- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

RICHMOND — For the Washington Wizards, the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is apt after their August acquisition of DeShawn Stevenson.

The Wizards, who broke training camp last night at Siegel Center, signed Stevenson, 25, for the veteran’s minimum of $932,000 soon after his former team, Orlando, withdrew a $10 million offer.

It was a surprising move considering Stevenson started all 82 games last season — one of just 12 players to do so.

But Stevenson — whom the Magic will try to replace this season with journeyman Keith Bogans and rookie J.J. Redick — is happy in his new surroundings. His teammates share the sentiment.

“We got him for pennies,” says Gilbert Arenas, who has known Stevenson since their high schools days in California. “You get a guy who is a starter who can give you 10 to 15 points on any night, and you get him for nothing. It’s our gain. We’ve gotten another starter.”

During training camp Stevenson often played on the same unit with starters Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Etan Thomas, who is battling Brendan Haywood for the starting center spot.

But just like last season — when the Wizards brought in an accomplished free agent guard in Antonio Daniels — Stevenson isn’t worried about whether he’s going to start. Instead, he’s focusing on his role as a defensive stopper. On many nights he will draw the responsibility of shutting down the opponent’s best shooting guard.

“That’s the first thing [president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld] talked to me about when he brought me here,” Stevenson said. “He talked to me about my defensive presence. I can score the ball and average double figures, but this team has three big scorers with Caron, Antawn and Gilbert. What they really need is someone to go out there and take some hard fouls, play defense and make it hard on two guards. I’ll put that on my back.”

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said Stevenson made the biggest impact of any player in camp “from a defensive standpoint.”

“We know what he can do,” Jordan said. “And he’s showing it out here.”

Stevenson ultimately fired his agent, Rob Pelinka, after negotiations failed in Orlando. He replaced him with Mark Bartelstein. But Stevenson still believes rejecting Orlando’s three-year, $10 million extension offer was the best decision he could have made.

“To me it’s not frustrating because I’m 25 and I’ve got seven years in the league,” said Stevenson, the 23rd pick overall in the 2000 draft. “I’m still young. People think that I’m old, not knowing that I came out of high school. Twenty-five is not too far removed from college, so I’m going to make the money up. I’m a good player. If I wasn’t a good player, I’d be over here frustrated and stuff like that. But my basketball skills will take over. Everything happens for a reason. I’m in an awesome situation.”

Arenas isn’t the only Wizards player to have a long relationship with Stevenson. During the summer before Butler’s rookie season in 2002, he played against Stevenson during workouts at a Los Angeles Boys & Girls club.

“We went at it hard just about every day for two months,” Butler recalled yesterday. “He plays hard, and he plays basketball the right way. He’s been around the block a couple of times, and he’s just trying to win a championship. I’m glad to have him on my team now, especially since I already know what it’s like to play against him.”

Notes — The Wizards broke camp with 18 players on the roster. They likely will cut that down to 15 before or after their preseason game tomorrow with Toronto at Verizon Center. … The Wizards ended camp by scrimmaging in front of 2,300 fans.

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