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At Verizon Center, Crank Dat With Colin and the Wizards

Gilbert Arenas hops on the scorer's table before Game 3 to rev up the crowd, which included Colin Powell and rapper Soulja Boy.
Gilbert Arenas hops on the scorer's table before Game 3 to rev up the crowd, which included Colin Powell and rapper Soulja Boy. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By George Solomon
Sunday, April 27, 2008

There was a lot of stuff going on at Verizon Center on Thursday night that went right over my unadorned head. DeShawn Stevenson and Andray Blatche showed up with mohawks and Caron Butler had "Tough Juice" shaved into the back of his head. Stevenson also brought rapper DeAndre Way, who goes by Soulja Boy and has a popular ditty called "Crank Dat" playing in jukeboxes, to sit near the team bench.

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If that didn't remind me of Tony Bennett hanging out in a box at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, what about most of the sellout crowd of 20,173 fans wearing "White Out" T-shirts as though they were members of some cult? The Caps did the same thing with "Rock the Red," prompting me to wonder when teams began dictating apparel and their PA announcers began shrieking like maniacs urging fans to shriek like maniacs.

Even Colin Powell squeezed into one of those white T-shirts -- pulling it over his dress shirt. Colin Powell? I'll grant a pass to my dentist, Mark Taff, to go along with the crowd. But Colin Powell? At least minority owner Ted Leonsis had the good sense not to squeeze such a ridiculous garment over his suit, joining Wilbon and Tennessee Coach Bruce ("I'll paint my body orange but not white") Pearl among the few spectators not looking as though they were trying out for grade-school recess.

Meanwhile, Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan was delighted with the enthusiasm of the home fans. But he was off the charts over his team's 108-72 rout of the Cavaliers, providing an opportunity to even the series at two games apiece with a win today at Verizon Center. Washington had lost eight straight playoffs games to Cleveland over three postseasons , prompting Jordan to crack, "I didn't think we'd ever beat those guys."

Gilbert Arenas leaving the game after playing 10 minutes -- after getting his first start of 2008 -- does not bode well for his playing much, if at all, the rest of this series despite his best intentions. An informed source tells me Arenas's latest problem relates to his previous knee surgeries and is not a new injury. Too bad, because Jordan is right when he says, "We're a good team without Gil; we can be a very good team with him."

Caps' Positive Spin

The Capitals' extraordinary season ended in a blink of an eyelash Tuesday night when Philadelphia's Joffrey Lupul scored a power-play goal 6 minutes 6 seconds into overtime of Game 7 after defenseman Tim Poti was called for tripping and sent to the penalty box.

The red light behind Cristobal Huet silenced another Verizon Center sellout crowd of 18,277 who created a deafening roar from start to finish -- and for the past two months when thoroughly engaging Coach Bruce Boudreau drove the team from last place to the Southeast Division title.

By the time it took forgotten goalie Olie Kolzig to pull the nameplate from the slot over his locker, Caps owner Leonsis was looking ahead to next season and savoring the surge in interest and attendance unprecedented in the 33-year history of the Capitals. Since Feb. 1, when the Caps began their push, they averaged 17,943 fans, including seven sellouts in their final 15 games to finish with an average of 15,772 per game.

"We've sold 3,000 new season tickets during this run," Leonsis said after the game Tuesday. "I don't think anyone left the building disappointed; I might be disappointed that we lost another overtime playoff game with a man in the [penalty] box. But we have a fan base that has hope in a young, beautiful team."

A team built around young stars Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Shaone Morrisonn will keep getting better. ("They've all earned their MBAs," Leonsis said.) So will Huet, whose late run likely will send the popular Kolzig, now a free agent, to another team, or into retirement.

Few fans will be happy at the departure of the 38-year-old Kolzig, the face of the franchise for the past 10 years. But when professionals with the résumé and character of Kolzig believe they've been disrespected and ignored by their bosses, they leave.

Grand Dame of Tennis

On Thursday, Montgomery County officials will rename the Cabin John indoor tennis facility in Bethesda the Pauline Betz Addie Tennis Center at Cabin John Regional Park with a ceremony starting at 4 p.m.


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