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News » Arenas silent, but he's heard


Arenas silent, but he's heard


Arenas silent, but he's heardBasketball REPORTER

His white ear buds in place, Gilbert Arenas was trying to find some quiet time in the visitors dressing room at the Air Canada Centre here yesterday.

Actually, he was insisting on it.

"I'm not talking any more," he answered when asked about doing an interview.

"Ever?"

"Ever," he said, albeit politely.

For the Washington Wizards, it marks the end of an era and hopefully the start of a new one, with ramifications for Eastern Conference hopefuls like the Toronto Raptors .

The Wizards, the dregs of the NBA with just 19 wins last season, are on their way to respectability and perhaps more, bolstered by the return to health of Arenas, their suddenly monk-like franchise player.

Determined to let his play do the talking, Arenas counted 14 points and seven assists in his 24 minutes of court time in exhibition play yesterday as he continued working his way back to health after missing most of two seasons with knee problems.

The Raptors have made their share of off-season moves to shake off their 33-win season with designs on a top-five playoff seed, but the improvement of a team like the Wizards could make it all moot.

Toronto looked sharp at times in front of 11,936 at the ACC, hanging on to win 100-96 and even their preseason record at 2-2. They shot just 38.8 per cent but got their best showing yet from rookie DeMar DeRozan, who scored 19 points in 36 minutes, earning his way to the free throw line 10 times and converting nine. Amir Johnson was also impressive off the bench as he sparked the Raptors with seven points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.

"I really wanted to get to the line," said DeRozan, who brought the ACC fans to their feet with two fourth-quarter dunks. "The first two games I really wasn't aggressive, so I wanted to be more aggressive."

Arenas showed his playmaking in the first quarter when he easily split the defence on the perimeter and set to attack Andrea Bargnani before pitching out to Antawn Jamison for a three-point basket. But he was most like his old self when he scored 12 points in the third quarter, leading Washington to a 33-25 surge before he shut it down for the day.

Finding the balance between his scoring and playmaking instincts is something Flip Saunders, the Wizards new coach, is looking for as he tries to steer Washington into the top four of the Eastern Conference, joining the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers.

"He's been extremely receptive, really attentive," Saunders said. "When we have film he's the first guy to pull up a chair and watch. To this point he's been as receptive to coaching as any body I've had."

Until two years ago, Arenas was the NBA player who wouldn't shut up, delivering provocative interviews - he had his house converted to a hyperbaric chamber, don't you know - bestowing upon himself cool nicknames, morphing from Agent Zero to Hibachi to Black President and becoming a popular athlete blogger.

Now? No blogs, no nicknames and no interviews. Nothing but earphones.

His teammates couldn't be happier, as they interpret his vow of silence as a renewed commitment to his on-court career, one interrupted by three surgeries on his left knee, limiting him to 15 games during the past two seasons. "It's good. He's a leader, he's the franchise player. When he's serious it's good for everyone," Wizards teammate DeShawn Stevenson said. "I'm just glad to see him out there."

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TIPSHEET

Notes Sonny Weems got his first start of the preseason for the Toronto Raptors and looked sharp in his 10 minutes of floor time as he scored a pair of baskets on three shots and grabbed six rebounds. But he had to leave the game with a jammed left toe. He had an X-ray but results were negative. He's listed as day-to-day. ... Raptors head coach Jay Triano said he thought his team was holding the ball too long, with Marco Belinelli getting fingered as a culprit, though no worse than "the other 12 guys out there." ... Raptors fans got their first look at the new-and-improved Chris Bosh as he made his second start of the preseason but first at home. He was ordinary at best, counting just eight points and three rebounds in 19 minutes. ... Triano played DeMar DeRozan a game-high 36 minutes and would have played him more if he didn't have to take him off the floor for individualized timeouts. "I had to take him out three or four times just to talk to him," Triano said. "It wasn't about getting a breath. He is still making mistakes. The way we did it today is I just took him out and corrected it. ... The kid listens to you and is a great learner and I think that is what is going to make him a great Basketball player."

Next Wednesday, Raptors at Hartford to play the Boston Celtics, 7:30 p.m. EDT

TV None

Michael Grange

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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 12, 2009

 

 
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