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.
"Alabaster."
"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.

By Ivan Carter |  November 29, 2006; 3:01 PM ET
Previous: Wanted: a win | Next: On the road again

Comments

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Hey, Ivan, if I'm ever hanging out in Raytown, Mo., can I crash at your place?
I'm looking forward to your piece tomorrow. The real difference between this year's team and last year's team just seems to be Gilbert. During one game on ESPN this year, he did an interview where he talked about how he is scouting refs to learn their tendencies. On one hand, I think it's a good sign that Gilbert is taking a more cerebral approach, but on the other, it clearly is throwing him off. He may have committed more offensive fouls this year than he did all of last season (Can some stat junkie look that up?). Every time he drives to the basket he appears to be trying to get a 3 point play. Again, on one hand that's smart, on the other he has gone too far. Someone needs to help him put the ref thing in perspective. Who does he listen to on the team that could pull him aside and discuss this? Daniels?

Posted by: Henry | November 29, 2006 4:04 PM

Arenas is really worrying me. I was at the game last night and he really didn't seem involved at all, especially in the first half. The turnovers are killer (that failed lob to Jamison in the 4th? Sheesh) and while I think he did get jobbed on at least one of those two offensive fouls, he's got to keep his head in the game. Except for Butler, it seems like everyone was sleepwalking, which for a team with this record, playing at home, is inexcusable.

Question: Has Eddie outlined his center rotation? To me I see little rhyme or reason as to why Thomas gets sat down and Haywood plays heavy minutes or vice versa.

Posted by: Jake | November 29, 2006 4:07 PM

I'd kill to have Salim Stoudamire in a Wiz uni. I also wouldn't mind having a couple of bigs that can actually pull off a decent interior pass like the Hawks all seem to do effectively.

Posted by: Unsilent Majority | November 29, 2006 4:17 PM

Hey Ivan and Mike,

You guys notice that you were mentioned by the Sports Guy over at espn.com as being one of the handful of nba beat writers that "do an excellent job"?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 4:19 PM

I've thought this for a while... Gil usually uses the "everyone is against me" thing as motivation, but lately, I think he's just getting too wrapped up in it. He's so focused on trying to be a super-star, and getting noticed for this and that... What he doesnt realize is that super-stars just are. Most stars (the true ones anyhow) aren't sweating who's watching them and who they are being compared to, and what kinda treatment they are getting. They are too busy just being damn good. All the love comes after that. He needs to shut up and get his mind in the game.

Posted by: g | November 29, 2006 4:21 PM

Maybe that Colorado air tent thing is inducing the subtle effects of altitude sickness. Maybe Agent Zero should let his brain readjust to sea level before he starts trying to procure elephant man bones and stuff.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 5:32 PM

Wait a minute G... Gilbert Arenas is a superstar. And thats whats really bothering him. Refs treat him like he's just an average player. Look around every NBA related magazine, website, etc. and you will see that everyone has Gilbert ranked in the top 10 among NBA players. If top 10 ain't superstar status i don't know what is. I got the league pass and I watch Lebron, D. Wade, Melo, KG, AI, Duncan, hell even Paul Pierce get calls that Gilbert can't get. Every gaurd that I mentioned pushes off or whenever they get bumped, the whistle blows. Paul Pierce has made a career of pump faking, getting the guy in the air, and then leaning into him to draw the foul! But when Gil does it, its a charge?!? Be for real!! There is no way that a superstar should be tops in the league in fouls per game (I think he averages 4 a game). And as much as I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, I think the league still has bad blood towards the Wiz for the way they treated MJ when he was here. It might sound crazy but I don't see any other logical explanation as to why Gilbert isn't considered a superstar in the eyes of the league (David Stern, actually) and the refs!

Posted by: C.Bell | November 29, 2006 5:34 PM

I am not joking when I ask this, but is there a different issue with Gil, such as stress or a panic disorder complex? Is he OK? I am concerned for his well being.

Onto other players - please sit AJ and feed Caron. Have AJ come off the bench. He's turned into Rex Chapman - the streakiest player going now.

Glad to see Lang get some run - hope he knocks folks to the ground, as he should.

Posted by: BulletsFan | November 29, 2006 6:40 PM

""...I think the league still has bad blood towards the Wiz for the way they treated MJ when he was here.""

Nah, Stern and Abe are buddies.

Two years ago he WAS getting those calls. I personally think all the whining over the last couple years are affecting the way the refs look at him now.

Seriously.

Then look at what happend this past summer.

He just needs to stop and play ball. How can you respect someone who's acting like a big baby?

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 29, 2006 6:50 PM

Ivan, please ask Gil to get rid of the hyperbaric-chamber tent. Maybe that is what is wrong with him...or maybe it's because he is now a family man. I love him anyway but it would be nice to have the old Gil back.

Posted by: Lisa | November 29, 2006 7:36 PM

I think you all are making too much out of this Gilbert Slump, he'll get out of it, all NBA stars go through it.

In case he doesn't, I hope Caron ties his a** up top of a backboard in the Phone Booth until he promises to get his sh** together.

Posted by: Jumpy | November 29, 2006 7:43 PM

Gilbert "whines" as much as the next guy. And why should his actions over the summer have anything to do with the way he's treated now? So what if he came out and spoke about team usa. He said what everybody else was thinking anyway. Its all about the NBA's "big 3". Lebron, Carmelo, and Wade.

Posted by: C.Bell | November 29, 2006 8:59 PM

I agree that we're making too big a deal out of this slump. Certainly, he has been on streaks like this before and he still manages to come around. He has been put into the spotlight this season, and so far he hasn't adjusted perfectly. But I gotta think Gil is gonna get hot sometime in the next month, so I'm not worried. In his own words, things will even out for him. Hopefully, their record will even out too.

Posted by: MJ | November 29, 2006 9:14 PM

""Gilbert "whines" as much as the next guy.""

I dunno CB. Maybe it's just the slump thing, who knows. But he's noticibly different this year.

I kinda liken it to all those guys who get all of the technical fouls. They don't really have to do very much to get one because they already have a target on thier backs.

It might be the same with refs and the foul calls with Gilbert.

He just needs to play ball is all I'm saying. He's too good to be playing so inconsitently.

He's my favorite NBA player and he's not even close to the same Gilbert that I've been watching the last few years.

Saying all of this the whole team is playing inconsitent right now, I blame the coach.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 29, 2006 11:31 PM

The league publicly has said no whining to officials, and privately apparently have told the refs to increase home court advantage by 5 points this year. That has resulted in the game being called completely differently on the road than at home, and Gilbert is understandably confused about what is a charge and what is not. At home a charge is a charge, on the road if he drives to the basket he's automatically called for a charge whether there's contact or not. So I understand his confusion.

With the refs automatically negating his ability to drive to the basket it's understandable he is not doing well on the road.

I stand by my previous statement: the front office needs to start some public whining on Gil's behalf, sending videos to the head office and so on, and then tell Gil we have your back, play your game and if you foul out in the second quarter on five consecutive charging calls we'll add it to the video.

Posted by: Zonker | November 30, 2006 9:12 AM

I think while everyone is focusing on Gil and his issues with charges and referees, we're missing out on two key charges involving Butler. First, when he stopped in front of Lorenzen Wright and got called for a charge and then when Joe Johnson lowered his shoulder into Butler at the three point line. At least Gil's charges were questionable, Caron got jobbed twice, at home. Unbelievable. We deserved that win, and probably by more than we won by.

Posted by: tp | November 30, 2006 10:03 AM

I thought the charge call involving Wright was accurate, but Joe Johnson should have been called for the other one. Regarding the one involving Wright, don't coaches tell their players leading the break to stop at the foul line any more? If Butler had done that, there would have been no contact.

Posted by: Sean | November 30, 2006 10:14 AM

-I love Caron Butler like I love good bbq side dishes

-Gilbert will be fine.

-Jamison is killing us at both ends.

I am all about concise today.

It was mentioned before, but IC and ML got shoutouts from Bill Simmons on ESPN.com. I agreed.

Posted by: Bernard King | November 30, 2006 10:19 AM

Gilbert does alot of pushoffs, and clearing out with his free arm when he drives, but some of the calls have been bad. The one at the end when he was called for charging when the dude was obviously moving and not in position, I mean those refs gotta open their eyes and only call stuff they actually see! New rules or not, either you see it or you don't, just don't guess you think you saw what might of happened! They need to give these refs eye exams!

Glad to hear Eddie likes Lang, I do too. I really want to see this kid get some action.

Gilbert will get it together, he doesn't worry me. He's the man. Overall things are ok, the centers are doing better since they are actually playing thanks to Ruffin getting hurt! Hayes is coming around, AD is solid, Stevenson is getting more comfortable. Caron has been rockin and really stepped up as our leader, he is reminding me of Ray Lewis on the Ravens his effect on the team and the leadership, toughness, attitude, and fire.

Jamison is the one that gets on my nerves! He always talks about we gotta step up and we gotta get stops and we gotta play hard and this and that. Then all game he stands at the 3pt line with his hand in the air. He gets it and jacks 3 after 3. No attempt to drive. He is one of those players that always thinks he looks good trying to pose, and he is soft. He just stands there all night long! He gets some boards, but they are all uncontested if you watch. He never gets in there and bangs! You never see him fighting for position or boards! His defense he steps to the side and lamely swats at the ball as the player runs right past him. I never seem anyone get faked out as easily as him. A player will do standard fake one step to left then go right, and everytime Jamison will follow the fake then continue to take another 3 steps before he is able to stop and change direction! I never seen nothing like it! To have him at PF, possibly the most important team position defensively, is just killing us.

Seriously, the way he is playing, I think we'd be better off with Jarvis Hayes as our starting PF! And that is SAD!

Posted by: Darnell | November 30, 2006 11:31 AM

As much as I've been killing Jarvis Hayes on this blog, he showed me something in that W over Atl. First, his shot was falling, which is a nice thing to see because outside of Ray Allen, he has the second prettiest shot in the league. All of his shots were wide open looks created by dribble penetration so its good to see him knock down shots with his feet set. No more fade away 3's!! But the biggest surprise to me was his defense. He locked up Joe Johnson on their last two possesions and THAT'S the reason why they won.

Posted by: C.Bell | November 30, 2006 12:49 PM

""-I love Caron Butler like I love good bbq side dishes.""

Aww man BK, I'm hungry too. Why did you have to poast that? ;)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 30, 2006 3:35 PM

Err, "post" even.

Posted by: Ray | November 30, 2006 3:36 PM

sounds to me like Lang is posting here under the BK handle

Posted by: charles jones | November 30, 2006 3:49 PM

In response to C Bell, I am inclined to agree with you. I have ofter wondered why everyone seems to be down on the Wizards no matter how good we are. I also kind of believe it has something to do with the MJ situation that occurred here. The Wizards could be undefeated and Charles Barkley would still dog them on the air. I just told a couple of guys that it seems the Wizards get no respect from anyone. I am a die hard fan no matter what and will continue to be a fan irregardless of their current standings. I think they have some talented players but are just having problems getting everyone on the same page. I also wish Gilbert would just play his game and quit talking about studying the refs. He should keep that to himself because if we can read his comments they can too which could not bode very well for him during game times. I just want Gilbert to play with tenacity,intensity and a little bit of nastiness like my man Carron. Gil needs to develope that killer instinct and how to put the dagger into teams. If he does that, the rest of the team will follow. The Wiz's downfall is their niceness. They all need to get that killer instinct by going for the kill each and every game. Take no prisoners and finish off these teams! I have no doubt that they are capable of doing just that.

Posted by: wizfan4life | December 1, 2006 8:00 AM

i wish we had kept Chris Webber. I was mad when we traded him. He was still improving, and he was already an awesome player. It would be like us trading Arenas now for Jalen Rose. It was such a bad trade, and we have not been able to replace his talent at PF since then. I was a big CWeb fan.

Posted by: poptart | December 1, 2006 9:46 AM

To me it seems as if Arenas is forcing to many shots and not letting the game flow through him and then to other teamates. The big thing that i see in the losses is that Arenas is not making his teamates around him better. Give it another month and i think we will be able to catch our stride. Overall i like the potential this team has and Darius will only help when he returns.

Posted by: sportzpimp | December 1, 2006 9:59 AM

Great article as usual. The following statement in the article really, really concerns me:

"The Wizards are allowing 101.9 points after allowing 99.8 last season, but Jordan has been generally satisfied with the defense overall, especially the presence provided by centers Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood. He believes his team will get rolling once it irons out some offensive issues, particularly on the road."

Obviously when he stopped playing small ball the interior defense got better. But let us remember that the reason he plays Etan and Brenden more is due to Ruffin's injury, not a real commitment to defense. On the ball defending, the inability to switch, rotate and get back out to put a hand in the face of jump shooters, is still the achilees heel of the team.

I am confident that Gilbert will come around. I hope that eventually Jamison will realize that he is much more effective down low with his wacky floaters that fall in. His standing around the arc is killing us. I hope that Gilbert feeds Caron more. He is a beast! But unless the D tightens I see little hope. And my big concern is that the coach doesn't seem to really be overly concerned about that.

What is quite strange if you notice it is that when we get outrebound by the opposition we lose! Anybody have any theories on why?

Posted by: BmoreRev | December 1, 2006 5:05 PM

correction...I meant to say that when we get outrebounded we seem to NOT lose. That is very, very strange.

Posted by: BmoreRev | December 1, 2006 7:01 PM

You know, I'm gonna go back (once again) to what Darnell has been talking about.

No matter how anyone else plays the most important person on this team is Jamison.

Why? Think back to his first year here. Things changed when the Wiz got him and they became a playoff team.

Ok, now last year.

He struggled the first oart of the year, then when he snapped out of it the Wiz started winning.

Arenas will get his and so will Caron, but Jamison really is the key if the Wiz are going to win.

Tonight against Charlotte he went 9-15 and had 22 points, a pretty good night. They won convincingly for the most part and if he has a bad game they might not.

I'm STILL not happy about Jordan's rotation/coaching. He FINALLY put some other guys in tonight and good things happend. His hand was forced by injuries or else he wouldn't have though.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | December 1, 2006 11:13 PM

Ivan:
I read your game summary this morning and the opening comment about the boos after Wallace's steal and layup. When watching the game, I thought those boos were directed at Wallace -- a high flyer who usually would throw down a great dunk when so all alone like he was, but because he was in front of visiting fans, decided he wouldn't treat them to anything special and instead just layed it in.

Posted by: Sean | December 2, 2006 7:10 AM

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