If It Ain't Broke -- You Know the Rest

Milwaukee's Dan Gadzuric dunks over backup center Calvin Booth, but the Wizards still avenged a weekend loss to the Bucks.
Milwaukee's Dan Gadzuric dunks over backup center Calvin Booth, but the Wizards still avenged a weekend loss to the Bucks. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
By Mike Wise
Thursday, January 4, 2007

There are games when a sometimey player like Dan Gadzuric takes a couple of backdoor lobs and posterizes the Wizards, like last night at Verizon Center. You see that -- and a limited journeyman such as Ruben Patterson posting up as if he's Charles Barkley -- in a very uneven first half and think, "Is Ron Artest available?"

It's irrational and knee-jerk, I know. But the Wizards play in a region always attached at the umbilical cord to its pro football team. Up to now, everything else in Washington sports has been a mistress. And at the exact moment Gilbert Arenas has become the best entertainment value in the NBA -- at the exact moment when the Wizards are penetrating the conscience, moving the needle -- why stop now?

You've got to love a guy who, after squaring up from 10 feet in front of half court and sinking Milwaukee at the buzzer last night -- sending the building into a cacophonous tizzy -- says, "From 35 feet, I'm 8 for 8 so far."

So why not push the envelope and make that debatable trade for an unpredictable enigma before the February deadline? The East is for the taking, but the Wizards can't take it if they're giving up more points than any team in the NBA. Why not do something insane, like Antawn Jamison as part of a package for Kevin Garnett?

"I know it's crazy, but I kind of like Antawn Jamison -- I'd keep him," Antawn Jamison said before the Wizards overcame their defensive deficiencies and Arenas shot down Milwaukee, 108-105. "He's a good leader. The guys respect him. And he's all about team chemistry. I think it would be a mistake to change anything with this team.

"The questions are fair, but none of them can be answered until money time -- the playoffs."

I hate it when a sensible veteran ruins what would have been a knee-jerk, irrational and provocative story. But he's right. The worst thing Ernie Grunfeld, the president of basketball operations, could do to this cohesive, stop-and-pop, offensive machine he's assembled is change the gears right now.

After a disturbing 4-9 start, the Wizards are working. They've won 14 of their last 18. It wasn't just about Arenas pulling a Bird last night. (If you look at the highlight, Arenas actually turned and walked defiantly away before the ball went through the net, not even looking to see if the ball went in. A cocksure Larry Bird once won a three-point shootout at the NBA all-star game the same way.)

Arenas has blown up into a larger star nationally -- and regionally -- than any injured running back on a sorry 5-11 squad could imagine. He is throwing his own birthday party tomorrow night at a posh club in the District, a bash whose guest list could usurp most White House state dinners. You think Jamie Foxx is making Kobe's b-day? On the 2007 list, Carmelo and Kobe are out and Gilbert is in.

One of the reasons Arenas is able to drop 60 points on the Lakers and 54 on Phoenix -- huge, overtime road wins for the Wizards last month -- is because Jamison and Caron Butler cannot be left alone. Lately, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood (the Wizards are 9-1 with the recovering malcontent as a starter) cannot be left alone.

Stevenson has become a tremendous pickup by Grunfeld, maybe the bargain-basement deal of the summer. He's making less than $1 million while emerging as the team's best straight-up defender. He takes realistic, smart open shots and makes half of them.

Their main problems aren't chemistry; they're all health-related. Etan Thomas has been out for 12 games, Jarvis Hayes hasn't completely gotten his legs under him yet after rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, and they have yet to play with Darius Songaila, the Lithuanian banger coming off back surgery who could actually put a body on players such as Gadzuric and Patterson.

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