By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 13, 2010; 1:38 AM
Try as he might, Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas just couldn't get his shots to fall with anything resembling regularity on Friday night. He took 14 of them in a 93-85 loss to visiting Charlotte, and all but two missed, extending the three-time all-star's shooting funk that is morphing into perhaps a season-long concern.
These are the nights Arenas conceded he must endure, though, as he tries to regain full health. He finished with five points in 31 minutes 33 seconds, the most he has logged this season and longer than Coach Flip Saunders earlier in the day indicated he planned to play the former starter who is nursing myriad ailments.
"I'm getting there," said Arenas, who had been averaging 25 minutes per game entering Friday. "I'm just struggling with the shot right now. It feels good every time it leaves my hand. It's just not going down. It just comes with playing. Those three weeks I missed is killing me right now."
Arenas was referring to the preseason and the first three regular season games, when he was mending primarily from a sore ankle. But a sore knee and groin also have contributed to a rocky start in which he is shooting 28 percent (13 for 47). Arenas misfired especially from three-point range against the Bobcats, going 1 for 9 and figuring in plenty to Washington shooting 24 percent from that range overall.
A sequence near the end of the game encapsulated Arenas's jagged performance. First he had a shot blocked, then missed a three-pointer with 34 seconds remaining with the Wizards (2-5) trying to rally from a six-point deficit. Arenas thereafter missed two more three-pointers to end a game in which he clearly didn't have the lift to which the three-time all-star has grown accustomed.
"He'll get there," guard Kirk Hinrich, who had 14 points and eight assists with just one turnover, said of Arenas. "The thing about Gil from what I've always known is the guy has no conscience. He's that type of scorer. I'm really not worried about it. Just assuming it's going to come."
Saunders wasn't so sure a few hours before tipoff, when he said Arenas would need to prove he could handle extended court time and that the longest-tenured Wizard would play in the range of 23 to 30 minutes. That plan went awry after Washington was falling woefully short in rebounding effort, save for several players, including Arenas. His six rebounds were the second most on the team on a night in which the Bobcats handily won the rebounding battle, 48-30.
That disparity left Saunders with little choice but to leave in Arenas despite his reservations about his physical fitness.
"When your shot ain't hitting and you want to stay in the game, you've got to do the little things," Arenas said. "The bigs have their hands full with other bigs, so the guards have got to get in there sometimes and rebound, and I just tried to ease the pressure, try to go in there and get some rebounds."
Arenas also supplied defensive energy, including being a nuisance at times to Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace, who finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds, both game highs. Arenas had two steals and constantly was around loose balls and impeding passing lanes. The Wizards forced 22 turnovers in all, enabling them to remain competitive despite the lopsided rebounding margin.
The extensive playing time for Arenas came at the expense of Nick Young, who finished with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting in just under 13 minutes. Saunders said he weighed playing Young more because of shot-making, but that ultimately the team would be better served by Arenas's rebounding aggression despite his shooting woes.
"You always think he's going to make the next one," Saunders said of Arenas. "That's just the way he's been. I hesitated [playing Arenas as much as he did] because Nick made some shots, but the thing was Gil's the one guy that was actually rebounding for us in the second half. He ended up as our second-leading rebounder, and he was active as far as getting his hands on a lot of balls."