By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
DeShawn Stevenson has taken pride in having the second-longest active starting streak in the NBA. But even pride has its limits, so the veteran shooting guard, who is shooting a career-low 31.7 percent from the field, approached interim coach Ed Tapscott before practice yesterday and suggested a change.
Tapscott, who has made several changes to the lineup since taking over for Eddie Jordan on Nov. 24, agreed. Tonight, when the Washington Wizards (4-21) face the Charlotte Bobcats, Stevenson will come off the bench.
Tapscott said he was not yet set on a replacement and was considering several options including going to a lineup that would shift Caron Butler to shooting guard and replace him with Dominic McGuire at small forward.
Stevenson's 275 consecutive starts ranks second to Detroit's Tayshaun Prince (380).
"In a real team gesture he basically told me: 'Hey Tap, I'm struggling a bit, why don't you let me come off the bench and see if I can't get my swag back going against some second-line guys,' " Tapscott said of Stevenson. "I thought it an enormously gracious thing to say. And so, we're looking at different combinations with the lineup, whether big or small, and let DeShawn go with the second unit for a while. He's the ultimate team guy and that's why I have so much respect for him."
Stevenson did not speak with reporters yesterday but he's been accessible and self-critical of his performance all season. The seventh-year guard missed his only two shot attempts and failed to score in 15 minutes of action during Sunday's home loss to Dallas and has scored in double figures only six times all season.
Still, Jordan stuck by Stevenson early on and Tapscott has done the same because both coaches respect his competitiveness, professionalism and energetic approach to defense.
Stevenson has drawn attention for a much-publicized verbal back-and-forth with Cavaliers star LeBron James during last season's playoffs and he's regularly booed on the road after giving his signature hand wave in front of his face after hitting a shot, but he's also a player who doesn't complain, plays unselfishly and is willing to play hurt.
Throughout the streak, which began when he was with the Orlando, Stevenson has played through several injuries including a torn meniscus in his knee, badly sprained ankles and this season a bad hamstring.
When asked why he continued to pull on a uniform and play every night regardless of how his body felt before a game earlier in the season, Stevenson shrugged.
"I don't know man, I just like to play," he said. "We get paid a lot of money to go out there and do our job and that's what I do. I play."
That attitude partially explains Tapscott's reluctance to make a change.
"The NBA is a veteran's league," Tapscott said. "It's veteran teams that have success and when you have a veteran who may have some struggles, if he represents the best parts of your culture, the best values you want exhibited within your team -- sacrifice, teamwork, intensity -- then you want to give that person a chance to work out their issues, work out their struggles."
If Butler is shifted to shooting guard, it would likely represent a major opportunity for McGuire, the second-year forward who has recently seen a larger role. Tapscott likes McGuire's defensive versatility and it was on display during Sunday's loss when McGuire at different points was assigned to Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Devean George and Jason Terry.
McGuire's offense remains a work in progress, but he did finish Sunday's game with seven points (on 2-of-5 shooting) with five rebounds, three steals and an assist in 24 minutes.
Butler has made two all-star appearances as a small forward, but he's periodically played shooting guard during his career and said he'd be comfortable starting there tonight.
"I do, because it does give me opportunities to post up against smaller guards," Butler said. "Obviously, you know then that a double team is going to come so guys are going to get quality looks and touches and they've got to take those shots. So yes, it's something that I'm comfortable with."