Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Big Three

By Mike Wise
Sunday, April 23, 2006

CLEVELAND Eddie Jordan is not big on statistics -- "I flunked it 100 times at Rutgers," the Wizards coach said. Yet he knows some numbers don't lie, like the ones portraying his offensive stars as paint-chipping gunners Saturday afternoon.

In their first playoff game together, Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler really struggled. They missed 32 shots, many of which they shouldn't have taken. The NBA's highest-scoring triumvirate made 15 of 47 shots they attempted. They scored almost 20 points fewer than the 67.1 points they averaged during the regular season.

People, that is not a Big Three. That is a Bermuda Triangle. That's a three-sided Frank Brickowski. Fifteen of 47 is Allen Iverson at the Olympics.

What a horrid display from what, on some afternoons, is one of the league's most aesthetically pleasing teams to watch. Impatience -- getting caught up in trying to look as good as LeBron on national television -- turned Jordan's sublime and choreographed Princeton offense into gunk.

"No rhythm, no rhythm whatsoever," Jamison said after his Big Three was outscored, 53-48, by Cleveland's Esteemed Fearsome Foursome -- Donyell Marshall (19), Eric Snow (14), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (10) and Flip Murray (10). Flip Murray!

"I don't know what it was, but we never got into our offensive sets," Jamison said. "There was no comfort level there like we had all season. Part of it was them, the way they loaded up or wouldn't let us dump an entry pass into the post. But a lot of it was us. We didn't play very well together."

The "Big Three" moniker gets thrown around Washington way too liberally. After all, Jerry Stackhouse used to be a member of the fraternity. Stack, Larry Hughes and Arenas used to shoot to their heart's content and lose like dogs. They never made all-NBA. No one was taking their spot on the AND 1 bus any summer soon.

Jamison replaced Stackhouse and joined the Wizards' trio of scorers last season. And while they weren't exactly Bird, McHale and Parish -- the league's genuine Big Three standard -- something special happened.

Egos died. Team ball lived.

The label wasn't a cutesy catchphrase anymore. The Wizards' Big Three did not embarrass the memory of Magic, Kareem and Worthy or Jordan, Pippen and Grant. It wasn't equal to Duncan, Parker and Ginobili in San Antonio. Yet Arenas, Jamison and Hughes won games -- playoff games -- and helped change a culture.

Butler jumped in for Hughes, who left for Cleveland last summer, and did not seem to miss a beat. In fact, Arenas, Jamison and Butler combined for more points than the old Big Three.

"When Caron came aboard, we accepted him right away," Jamison said. "He fit right into the mold. We played unselfish basketball from the get-go. Gilbert would draw a double-team and one of us would spot up or cut to the rim.

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