Good Hoop today...
The Wiz won't officially scrimmage until tomorrow afternoon but Eddie Jordan divided his team up and let them run in an unofficial scrimmage today and the hoop was as real as I've seen all week. The fellas were really getting after it. A few highlights:
-Jarvis Hayes looked great. After sitting out the second practice yesterday, Hayes suited up and was on his game. In one sequence, Hayes backed Caron Butler down to about 11 feet from the hoop, turned, elevated and made a smooth looking turnaround jumper. Later, he made the same shot from the opposite side of the floor. He also had a play where he dribbled to his left from the top of the key, rose up and knocked down a 19-foot J. All net baby. He also had a nice defensive play where he sprinted down court and swatted away a Andray Blatche dunk attempt. I saw good explosion and elevation there. The word I would use to describe Jarvis right now is "bouncy." Still, there are signs that Jarvis is still feeling his way through some things as one would expect from a guy who hasn't played since last December.
On one fastbreak, he was ahead of the pack when he caught a long pass but he the went up cautiously and missed a layup. Later, in a similar situation, he went up with a left-handed flip shot and missed. In time, if the knee continues to get stronger, he'll go up and throw those down.
-DC native, rabid 'Skins fan and former Virginia guard Roger Mason Jr. continues to help his cause. He seemingly made every open shot in the scrimmage, made smart decisions in transition and played tough defense when matched up against DeShawn Stevenson. Mason's ball handling skills are pretty good as well and that's key because Jordan wants that backup guard to be able to swing between the point and the 2.
-It's hardly news but man, Gilbert Arenas is good. I saw every game last season from a front row seat but it still amazes me sometimes to see how quick and strong that dude is with the ball in his hand. Gil had three plays where he split the defense from the top of the key, drove hard, took contact and finished the play with a layup while drawing a foul call. He made the free throws as well. (No Cleveland jitters perhaps?) Also, even though it was just a training camp practice, Gilbert wanted to win. Badly. Dude was competing hard every time on both ends of the floor. The same can be said of Butler and Jamison. Coaches have to love that out of their stars.
-Antawn Jamison sat out most of the practice after taking a Butler elbow to the side of his head. Antawn said he'll be fine and plans on going today. After practice, as I chatted with Jamison outside the lockeroom, Butler walked past, rubbed his elbow and said: "You got a hard head man."
-There's been a Peter John Ramos sighting. PJ was working against Etan Thomas in the low post on one play and showed something. He caught an entry pass, took two hard dribbles to back Thomas down and then flipped in a nice little jump hook with his right hand. Not bad. Ramos was involved in another pretty play that began with GIlbert driving and flipping a nifty little behind-the-back pass to Stevenson. Stevenson drove hard, drew Etan Thamos and dropped off a nice little pass to Ramos, who caught it smoothly and laid the ball up for 2.
Later however, while working against Calvin Booth, Ramos caught an entry pass, went into an up and under move and kind of hesitated. He then dipped his shoulder and the veteran Booth simply took the contact for a charge. The center situation as I see it: Brendan then Etan then Calvin and then PJ Someone wrote in the comments asking whether the Wiz would consider dropping Calvin, eating his salary and keeping PJ. That's an interesting idea. I guess I could see them doing it if Ramos shows some progress this preseason.
-Antonio Daniels looks lighter, stronger and a whole lot quicker than he did at this time last year. He's also far more comfortable with his role on this team. Remember that at this time last year, Jordan was trying to figure out where to play Daniels and Chucky Atkins. It basically took until January to figure it all out. Antonio also got off to a horrible shooting start and, in my opinion, he began to question himself instead of just playing. Now, he's just playing. He's mainly running the second team at the point guard spot. He attacks the basket like always, makes great decisions in the open court and is a leader. I also like what he's done with his jump shot. Remember how the ball tended to come out flat last year? His shot gave him little margin for error. He's getting more evelation and the ball has better arc on it now. I guess he spent the summer working on rebuilding his J and it shows. I'll talk to him about it for an upcoming story.
-Darius Songaila, still out with a pinched nerve in his lower back, is clearly getting tired of watching. I was checking him out while the action was going on and he looked real anxious. He kept getting out of seat to stretch his back and afterward, he was taking some jump shots on one of the side rims. He's officially out for tomorrow and for Monday's preseason opener and it could be a while before he's on the court again. "At this point, I just don't want to push it and end up missing more time." Songaila hasn't played since returning to the states from the World Championships on Sept. 11. Stay tuned.
After my last blog posting, someone asked whether or not I'm going to continue blogging all season. I will. Basically, I'll drop in daily with takes, observations and tales from the road all season long. The NBA season can really be a long, exhausting and sometimes lonely grind for a beat writer so perhaps this will be like a diary. Let's have fun with it.
And since it's my blog and all, I have to put in a plug in for my alma mater, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Mn. Way back in the day I played a little football at St. Olaf and it thrills me to see that the fellas are off to a 5-0 start heading into tomorrow's big showdown with St. John's. For those of you not familiar with Division III football (I know, just about everyone) St. John's is a national powerhouse. The coach, John Gagliardi is the all-time winner and they regularly thump the St. Ola's of the world like the big boys pound early season cupcakes in D-I. I was on one of the few St. Olaf teams to beat St. John's in recent memory and it's going to happen again tomorrow baby. Led by my boy Horace Gant, the big play wideout from Florida, the Oles are bringing it. Um Ya Ya!
Also, I have to give a real quick shout out to one of my former St.Olaf teammates, Sven Olson. Sven, a huge University of Arizona basketball fan and thus a huge Gilbert fan, is over fighting in Afghanistan right now. Sven, when you read this, give me a shout. Your boy Gilbert looks good so far.
I'll check back in later.
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