Five days until Cleveland
You readers posted some interesting thoughts on the Etan Thomas/Brendan Haywood issue after I posted yesterday's blog. At this point, Coach Eddie Jordan still hasn't officially named a starter for Wednesday's opener at Cleveland. He'll only say that he has a decision in mind but doesn't want to fill us in yet. I asked one veteran player last night what he thought about the subject and he said this: "I just think that coach wants to use these last few practices before saying what he's going to do. Those guys are going to have to earn it in practice."
My guess is that he'll go with Etan but there are a couple of factors that will make the decision interesting: 1. Brendan has given Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas problems in the past and for this one game, he may be the better option. For whatever reason - I think it's his length - Brendan seems to bother Z and take him off his game. 2. Between the two players, I think Etan would take coming off the bench way better than Brendan.
In terms of the big picture, I'll repeat what I've always said: who starts and who comes off the bench really isn't all that important because they both will play. I see Eddie changing starters off and on throughout the season. As many of you have observed, the Wiz are going to need them both anyway.
There's really nothing new to report on the Darius Songaila front. He spoke today and basically repeated what he's already said. He's disappointed to be injured. He's working hard to get his lower back better. He hopes to be on the court soon but can't set a timetable for a return. As I reported in today's paper, the team is preparing to play without Songaila for at least a month and perhaps longer.
In terms of strategy, the injury has halted Eddie's idea of playing Songaila some at center. In talking with Eddie this summer, I got the idea that he was intrigued by the thought of going small and having five guys on the court who could all score at all times - sort of an east coast version of those Sacramento teams that had Bibby, Stojakovic, Webber, Vlade Divac and Doug Christie.
Songaila isn't huge - he's listed at 6-9, 248 - but I could see the Wiz getting away with having him at the 5 against certain teams. He can shoot from 19 to 20 feet out so that high pick-and-roll with Gilbert Arenas would be pretty nasty. However, it looks like it's going to be awhile before we see what Songaila can do.
I've received a few e-mails and comments getting on Songaila for playing injured this summer and I can understand that frustration. However, I would point out that to Songaila, the World Championships were truly special. Anyone who has been to Lithuania or followed international basketball will tell you how important the sport of basketball is to that culture. I spoke with someone from Lithuania this summer about the national team and he said that folks over there take it more seriously than soccer. They love it and the national team is a huge deal. Also, Songaila grew up playing with a lot of guys on the Lithuanian team so I think he felt a special urgency and maybe even some pressure to suck it up and play.
One more quick thing: Gilbert said that he loves the new Adidas commercial that he shot in Los Angeles on Wednesday. He said it's going to be his own show, sort of like those Adidas adds that ran with Kevin Garnett a couple of years ago. However, he's not sure when the ads will start running. I'll try to keep you posted.
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