Stevenson Not Backing Down
RICHMOND -- First, DeShawn Stevenson said he wouldn't do it anymore. Then he quickly retracted. But Stevenson simply couldn't resist a few days ago, when he made a few jumpers in a row and started waving his hand in front of his face. Can you blame him?
This time last season, Stevenson felt a sharp pain in his back so severe that when he dropped down in his defensive stance, he struggled to get back up. "I thought it was going to go away, because I never had that pain before. Then it just kept getting worst," Stevenson said. "Anytime I had my chin down, I had a shooting pain in my butt. I get in my car and drive, it was pain."
Stevenson survived training camp and tried to play, but he was admittedly horrible in the 32 games he played. "I had a streak going, I tried to gut it out. I don't like quitting on my teammates," he said, explaining why he continued to play even though he shot an anemic 31.2 percent from the floor.
He eventually had to surrender his starting job -- and his 275 consecutive starts streak -- and was forced to give up on his season before having back surgery in March. He has returned, after the Wizards paid for him to rehab with renowned trainer Alex McKechnie in Vancouver, B.C. He is also almost 20 pounds lighter after tipping the scales at 245 pounds at the end of last season.
Stevenson is in an intense battle for competition at shooting guard and he got plenty of time with starters Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler on Monday, which may or may not have been a sign of what role he'll play against Memphis in the Wizards' preseason opener in Richmond. Either way, he was elated to get back with the old crew again. "It felt good for me, because I haven't played basketball probably, in almost a year. Last year I didn't get the bond. I know Gil ain't played in two years. To be out there bonding with the guys. That's what basketball is about."
In my story today, I mentioned that Mike Miller also got extended time with the four starters and could also get the nod against his former team. Although Stevenson has had more experience playing alongside the other starters, he doesn't know if it will give him an advantage over the other guys Coach Flip Saunders is considering for the starting job.
Saunders "can have us starting one day, then next day, he can switch the starting lineup," Stevenson said. "We just got to stay focus, go out there and produce on the court."
Saunders hinted that he might use Stevenson depending on how Memphis uses Allen Iverson. "DeShawn's really stepped his game up the past three or four days," Saunders said. "He continues to play and get a little bit better and get a little more comfortable with what he is doing. He always going to compete hard. I've been happy with his progress."
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal had a good story about how perfectly the schedule works out for Iverson, a Virginia native who gets to play close to his hometown of Hampton. The Wizards will be the home team, but Iverson will certainly be the attraction for many of the fans at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Miller, who spent six seasons in Memphis, was asked how weird it would be seeing Iverson in his old uniform. "I don't know if mine will fit him," Miller joked. "But it's going to be strange. It really will. Especially a great player like him, to see him move around. That puts some comfort in me because I've been moving around a bit. You see stuff like that, but that's the NBA, you find a place and you go out there and play as hard as they can. I know he's going to play hard."
If he could tell Iverson anything about the fans in Memphis: "They love basketball. If they get out there and win some games, they are going to love him."
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