CLEVELAND — The Washington Wizards will have Caron Butler back on the court tonight, and he will start. The Wizards will go back to the opening-day starting lineup of PG Gilbert Arenas, SG Mike Miller, SF Caron Butler, PF Fabricio Oberto, C Brendan Haywood.
The Cavaliers will trot out a lineup of PG Mo Williams, SG Anthony Parker, SF LeBron James, PF Anderson Varejao, C Shaquille O’Neal.
Flip Saunders reported no problems out of Butler, and said that he will draw the assignment of trying to limit the production of James.
“He’ll draw LeBron. So you can question how smart he is to come back from injury tonight, saying I’m going to come back and guard LeBron,” Saunders joked.
And speaking of the reigning MVP, before the game he was asked about this matchup and facing Gilbert Arenas, with whom he trained for a few days in Chicago during the summer.
“I’m a big fan of Gil and the way he plays the game,” James replied. “To see him come back healthy is good for the game. It’s good for the NBA and it’s good for the city of Washington.”
The Wizards are aiming for a strong performance here in Cleveland where they haven’t won a regular season game in three years.
They will obviously need another strong performance from Gilbert Arenas and his supporting cast. We’ll see if Andray Blatche can continue his strong level of play.
Saunders said the key for the coaching staff is to continue to pushing the right buttons with Blatche and remind him how much progress he still must make, and what has gotten him to this point so far.
“He just has to continue to play hard,” Saunders said. “When you play hard and do the little things, little things add up to big results. We’ve talked about doing the little things as far as defensively, trying to contain his guy, rebound the ball, being in a weak-side help position, setting screens.”
Saunders was asked if he sees any similarities in Blatche and the young player’s idol Kevin Garnett, whom Saunders coached in Minnesota.
“I hate to put anyone in that because i’ve never met anyone who plays with the intensity that KG plays with. That’s the biggest thing,” Saunders said. “I like that they’re both 6-[foot]-11. … But they’ve both got good ball skills. But I would never want to put [Blatche] in that category.
“He’s a long ways from getting there,” Saunders continued referring to Blatche. “You just have to keep on him. That’s the difference between KG. I don’t think once in my time with him, in 10 years, did I ever have to get on him for either not playing hard or not playing the right way. He was always that self motivated. … Andray, you just hope he gets to that point. So initially, you just keep reminding him of why he’s had success.”
— Mike Jones