Washington Wizards Lose to the Dallas Mavericks, 123-115, in Preseason Game at Verizon Center

Brendan Haywood, who left the game with a right ankle sprain, takes a shot from the Mavericks' Drew Gooden.
Brendan Haywood, who left the game with a right ankle sprain, takes a shot from the Mavericks' Drew Gooden. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Washington Wizards' lone preseason game at Verizon Center on Friday was supposed to serve as opportunity to generate some enthusiasm and show their fans how much they have improved from their disastrous 19-win regular season.

But even with a new coach in Flip Saunders, the healthy returns of Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson, and the additions of veterans Mike Miller, Fabricio Oberto and Randy Foye, the first half of their exhibition game Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks looked very reminiscent of many of their games last season. Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison dutifully carried the offensive load -- and a starter limped toward the locker room, assisted by head athletic trainer Eric Waters.

Haywood sprained his right ankle in the first three minutes of the game and continued to play before leaving for good with 4 minutes 4 seconds left in the first quarter. But after scoring zero points and hardly glancing at the rim in the first half, Arenas at least calmed some nerves about his comeback, as he scored 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting in an electrifying third-period display during the Wizards' 123-115 loss to the Mavericks. After the game, though, the Wizards were lamenting the loss of Haywood, who dragged his right foot as he left the locker room.

"When Brendan went down, I ain't going to lie, I was scared, like 'Not again. Not again,' " said forward Andray Blatche, who scored 17 points with nine rebounds off the bench. "He should be all right."

Haywood, who missed 76 games last season with after tearing a ligament in his right wrist, declined to comment after the game. He was hurt after grabbing an offensive rebound and getting nudged to the ground by Dallas center Drew Gooden. Haywood immediately grabbed his right ankle, but hopped up to miss two free throws.

He showed some agility while completing an up-and-under move and a hook shot in the lane, but he was 0 for 6 from the foul line. At the time Haywood left, the Wizards led 20-19. But they were unable to contain the reloaded Mavericks without their defensive anchor. The Mavericks outscored them, 14-6, the rest of the period and led 65-56 at halftime.

"He protects the basket. No question that's going to have an affect on you defensively," Saunders said. "We were playing pretty well when he was in there. He actually played well, besides shooting free throws."

Saunders said that Haywood will "probably not" be available for the Wizards' next preseason game against Toronto on Sunday. The Wizards may still have to be concerned about which Arenas they will get against the Raptors. Two versions were on display on Friday.

Saunders was satisfied with Arenas's five-point, 10-assist performance against Memphis in the preseason opener but said that Arenas needed to be more aggressive offensively to make the defense honest. Saunders has had success with scoring point guards in Minnesota and Detroit and Arenas became a three-time all-star mostly for his scoring ability.

Arenas didn't immediately adhere to his coach, as he spent his first nine minutes on the floor being a distributor, setting up his teammates. But when he returned in the second half, Arenas left the passive version in the locker room. He ran the offense with a purpose and wasn't shy about asserting himself on the offensive end.

"You know Gil like to play mind games," Stevenson said. "When he's attacking, it's hard to guard him. You have to read off him. He's the franchise [player] of this team. We know he can go. I just think he's trying to feed and get everybody's confidence up. Usually, he does it by himself, but he's trying to be a team player right now."

Arenas hit his first shot attempt -- a pull-up jumper with 10:12 left in the third -- and followed up with a drive past Dallas's Jason Kidd for another layup, sending a charge through the arena. After Rodrigue Beaubois gave Dallas an 86-72 lead, Arenas scored six consecutive points for the Wizards. He hit a step-back jumper, a running hook, then he shot through the lane, split Kidd and Drew Gooden got fouled as he made a reverse layup. A few of the 8,102 fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation afterward.

"Any notion that he can't score, I think that was erased," Saunders said of Arenas, who finished with nine assists. "You saw he turned it on and he can score. We have to get him now to play at that level and be able to score in the offense and put it all together. No question, he showed a great amount of explosion to do what he wanted to do. He gets almost everywhere wants."

The only problem was that Arenas's scoring binge couldn't change the result. At the end of the third quarter, the Mavericks had scored 103 points, the Wizards trailed by 17 points -- and Haywood was still in the locker room.

"I don't think this team is going to have a problem scoring," Saunders said. "It's just a matter of moving on our defense. That's going to be our area."

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