COACH: Eddie Jordan | 2007-08: 43-39
Washington Wizards

The health of Arenas' left knee hovers around the Wizards' season once again.
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan laid it out there for everybody to hear:

“Certainly you need a Gilbert Arenas to get to where we want to go — we certainly want to win an NBA championship."

After Arenas underwent debris-clearing surgery on his left knee in mid September – his third operation on the knee in the span of 17 months – Washington faces life without Gilbert once again.

Agent Zero suited up just 13 times in the regular season last year and played hokey pokey in the Wizards' First Round playoff matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. First he was in, then he was out, and so were the Wiz as the Cavs bumped them from the postseason for the third straight season.

The good news is that Washington has learned to survive and thrive without Arenas. The Wizards were the only team in the league to beat the eventual champion Boston Celtics three times during the regular season and two of them occurred while Arenas was still rehabbing.

Arenas’ absence hurts the team in the short run, of course. At his best, he is a playmaker: quick off the dribble, strong to the rim, efficient from both the foul and the three-point line and knows how to find open teammates, particularly in the open court.

But when he went out, everybody had to dig a little deeper. Caron Butler went from being an excellent accompanying player to a guy who can lead a team on both ends of the floor night in and night out. DeShawn Stevenson relished his increase in minutes and honored Arenas’ patented swagger by not backing down to anybody, even LeBron James. Andray Blatche got some touches and the chance to show what he can do.

Nick Young benefitted doubly from Arenas’ injury. Not only did he get to see some playing time at shooting guard that would be scarce to come by for a rookie playing behind a three-time All-Star, but he got Gilbert’s undivided attention outside of the 94x50. If Arenas couldn’t play, the least he could do was coach.

Arenas took the fellow California native Young under his wing, offering him everything from veteran advice on how to split a double-team to driving him to the gym and counting out makes when Young practiced shooting to even letting him stay in his second house for dirt cheap rent as he found his way in the league.

The Wizards won 43 games last year and 37 of them were without Gilbert on the court. Washington can compete with or without their engaging star, but can they win it all without the boost that comes from a guy with career averages of 22.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.8 steals?

Eddie Jordan doesn’t seem to think so.

Best-case scenario, the Wizards’ newly minted $111 million man returns to the court on Christmas Day (come on, you know even if he’s close by Dec. 21 or something like that he’ll wait to make a yuletide splash), he integrates himself into the lineup by the All-Star break and Washington is hitting on all cylinders come playoff time.

Worst case? Next time Coach Jordan mentions needing “a” Gilbert Arenas, he’s talking about another player the Wizards are targeting who is healthy and not actually Gilbert himself.

-- Dave McMenamin

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Most veterans who just sign a multiyear, multimillion dollar contract aren't about to board a plane to Las Vegas to don stinky, reversible mesh jerseys and battle against rookies learning the ropes and has-beens trying to hang on in the league. But that's exactly what Andray Blatche did in July.

The 6-11, 248-pound Blatche, who drew comparisons to Kevin Garnett when the Wizards drafted him out of high school in the second round back in 2005, knew he still had work to do even though he was taken care of financially. You see, after Blatche posted encouraging averages of 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in just 20 minutes per game during the regular season, he pulled a disappearing act in the playoffs against Cleveland when his numbers dwindled to 3.7 and 3.3.

Even if Washington's "Big Three" of Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas can stay healthy enough to make a run in the East, they're going to need some help from role players. I mean, do you remember Leon Powe's Game 2 and Rajon Rondo's Game 6 of The Finals?

Most of the Wizards' secondary cast have been in the league long enough to the point where Eddie Jordan knows what he can expect: Brendan Haywood can get you 10 and 10, but don't ask him for 15 and 15; DeShawn Stevenson will guard the opposing team's best player and can knock down an open three; Antonio Daniels won't turn the ball over, but he won't do much else.

Blatche is the wildcard Wizard.

-- Dave McMenamin

4 The number of Rookie of the Years (Walt Bellamy, Terry Dischinger, Earl Monroe, Wes Unseld) the franchise has had.
This is always a guess as to where they will finish the season. Gilbert hasn't proved to be very durable the last few years, and when he has come back he seems to screw up the chemistry the team is able to develop in his absence.
That being said, he is still one of the better talents in the league and if he stays healthy, the Wiz should have a good year.
They have a solid cast in Antonio Daniels, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. All of these guys are solid, steady players and work well within Eddie Jordan's system.
The biggest area the team needs to improve on is defense. The Wizards can be very good at times but seem to lose interest on that end at other times.
The other thing that happens here is when Gilbert is playing, the Princeton offense is often abandoned. When he's hurt, they run it to death. The Princeton offense takes a great deal of practice to get the timing and reads down so they become second nature, which leaves less time to work on the defensive aspects of the game.
Once again, if they remain healthy look for them to make the playoffs.
-- NBA Scout
For the second season in a row, Caron Butler had a career year that was interrupted by injury (43 missed games in past two years). The injuries are becoming a concern, but Butler’s production when healthy makes him worth the risk.

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Record: 30-52, 14th in Eastern Conference
Playoffs: Did not qualify
Scoring Leader: G. Arenas, 22.2 PPG
Rebounding Leader: B. Haywood, 7.6 RPG
Assist Leader: G. Arenas, 6.6 APG

Simulated Season Details
PG Gilbert Arenas 19.4 3.9 5.1
SG DeShawn Stevenson 11.2 2.9 3.1
SF Caron Butler 20.3 6.7 4.9
PF Antawn Jamison 21.4 10.2 1.5
C Brendan Haywood 10.6 7.2 0.9

F Andray Blatche 7.5 5.2 1.1
G Dee Brown -- -- --
G Antonio Daniels 8.4 2.9 4.8
G Juan Dixon 5.0 1.4 1.8
C JaVale McGee -- -- --
G Nick Young 7.5 1.5 0.8
G Dee Brown Free agent
G Juan Dixon Free agent
C JaVale McGee Draft
G Roger Mason Free agent
PPG Antawn Jamison 21.4
RPG Antawn Jamison 10.2
APG Gilbert Arenas 5.1
SPG Caron Butler 2.2
BPG Brendan Haywood 1.7
Points Scored 98.8 (14th)
Points Allowed 99.2 (12th)
Field-Goal Percentage .446 (22nd)
Opponents' FG% .461 (20th)
Rebounding Diff. +0.40 (14th)
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