A win is a win but...
There are few ways to look at last night's 96-95 win over the Hawks.
A) The Wizards played pretty lousy overall but were able to "make stops" down the stretch and get out with a win over a young, athletic team with a really nice player in Joe Johnson. Caron Butler's toughness and free throw shooting bailed them out.
B) The Wizards were flat out lucky to win because Atlanta missed open shots down the stretch while locking the Wizards up and making Gilbert Arenas look like a college freshman playing in his first big game.
C) Both teams stink and someone had to win.
Not sure what I'd go with but it was win and snapped that ugly four-game losing streak. Gilbert's problems remain a mystery to me. With each passing game it seems that he's getting more and more caught up in the referees than actually playing. After the game, he talked at length about how the refs are calling the game different from last season, about how he can't "figure out" how a particular game is being called and how he can't wait until January when the refs find some consistency. This is disturbing on many levels but especially so because he's the franchise player and controls the ball most of the time. Basically, I have no idea what he's talking about half the time.
Gil's in his sixth season, he's a two-time all star and this franchise has deeply invested in him so perhaps it's time for him to focus on what's important and forget about the zebras. It's affecting his play and that in turn, is affecting this team. I'll be writing more about this subject for tomorrow's paper complete with Gilbert quotes so please check it out.
The good news is that Butler has been consistent all season and the center combo of Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood has played well lately. Haywood was excellent last night, particularly on the boards and at the defensive end where his length gave Zaza Pachulia problems. Eddie Jordan even kind of praised Brendan when I asked the coach about the big man after the game last night. That's akin to Palestine saying something nice about Israel.
Jordan did get a bust in on me however. As he walked into the media room and stepped behind the podium, he shielded his eyes and said: "Are those lights or the shine coming off Ivan's head?" That was a good one. The dome was shiny after a fresh shave yesterday morning.
James Lang was active for the first time the other night and Jordan even played him for one minute late in the first half. Jordan loves the kid so don't be surprised if he keeps getting looks. Lang had no idea that he would be active last night and had to be summoned from the media dining room where he was throwing down a plate of BBQ about one hour before tip.
That's not a bad thing - the inactive guys do their on court work during pregame and then have time to eat something before throwing on a suit for the game - but it was kind of funny considering that Lang has been fighting to keep his weight down since he checked in at well over 300 pounds last year.
Lang, by the way, is still technically "banned" from the West Coast of the lockeroom, a measure enforced by Arenas several weeks back. However, that didn't stop Lang from popping across the room before last night's game and sitting down next to Donell Taylor.
Andray Blatche: "What are you doing over here?"
Lang: "I got a green card."
Lang also engaged in an interesting conversation with Jarvis Hayes. Lang and Hayes are both from the south but Hayes apparently doesn't like it that Lang claims to be from Birmingham, Alabama.
"You're from Alabaster, Alabama not Birmingham," Hayes said. "That's like people saying they are from Atlanta but they really grew up in Macon. Tell the truth."
"Hey Donell, where's James from?" Hayes yelled across the room.
Taylor, who is from Montgomery, Alabama, didn't hesitate.
"You're just kissing veteran butt now," Lang said to Taylor. "That's all that is."
Lang was also challenged to a wrestling match by Arenas.
"I'll let you punch me dead in my chest one time as long as you let me put you in a headlock," Arenas said.
Lang, who has six inches and at least 60 pounds on Arenas, just looked at me as if to say: "Does he know what I'll do to him?"
I told Arenas that it might not be a good idea to get into it with Lang but Arenas said his new and improved headlock technique can overcome any size differential.
"I didn't have this before, " he said, putting his arms into headlock position. "It doesn't matter how big he is, the headlock will get him."
Etan Thomas, who was getting ready for the game just one stall over from Lang, heard this exchange and got up while shaking his head.
"Headlock," Thomas said. "You shouldn't encourage him."
Funny exchange outside the hallway today. Wizards PR man Brian Sereno was grabbing players as they walked by and asking them to stand in front of a camera where each player wished Abe Pollin a happy 83rd birthday. Pollin turns 83 on Sunday.
Blatche was first. He stood in front of the camera and looked over at Sereno. "Should I smile?" he asked.
Sereno: "Well, it is his birthday."
Don't know why but that was funny. Maybe you have to know Sereno who walks around with a goofy grin on his face about 90 percent of the time, like he's just happy to be alive.
From the you-know-you-are-getting-old file: I covered Atlanta forward Matt Freije when Freije played high school ball in Shawnee-Mission, Kansas a few years back. Shawnee-Mission is a suburb of Kansas City where I covered high school sports for the Kansas City Star as a young punk out of college. Freije was good but I never would have guessed that he'd be in the NBA. Also, Atlanta guard Tyronne Lue went to high school in Raytown, Mo., where I still own a home.
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