Arenas will be out to prove that he hasn't lost a step since an April injury.
Kenny Smith/Getty Images
In Wizards victories last season Gilbert Arenas shot 48.5% from the floor and averaged 32.4 points. In losses his field goal accuracy plummeted to 33.8% and his scoring dropped to 23.9 points per game.
Record: 41-41 (7th in East) Points scored: 104.3 (4th in NBA) Points allowed: 104.9 (28th) Coach: Eddie Jordan (fifth season
This high-scoring bunch hopes to surprise by putting more emphasis on defense
Forward Antawn Jamison
doesn't have to peruse NBA season previews to know that few people expect his
team to win the wide-open East this season. "Gilbert [Arenas] is always on the
Internet, so he's reading that stuff and letting us know," Jamison says. "And
Caron [Butler] has always got his head in a magazine. He'll come into the locker
room and say, ‘They're picking us to do this or that,' or, ‘We're the
Forgive the Wizards if they feel overlooked entering the season. After all,
they had the best record in the conference (27-18) as late as Feb. 1,
before they were decimated by injuries. First, Jamison sprained left knee on
Jan. 30 and was sidelined for a month, then Arenas (left knee) and Butler (right
hand) were lost for the season in April.
With its Big Three healthy again and few changes to the roster, Washington hopes to
resume playing with the success it had in the first half of last season. The
Wizards certainly won't have trouble scoring (they were fourth in the NBA at
104.3 points per game), but they must improve a defense that ranked among the
bottom four in points allowed (104.9) and opponents' field goal percentage
(47.3). Jamison estimates that he and his teammates spent 80% of training camp
working on defense, compared with a 50-50 split in the past. "The main thing is,
we just have to be more consistent," Jamison says. "In the past we'd do it for
five to 10 games, then we'd slack off for 10 to 15 games."
If Washington can play with defensive intensity every game, it could sneak
past a few of the teams billed as Eastern Conference favorites in those
previews. "Everybody says the Big Three is in Boston now, and the old Big Three
is out the window," Jamison says with a laugh. "But we know what to do [to
regain that title]. Gilbert and Caron and I just have to produce, and we as a
team have to win a lot of games." -- Marty Burns