-- The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant was going off in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's preseason game in Bakersfield, Calif., when he started jawing at Washington Wizards forward Awvee Storey.
Storey, who is scrapping to make an NBA roster, wasn't intimidated and stood his ground as Byrant placed an elbow in his chest and tried to shove him during a break in play. Wanting to stop a potential altercation before it took place, the referees handed out double technicals. That's when the Wizards' bench -- players and coaches -- jumped up in unison and began defending Storey, who apparently was the victim of the NBA's unwritten rule protecting its superstars.
"He didn't do anything," screamed guard Gilbert Arenas, who was already done for the night after contributing 27 points and six assists in 32 minutes.
In a soon-to-be forgotten preseason game, one Washington would go on to lose 111-108 in overtime, the scene said a lot about the chemistry that is starting to take hold for the Wizards.
"We're going to have a good team, a deep team with guys that play well with one another," forward Jared Jeffries said.
Coach Eddie Jordan has praised his team's maturity and professional approach. And veterans such as Chucky Atkins, who is on his fifth NBA team, say they like the overall vibe surrounding the team. Still, as the Wizards take the court for Thursday night's preseason game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Staples Center, they will be looking to turn that chemistry into consistency and rhythm on both ends of the court.
Tuesday's game, which the Wizards led at the end of each of the first three quarters before Jordan turned the game over to reserves, provided a taste of what the Wizards have while showing that there is room for improvement. After missing two games with groin and hamstring soreness, Arenas looked like his all-star self, ripping through the Los Angeles defense at will and leading a late first-quarter charge.
Other than guard Jarvis Hayes, who missed his second straight game with knee soreness, the Wizards had their full complement of players for the first time this preseason and nine players clocked at least 23 minutes.
Caron Butler, who was acquired in the trade that sent Kwame Brown to the Lakers, matched the production of Brown, who scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his first game against the Wizards. In 32 minutes, Butler scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting with six rebounds, three steals and two assists. Still, Butler at times resembles his team: He looks unsure of himself, as if he's thinking about what to do instead of simply reacting and doing it.
At other times, such as when he sprinted up the wing, caught a perfect bounce pass from Antonio Daniels and drew a foul on Chris Mihm as he converted a layup, Butler looks right at home.
"Right now, I'm to the point where I'm getting the first option and the second option but I'm still learning the third option and then sometimes the fourth option," Butler said. "Say I'm at the top of the key and I flash through the lane to the wing. Then it's, okay, now I cut over here. Then, I have to cut over here. I'm learning all of the reads. It's one of those things where it will become more familiar the more I'm out there."
Jordan said that such a learning curve is to be expected.
"The message I sent to them at halftime was that we were getting by on our talent, not on our execution and that has to improve," Jordan said. "We were not organized on and our press offense wasn't good so those are things we worked on [in practice Wednesday]. We have to be sharper."
Wizards Notes: One reason the Wizards are 1-3 is their horrendous free throw shooting: 92 of 152 (60.5 percent). Center Brendan Haywood, a career 60.9 percent shooter, has made 5 of 20.
Hayes did not practice Wednesday and will miss his third straight game with knee soreness. Jordan said it's possible that Hayes could miss the remainder of the preseason, which wraps up Oct. 27 at Indiana. "The important thing is for him to be pain free, so we'll wait and give him more time," Jordan said.