The perfect illustration for last night's oh-so-close 108-107 loss to the Suns could be found in the in the form of DeShawn Stevenson after the game. He sat slumped at his locker, his sore left knee encased in ice, and wore a look of pure exhaustion. It was Stevenson who made a three-pointer at the buzzer but it left the Wiz one point short. Fitting.
Really, the WIz played as well as they could have played given the absence of Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels. Six players scored in double figures, Brendan Haywood, Andray Blatche and Antawn Jamison all posted double-doubles and Roger Mason Jr. hit some huge 3's to keep it close. You really have to give it up to Stevenson as well. The guy is truly hurting but given the team's other injuries, he refused to sit. He's now started 218 straight games, which is the third longest streak in the NBA. He, Jamison and Blatche are the only Wiz who have played in every game this season.
"DeShawn was a warrior," Coach Eddie Jordan said. "A warrior. He is on one wheel and hopefully, we can get him out there (tonight against Golden State). He just likes to play. He's just built that way. He's built to get through pain I guess."
DeShawn: "It's been bothering me for a few days and then I did something to it when I (Suns guard Leandro) Barbosa slipped a screen in the first half. It hurts but we got guys out so I have to suck it up and play. I have to be out there."
Butler warmed up before the game last night and he clearly wanted to go because he had his game shorts on but the decision was made by the athletic trainers to have him sit at least one more game. He will be a game-time decision tonight. Daniels said he he's hoping to return Wednesday night when the team ends the trip against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
I asked Jordan whether team president Ernie Grunfeld has said anything about adding a player via a 10-day and his answer was a quick: "No."
I'll check with Ernie on that but my guess would be that they won't do anything before the all-star break and at that point, Butler should be back, Gilbert will be back practicing or close to practicing and they should know where Antonio is.
Speaking of Gilbert: It's obvious that he is close to a return and it has nothing to do with medical reports or seeing him play. He has had an increased presence in the locker room in recent weeks and before last night's game, it was like old times.
After walking in soaked in sweat following an intense workout on the court, Gilbert was sitting around with teammates, ribbing rookie Nick Young (who simply needs to learn to not engage the vets. Dominic McGuire pretty much has it figured it out - he stays quiet and speaks when spoken to. Not Nick, who loves getting the last word in).
Anyway, Gilbert is obviously feeling like Gilbert again and that is a good sign for this team. The funniest story was told by Stevenson, who was recalling a summer all-star camp he attended in high school. At the time, Stevenson was one of the biggest recruits in the nation and Gilbert was still a relatively unknown kid from Los Angeles.
Stevenson: "So I'm walking around and this dude (Arenas) keeps following me around talking about "You're over-rated. All you can do is dunk." And I'm like: "Who is this dude? Get this dude off me! Why are you bugging me? He was following me around dribbling a basketball the whole week talking crazy like that."
Gilbert was clearly proud of the story because he wore a big grin while Stevenson told it.
As for Nick, the biggest mistake he's made recently was touting his status as USC's second all-time leading scorer. (According to the Wiz media guide, Nick is the school's sixth all-time leading scorer so maybe I miss heard him or he was just messing with the boys. Either way, it made for a funny exchange.) He let that go before the game in Philly the other night in front of Arenas, Jamison and Butler. Big mistake.
Jamison: "Second all-time scorer? That would mean something if the top guy was Michael Jordan or something but USC? I mean, who is the leading scorer?"
Nick (already in trouble): "Harold Miner."
The reaction was fast and furious.
Jamison: "Harold Miner? What's he doing now?"
Butler, with a very straight face: "I can't believe those words just came out of your mouth. Let me give you some advice: don't ever say that (stuff) again."
As this was going on, I made eye contact with Young's ace, McGuire, who just shook his head and kept his mouth shut. "I just leaves those dudes alone," McGuire said. "You can't win."
I'll post in injury update when I get to the arena in Oakland later. Tonight's going to be a tough one because the Warriors have been playing some strong ball of late. Warriors G-F Stephen Jackson will be a game-time decision after rolling an ankle on Saturday night against the Kings. Chris Webber has started the last two games for the Warriors at center.
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