Empty road trip
So here's what I learned on this winless three game road trip while following your mighty 4-8 Washington Wizards:
1. The Dallas Mavericks are legit. If you put a gun to my head and made me pick a team to win it all, the Mavs are the pick. Dirk is the toughest individual matchup in the league and that team has nice depth. And they're getting Josh Howard back. Watch out.
2. Beale Street in Memphis is not the worst place to be on Thanksgiving night. Let's just say that the good folks in Memphis know how to tear a club up. Good times.
3. The Wizards are a total mystery to me, your faithful beat writer. I came out of camp seeing 45 to 50 wins and it is still early but what I've seen so far is disturbing. This team should have come out of this trip 1-2 at worst. They were rolled by Dallas, didn't come to play until it was too late at Houston and pretty much sleepwalked at Memphis. Gilbert Arenas remains an unsolvable riddle. As brilliant as he was in last Saturday's win over Cleveland when he dropped 45 points with ease, he was that lousy during this trip.
He again allowed himself to get too caught up in what the referees were calling or not calling, his shot was nowhere to be found and his defense was about as stiff as the Polish army in 1939. After last night's game, Gilbert insisted that he will snap out of it. He didn't sound at all like a guy who is losing confidence or anything close to it and he reminded us all that after he went 0-12 at San Antonio two seasons ago, he came out and dropped 40 plus in the next game.
"Ivan, you remember that right?" he asked me after the interviews were over.
"You sure do," I said.
"That's right," he said.
My guess is that you'll see Gilbert locked in and ready to go off tonight against Detroit. From what I've seen the last two years, Chauncey Billups has a brutal time staying with Gilbert so look for a lot of Lindsey Hunter if he gets rolling early. Still, isn't time for Arenas to play with a little more consistency?
The other good news is that this team gets four of the next five at Verizon Center where it is 4-1 so far. Still, were it not for the MIami Heat and Chicago Bulls, we would be talking about the most unerachieving squad in the NBA. This team should not be 4-8 and had you told me back in camp that it would, I would have assumed that Arenas, Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison would have been hurt.
Speaking of Butler: I was just leaving the lockeroom before the game in Houston the other night when I bumped into Butler.
"You ever caught one on Yao Ming?" I asked Butler.
"I kind of got him once my second year but I'd like to do it again," he said.
Later that night, fourth quarter, Wizards needing a spark. Butler shakes someone at the top angle, dribbles right, elevates and boom, throws one down over Yao. That was a nice dunk and it sparked 13-2 run. However, as has been the case so often on the road this season, the Wiz couldn't sustain the momentum. Too many missed shots by players who normally make them.
Butler has been about as consistent a player as this team has had. Scored in double figures every game, has five striaght double-doubles and is putting effort in at the defensive end on a consistent basis. This team needs more of that from everybody.
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