- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

CLEVELAND — Before last night’s game, Cleveland Cavaliers players and coach Mike Brown expressed hope the officials would keep an eye on Washington Wizards players after they maintained they wouldn’t give up easy drives to LeBron James.

After hearing of the Cavaliers’ concerns, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said his team isn’t using a hack-a-‘Bron tactic or playing dirty.

“Look, we want to stay in front of LeBron so he won’t get to the paint and leave his feet and finish at the rim,” Jordan explained. “It’s not entrapment. We’re not allowing him to drive, and then we’re going to foul him. We want to do the best we can diligently enough to stay in front of him so he won’t get into the paint. … But at the end of the day, when it’s LeBron in the paint leaving his feet, we don’t want to give him an easy layup. Simple as that. And we’re not going to do anything flagrant. Hopefully we stay professional and just hold him down and make sure he earns it at the free throw line.”

The Wizards were called for 28 fouls in last night’s 116-86 loss, including center Brendan Haywood’s Flagrant 2 foul on James with 6:59 left in the third quarter.

Haywood was whistled for the foul and ejected after going up to meet James in the air and shoving him out of bounds.

It didn’t look much more severe than the Flagrant 1 foul that Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao received for sending Andray Blatche to the ground in the first half. But James said he felt like he was put in a dangerous situation.

“It was scary, honestly,” James said. “That’s the only thing I could think of when I was in the air was ‘hopefully I can get one foot under me so I can break my fall.’ I knew it was going to be a tough fall. I bounced up, though. It was definitely not a basketball play in no shape, way or form.”

Haywood left the arena before the locker room was opened to reporters, but his teammates thought the ejection was unwarranted.

“I think that was in response to Game 1,” Antonio Daniels said. “Obviously, emotions are running high and because of what happened in Game 1. LeBron took off, and Brendan obviously didn’t want him to finish it. It’s a difference between taking hard fouls and trying to hurt somebody. No one in this locker room or in that locker room fouls anybody with the intention of hurting anybody.”

Gilbert Arenas said he didn’t think the Wizards were playing at an overly physical level either and that the officials are calling the game too tight in some aspects.

“When I was young, watching basketball, the fouls they’re calling out there is like golf compared to what the Bad Boys [of Detroit] used to do to Michael [Jordan] and each other. So if this is getting out of hand, I must have been blind when I was watching basketball when I was little.”

Arenas plays

As expected, Arenas played despite spraining his right wrist late in Saturday’s game. Arenas, who played in his seventh game since missing 66 straight while recovering from knee surgery, sat out of Sunday’s practice but took part in the team’s shootaround yesterday morning.

Arenas wore a supportive band but was feeling good enough in the shootaround to accept bets from teammates Nick Young and Andray Blatche that he couldn’t make a series of halfcourt shots.

He entered last night’s game with 5:36 left in the game and missed all three of his shot attempts before going back to the bench with two fouls and 52 seconds left on the first quarter clock.

He came back in the game with 5:08 left in the second quarter but had removed his wrist band. He hit a pull-up jumper but was wincing and flexing his hand as he went back down the court.

Arenas finished with seven points on 2-for-10 shooting in 24 minutes, but he didn’t make an excuse for the struggles.

“No, I’m not going to blame it on the wrist,” Arenas said. “I was shooting fine before the game started. I just missed shots.”

Young takes it in

Young didn’t play in Saturday’s playoff opener and only got in last night’s game for 30 seconds in the first half and again in garbage time with five minutes left to play.

Jordan has said he wants to go with his veterans unless in blowout situations this series, so Young has had to take in his first NBA playoff experience mostly from the bench.

“The atmosphere is crazy. A lot of fans,” Young said. “You hear the boos. So much energy out there on the court. Everybody wants to win. We were battling, hard fouls. It reminded me of a Detroit-Chicago Bulls playoff game back in the day.”

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