Cavaliers Defeat Wizards In Season Opener

By Carla Peay
Updated: November 3, 2006

CLEVELAND — An excited Gilbert Arenas said he got about an hour and a half of sleep on Tuesday night, prior to Wednesday night�s opening game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Arenas was wide awake and dribbling a basketball well past midnight, until teammate Caron Butler banged on the door and told him to stop.

Butler and the rest of his Wizards teammates have been preaching a new commitment to defense all summer, so Butler was prepared when coach Eddie Jordan called on him to be �the first witness�. Meaning of course that Butler would draw the primary defensive assignment to cover James. It�s no wonder he wanted to get a good night�s sleep.

Perhaps Arenas should have gotten a little more sleep as well. After a slow start and early foul trouble in Wednesday night�s opener, Arenas finished the game with seven points on 2-of-12 shooting, to James� 26 points and 10 boards to complete a 97-94 victory for the Cavaliers.

The defeat must surely conjure up some bad memories for the Washington Wizards, whose season ended at the hands of the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs last year. The Wizards lost three games in that first round series by one point, two of them in overtime, as Cleveland took the series four games to two.

Then there was the infamous trash talking incident. With Arenas standing at the free-throw line, James came up to him, placed his hand on Arenas� shoulder, and said that if he missed them both, the game was over. Arenas missed them both, Damon Jones put up a prayer that went in, and the Cavaliers advanced to the second round, while sending the Wizards home in stunned silence.

The Cavaliers are a trendy pick to contend for the Eastern Conference title, along with the new-look Chicago Bulls, and big Ben Wallace. The Detroit Pistons are still a threat even without Wallace, as are the New Jersey Nets and the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat.

The Wizards should make the playoff chase as perhaps the fifth or sixth seed, but to move from a second tier team to upper echelon status is going to take that commitment to defense that the team preached all summer.

With the addition of shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson in the starting lineup and the replacement of Brendan Haywood at starting center with the more aggressive and passionate Etan Thomas, the Wizards showed some flashes of that stronger defensive mindset despite the loss. If they can commit to that for the next 81 games, the second round and perhaps beyond is certainly doable. If not, it�s another one and done.

Arenas Scores For Schools

Washington Wizards all-star point guard Gilbert Arenas continued his commitment to community service with his Scores For Schools program. For every point that Arenas scores during the Wizards 41 home games this season, he will donate $100 to a school in the Washington D.C. area.

The schools were chosen earlier this week at a drawing held at the Verizon Center, hosted by James Brown of CBS Sports, a Washington D.C. native.

�It�s rare that I�m asked by an all-star athlete to be a part of what has been a unique and special day”, said Brown. “We all know that Gilbert Arenas is an elite level athlete, and how great his talent is on the basketball court and this community has embraced him”.

“But more importantly, over all the years that I�ve been involved in sports casting, having done Olympics and NBA Championships and Super Bowls and the like, what really separates an elite level athlete to me is one who is an elite level person as well. Gilbert Arenas is not only one of the best NBA players, but one of the best human beings there is in the NBA as well.�

Brown and Arenas were surrounded by several hundred excited students and teachers from all over the D.C. region who crowded together on the Verizon Center concourse. Many were decked out in Wizards jerseys and carrying signs as they watched Arenas draw the names of the 41 local schools who will receive this donation.

�I think every athlete should help out in their community. This is my dream. Someone helped me get here, and I want to help others,� said Arenas. He credits a member of the Wizards Community Relations staff for coming up with the idea, which he fully supported.

�I thought it was a great opportunity for me to give back to the community. This is helping schools out and helping young people out. This is our generation right here and we have to help them out,� Arenas said, as the crowd responded with an ovation. Arenas� donation will help supply area schools with computers, athletic equipment, and fund after school programs.

Wizards owner Abe Pollin decided to match Arenas� efforts, and made the announcement a few days later that he would contribute to 41 additional schools, thereby covering all 82 games of the Wizards season.

Arenas has become well known for his community service efforts. In addition to his Scores For Schools program, his numerous activities include hosting �Gilbert�s Christmas Dream� during the holiday season to benefit underprivileged children, becoming a big brother to a young man who lost his family in a house fire two years ago, and creating the Zero to Hero Foundation, which provides support to organizations that help preserve families through foster care, adoption, and welfare services.

One of several local athletes to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, Arenas purchased $18,000 worth of goods which he personally delivered to survivors housed at the D.C. Armory, and played in the NBA Players Hurricane Katrina Relief game.

And last but not least, a major fan favorite, is the jersey toss. At the end of each game, Arenas takes off his jersey and tosses it into the stands, saying that fans shouldn�t have fork over $200 bucks for a jersey when he can pay for the jerseys himself. Arenas admitted that he got the idea when he saw Dennis Rodman do it.

It�s just like Gilbert Arenas to take something Dennis Rodman did in protest of getting tossed out of a game and turn it into something positive and motivational. It�s that way of thinking that made Arenas choose to wear the number zero, because people told him that�s how many minutes of playing time he would get at the University of Arizona.

�His theme is Zero to Hero,� added Brown. �He is about proving all the critics and the doubters wrong, and showing people that if you put your mind to it, you can make a difference.�