New Wizard Wilks Gets Off on the Left Foot

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It didn't take Mike Wilks long to realize that the Washington Wizards' locker room is unlike any other in the NBA.

When he signed last Wednesday, Wilks expected to be greeted warmly by his new teammates because that's customary in a league where rosters change quickly, but he wasn't quite prepared for the cast of characters awaiting him.

"This is by far the most unique team I've been on," said Wilks, who has made previous stops with Denver, Seattle, Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston, Minnesota and Atlanta in his first six seasons. "I mean, I'm still learning some of the hidden jokes. I'm just sitting back going, okay, what does that mean? They'll be cracking jokes and I have to ask Caron [Butler]and he'll fill me in. It's a good time."

Wilks, who has made brief appearances against Atlanta and Indiana, recently drew DeShawn Stevenson's attention when he stepped into the shower wearing two left sandals.

Big mistake.

"He won't let me live it down now," Wilks said. "Anytime I see him, he's like: "Hey, my man Mike Wilks has two left sandals!" So, I'm just having a great time and whenever I do get a chance to get out there on the court, I hope I can be a positive for this team."

As Wilks is learning, the Wizards (13-13) have enjoyed good chemistry on and off the court this season, and a sense of camaraderie has helped Coach Eddie Jordan's team overcome a rash of health issues that have left the roster thin.

Already without Etan Thomas (open heart surgery), Gilbert Arenas (left knee injury) and rookie forward Oleksiy Pecherov (right ankle), the team has recently played without Antonio Daniels since the veteran guard suffered a sprained right knee in a win at Miami on Dec. 13. It also played without leading scorer Butler during last Saturday's loss at Indiana.

Butler, who sprained both of his ankles, went through shooting drills Monday and last night and will be a game-time decision tonight. Daniels is hoping to return as soon as this Saturday's home game against Miami, but is taking a cautious approach because he doesn't want the knee injury to linger.

Tonight, the Wizards will face a struggling but dangerous Charlotte Bobcats team that had a two-game winning streak snapped with a 103-99 loss at Milwaukee last Saturday.

Because of the storm that swept through the Midwest over the weekend, it took the Bobcats 10 hours to get to Milwaukee. The team arrived 47 minutes before tip-off.

"It was CBA days again," joked Bobcats guard Jeff McGinnis. "I'm used to it. Now, for some of those prima donnas, it rattled them."

The Wizards are 10-3 all-time against the Bobcats and pulled out a 114-111 overtime win in their last visit to Charlotte on Nov. 21. They could use a win tonight to snap a three-game losing skid.

Nick Young and Roger Mason Jr. have each started in Daniels's place and Mason, who scored a career-high 20 points in Saturday's loss at Indiana, will likely make his third straight start tonight. If Butler can't go, Darius Songaila will likely make his second straight start.

Meanwhile, Wilks is steadily picking up the offense and could provide Jordan with another point guard option as the team looks to get back above .500.

"It's time to stop the bleeding and get back on track," said Antawn Jamison, a Charlotte native who was able to celebrate Christmas with his family. "Charlotte is trying to turn things around here as of late, and we are trying to do the same thing as well. . . . This is an important game because we have to learn how to get our fair share of wins on the road and to also begin to put a string of wins together again."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company