There will come a moment before tonight's preseason game between the Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers in Bakersfield, Calif., when Gilbert Arenas and Kwame Brown cross paths, make eye contact and, perhaps, address one another.
Brown, who was traded to the Lakers this summer for Chucky Atkins and Caron Butler, will be in the starting lineup for Los Angeles while Arenas will be back on the court for Washington after missing the last two games with groin and hamstring soreness.
How will Arenas react to seeing Brown for the first time since Brown was traded to the Lakers in August?
"Who?" Arenas asked. "Number 54. Oh, he's not at my position so I don't really care. That's the Lakers' decision. That doesn't really have anything to do with me."
"This ain't no Kobe-Shaq thing," Arenas continued. "It'll be a handshake. 'Hey what's up? How are you doing? Let's play.' "
Brown recently said that he skipped practice during the playoffs last spring -- and earned a suspension -- because he wanted to avoid physically harming Arenas. According to Brown, Arenas had told Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan not to play Brown.
Brown, however, struck a conciliatory tone when asked about Arenas on Sunday.
"No ill will," Brown told reporters in Los Angeles. "I'll go shake [Arenas's] hand. I'll go shake the whole team's hand. Regardless of how some of the players might feel about me or I feel about him, we're professionals."
The Wizards and Lakers could meet again Friday if both teams win Thursday as part of a four-team mini-tournament at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The teams meet for the first time during the regular season on Dec. 16 in Los Angeles. The Lakers make their lone visit to MCI Center on Dec. 26.
"I'm kind of glad it came early," said Brown, who spent four controversial seasons with the Wizards after being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft. "Sometimes you can get overzealous against a team that you've been traded from and it can work in reverse. You want to do so well that it doesn't happen for you. I just want to go out and try to stay calm and patient."
The game will also be a reunion of sorts for Atkins and Butler, who played for the Lakers last season and have maintained ties with several Lakers players, including Kobe Bryant.
"Once you go to war with certain people, that relationship carries over," Butler said. "Regardless of the business aspect, you know, trades or whatever, you still have those relationships."
However, neither Atkins nor Butler views tonight's game as anything other than another opportunity to get comfortable with Jordan's offense. With five preseason games remaining and the Nov. 2 regular season opener at Toronto fast approaching, the Wizards are still looking for rhythm and continuity.
"My main thing right now is just understanding the plays," said Butler, who averaged 10 points and 4.5 rebounds against San Antonio and Memphis after missing the preseason opener against Cleveland with a groin strain. "I'm not forcing anything. I'm just trying to pick up every situation so when November 2 comes, it's on."
Jordan hasn't placed any emphasis on winning during the preseason, but he does want to see better execution on both ends of the court, starting tonight. The Wizards looked particularly sloppy in losing, 104-79, at Memphis on Saturday night.
"We're not fine-tuning right now, we're still tuning in a major sense just trying to get on the same clear station, and then we'll fine-tune," Jordan said. "For us, we're not sitting here saying: 'Come on, let's hurry up and get to the regular season.' We were almost that way last year. We felt good about each other. We were all familiar. This year, we need the time to develop playing with each other and learning our system."
Wizards Notes: Guard Jarvis Hayes did not practice yesterday and will likely miss his second straight game with knee soreness. Rookie forward Andray Blatche wore practice gear yesterday and did light shooting drills.
Blatche, whose right arm and left chest area were injured during a Sept. 25 shooting, said he won't be cleared to practice for at least "a couple of weeks" and hasn't yet been cleared to fly with the team. Blatche said his lung is still healing, and he's also doing exercises to strengthen his right hand.
"Not being able to shoot a basketball for three weeks was killing me," Blatche said. "Right now I feel like a kid in a candy store just being able to come out here and be with the guys again."