- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

Over the last two weeks or so, Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan at some point told the trio of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to be prepared to carry an ever-growing workload as the team gears up for the stretch run

Now the stretch run is here — and the three are ready. Arenas, Butler and Jamison have stepped up their play over the last 40 games and appear more than willing to carry the team’s burden.

“I enjoy it,” Butler said following the Wizards’ third win in a row, 107-99 over Charlotte on Wednesday night. “I enjoy being out there in the crucial part of the game. I want to contribute and do whatever I can to help the ballclub win games.”

Butler thought back to the meeting between the three players and Jordan and said he is happy matters are working out just the way the coach said they would.

“He’s been true to his word,” Butler said. “We’ve been playing at least 40-plus minutes lately. We’ve held it up on our end, too. Guys have just been stepping up — myself, Gilbert, ‘Tawn. We know we have to carry the bulk of the pressure, but that’s good. We want to make the playoffs. We can’t hold anything back. We have to leave it all out there on the court, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

After the trio combined for 94 points one night earlier in a 119-114 win at Charlotte that saw all of them play at least 42 minutes, Jordan hinted he would like to ease their workload the next night at Verizon Center. But while Arenas played only 38 minutes, Jamison (45) and Butler (43) still logged heavy loads.

Nobody can complain about the results: In the last two games, the players have accounted for 166 of the Wizards’ 224 points.

That Jordan is leaning on them really isn’t any surprise. At 66.2 points a game, the Wizards’ Big Three form the most lethal offensive triumvirate in the league.

Since Jordan inserted Butler into the starting lineup 40 games ago, the three have averaged 69.1 points. Arenas has played at an All-Star level, Jamison is knocking down 3s at a better clip than at any point in his career and Butler is clearly comfortable in the team’s offensive scheme.

“Taken individually they are all excellent players,” said Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff, the last coach other than Jordan to take Washington to the playoffs. “Collectively they are going to present a huge problem now, in the playoffs, whenever.”

The Wizards will need another standout performance from all three tonight when they play the powerful Dallas Mavericks at Verizon Center. The Mavericks have the best record in the Western Conference (51-14), and they have owned the Wizards in recent years, winning 11 of the last 14 meetings.

The Wizards fought them hard in Dallas earlier this season only to fall 103-97 after leading late in the fourth quarter. If Arenas (4-for-22, 12 points) had played his usual game, Washington very well could have won.

“We were right there the last time, and I played [terribly] that game, so you know I’ve got some payback to [give] those guys,” Arenas said.

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