The Washington Wizards will get a day off today before continuing preparations for Wednesday's season opener at Toronto with workouts tomorrow and Tuesday at MCI Center.
If practices during training camp and the preseason were focused on installing Coach Eddie Jordan's offense and defense while integrating newcomers Caron Butler, Antonio Daniels, Chucky Atkins and Calvin Booth, tomorrow's and Tuesday's workouts will focus on "tightening up some of the little things," according to all-star guard Gilbert Arenas.
"It's about getting the kinks out, you know, cleaning up the silly stuff -- turnovers, mistakes on defense, not finishing fast breaks, things like that -- and making sure everybody gets their timing down," Arenas said. "Once the lights come on and it counts, it's a different ballgame. We have to be sharp."
Arenas, who missed two games after getting scratched in the eye against the Denver Nuggets last week, shook off rust during Friday's 85-77 victory over the Indiana Pacers and is particularly intent upon getting things in order before the regular season.
"Everyone won't be as patient, especially me," said Arenas, who averaged a team-high 17.4 points and 3.6 assists while shooting 41.1 percent in five preseason games. "I'll be having to calm myself down a little bit. My level is so involved, I have to learn to control it. Everything is different when the games count."
The Wizards provided an idea of what to expect on Friday night during their most focused performance of the preseason. They forced 23 Indiana turnovers and converted those mistakes into 27 points. Center Brendan Haywood outplayed Indiana center Jermaine O'Neal, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting while snagging eight rebounds and blocking two shots.
Butler, a forward who was the key piece in the trade that sent Kwame Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, continued his strong preseason performance with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in 35 minutes.
Butler averaged 13.7 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting an impressive 49.3 percent in seven preseason games. Jordan said his initial plan is to start Arenas, Daniels, Jared Jeffries, Antawn Jamison and Haywood and bring Butler off the bench.
Butler is entering the final season of his four-year rookie contract and is seeking an extension from the Wizards. He would prefer to be in the starting lineup but said he will be willing to come off the bench if that's what is asked of him.
"I'll roll with it, I mean, I'm not used to it and I know I'm a starter in this league and I have been a starter for three years, but I'm not the type of guy who is going to complain because I've been through adversity before," said Butler, who would become a restricted free agent following the season if he and the Wizards do not agree on a contract extension before tomorrow's deadline. "I'm going to continue to come and do what Caron Butler does and that's play hard."
Another key piece to Jordan's rotation is guard Jarvis Hayes, who missed the final six preseason games with knee soreness. Hayes has been limited to shooting drills in practice but will play Wednesday night.
While he figures out how to use Butler and Hayes, Jordan admits that he's still curious about how his team will come together during the early part of the season.
"We have depth and we've shown that we've developed some chemistry and that's fine right now, but what about when we're down 12, 15 points in the second quarter of a game and things aren't going our way?" Jordan said. "That's when we'll find out where we are as a team."
Wizards Notes: The Wizards finished the preseason with a 3-5 record, the same mark they posted last preseason. Washington played only one home game -- the opener against Cleveland -- and logged several days on the road with games in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Memphis; Bakersfield, Calif.; Los Angeles; Houston; and Indianapolis.
The time away from Washington was good for team bonding, but Jordan said he would prefer a more localized schedule in the future.
"I'd have them all here at MCI Center, maybe one of them in Baltimore or something like that, but I'd keep them all close to home," he said. "Sometimes being at home can be a little monotonous but that's why you go to training camp."