Mavericks (0-1) at Wizards (1-0)
Wizards starters: Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood.
Mavericks: Jason Kidd, Matt Carroll, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Drew Gooden
Line: Wizards by 1.5.
This is the only time this preseason that home fans can get a live look at the Wizards -- to see if Gilbert Arenas really is okay; if Brendan Haywood can protect the paint as he did two years ago; if DeShawn Stevenson's has recovered from his back injury; and if newcomers Randy Foye, Mike Miller and Fabricio Oberto really fit. The Wizards will finish out the preseason with road games in Toronto, Grand Rapids, Mich., Cleveland, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago. A lot of people wonder why the Wizards are rarely home for the preseason. Well, they are always given the boot in October, so that the Verizon Center can host the international horse show.
Count Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle among those who think that the Wizards should be taken seriously in the Eastern Conference. "With the coaching change, and a healthy Haywood, healthy Arenas, Foye, Miller. They got half a new team available to play. That's a big deal," Carlisle said. "I feel like they are one of the teams that's going to challenge in the East."
Carlisle has coached against Saunders for years and his Pacers lost to Saunders's Pistons in the conference semifinals in 2006. He said the Wizards will be difficult to guard and that teams should sleep on Saunders's defense at their own peril. "Flip's a terrific defensive coach," he said. "Guys who are exceptionally good at offensive strategies are labeled as offensive coaches. But look at his teams in Detroit -- they were tops in the league defensive stats. They are going to be a good overall team. Offense, defense. They added a lot of shooting, which makes them even more dangerous. They are going to be a load to play."
Saunders plans on using Arenas for just 10 minutes on Friday. "I think with Gil, my thing is going in, playing in 10 minutes and that's pretty much it. If he feels pretty good about where he's at, then come back a little bit," Saunders said. "If he doesn't come back it doesn't mean, 'Oh somethings wrong with Gil.' Looking back, after he had seven assists in the first quarter, we probably should've shut him down. His line would've been even better."
Saunders said he plans on using Mike James tonight after James got a DNP-CD on Tuesday. "Can't play all 15 of them," he said.
Saunders wasn't feeling overly sentimental about making his exhibition home debut with the Wizards. "It's a preseason game," he said with a shrug. "When you've coached 1,000 games ... I'm interested in seeing some carryover from Richmond and some of the good things we did against Memphis and improving some of the areas we didn't do well."
Stevenson gets the start at shooting guard tonight. On his way out of the locker room after the team shootaround this morning, Stevenson was spotted wearing a bright yellow Pittsburgh Pirates hat and a pair of matching SpongeBob SquarePants slippers.
The Dakota Wizards, the NBADL affiliate for the Washington Wizards, will conduct open tryouts for their team at Verizon Center on Saturday and Sunday. Registration begins at 12:45 p.m. and the tryouts will be split into three sessions -- two on Saturday (at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.) and on Sunday (at 1:30 p.m.). The Wizards can bring up to 17 players to camp. The open tryouts have worked out in the past. New York Knicks training camp participant Ron Howard made a D-League team two years after showing up.
Wizards co-owner Irene Pollin is hosting the "Sister to Sister's Bike For The Heart" event at Verizon Center on Sunday. The fundraiser begins at 8 a.m. and will raise awareness for heart disease, which is the No. 1 cause of death for women in the U.S. Mayor Adrian Fenty will serve as the chair of the event, which includes a five-mile ride for families past the Capitol and the White House, an arena "spin-a-thon" on stationary bikes inside the arena and five-mile time trial around the city. Registration is available at www.bikefortheheart.org.
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