As the regular season tipped a few weeks ago, the Washington Wizards started out playing like the team Washington D.C., Wizards' fans and the NBA were waiting to see. Except for forward Antawn Jamison, who has not played since the preseason because of a right shoulder injury that will keep him out for a couple more weeks, the Wizards looked sharp, healthy and started to create a buzz, at least in the first three games. But since the Wizardsâ€™ victory over the New Jersey Nets during the home opener on Oct. 31, the injury bug has re-appeared, and is leading to chemistry issues and some bad decisions on the court.
Injuries to guards Mike James (left-hand), Mike Miller (left shoulder), Randy Foye (ankle), and Javaris Crittenton (left foot) will be out for a while, which will put pressure on the rest of the Wizards' players to produce right away. In the second game against the Miami Heat, guard Gilbert Arenas experienced some soreness in his calf, leaving many fans holding their breath, but he appears to be fine. Forward/guard Caron Butler also returned after missing a game because of a slight injury. Both players will be ready for the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, Nov. 14 night at the Verizon Center.
Arenas appears to be a hundred percent healthy after having a serious knee injury that kept him on the pine for about two and half years. Arenas' skills and explosiveness is still evident, as is his new mind set, but still has a way to go to return to his old form.
â€œThe thing about Gil is he's always been to me the most talented point guard in the league,â€ said Wizardsâ€™ center Brendan Haywood.
â€œTalent wise, who can do what he can do? He's fast, he's quick, he's explosive to the hole, he's tall, he has a mid-range game, and to me he's got to be the most talented guard in the NBA as far as the point guard position. And now he's looking to pass more and that's helping him out, it's helping our team out and that makes him so hard to guard."
Arenas' new motivation is great for thinking team first, but he must take his time and be patient. with himself. In the game against the Heat (6-2) - in the second matchup - Arenas set a franchise record for 12 turnovers, averaging 4.75 per game. There have been times in this infant season where Arenas was careless with his passes and shot selections.
In the first meeting against the Heat, with about 15 seconds left in the contest, the Wizards came out of timeout and Arenas quickly shot the ball, giving the Heat an easy rebound. On the next possession, Arenas went baseline, then tossed the ball up to an unprepared Haywood that led to a Heat rebound. Will Arenas, who is averaging 24 points per game, continue to work around his team, by being a facilitator or will he begin to take over and the team plays around him?
Considering that the Wizards, who were 19-63 last season, have gotten off to another slow start at 2-6, some supporters appeared to have already pushed the panic button largely due to chemistry and lack of ball movement. Wizards' head coach Flip Saunders is an experienced coach, a proven winner and is aware of what the players must do and he knows it's too early to truly evaluate.
â€œAs I told our guys, we have to go out and show our fans how we play - playing hard, smart and efficient,â€ Saunders said.
â€œI told them if we do that we will look good. We will evaluate ourselves probably closer to the All-Star break. It's very early in the season, so I think D.C. should be excited about what we are going to try to give them a product we are proud of.â€
Other than Jamison, who is a forward, all the Wizards who are injured play in the back court. To compensate for the rash of injuries to their guards, the Wizards signed 10-year veteran Earl Boykins. The 5-4 Boykins played for Virtus Bologna of the Italian A League last season. The team also waived center/forward Paul Davis, who appeared in two games, to make a roster spot for Boykins.
Boykins, an undrafted NBA journeyman from Eastern Michigan will bring his speed, court awareness and heart to the Wizards. At Boykins' height, he's a good defender, but his best attribute is his ability to get the ball to the player's hands and bring stability to a bench that is still trying to find themselves.
â€œEarl is a proven veteran point guard who will provide us with leadership and stability off of the bench,â€ said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld.
The Wizards have four more home games this month and they all are winnable (Pistons (4-4), Philadelphia 76ers (4-4) and the Charlotte Bobcats (3-5), but will have a fight on their hands on Wed., Nov. 8 against the Cleveland Cavaliers (6-3). This month is not lost for the Wizards, but they must pick things up quickly.