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.
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