DESHAWN Stevenson's eccentricities? They're mainly the product of his environment. Take his preferred celebration (waving his palm in front of his face). Or his fashion sense (spending $15,000 on an '80s-themed wardrobe). Or his incendiary opinions (calling LeBron James "overrated" last March, which led to an alliance with rapper Soulja Boy and a feud with Jay-Z). Each one bizarre, yes—but, given the odd characters in the Wizards' locker room, entirely understandable. "I don't really try to do things," says Stevenson. "Being around the people here, I can't help it."
Indeed, the most curious player on the Washington roster—along with most talented and injury-prone—remains Gilbert Arenas, the guard-cum-blogger who negotiated his own six-year, $111 million deal this summer before undergoing the third surgery on his left knee in less than two years; Agent Zero will miss at least the first month of the season. "It's gonna suck," says Stevenson, who describes his relationship with Arenas as a "brother situation." He adds, "He's our star player. But we all gotta step up."
Stevenson especially. Drafted by the Jazz out of Washington Union High in Fresno eight years ago, he has found a home in D.C. over the past two seasons as a kind of proto-Arenas, in both persona and shot selection. Stevenson will be the team's top perimeter threat in Arenas's absence, and his marksmanship will determine whether defenses can key on All-Star forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.
"DeShawn plays hard at both ends of the court," says Butler. "He's trying to make his mark." In so many ways.
A rival scout on the WIZARDS: They have a chance to get off to a good start because Gilbert Arenas is out. They played their best basketball without him last year, executing their offense better and sharing the ball more. When Arenas comes back, the dynamics change. He knows he's got the power because of his contract. He makes plays for himself, he takes early shots. If he would try to win and average 19 points instead of 25, then they could be a beast because the defense would have to guard everybody.... As Antawn Jamison gets older, he should remain productive because he can shoot from the perimeter and the rest of his game is so unorthodox—he drives and shoots off the wrong leg and all the other things he does. The problem is he has trouble guarding, whether he's on the perimeter or in the post.... Caron Butler is my favorite player on this team by far. He's tough, he doesn't back down, and he's a rebounder when he needs to be as well as a good defender. He's a big key to why they've been in the playoffs in recent years.
DeShawn Stevenson has started 250 consecutive games dating to '04--05, when he was with the Magic. Among active players, only the Pistons' Tayshaun Prince has a longer starting streak (355 games).
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2007--08 statistics