Wizards Notebook

Sunday becomes a day of rest for the Wizards

By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 18, 2010

The Washington Wizards got a much needed and eagerly anticipated day off on Sunday, giving them time to recover from a hectic week in which they played four games in five nights, culminating in Saturday's 96-86 victory over visiting Sacramento to end a four-game slide.

The win began the Wizards' longest homestand of the season. They will play their next five games at Verizon Center and will have played eight of nine at home by the start of next month.

"After a tough week, some close basketball games, it's definitely good to get a win, get to rest up," said Antawn Jamison, who scored 14 points against the Kings but missed 11 of 17 shots one night after playing 55-plus minutes in a 121-119 double-overtime loss at Chicago. "We got an early one on Monday. We're going to be [at home] for a while, so we might as well make the best of the opportunity."

The Wizards (13-26) will play Portland at 1 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Then they draw the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday and the Miami Heat on Friday. The Mavericks (26-13) are in second place in the Western Conference, and the Heat (20-19) is in fifth in the East.

Against the Trail Blazers (25-16), the Wizards will be aiming for consecutive wins for just the fourth time this season. Washington has yet to win three games in a row.

"This team, it's scary, because we're not that far away, yet we are far away," Coach Flip Saunders said. "So the players have to understand, and they have to take the mentality that we're far away because that's how they have to go out and perform . . . with that sense of urgency."

The importance of that is compounded with the indefinite suspension of starting guard Gilbert Arenas, who on Friday pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to a felony count of possessing a pistol without a license. The Wizards are 2-5 without their three-time all-star. Arenas was averaging 22.6 points per game before NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended him without pay on Jan. 6.

Randy Foye has been averaging 18.5 points and 7.5 assists per game since moving into the starting lineup in Arenas's place on Jan. 8, although he had just eight points on 2-for-8 shooting on Saturday.

"That felt good. I know," Foye said of beating the Kings. "I spoke to Antawn, Brendan [Haywood], and everybody was exhausted after playing [Friday] night, flying, getting in late, and an hour ride home. And then when you get home you can't go to sleep because you still have the adrenaline rushing through your body. It just was a gutsy win for our team. It just shows the type of people we have on this team, what type of men we have on this team."

Reflecting on No. 600

Saunders finally got his 600th career win on Saturday, although it came later than expected during a trying season in which he has had to juggle his lineup regularly because of injuries and off-court distractions.

Saunders paid tribute to players and the front office at both his previous coaching stops in Minnesota and Detroit. He coached the Timberwolves from 1995 to 2005 and the Pistons from 2005 to '08, during which time he compiled a franchise-record winning percentage of .715 (176-70).

"You win games because you have, I think, there's three factors involved," said Saunders, whose .597 winning percentage entering the season was seventh among active coaches. "Number one is you're in a situation where the management team gives you great support in terms of how you want to play and the things you want to do. . . .

"Then the management also puts you in a situation to get the people . . . and then what I've done is I've had players that are all committed to winning. Individual accomplishments weren't a big thing. I think they knew that if the team had success, that the individual accomplishments would happen."

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