Atkins Delivers a 'Shot in the Arm'

Earl Watson looks to pass around Wizards' Antawn Jamison during the Nuggets' 97-91 preseason victory.
Earl Watson looks to pass around Wizards' Antawn Jamison during the Nuggets' 97-91 preseason victory. (By Francis Specker -- Associated Press)

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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 22, 2005

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 21 -- When the Washington Wizards acquired Chucky Atkins in the trade that sent Kwame Brown to the Lakers this summer, they knew they were getting a solid, veteran point guard who could run Eddie Jordan's offense and knock down open.

So far, Atkins has been everything the Wizards hoped he'd be.

"It's a real shot in the arm every time he comes into the game," Jordan said. "He gets us into our offense, he dictates tempo and he makes good decisions with the basketball. That's what you want coming off the bench."

Atkins entered Friday night's 97-91 preseason loss to the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center averaging 11 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting. Prior to a cold-shooting performance Friday -- Atkins was 3 of 9 and missed all four of his three-point attempts en route to nine points -- Atkins had been deadly from long range, making 7 of 11 threes in the first four games.

Though Atkins started against San Antonio and Memphis because Gilbert Arenas was out with a groin injury, his primary role will be coming off the bench and spelling Arenas, who ranked third in the NBA in minutes played (40.9) last season.

Jordan would like to keep Arenas fresh by reducing his minutes. With the combination of Atkins and Antonio Daniels, Jordan has a pair of experienced guards who can bring the ball up the floor and defend opposing point guards. That's something the Wizards lacked last season, when injuries limited backup point guard Steve Blake to 43 games.

Jordan has also played Atkins and Arenas together, a move that allows the explosive Arenas to play off the ball.

"My role is come off the bench, run the team and do whatever I have to do to keep us flowing," said Atkins, who started all 82 games for the Lakers last season, averaging a career-high 13.6 points and 4.4 assists per game. "With Gilbert, myself and Antonio, we pretty much have three guys who can run the point but all of us can also can penetrate and get to the basket or create shots for our teammates."

Arenas, Atkins, Daniels and Caron Butler took in Thursday night's Lakers-Nuggets game from floor seats just across from the Los Angeles bench. It was an interesting sight because Atkins, Butler and Daniels could have been in uniform for the Lakers under different circumstances. While Atkins and Butler were packaged in the Kwame Brown deal, Daniels was heavily recruited by the Lakers during the early stages of free agency before opting to sign with the Wizards, who offered him a five-year contract.

With Smush Parker slated to be their starting point guard, the Lakers probably could have used Atkins or Daniels if not both.

"I'm happy with my choice," said Daniels, who scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in Friday night's loss. "Right now, it's just a matter of finding my niche. Once I do that, I'll be fine. When you're new, you don't want to come in shooting the ball 30 times a game or other crazy stuff like that. We have two all-stars in Gilbert and Antawn [Jamison] so the rest of us have to find ways to complement those guys."

Wizards Notes: The Wizards dropped to 2-4 in preseason play with games remaining at Houston (Sunday) and at Indiana (Friday). While Washington played its regulars, the Nuggets rested Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby and Earl Boykins. Still, the Wizards looked ragged and trailed throughout the game. Center Etan Thomas led the Wizards with 12 points but Daniels was the only other player to reach double figures. The Wizards shot 35.2 percent and made only 2 of 14 three-point attempts. Voshon Lenard led the Nuggets with 19 points. . . .

Jamison left the game in the third quarter after straining his right shoulder while scrambling for a loose ball with Nuggets forward Nene. Arenas left a short time later after getting poked in the right eye. Neither player returned but both described their injuries as not serious. . . . The Wizards named Ron Ganulin coordinator of player development. Ganulin spent the past 14 seasons as the head coach at St. Francis College in New York.


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