- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

CLEVELAND — While the Cleveland Cavaliers finally got the first victory in the LeBron James era with a 111-98 win over Washington last night, the Wizards were demonstrating just how quickly a honeymoon can end.

Gilbert Arenas was benched for the entire third quarter for what coach Eddie Jordan called “disciplinary reasons” after the point guard heaved the game ball at least 20 rows into the stands — apparently because he was frustrated with the officiating — near the end of the first half while the Wizards were rallying to take a 47-46 halftime lead,

Washington started the second half with Arenas on the bench — a towel wrapped around his neck and a scowl on his face — and Chris Whitney playing in his place before a less-than sellout crowd of 17,706 at Gund Arena, which has a 20,562 capacity.

Arenas, who returned at the start of the fourth quarter, finished with 22 points and six assists, said Jordan never specifically told him why he was on the bench when the game resumed.

“I have no idea what happened,” Arenas said. “I didn’t get a technical. I don’t know. I wasn’t told. It’s [messed] up. … But we’re still trying to win a game. That’s the only thing I’m getting out of it. If [I was benched] for throwing the ball in the stands, fine me for that. I’ll take the fine.”

Arenas, who played 29 minutes, felt that had he not been benched, the Wizards would have been celebrating a three-game winning streak and James — the top pick in the NBA Draft and league’s most hyped rookie ever — might still be looking for his first professional victory.

Jordan refused to elaborate about the incident other than saying, “It’s going to happen. It’s part of the growth process. It’s going to happen to every team, and it’s going to happen to different people.”

The sad thing was the ruckus came on the heels of two victories — over the Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors — that indicated the Wizards were jelling ahead of Jordan’s timetable.

One day earlier, the locker room at MCI Center bubbled with optimism after the Wizards had thrashed Vince Carter and the Raptors 86-60. But it took just one day for a controversy to develop.

Despite Arenas’ benching, the Wizards (3-3) had a shot to win at the end.

Cleveland (1-5) built its lead to 16 points late in the fourth quarter only to see the Wizards cut it to 99-92. However, James put the game out of reach, stealing the ball from Arenas and driving in for a dunk that put the Cavaliers ahead 101-92 with just under two minutes left.

“It’s a load off of everybody’s shoulders,” Cleveland coach Paul Silas said of the team’s first victory.

Jarvis Hayes finished with a career-high 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Larry Hughes had 20 points and five rebounds, and Etan Thomas and Juan Dixon scored 12 each for the Wizards.

Darius Miles (career high) and Ricky Davis (season high) both finished with 26 points for the Cavaliers. Carlos Boozer added 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. James finished with 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

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