John Wall soars, Gilbert Arenas sits as Wizards wrap up training camp
Monday, October 4, 2010; 12:15 AM
John Wall split two defenders near the foul line with cat-quick speed, then evaded two more inside with a beautiful, pirouette spin move and banked in a layup. Then he stomped up the floor and flexed as an astonished crowd cheered at George Mason's Patriot Center.
Andray Blatche, back working out with his teammates after missing three months of action with a broken right foot, reeled off eight straight points during one stretch of an open scrimmage, concluding the one-man run by dunking with his right hand and posing with his left hand resting on his neck. And Al Thornton, who had a minor scare this week when he got hit by a car on campus, proved to be elusive once again, as he won the game with a driving jumper with 2.5 seconds remaining and fell to the ground.
But while the Wizards concluded training camp on Sunday by entertaining a few thousand fans with a free open scrimmage, there was another show on the bench from a stranger hiding in plain sight - Gilbert Arenas missed his second day of practice with a sprained right ankle that could potentially keep him out of the Wizards' preseason debut in Dallas on Tuesday.
"He's hurt, and it's swollen," Coach Flip Saunders said, adding that he wasn't sure of Arenas's availability against the Mavericks. "It just might be tough from the standpoint of - we'll have to wait and see because he got hurt [Friday night], he didn't do anything [Saturday], he hasn't done anything [Sunday]. We practice [on Monday] and then play. I don't know."
Arenas has missed three of the past four practices of training camp, after sitting out the Friday morning session with what Saunders described as "leg soreness." Saunders said Arenas "tweaked" his ankle in the evening scrimmages later that night and has been unable to participate since then. He hasn't spoken to reporters since answering questions for little more than three minutes on media day last Monday.
Arenas received the second-loudest cheers from fans on Sunday, but he was a spectator as well, with a towel covering his head, leaving only his new, thick beard visible. Although he was announced with the white team with expected starters Wall, Blatche, Thornton and JaVale McGee, Arenas didn't leave his chair from the earlier practice and started sitting on the bench with the black team. He later walked over to the white team bench after the first quarter, only to leave the court entirely and return from the locker room with a black towel covering his head as he sat back on the black team bench. Late in the game, a fan said something to Arenas to make him laugh, but Arenas concealed the smile by covering his face with the towel.
When asked if he was disappointed that he didn't have Arenas available at the end of training camp, Saunders said, "It doesn't matter. Veteran guys are veteran guys, how they go about things."
Saunders instead decided to praise Wall and newcomer Kirk Hinrich, who was forced to miss the second half of the scrimmage with a bruised right shoulder. "Hinrich and Wall have probably been our two best players in camp overall. If we were to go today, those two guys would probably start because of how they performed in camp," Saunders said. "When Gil's ready, he'll come back and get his legs under him."
Wall certainly had his legs under him, as he made spectacular plays, including chasing down Nick Young for what should have been a breakaway dunk - he got the block but was called for a foul after giving him some contact - and that dazzling 360-degree layup around Cartier Martin and Yi Jianlian to end the first period of the scrimmage.
"It was instincts," Wall said. "I was going to the basket and I seen Yi there. I didn't know if he was in the charge area or not, and it went in."
Saunders joked afterward that he used to do that same move as a former high school standout at Cuyahoga Heights in Ohio. "I told him that's why I brought him up there to Minnesota, those three days, so he picked up that move, finally," Saunders said with a laugh.
When asked to assess his whole team after training camp, Saunders said, "What I thought we had is what we have. So what I learned was, what I thought we were, we are. [We have] great energy, play hard. We have very good quickness, we have length. We've got to continue to work on rebounding. That's going to be a big key for us."
Saunders said that there were few surprises this week other than fifth-year big man Hilton Armstrong, whom he said played better in camp than expected starter JaVale McGee. Saunders let assistants Sam Cassell and Wes Unseld Jr. run the teams during the scrimmage, but he shouted instructions throughout the game, with special emphasis on Blatche, one of the "main guys" who is working his way back into shape after going full bore in practice on Friday.
Blatche's teammates were thrilled to have him back on the floor. "It feels good, because he's a part of our team and without him, we're not the same," McGee said. "So since he came back, we get to see exactly how our team is going to be. And once Gil plays, we'll really know."