There were a lot of strange things that happened at the Verizon Center tonight. The first was the introduction of our newest Wizard Rashard Lewis, who immediately stated that he couldn't play because the game is "half mental" and he wouldn't be ready in time. Considering that Lewis arrived at the VC in the late afternoon, I am willing to give him a pass on his absence. The second is that the Wizards beat an opponent by 30 points, which they haven't done in some time. It was impressive to watch from a fan's perspective, but if you appreciate basketball in any sort of aesthetic sense then you probably had difficulty watching the Bobcats kick the ball away for 48 minutes.
And then there was the subject of Gilbert Arenas.
I normally don't give much credence to the thought that removing one player who dominates a team will sometimes cause his former teammates to perform better, but as as more quotes came out of post game about players "not deferring," the "ball not sticking" and needing to "step up" you begin to wonder if there is something to this whole "addition by subtraction" policy.
Coach and player quotes after the jump.
On the Subject of Gilbert Arenas
Coach Flip Saunders
One thing that's happened here is that Gilbert was so good, as far as with the ball, that our players had the tendency to go down there and stand and watch. Now our guys are moving a bit more. That's not taking away anything from Gilbert, sometimes our guys were so used to Gilbert being so good and taking things over that they relied on that. Now they know they don't have to, they can't rely on his ability to take over and they have to rely on an offense.
Nick Young on whether a weight has been lifted off the team's shoulder
Yeah, y'know. We finally got that trade out of the way. Who was leaving and where was people going and we know what we got. We gotta work with what we got.
Andray Blatche on players stepping up
A lot of guys see that when a trade happens it's a new opportunity for them to step up. That's what guys have been doing and pitching in....that's one of the things we've had to work on, instead of having the ball stick to long, try to move the ball and get some guys open.
Josh Howard on how the team's play has changed in the last two games
Being aggressive. Hanging in there through the mistakes. Like I said we've able to turn the page after the mistakes and go make something better on the other end of the court, no matter what end it is.
I'm not sure whether these quotes are telling or whether there is a genuine sense of relief that the team can move on and try to forge a new basketball identity. Of course, I'm not making an assertion that any of the players disliked Arenas, as both Young and Blatche were some of his closest friends on the team. But the comments do seem to point to a team that has had a distraction removed and can now concentrate on the task of playing basketball rather than handling the three ring media circus. Nick Young's quote in particular points to the fact that many of the players must have considered the trade inevitable and Arenas' tenure on the team as only temporary.
Obviously, this still has a long way to go before we can draw any lasting conclusions. Two games is too small a sample size, even for this poster. But maybe Arenas was in some ways an albatross around this franchise's neck. Not in the cancerous or poisonous sense as espoused by some pundits, but as a player who existed in a limbo, who neither teammates nor management could support due to his uncertain status.