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Arenas Shines as Wizards Topple New-Look Knicks
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The ink was barely dry on the paper that sent All-Star guard Steve Francis from the Orlando Magic to the New York Knicks for Trevor Ariza and Penny Hardaway before NBA minds began to wonder, what do Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas know that the rest of us don’t? Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury in the same backcourt? Perhaps an extra basketball was sent along with Francis in the trade.
“The Knicks are looking real good for the NCAA Tournament”, said a sportswriter colleague seated next to me in the press box. The Knicks launched a couple of airballs.
“Make that the NIT”, he chimed in. With one of the worst records in the NBA, the Knicks are clearly headed south, while coach Larry Brown and GM Isiah Thomas try to mesh this collection of individual talent into something resembling a team.
The Wizards, in the meantime, are headed squarely in the opposite direction. After defeating LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Friday, the Wizards administered a beat-down of the Knicks at the MCI Center on Saturday night by a score of 110-87. The game wasn’t as close as the score. The entire fourth quarter was “garbage time”, with most of the starters for both teams on the bench, including Wizards All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas, who finished with 46 points in three quarters of work. Arenas’ career high is 47. Marbury was unavailable in the second half after re-aggravating a shoulder injury. He is listed as day to day.
Did Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan consider leaving Arenas in to capture that record?
“I was just coaching the game with respect to our opponents”, Jordan said.
“I’m not concerned with records. It was also an opportunity to give Gil some rest. This whole organization knows that in him, we have a special player”, he added. As for his vanquished opponents, Jordan clearly took the high road.
“That team has some skilled players. They just need time to gel. They have talented, capable veterans, and young players that need to develop”, he added. Jordan also expressed the hope that the Wizards can maintain their focus and keep up the defensive energy on the road going into the second half of the season.
A smiling Gilbert Arenas echoed the sentiment after the game.
“The come with four guards, and that’s always dangerous”, he said, referring to the Knicks.
“They just haven’t really had a chance to play together yet”, he added. Was Arenas disappointed that Coach Eddie Jordan didn’t leave him in the game to post a new career record?
“Coach Jordan isn’t going to risk an injury in a game like that”, he said.
“Mostly, we just wanted to come out and start the second half (of the season) right and show we can contend. Arenas clearly enjoyed his own performance as well.
“I was just on fire tonight”, he said. Arenas had a career high 23 points in the first quarter, the second highest first quarter point total in franchise history. The franchise record of 24 was scored by some guy named Michael Jordan. Arenas has scored at least 30 points per game 25 times this season, and at least 40 points per game 7 times this season.
Disappointed at making the All-Star squad as an injury replacement rather than a straight up selection, Arenas wanted to make it clear that this team, his Wizards team, is not to be taken lightly. Nor is he.
“Just call me an Eastern Conference assassin. I’m on a city to city tour. Look out Eastern conference, because I’m coming for you”, he added with a smile.