Gilbert Arenas became Gilbert Arenas under the watchful eye of Eddie Jordan in Washington. Judging from his recent comments, he was apparently coached in media relations by Eddie as well. The Sixers are in Washington to take on a group of angry Wizards who apparently don't miss Eddie all that much.
Here's a quote from Gilbert Arenas yesterday:
"I converted my game to try to get people involved, but at the end of the day, to be honest, this is the same team since three years ago. We added a couple of pieces, but everybody else is basically the same player.
"I'm sitting here thinking 'Do I have to go in attack mode like I was two years ago to get us over this hump?' I hope not. I hope we're strong enough mentally that we can get over this."
Gilbert's proclamation that he's changed his game to help his teammates is laughable. Through 12 games he has the highest usage rate of his career (34.2%), he's averaging more field goal attempts than at any other time in his career (19.0/36 minutes), and he's shooting an abysmal 39% from the floor. If this isn't Gilbert in "attack mode," I shudder at the thought of how horrible these numbers could become if he decides he needs to take more shots.
There were plenty of other comments thrown around the Wizards regarding how Jordan jerked Haywood and Etan Thomas around (eventually, the seed Eddie planted exploded into three fist fights between the two players and an eventual suspension for Thomas. Here's a favorite from Haywood:
"Not trying to speak negatively about anyone, but in previous years, I was playing like I had to make something happen. If it didn't happen in the first five minutes I felt like I had to do something or I might not play in the second half. That's a tough way to play.
Sounds familiar, right? (That quote was from a Tom Moore piece, I copied it yesterday but for the life of me I can't find the link).
Anyway, the drama of Eddie Jordan's return will now take a backseat because Washington's owner, Abe Pollin, has died at age 85. I assume the game will still be played, although I'm not sure it should be.
The important thing heading into any Sixers game this season seems to be whether they'll be playing up to their opponent or down to them. Prognosticators heading into the season projected the Wizards to have a better season than the Sixers, but they have a worse record right now. Personally, I think they're probably equally shoddy through the first dozen or so games. Working in the Sixers favor is the absence of Mike Miller (who was shooting 56.5% from three). Foye and Arenas are both shooting above league average from distance, but no one else is even above 33% on the roster.
Antawn Jamison will probably be a tough cover for Elton Brand with his outside game and driving ability, but EB's strength should allow him to more than make up for the mismatch on the offensive end. CAron Butler is listed as questionable, and I think he's going to miss the game. Gilbert is a challenging matchup for any PG, Lou Williams is no exception. The goal should be to force Arenas to take long jumpers, but don't leave him wide open. He's at his most dangerous when he's getting into the lane and getting to the line. Arenas cannot hang with Lou on the offensive end. He needs to penetrate at will and break down the defense.
Haywood has a strength advantage over Sammy, but I'm not really sure we even need to consider Dalembert when we're talking about matchups considering how few minutes he's seeing at the five. Iguodala is going to have a mismatch in Nick Young, again, he needs to take advantage.
Thad's matchup is a bit up in the air with the possibility Butler may not be able to go. If I was calling the shots for Washington, I'd go with a big lineup playing Andre Blatche and Haywood up front and swinging Jamison to the three. If this is the case, Thad will have his hands full on the wing, and he's really going to have to work to keep Jamison off the boards.
Key to the Game: Rotations. You have to think if Jordan really wants any single game, this is it. He disagreed with management and got the axe almost exactly a year ago. He wants to show them they made a mistake. With that in mind, I'm expecting to see a ton of small lineups to execute the PO, to whatever extent any of our lineups can execute it.
If____________ the Sixers will win: I'm going with 20+ points for Thad. We need him to come through with his second straight solid game.
This is your game thread. I'm going to have to watch late tonight on DVR, so I'll leave the in-game commentary in your capable hands. Keep it civil and enjoy, I'll have a wrap in the wee hours. If the Sixers are going to win more than 1 of their next 6, this has to be a win.