Like it or not, without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, there still is a season to play, and there still is a postseason in our future. I hope everyone took the time to get their emotional frustrations out in the last thread, but now it's time to move forward and think about the rest of the season.
First things first, there is a shred of hope with Butler that he can somehow return for the playoffs. In light of the Arenas injury, Butler told the Washington Times' John Mitchell that he won't hesitate to rush his return.
Knowing Butler, he's definitely speaking the truth. Last year, he rushed back from a nasty broken thumb and had a coming out party of sorts in the opening playoff series against the Cavaliers. He averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds while spending the majority of the series checking LeBron James, and it was as much his breakout that kept the Wizards close as Arenas.' All this with a thumb injury that required offseason surgery and prevented him from shooting effectively.
Earlier this year, when Butler was struggling with his knee, I advocated for a longer benching until he was mentally sound. But a semi-healed broken hand is a lot less damaging to Butler than a knee injury. Butler relies so much on quickness, and succeeds because he's too fast and tenacious for most small forwards. A hand injury isn't going to take that away, and considering his history with recovering from injuries, he can still be reasonably effective in a playoff series.
Over at the Fanhouse, Shoals cautions Butler using the example of former Wizard Larry Hughes.
The problem is that the two situations are different. Hughes' hand injury caused him to miss over half the season, and was much more serious than Butler's. Hughes can no longer shoot correctly because of that injury. Butler's injury does not seem to be as serious, and he's proven that he's a quick healer.
But even if Butler returns, it won't be until the playoffs. In the meantime, what happens now?
The first thing that automatically will happen is that there's going to be a change in emphasis. Whereas the Wizards ran their offense through Arenas and Butler in the past, they now need to embrace more of a motion-type attack. If there was any time for Eddie Jordan to show off the real Princeton offense, it would be now.
With Arenas out, I'd like to see Antonio Daniels play 30 minutes every game. Yesterday, he ran the point flawlessly, amassing 17 assists. He seems to have a real chemistry with Etan Thomas, and that's only going to make both better. Meanwhile, until Andray Blatche comes back, Jarvis Hayes should start. He has been playing better of late, but still is too limited to play any more than 25 minutes.
I'd also like to see Eddie experimenting with a small lineup on the perimeter and try to play Daniels, Roger Mason, and Stevenson together. The only other option is to play Antawn Jamison a lot at the three, and I see that as a major defensive problem. If you have to do that, the Wizards must make sure that Thomas is on the floor during those times. There needs to be at least one defensive guy in the frontcourt at all times.
Basically, the rotation needs to shorten. Daniels, Jamison, and Stevenson need to play 35+ minutes every game. Thomas should play 30 minutes as well, if only to get into a nice rhythm. Hayes and Songaila should split time in the frontcourt until Blatche comes back, at which point we should see a drop in Jarvis' minutes. Calvin Booth and Brendan Haywood, depending on his mood, should split time behind Thomas. Haywood's the better player than Thomas, but once you've decided to sit him for the rest of the year, it's too late to try to throw him back in there now.
Guard depth is going to be a major problem, but as long as Daniels and Stevenson hold up, the starters are capable. I'm more concerned about the frontcourt, but Blatche can provide a lift once he comes back. More importantly, games can be won. It'll take better defensive preparation, more offensive assertiveness from Jamison and Stevenson, and more motion in the Princeton offense. But it can be done, somehow.