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News » In the end, this defeat is small victory

In the end, this defeat is small victory

In the end, this defeat is small victory
There was Gilbert Arenas chasing down a loose ball in the waning seconds on Saturday night.

There he was in the left corner preparing to hoist a 3-pointer with the Wizards down two points. And there was Kwame Brown - yes, him - coming at Arenas, making contact, blocking the shot and denying the storybook finish that everyone in the building desperately wanted.

Arenas missed and then Caron Butler missed, and that was the game.

"I don't know what I was thinking there [after retrieving the ball]," Arenas said. "I should have called a timeout."

That was the only blemish on an otherwise "terrific performance," as interim coach Ed Tapscott said.

The Basketball-deflated fans of the Wizards gave Arenas a hearty cheerduring pregame introductions. Just like that, Arenas lifted the spirits of the faithful. His return qualified as a sign of hope and shoved aside this dreary season.

Arenas gave the Wizards hints of what they have been missing. He hardly looked like a player appearing in his first game of the season. He showed he has not lost his feel for the game, his instincts, his capacity to open the floor up for his teammates.

Arenas assisted on his team's first four field goals, with each pass resulting in a dunk or a layup. He did not force his offense. He did not come with an itchy shooting finger. He worked within the confines of the offense.

"I thought Gilbert did a terrific job of orchestrating the game, of not getting caught up in the moment," Tapscott said. "He made the jobs of his teammates easier, and he made the job of the coaching staff easier too."

Arenas said he received a coaching tip from an old booster.

"Eddie Jordan sent me a text message that said, 'Just let the game come to you,' " Arenas said.

And that is what he did. When Arenas attempted his first shot of the season, he found himself alone on the right side of the court behind the 3-point line. He drained the shot, and all seemed right with the Wizards again.

That sense was underlined by the sight of the team's three leading players all being on the floor together again. Caron Butler returned to the starting lineup after missing the last seven games because of a temperamental hamstring. Antawn Jamison, the old reliable one who has not missed a game all season, put in another solid night of work.

Yet this night was not about Butler or Jamison or what might be with the Wizards next season.

It was about taking a look at the $111 million man. It was about getting a tiny read on where Arenas is after three surgeries on his left knee in less than two years.

Nothing definitive could be drawn from one game, of course. It really was not so much about the quality of his play. It really is about how that left knee will feel today and in the days ahead.

Arenas did not really attack the basket. Out of his 12 field goal attempts, only three came on drives to the basket. He was mostly content to take open jump shots and distribute the ball to his teammates.

Arenas finished with 15 points and 10 assists in 29-plus minutes while missing nine of 12 field goal attempts.

His numbers, though, were not nearly as important as his presence. No. 0 was back, and even if he was not quite his old self, he was good enough to plant the notion that the worst is over with this franchise.

"I won't put a [percentage] number on where he is," Tapscott said. "But for the first game back, I thought it was an excellent performance, just his command of the game."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: March 30, 2009


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