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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."

By Michael Lee  |  October 6, 2009; 9:45 AM ET
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Next: Young Starts, Iverson Sits


Right now the backcourt looks way too crowded even with Critt in a protective boot.

Got to wonder if Ernie's going to scanning the league for another deal...

Posted by: flohrtv | October 6, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I believe Stevenson had terrific back problems last year, but how do you explain the rest of his career? He's the most up and down 3 point shooter I can think of. Here's the spread since his 3rd year in the league, when he got significant playing time:


for an overall 34.5% that's deceptive given those wild swings.

Posted by: Samson151 | October 6, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Interesting Hollinger notes about some of our guys and their defensive abilities.
Our possible starting unit...

Nick Young
...Defensively, Young cut his fouls by a large margin but still needs to add muscle and play harder.

Defensively, he has the skills to be outstanding, but his effort is inconsistent.

Defensively, he has great anticipation but isn't much of a help defender and can lose focus and interest.New coach Flip Saunders will have to get Butler as motivated to defend as he is to score; he played reasonably good D in 2007-08 but completely mailed it in last year.

If Jamison has a weakness, it's his defense, and the absence of Brendan Haywood last year magnified that problem. He's a disinterested help defender who rarely blocks shots or takes charges, and quicker forwards beat him off the dribble easily because his lateral movement isn't great.

A solid defensive center who can also score a little, Haywood was sorely missed last season, as the Wizards' defense went from below average to plain awful. His size is an asset both against opposing post players and when challenging shots at the rim, and he holds his own on the glass too. Haywood seems likely to reclaim the starting center job, and the Wizards' defense will be much better off for it. He's not Bill Russell, but his ability to defend the rim has been an underrated factor on a Washington team full of offensive-minded players.

Sounds like Flip is gonna have to earn his money this year.

Posted by: original_mark | October 6, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

The players all had a good training camp, but how did they play individually versus expectations?

As for as I can tell, those exceeding expectations were Miller, Stevenson, McGuire and James.

Those below expectations were McGee.

Blatche and Young seemed to step up their games a notch, which was expected.

Arenas, Jamison, Butler, Haywood, Foye and Oberto seemed to play to form.

Now we get to find out what rotations play best together as a team.

Posted by: Izman | October 6, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Great job by Ernie G accumulating assets. Having depth -- even if it looks superfluous today -- is only a good thing. As we know too well, injuries happen and having talent that can step in an play is a big. We also have tradeable assets if EG wants to do something at the deadline.

Our Time!

Posted by: TheFunBunch | October 6, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I like McGuire in the mix, he could balence out th e starting rotation with much needed D. Gil, Caron, and Antawn can all score...BTH is great at clean up. However, the bench with Foye, Miller (2 starters) Deshawn, BTH and JM or Omberto, there will be little fall off. Each unit will have their scorers, big men, defendes, etc. Just a thought! It will be interesting to see who plays best together, synergy is important.

Posted by: Gooddad | October 6, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I just don't think McGuire can be a starter. Sure he's a very good defender, but he can't do anything offensively. Even his mid range jumper is mush. As a result, the opponent could essentially play 5 versus 4 when the wiz had the ball. That is not a recipe for success. McGuire should pattern his game after Bruce Bowen, who was limited offensively, but nailed that corner 3 ball consistently, making him a perfect compliment to what the Spurs did offensively.

Posted by: ZardsFan1 | October 6, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Jamison lateral movement is terrible, so I dont think he can be a very good defender. That said, plenty of room for him to rotate better, give help more. But I'm not concerned with him becoming a much better defender...what he brings to the table now is plenty.

Caron and Gil should show marked improvement defensively, sounds like they are motivated and Flip is going to push it. Flip is a WINNER and these guys are thirsting for success. Surely they believe in him, and motivation is at the highest point possible for several key players.

Nice recipe Ernie!

Posted by: divi3 | October 6, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I think McGuire's overall game can be beneficial to this team if he gains a consistent mid-range j. He does not need the 3 in the corner like Bowen because he can get to the rim with the ball, something Bowen couldn't, he pushes the ball, rebounds, blocks, and passes off the dribble for dimes.

Posted by: G-Man11 | October 6, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Given Mcguire is definitely one of the team's best defenders...perhaps his PT will be a window into just how seriously Flip takes our yearly "new emphasis on D"

Posted by: divi3 | October 6, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

If DeShawn Stevenson gets major minutes on this team then the draft day moves were a flop and EG takes the blame but maybe the owner is too sick to care. By the way, in their most recent analysis of NBA players,ESPN has Stevenson rated about 250 out of 270 players. My question is then how bad are the 20 or so players that are rated lower than him?

Posted by: dandyhuffman | October 6, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Actually Stevenson is rated 292 out of 306. My mistake. Sorry.

Posted by: dandyhuffman | October 6, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm shocked that DeShawn is getting this much attention as a potential starter. On the one hand, good for him for rehabbing and I'm glad he's back. On the other hand, even in the good years I remember thinking this team is never going to go deep in the playoff with a #2 guard who is this limited offensively. What this is telling me is Foye is being consider only as a point guard and Gilbert's backup, and Nick Young, despite his impressive offseason, must make Flip very worried about his lack of D and his lack of court savvy. This all seems to reflect Ernie G's insistence that the core of this team was leading the East when Gilbert tore up his knee and the Big Three can take us to the Promised Land. I'm not seeing that unless Gilbert returns to a 30 ppg average.

Posted by: jweber1 | October 6, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

looks like the starting 5 is going to be:

Stevenson (to defend the teams best perimeter player)

off the bench?

Posted by: mrhney03 | October 6, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I dont think anything we see now indicates Deshawn will start. He is the vet presence who brings it every day defensively in practice and 'deserves' to be penciled in early ahead of new guys and younger ones. Doesnt mean he will start, nor play big minutes during the season.

Further, having him appear to be leading the pack is also a clear message to team that Flip is serious about playing defense (hello nick young).

Posted by: divi3 | October 6, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Looks like AI won't play. And Young has been given the start.

Posted by: OffseasonChamps | October 6, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

The starting SG spot is wide open and probably will be right up until they tip off on opening day. I doubt anything done and said during the preseason will provide a meaningful clue as to Flip's intentions. He'll probably switch it up every preseason game. It's way too early to tell.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 6, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

After watching Mike Miller play in the Real Training Camp video (93 minutes of really great footage) he is such an instinctive passer, no hesitation about it, the difference between how the offense ran with him and with someone (anyone) else was night and day. Maybe Deshawn is a better defenseman. But Mike Miller can play. Ball movement is outa this world with him on the court.

Posted by: jistutz | October 6, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

If DS is 100%, it is hard to insert NY,AF or MM for a better team defense.The only player that could take DS's job is DM.To me he is a better defender than DS, he is a good passer, he drive the ball and more efective than DS, he is a good rebounder and shoot blocker.I do not think DS 3 point shooting is going to be a factor for him to be a starter.We might see either AF or MM to start for wiz after march.

Posted by: gtefferra | October 6, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Team defense isn't necessarily predicated on one individual's defensive prowess. Stevenson was (arguably) the best individual defender the team had, but that didn't stop the team as a whole from being awful defensively. If Saunders implements a solid team defensive scheme and the players buy into it, he should be able to plug several different players into that slot without major drop off, as long as the player he uses sticks to the scheme and executes it effectively.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 6, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I've been angling for the Wizards to get Mike Miller (or someone like him) for years. Here's hoping he doesn't disappoint. I definitely like what I'm hearing from him about his possible role on the team.)

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 6, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm guessing most people haven't seen the scrimmage highlights from training camp;

I know they're highlights for a reason, and they can't be relied on to display how a player is really doing, but Dom's midrange jumper is right on and he has no hesitation when shooting it. Mike Miller's playing extremely unselfish, and Mike James is actually looking really good (although it was painful watching him as our starting point guard last year).

However, Flip Saunders said Nick Young is going to start tonight. This should be interesting, seeing Nick Young vs Allen Iverson/O.J. Mayo on defense; I've always wanted to see Young pick up the slack on defense, he could be great because he is very athletic and has great length as well.

I think the ultimate ruling will be that Miller starts at shooting guard, I've seen alot of him over the years and specifically in the last 3-4 years he's become less selfish and a much better player in terms of the other aspects of the game. To show some numbers, he averaged 6.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists last year in inconsistent minutes in a T-Wolves uni. He can probably get even more assists with the Wizards, given consistent playing time.

Posted by: tdavelfresco | October 6, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I've said all along that Miller's versatile skill set makes him the perfect fit as a stabilizing force off the bench, esp. given the number of young players likely to be part of the second unit. There's no doubt he's good enough to start for any team in the NBA, but as Saunders himself said, it's not about the best players, it's about the players who play the best together. The starting lineup could still be very effective with someone other than Miller at SG, but the bench may be best served by him in the second unit.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 6, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

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