Practice was cut short yesterday at MCI Center when an 81-year-old man stormed onto the floor with dozens of followers and loud music blaring from the speaker system. Such an interruption could have startled the Washington Wizards -- but not when that man was team owner Abe Pollin, who wheeled a giant frosted cake to the floor to congratulate point guard Gilbert Arenas and forward Antawn Jamison to the sounds of the Smashmouth song, "All-Star."
Arenas and Jamison, who have helped the Wizards (28-19) to their best start in 26 years, were named Eastern Conference reserves for the NBA All-Star Game yesterday. Both players will make their respective debuts in the game, which will be played Feb. 20 in Denver. They are the first Wizards to represent the team in an all-star game since Michael Jordan in 2003, and they form the first Washington all-star duo since Jeff Malone and Moses Malone were selected in 1987.
Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison are named Eastern Conference reserves for the NBA All-Star Game, the first Washington all-star duo since Jeff Malone and Moses Malone were selected in 1987.
(Nick Wass/Mark Duncan - AP)
_____Back in 1987_____
It's been 18 long years since the Wizards sent two players to the NBA All-Star Game. So long, in fact, they were still the Washington Bullets. Here are some other things that were going on in 1987:
Jeff Malone and Moses Malone represent Bullets in All-Star Game.
Lakers beat Celtics, 4-2, for the NBA title.
Madonna's "Open Your Heart" tops the charts.
Prozac debuts in the United States.
"That's What Friends Are For" wins Grammy for song of the year.
"Platoon" wins Oscar for best picture.
Dow Jones industrial average closes above 2,200 for the first time.
Iran-Contra hearings take place.
"Mannequin" and "Crocodile Dundee" play in movie theaters.
"This is a special year," Pollin said. Pollin included guard Larry Hughes, who leads the league in steals and might have made the team if he hadn't broken his thumb on Jan. 15. As players and the Wizards' staff gathered around Arenas and Jamison, Pollin said: "C'mon, Larry, you're a part of it. You three are special. You three are all-stars."
Arenas is averaging a team-high 24.7 points and ranks in the top 10 in the league in scoring (eighth), three-point field goals made (113, fourth), minutes per game (39.9, seventh), steals per game (1.8, seventh) and free throws made (292, ninth). He has scored at least 30 points 13 times this season and has scored a career-high 43 points twice, including a 108-104 win against Indiana on Monday. "It's exciting," he said. "You grow up and you always dream about it, but only you believe in yourself."
For Arenas, his all-star selection was vindication for the day he was selected in the second round (the 31st pick) in the 2001 draft. "I cried that day; probably the first time I cried since I was 5, because it's a game I love," Arenas said. "But everybody says, 'If you love something, it'll love you back.' And I've been loving the game since I got here and it's finally paying off."
Jamison is averaging 20.5 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds in his first season with the Wizards. He has started all 47 games this season, extending his league-best streak to 375 consecutive games played, and he has recorded 18 double-doubles. "It's something I'm going to cherish for a long time," Jamison said. "It doesn't happen every day and it doesn't happen for everybody."
Of the six reserve players selected to make their first all-star appearance -- Miami's Dwyane Wade, Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili were the others -- Jamison has waited the longest to receive the honor.
"This is seven years in the making," said Jamison, who felt snubbed in both 2001 (when he averaged career highs of 24.9 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Golden State Warriors) and 2003 (when he averaged 22.2 points).
"I didn't understand why it didn't happen," Jamison said of the past. "You know it's hard to swallow, because you look at it like, 'I'm scoring with some of the best of them.' I think when you're in the situation, you think it's all about stats and now that you're older and now that it does happen, you realize what it's all about. It's all about making a difference on a team, being a part of a winning a team."
Jamison spent his first six seasons playing in the forward-heavy Western Conference, with talents such as San Antonio's Tim Duncan, Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, Sacramento's Chris Webber and Dallas's Dirk Nowitzki.
"A lot of guys have been saying it from the beginning -- if you were in the East, it'd be a whole different story," Jamison said. "That's not true. The East has always been well represented as far as forwards, it's just the West was really loaded. So, where can you go?
"I feel like I would've had a better opportunity if I came to the East and the opportunity came up."
Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld brought Jamison, last season's sixth man of the year, to the Wizards from Dallas in exchange for Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner and the No. 5 pick. The summer before, Grunfeld signed Arenas to a six-year, $65 million contract. But Grunfeld wasn't in the mood to pat himself on the back yesterday.
"I am very happy that they have played such a big role in our success," he said. "Antawn is the glue that holds this team together, and Gilbert has had a terrific year."
Grunfeld and Coach Eddie Jordan felt disappointed that Hughes wasn't selected. "He deserved to be," Jordan said. But all three players cut slices of cake -- Hughes used his left hand, of course -- yesterday and the party began. Jamison took a bite and smiled, "This is the best piece of cake I've had in a long time."
Arenas didn't eat his piece -- "I don't eat sweets," he said -- but had every intention of smearing the cake on Hughes's face as a joke. Jordan looked at Arenas, shook his head and whispered, "No, Gilbert."
Arenas did something he rarely does on the court. He backed down.