gotten over the loss of his running mate.

It appears Foye could fill that role.

“We’ve got balance now. We’ve got a good team. You can’t load up on anybody anymore. That’s the beautiful thing,” guard Caron Butler said. “You’ve got Gilbert at [point guard], a guy who can score 60 on a given night. You’ve got myself, a guy who can score 40 on a given night. … Oberto understands the game, knows how to move the ball and get guys going. … And the bench, we’ve got no drop-off. …

“I love what we’ve got and what we did [Tuesday night], and we’ve got to build off this.”

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