Wizards Have a Good Thing Going

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Washington Wizards' season is under way, and after a bad loss on Wednesday to the New York Knicks the Wizards have 3 wins and 4 losses. Still, I think the team has a good shot at a good season. Why? Three reasons.

First, the Wizards have Gilbert Arenas. He's one of the top players in the National Basketball Association. Arenas was the NBA's fourth-leading scorer last season, pouring in 29.3 points per game. In close games, the other Wizards clear out and let Arenas go to work. The super-quick guard usually scores a basket or gets fouled and shoots free throws.

Here's another reason why everyone should root for Arenas: At each of the Wizards' home games, he will donate $100 for every point he scores to an area school. Go, Gilbert!

Secondly, the Wizards might finally be a team ready to play good defense. The Wizards lost to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs last season because they couldn't make the all-important defensive stops at the end of games. Now, the Wizards are talking and playing tougher defense.

But most of all, I think the Wizards will be better because they have stuck together. Fourth-year coach Eddie Jordan has the same top players -- Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler -- he had last year. The Wizards added only one player -- guard DeShawn Stevenson -- to the group that plays major minutes each game.

Too many teams change players and coaches too often. Some teams don't give the players a chance to get used to each other and improve together. Think about another favorite Washington team in another sport -- the Redskins. They bring in new players and coaches every year. The fans get excited, but the team is never very good. The Redskins get called for too many penalties and don't play well together. Maybe the Skins should stick with the same players for a while.

Sticking together works for kids, too. Years ago I coached a fifth-grade basketball team. We didn't have much talent, but the kids had a record of 7 wins and 2 losses. They were good friends who loved to play pickup basketball at recess and after school. Most of them had been on the team since first grade. They knew each other's favorite shots and would do anything to help the team win. Being a tight group helped the kids surprise better teams and win close games.

Maybe the Wizards can be that kind of surprise team this season. They will be if they stick together, play defense and get the ball to Arenas.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is an author of sports novels for kids.

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