- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The Washington Wizards have not hired a special defensive coach, a concept that was publicly tossed around all summer by management.

And there has been no addition of a defensive stopper. In fact, the Wizards waived goodbye to Jared Jeffries, who at 6-foot-11 arguably was their best defender.

So, taking into account what the Wizards have and have not done over the summer — free-agent acquisitions DeShawn Stevenson and Darius Songaila, although good, are not going to turn the Wizards into San Antonio — where will the new-found emphasis on defense come from?

“I expect to be a better defender now than I’ve been at any point in my career,” guard Gilbert Arenas said. “I have to take responsibility — we all do — for the way we defend. We didn’t want the team to change much — we all like each other — and the front office gave us that, keeping the nucleus together. So each one has to do it. I do. We all do.”

Arenas’ stepping up on the defensive end is something Wizards coach Eddie Jordan has wanted for quite some time.

“He’s already an All-Star,” Jordan said. “He wants to go to the next level and the offensive part of his game is already there. What will make him an even better player — what will make everybody better — is to become a better defensive unit.”

The Wizards ranked 21st in the league last season in points allowed. Arenas, on the other hand, was an offensive machine, scoring 29.3 points a game for fourth in the league. And Jordan isn’t going to ask Arenas to change what he does best, which is score.

But Jordan also knows that the team’s best player giving a little something extra will have a big impact on his teammates.

“They’ll take notice,” Jordan said.

Arenas enters training camp in the wake of an eventful summer.

It began with him and former teammate Awvee Storey getting arrested on a late May night in Miami for disobeying police orders.

Later in the summer the charges against both players were dropped, but before that, there were many things that continued to keep his name in the headlines.

Most notable was his declaration in June that he will consider opting out of his contract in the summer of 2008 if he doesn’t believe the team is close to contending for a championship, something that the front office and the coaching staff contend is the next step.

After a groin injury forced him to leave the U.S. team during preparation for it’s failed run at the world championship, Arenas vented that he was never in the team’s plans.

Arenas recently has parted ways with agent Dan Fegan and is now talking about holding off on hiring a new agent, indicating that he might “handle my own marketing for awhile.” And he is building a house in Northern Virginia that will include a bedroom that will simulate the high altitude in places like Denver and Salt Lake City in order to expand his lung capacity.

But for now, Arenas is happy to be with his teammates, focused on making the team better and reaching the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

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