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Wizards Insider, heading for Chicago

I was standing in the Wizards lockeroom getting ready to talk with Jarvis Hayes after last night's preseason opener when I got a serious case of de ja vu. Hayes had just looked very impressive in a 93-88 loss to the Raptors and showed no signs of limping on that oft-discussed right knee.

Then it hit me, I had the exact same conversation with Hayes following a preseason game in Winston-Salem last fall. Hayes lit up San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, I mean he killed him. He was hitting jumpers from all over the court, was running the floor at full speed and even attacked the basket a couple of times. Afterward, Hayes talked about how good he felt to be back. Then, he woke up the next morning and his knee was swollen and painful.

So, following last night's 14-point performance, I asked Jarvis the difference between this year and last.
"Easy, last year my knee was still hurting all the way through camp. I was still fighting through pain and it wasn't all the way back. This year, it's better. I'm back."
The key, according to Hayes and the team, was Hayes' decision to undergo surgery last February after he re-injured the knee in Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see how Jarvis is feeling today. The team practices from 11 till about 1 and I'll check in with how he's doing.

If you are a Wizards fan, there wasn't much to get excited about last night other than Hayes. DeShawn Stevenson looked pretty good in his first game, scoring eight points on 3 of 4 shooting. He also played some nice defense on Morris Peterson and TJ Ford. Gilbert was Gilbert, breezing his way to a quiet 29 points. He also took his turns defending Ford, who finished 2 of 9 from the field with 8 points and 5 assists in his first game as a Raptor. If you haven't seen Ford live, do so. The little guy is crazy quick.

The kid, Andray Blatche, missed all five of his shots and had five turnovers in 14 minutes but he did provide one hightlight with a really pretty no-look pass to Etan Thomas, who finished the play with a dunk. Blatche is still feeling his way through things but the thing I like is his confidence. Unlike last year, when he looked like a kid right out of prep school, Blatche looks way more self assured. He'll get seven more preseason games and a ton of practice time to show that he belongs in Eddie Jordan's rotation.

I came away impressed by number overall pick Andrea Bargnani, who plays center but moves like a small forward for the Raptors. He wasn't in the game very long last night when a ball kind of rolled out to him at the three-point line. The 7-footer plucked it off the floor and calmly stroked a three-pointer. He also drew a couple of charges on Thomas and Brendan Haywood with some nice body positioning. Toronto may have something going with him and Chris Bosh.

Wiz PR assistant Brian Sereno and I are already huge fans of another Toronto addition: small forward Jorge Garbajosa. The guy looks like he should be playing in goal for the Spanish national soccer team. He has a beard, a perm that sort of resembles a white guy's version of a j-curl and he did this funny hand signal thing whenever he made a shot. Throw in Rasho Nesterovic and Jose Calderon and that's quite the international team they have up there in Toronto.

The team heads to Chicago today for tomorrow night's game against the new-look Bulls. It will be interesting to see Big Ben Wallace in that red and black. Something tells me that the Wiz and Bulls could be duking it out for playoff positioning later this season.

I'll check back later after hitting practice with updates on Jarvis and any potential roster moves.

By Ivan Carter  |  October 10, 2006; 10:50 AM ET
 
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Comments

So what happened to the Blatche that was averaging 26 ppg at one point in the summer?

Does his talent simply evaporate when facing NBA level competition? 26 ppg to ofer five and five turnovers, what gives?

Posted by: Zonker | October 10, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

The difference is Blatche was the first option on summer league and the competition was much lower in terms of talent and team defense.

I wouldn't get to caught up in Blatche's scoring from Summer league, considering he'll likely be the 4th option at best whenever he makes it onto the court during the real season. What the Wizards are looking for is a solid understanding of team defense (don't screw up), rebounding, and someone who's offense (ability to catch, pass, and occasionally shoot or post up) is solid enough to spread the floor and not bog down offensive sets.

Summer league was pure freestyle compared to the offensive and defensive sets Blatche is still trying to understand. This year may not be his year, but next season could be.

Posted by: Wei | October 10, 2006 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Attended the game on Monday....here are my observations:

* Gilbert is the same ol' Gilbert....perhaps a little better on D. He finished the game with 29 points, but had that through 3 quarters. It was a "quiet" 29 in that the points came relatively effortlessly and he seemed to play unselfish....passing up a couple of open shots in an attempt to distribute the ball.

* I think that Washingtonians are really going to like DeShawn Stevenson. I can't believe we got him so cheap! He definitely looks like a bruiser. I really like having two rocks like him and Caron Butler playing next to each other. The Wizards have the strongest 1-2-3 combo in the league. Plus, kid can score....it definitely helps to have a solid #4 scorer after Stealth, C-Butts and AJ.

* I supposed that reports that Butler got stronger are true....but he really looks a lot quicker. And, he's ready to kill teams on the offensive boards. A couple of his wide open shots did look like they had a slight hitch in them.....but when he shoots over close D, he can really get them off quickly.

* Haywood still seems like a complete softie on offense. Our big men still leave a lot to be desired (Etan "The Poet" Thomas, Haywood and Michael "Negative O" Ruffin)....but as long as they work their butts off on the defensive end, that's fine with me.

* 'Twan Jamison will still be solid....just stay healthy man.

* Overall, even though the Wizards ended up losing the game, the first unit look much more cohesive and experienced that the Raptors first unit....especially in jumping out to a 9 - 0 lead with *cough* DEFENSE. Not only could you see the Wiz communicating with points and gestures, but since it was a preseason game and the crowd was sparse, you could hear them. A pretty decent effort and a great starting point for improved TEAM defense. Plus, they seemed to be playing the passing lanes and going after deflections without gambling too much.

* I'm a little weary of the second unit...sans Darius Songalia. I definitely like Antonio Daniels providing an offensive spark and veteran leadership off the bench. An early candidate for NBA 6th Man of the Year.

* Andray Blatche's shot looked very flat...and he looked overall lost (five turnovers). But I think he's just trying to find his comfort zone.

* Last player I will mention....and definitely not the least...is Jarvis Hayes. Now, I knew he could keep the net wet, from when I watched him back in his SEC days in Athens at the University of Georgia. Well, he sure filled it up last night. Looked very confident in his shot. As far as his knee issues.....he looked mentally confident, but not physically confident. The mental part is more important, the physical will come once he gets his court legs.

Posted by: Kyle (DC) | October 11, 2006 9:12 AM | Report abuse

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