Cavaliers 116, Wizards 94
Larry Hughes felt a different vibe from the moment he entered MCI Center to prepare for last night's preseason game between the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers.
"It was strange not driving in like I'm used to," said Hughes, who wore a black Washington Nationals baseball cap to the Cavaliers' morning shoot-around. "I was coming in on the team bus and that's when it kind of hit me that I'm on the other team now."
That point was accented when Hughes was greeted by more boos than cheers during introductions and driven home when former back-court sidekick Gilbert Arenas put a charge into the crowd of 12,106 by taking Hughes off the dribble for a layup.
However, even as the Wizards and their fans were provided with a reminder of the recent past, they also caught a glimpse of the immediate future during a 116-94 loss.
For starters, Hughes's old spot was filled by third-year guard Jarvis Hayes, who missed the second half of last season and Washington's playoff run with a fractured kneecap. In his first game action since Feb. 27, Hayes scored five points in 20 minutes.
Guards Antonio Daniels and Chucky Atkins and center Calvin Booth made their Washington debuts. Guard-forward Caron Butler was supposed to make his first Wizards appearance but was held out of the game with a sore groin. Butler strained it during the team's intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. He said he plans on playing Thursday, when the Wizards play next, in Winston-Salem, N.C., against the San Antonio Spurs.
Despite having only one week of practice, the Wizards looked regular season sharp during a 41-point first quarter. Displaying some of the defensive intensity Coach Eddie Jordan has emphasized, the Wizards forced seven first-quarter turnovers and converted them into 17 points.
Arenas came up with two steals -- one of them on a nice strip of Hughes -- and scored 10 of his 12 points during the quarter. Forward Antawn Jamison added nine points and forward Jared Jeffries had eight. There were also signs that the new-look Wizards are creating some chemistry.
In one of the game's prettiest sequences, the Wizards executed a textbook fast break in which Arenas zipped a pass up court to Daniels, who threaded a pass to Jeffries for a dunk. The ball never touched the floor.
"That play was a sign of maturity," Arenas said. "Earlier, I threw a pass straight to Antawn and Antawn got fouled. Antonio got on me and said: 'Hit me first. I'll hit him.' That was a case of me learning from the veterans about how to make the game easier."
The Wizards also displayed some choppiness. With Jordan mixing in different players during the second half, Cleveland took control by outscoring the Wizards 30-17 during the third quarter.
Jordan expects to see improved offensive execution and better defense as he tightens up his rotation throughout the preseason.
"It's going to get better once they stay in the routine of practices," Jordan said. "We're demanding a lot of things from them. It will get better."
One player who won't be a part of Jordan's plans is Hughes, who scored nine points, grabbed three rebounds and had three assists in 23 minutes while shrugging off the boos with his usual cool, calm attitude.
"I expected it," he said. "I know those boos were from fans who wanted me back. I definitely know it wasn't because I'm a bad person."
Wizards Notes: Tip-off was pushed back 18 minutes, to 7:18 p.m., because the basketball floor had to be put into place following the 1 p.m. Capitals-Rangers hockey game. . . .
Cleveland forward Donyell Marshall, who selected the Cavaliers over the Wizards during free agency, said he's happy with the choice but has thought about what might have been. Marshall signed a four-year, $21.2 million contract with the Cavaliers. Washington offered a three-year deal and turned its attention to signing Daniels once Marshall chose Cleveland.
"The last couple of days I have thought about it because it did come down to these two teams," Marshall said. "It was almost like choosing a college. I think I made the best choice for myself and my family."