Another wild night in Philadelphia for Wizards
I don't think I can come to Philadelphia without something crazy happening anymore. I missed the Wizards' game at Wells Fargo Center in Jan. 5, which was only amusing in that it added another double-digit road loss to the ledger.
But the last time I was in this arena -- which was called Wachovia Center -- Gilbert Arenas played his last game wearing the No. 0 for the Wizards. He flashed the finger guns, playfully shot down his teammates, and figuratively shot down his career in Washington. Arenas was suspended the next day, his birthday, and came back a few months later wearing No. 9 before he got shipped to Orlando.
More than 13 months after my last Philly cheesesteak, I came back and not only does JaVale McGee get into a shouting match with Wizards assistant Randy Wittman during a despicable 117-94 loss, but John Wall rips his teammates for failing to show heart afterward, and the Wizards also make a trade that will bring another former Arizona point guard to town -- and he plans on wearing No. 0.
Yep, only two months after Arenas was traded away, the Wizards have completely moved on by giving new arrival Mike Bibby the number that Arenas made a movement for about six seasons in Washington. Bibby joined the Wizards in a five-player deal with the Hawks that also brought back Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans and a 2011 first-round pick and sent Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong packing.
Bibby has worn the No. 10 his whole career, but that number is hanging in the rafters for Earl "The Pearl" Monroe. The No. 0 was available, so ... Agent Zero, officially, no more.
Hinrich was still hanging out after the game, spending a few minutes with Wizards' coaching staff, then walking around saying goodbye to his teammates and talking on the phone in the back tunnel of the locker room. This has been an incredibly frustrating season for Hinrich, who was "blindsided" by his trade from a playoff contender in Chicago to a rebuilding situation in Washington.
Hinrich never hit his irritation with his teammates' inability to make smart decisions, compete for four quarters and show some fight. He would often ripped off his protective goggles to roll his eyes, slap his hands on his thighs when he became exasperated. But he couldn't hide his happiness as he walked around after the game. It was like he had been granted his freedom.
"I wish him the best of luck in Atlanta," John Wall said. "Kirk's a veteran guy that really helped me and guided me through this rookie season, helped me defensive-wise, and someone I can talk to about basketball. So much he learned as a point guard in eight seasons. That was tough to lose him. It was also tough to lose a guy like Hilton."
Before the game, Armstrong was joking around with his Andray Blatche and Nick Young. The three players then left to head to chapel and Armstrong came back with some prayers answered. He wasn't playing on a lottery team and now moves to a playoff team in Atlanta. Armstrong left his jersey for McGee, who put it on over his clothes before walking out of the arena.
"I was angry. Hilton was my best friend on the team," said McGee, who had heard speculation about the deal earlier in the day. "At least he gets a guaranteed spot on the playoffs."
McGee and the Wizards are much further away from the playoffs, and the difficulty of losing 12 of the past 14 games led to an explosive blowup in the third quarter. McGee was yanked after another lapse on defense led to a three-second violation and he took it out on Wizards assistant Randy Wittman, who criticized him on the bench. Andray Blatche eventually had to step in to get McGee to calm down.
"A lot of guys are starting to get frustrated with the losing streak," Blatche said.
McGee said his anger was rooting in that he's "tired of losing. Tensions build up when you're tired of losing."
The Wizards are hoping that a new influx of talent can break up the malaise of a season headed nowhere. Bibby is a veteran point guard who helped elevate the Hawks to being a playoff team. Evans is a solid, hard-working defensive-minded player who actually spent time with Saunders in Minnesota and Detroit. Crawford hasn't done much for the Hawks, but he dropped 30 points on the Wizards in a preseason game and famously dunked on LeBron James at his summer camp.
"In our situation, we're getting back two veteran players. Bibby has been a starter and can maybe fill what Kirk has done and Mo Evans has been a starter; he's been the sixth-and seventh-man. We get two promising young players that do a lot for what we are trying to do," Saunders said, with the Wizards adding Crawford and a pick that right now is slotted at No. 22.
After blasting his teammates, questioning their heart and will to fight, Wall wondered if the Wizards would make more moves."Until we find five guys that really want to fight, compete and care the whole time, it's really going to be tough," Wall said. "It is tough. I know it's going to be a busy week. There's the big trade for Carmelo [Anthony], everyone else is making trades and Deron Williams just got traded. There's so much stuff that could happen before [the deadline] is over. I'm just going to sit back and watch, just going to see if we're going to get other teammates or if this is it for us. Just trying to finish out the year strong."
At least they don't have to come back to Philadelphia for a while.
| February 24, 2011; 1:52 AM ET
Categories: Gilbert Arenas, Hilton Armstrong, JaVale McGee, John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Kirk Hinrich, Maurice Evans, Mike Bibby
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