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Back on the road

I just returned from Verizon Center where the Wizards practiced for a good hour and half to two hours before hitting the airport for a flight to Dallas for tomorrow night's game against the Mavs. First, some houskeeping issues:

Jarvis Hayes was dressed in his practice gear but was limited to peddling on a bike and other light duties. He was released from the hospital after two hours the other night and was lucky to come away from that wicked fall against Cleveland with a headache and a bruised lower back. Jarvis is officially day-to-day and Coach Eddie Jordan said the team will evaluate him tomorrow morning at shootaround before deciding on his status. Jarvis said he wants to play but will leave the decision up to the athletic trainers. My guess just from watching him walk gingerly as he left the building is that he won't go tommorow night but we'll see.

DeShawn Stevenson was limited to light work and sat out of the scrimmaging at the end of practice. Nothing serious, they just wanted to give him another day to rest those legs heading into a week that will feature four games in five days.

As everyone knows, the WIz are 0-4 away from Verizon Center so far and things won't be easy this week with games at Dallas, Houston and Memphis. They were in games at the end in Cleveland and Orlando but couldn't finish, they were blasted at New York and played pretty well until the final two or three minutes in Detroit. At home, where they are 4-1, the Wiz are averaging 112.3 and on the road they are averaging 92.5. One key is Gilbert Arenas. For whatever reason, he's gotten way too caught up in the reffing on the road and has allowed that to affect his overall game. He had that odd opening night in Cleveland where he dished out 11 assists but otherwise looked passive and he was ice cold in New York.

He acknowledged his issues the other night after dropping 45 on LeBron and the Cavs at home. "I've just got to carry over how I was tonight on the road and not worry about the calls and that other stuff. Sometimes, when I'm getting those charges on me and those ticky tack foulsI let that get me out of my rhythm."

The key tomorrow night will be dealing with Dirk Nowitzki, who has been on a roll lately. Dirty Dirk averaged 26.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and was 39 of 42 from the free throw line in the Mavs' last four games - all wins. The Wizards don't have anyone to match him. Last year, Jared Jeffries got the call but he wasn't able to do much with Nowitzki, who scored 25 in the game at Verizon Center in March and 25 in the game at Dallas in February. The Mavs caused the Wiz all kinds of problems with the pick-and-roll. It didn't help that in that game at Dallas, which was on ESPN, Arenas was 4 of 22 with 12 points and six turnovers. Maybe it's Bill Walton but it seems that Gill has some tough nights when these guys are on the ESPN.

By Ivan Carter  |  November 20, 2006; 2:17 PM ET
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You are right -- the Nowitzki match up is going to a tough one for the Wizards. Bruce Bowen has had some success in the past. Perhaps Butler can too? Perhaps try Etan and see if that works. Jamison won't work.
On the ESPN broadcast of the Detroit game, ESPN had an interview with Gilbert where he talked about how he scouts refs to learn their tendencies. It's admirable that Gilbert would go to such lengths to prepare, but it seems it has thrown him off. He has been too ref-focused. At times it seems he is playing against the refs -- making certain moves because he thinks the refs will make a certain call -- rather than competing against the other team. I don't recall him ever committing so many offensive charges, perhaps because he thinks a particular ref will give him that call. Hopefully he will learn how to incorporate what he learns in his scouting in an effective way that doesn't throw his game off.

Posted by: Ed | November 20, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Hate to say it, Wizards is a local team. I have a bad feeling everything they are on espn or abc. I see them winning in Dallas, but Yao Ming is too much for them in the next game.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 20, 2006 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was interesting that, unlike the first Cleveland game when Jordan went small and that small team lost ground on the Cavs, Jordan played Thomas or Haywood throughout the game until the game was decided.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 20, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm more nervous about Dallas than Houston. Dirk is too much of a matchup problem for the Wiz, whereas we can at least try Etan/Haywood on Yao and Caron on T-Mac. Who can guard Dirk?

Posted by: tp | November 20, 2006 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Has Jamison said anything about his inconsistency? He's a lot like early last year, when some night's he's really really off. I know Arenas is the key but Jamison needs to stop these 3-16 or whatever nights as well.

Posted by: Jake | November 20, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I think we have enough evidence to indicate that we have no idea how the Wizards will play night in and night out. We are a soft jump shooting team that gives up too many easy shots. We hit them, we compete, we miss, we stop playing good D and get beat.

Kind of frustrating.

Posted by: Bernard King | November 20, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I saw real signs of progress in the Detroit game (I did not see the Clev. game). They really ran the offense and didn't settle for long jump shots. Even though they lost, if they played like that every game, they would win many more than they would lose. The problem is that they do not have a point guard who is committed to running the offense, and who will impose that discipline on the others. In fact the top three guys are not committed to running the offense -- instead, that discipline has to come from the coach, and that's got to change long-term.

Posted by: Henry | November 20, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

We have killed the Mavs before, hell in that last ESPN game if Gilbert had had even an average night, we would have mauled them.

Posted by: Jumpy | November 20, 2006 4:27 PM | Report abuse

For a professional..Gilbert appears to have some issues. I say "Just play team ball" leave the ref to do his job. What a weirdo.

Not even the analysts nor columnists know how the Wiz will play against any team.
Yes...they use the Princeton system but it looks like Jordan & Co. simply take it a day & game at a time...With what goal in mind?????

Read this blog..most of us sound confused & frustrated whether its 2 games or 50 each year. Where do want to go this year?

All I hear them say their goal is to
"Make Some Noise" or Make a Playoff appearance. In truth, the more aggressive teams..set their goal to win it all no matter what. The Wiz just like "playin ball"

Posted by: Pete | November 20, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

to further Bernard King's comment - I'm begining to see a pattern: When Gilbert is on, the Wiz win. When he's off, consider it a loss.

Gilbert Arenas will be considered an elite player whenever he decides to bring his A-game every night - not just home games.

Also, whenever Gilbert goes into the gym at 3 in the morning to shoot 300 shots, maybe he should bring along Antawn cuz Jamison could use the practice.

Posted by: Bullets Fan in L.A. | November 20, 2006 5:54 PM | Report abuse

To all the Eddie Jordan haters: Don't forget that in only his second year with the franchise, EJ guided the Wizlets to their best record since '79, and their first postseries win since '82. They went to the playoffs again last year, and nearly got over the Cavs. Those were the only two playoff appearances since '97.

I want instant gratification just like the next guy, but this team is clearly moving in the right direction. I say EJ has earned the job--I want to see what he can do if the Wiz get a strong presence inside, and here's to hoping Grunfeld can work his magic. Jordan's a good coach, and he's a good fit for the Wiz (DC native, the players like him, Pollin likes him, etc.). I say he gets at least another season before anybody should be calling for his head.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 20, 2006 6:26 PM | Report abuse

In response to the above comment regarding Eddie Jordan:
If the Wizards are ever going to get "a strong inside presence" to join the team with Jordan as coach, it will have to be via trade or the draft. It might be difficult to get a good free agent center to sign with the Wizards, because it's likely known in the league that centers on Jordan's teams don't get substantial minutes. Players in the league know what's up.

Posted by: Eduardo | November 20, 2006 6:57 PM | Report abuse

""I'm more nervous about Dallas than Houston.""

Actually the Wiz always seem to play Dallas well, but seem to play Houston horribly. They don't matchup well with McGrady/Yao.

Who does matchup with Nowitzki? We can take them.

Ivan, the thing about Glibert is true on the road with the calls. He's too talented for that.

I wish they could play on the road the way they do at home. Stevenson had a real good game Saturday night and Jordan cut down Ruffin's minutes(thank goodness).

They really surprised me Saturday night. Glad we caught Cleveland on back to back night as well.

BK is correct in his above post, but at least they play well at home.

Jamison is absolutely horrid defensively, Lebron went right around him like he was nothing a couple times ala last years playoffs.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 20, 2006 7:06 PM | Report abuse

I believe the last team for this franchise to have a winning record ON THE ROAD was coached by the underated (but GREAT) Gene Shue - in '81-82!!!!!!!

Fortunately, he did not get stuck with a soft Tar Heel (read, An-taWn), and got great effort from how many 2nd round guys???!!!

Eddie - have someone - anyone(!) make the other team meet the Paint!

Posted by: Ruland/MahornPicks | November 21, 2006 7:42 AM | Report abuse

I think Gilbert needs to recognize that he is now a superstar. And Superstars draw attention, especially on the road. Every road game so far, he's been double and tripled, but he continues to force the issue and that's where he gets in to trouble. And what makes it worse is if someone else (namely Jamison) is off then we have problems because we have no one (other than Caron) who can get us an easy basket. This is where Songila would come in handy.
And as for tonight's matchups, I'd like to see Jordan go big against the Mavs. Maybe a combo of Etan and Brendan on the court would slow down Dirk.

Posted by: C.Bell | November 21, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

In Gilbert's defense, some of the charges called against him on the road were simply atrocious, instances where the ref made up his mind beforehand to make the call.

The Wiz organization needs to step in and say, Gil, we're sending some video to the head office to show them their refs need to clean up their act. In the meantime, you just play your game, and if you foul out on five offensive charges we'll add it to the video.

Letting Gil just flounder around out there by himself without any support from the organization is probably why he's getting so put off mentally. Dallas has it right -- the owner steps in and does all the whining for them, and the players just concentrate on the game. As irritating as that is, you've gotta admit it gives the players the feeling the organization has their back.

Posted by: Zonker | November 21, 2006 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Gilbert has been one of the more consistant superstars the last 3 years.

Its funny every teams "blog" has these same kind of posts.

Posted by: Jumpy | November 21, 2006 9:35 AM | Report abuse

"It might be difficult to get a good free agent center to sign with the Wizards, because it's likely known in the league that centers on Jordan's teams don't get substantial minutes. Players in the league know what's up."

Huh? A good center/power player would get all the minutes he could handle on this team. Don't get this comment whatsoever. Problem is there are very few to be had in the league.

With no power player being problem one, the second problem is consistency with everything - shooting, defense, hustle, etc.... Someone made a good point concerning Arenas and the refs - on the road he has a I'm going to the hole at all costs mentality and he has three guys on the other team on D watching his every move. Charge!!! Draw the attention Gil and get the assist, but know they are waiting for you to make a move.

Finally, Etan Thomas for somebody who is supposed to be a hustle player is often very lackadaisical. I am getting tired of his act. He was fired up after the fight with Brendan and player perhaps his best game ever against Orlando the next night, but he plays with that kind of emmotion almost never. His is big and strong and should be felt at least on the boards EVERY game. I am not a Haywood lover either, but at least he gives you length and a little more offense. However, neither is going to be a key cog in a championship team unless Etan keeps his fire burning then perhaps he could be.

Posted by: Robert Phillips | November 21, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps I should have written "Haywood fan" and not "Haywood lover"

Just had a final thought that has also bugged me about this team. Jarvis Hayes is starting to be an overrated player if that's possible for someone who is hurt as often as he has been. He may make 100 straight shots in practice and he has a nice looking shot, but he makes nothing in games and he often gets pretty wide open looks. He has shot less than 40% for his NBA career and is shooting at a 33% clip so far this year. His 3 pt shooting is a not so great 32% for his career and 18% so far this year. Compare this to his college career 47% shooting percentage and you can see that he was a good college "shooter", but is not good enough to be called a "shooter" in the NBA to this point.

FYI, I was surprised to see that Antwan is shooting 46% to Gilbert's 42% so he is not shooting as poorly as I and others thought. Must be all those flip shots he makes around the basket bc his outside shot has failed him thus far this year!

Posted by: Robert Phillips | November 21, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Jarvis has been forcing shots. You can tell sometimes when he catches the ball that he is going to shoot it no matter what, and unfortunately, that proves correct. As a free agent at the end of the year, and I believe he mentioned something at the beginning of the year about wanting to shoot for 6th man of the year, he may feel that he needs to come off the bench and light it up. If he just focused on being a complete player and shooting only when he has a good opportunity, his percentages would go way up. He is a good shooter, but even good shooters brick them when taking horrible shots.

Posted by: Jerry | November 21, 2006 2:00 PM | Report abuse

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