Some interesting stuff that people on the Wizards said before and after the game. Stats will be up later.
Earl Boykins wasn't originally going to talk to the media. He had somewhere to be and left before everyone got there, and the Wizards' PR people apologized to everyone on his behalf. But he eventually came back and chatted for a bit, though he's not the most talkative guy in the league.
One thing he was asked was about playing in Italy last year, which yielded an interesting answer.
"It was easy for me [to go to Europe], because when most guys go, they go because they're forced to. I chose to go. That's the big difference. When you choose to do something, it's easier to handle being away from home."
It's nice that he tells himself that, and clearly it's allowed him to persevere. But let's be honest, he kind of was forced to go to Europe. The money dried up in the 2008 offseason and nobody was willing to offer him good money, so he went to the only place that paid him. Nothing wrong with that, just saying his explanation doesn't seem right to me.
That was probably the only thing that I can find fault with Boykins for on this night. Many other guys talked about him, particularly his former teammates, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.
Jamison said he couldn't believe that Boykins hasn't been able to stick anywhere.
It kind of amazes me that it's hard for this guy to stay stable in the league and stay on a team," he said, latter adding that "The only thing that amazes me [about Boykins] is that this guy was at home relaxing, and all of a sudden, he's acting like he hasn't missed any time."
Arenas was also asked why Boykins hasn't been able to stick, and said he thinks a lot of it has to do with the stigma that's resulted from his height. Arenas said people look at him and make assumptions that there are better guys out there because of how small he is. He also seemed totally comfortable with Boykins taking the last few shots, which is either a sign of selflessness or being overly passive, depending on your perspective.
"Coach yelled at us like four games ago, saying 'Why don't you run the goddamn floor?' I was like, 'Well, me and Earl got this thing going for the last couple years.' Earl goes and attacks, and if he doesn't have anything, he passes it back to me and I go. He knows that when he gets stuck, I'm behind him. That's just how we play."
There were people chanting "MVP! MVP!" when Boykins went to the free throw line. Jamison laughed about it and said he didn't hear until someone told him after the game, while Boykins said he also didn't hear it (which I don't believe).
Flip Saunders said the final play was indeed run for Boykins, and not Arenas, in case you guys were wondering. He considered playing Nick Young down the stretch instead of Boykins, but decided to stick with Boykins and it worked out.
(Below the jump: Caron Butler's aggressiveness, Gilbert Arenas' mid-range shooting, Arenas' beef with the refs, Brendan Haywood breaking down the defensive strategy on Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings and more)
Caron Butler's aggression had to do with his health
Comcast SportsNet's Chris Miller said it best tonight - Caron Butler had "that look." Before the game, he was out on the main court shooting game-speed jumpers - spot-up shots, one-dribble, etc. As he stepped onto the court, he took the ball from the ref, bounced it around, all while strutting from one side of the court to the other.
His numbers weren't incredible - 15 points on 10 shots - but he got to the line 10 times, attacked the rim and had a nasty throwdown on Bogut tonight. It was a Butler who wasn't settling for jumpers, instead choosing to attack sensibly. It was a Butler we hadn't seen all season.
After the game, I asked Butler what caused his renewed aggression. He said a lot of it had to do with his ankle feeling better. Remember, he missed the Philadelphia game and was nagged during the San Antonio game with that ankle.
My ankle is feeling better, and I'm able to maneuver. At the time I wasn't feeling so well, I was settling for jumpers and stuff because I couldn't explode to the basket and do some of the things I can do.
Then, as if catching himself mid-thought, he somewhat changed his tune so that it didn't seem like he was excusing his poor performance.
But I'm not going to make no excuses. I'm just going to go out there and play and don't point no fingers. I just try to do what I can. Sometimes, maybe for a guy like myself, 60 percent is better than somebody healthy, so I'm just trying to do the best I can. But now I'm definitely feeling much better and adding another dimension to this ballclub.
The explanation still makes some sense, though. We all know how Butler plays through pain often, so it's very possible that ankle injury was worse than he let on. Ankle injuries can nag you for a long time too - Derrick Rose, for example, is struggling in large part due to his slow recovery from a preseason ankle injury.
Butler didn't say whether Saunders told him to be more aggressive, saying instead that "it's common sense" to drive to the rim more, especially when a smaller player is defending him. However, Saunders said he did in fact talk to Butler and encouraged him to drive to the basket more often.
"I told [Caron], he's got to be more aggressive. He's one of the one guys that we have that can put it on the floor and beat people off the bounce. When he does that, it sucks the defense in a lot and it opens things up for everyone else."
Either way, I hope this keeps up. I also hope we see more of Caron posting up. I'll save this for a future video segment (if I can get source video), but I really liked how he was deployed tonight.
Butler also was very happy about his jam on Bogut, bragging that it was the second time he got Bogut in his career ("He's on my wall twice!"). I asked him when that other dunk happened (I didn't remember), and he said it happened last year. Anyone remember?
Gilbert Arenas angry at the referees
What started as an innocent question to Gilbert Arenas by Kyle from Truth About It turned into an all-our rant against the referees. Arenas accused the referees of "profiling" him and can't understand why he was called for two straight offensive fouls when he tried to drive to the rim.
Read more about it on Truth About It, where Kyle has the transcript of the exchange. It'll be interesting to see if Arenas gets fined at all for his comments.
This version of the "more aggressive Gilbert Arenas" means...
Arenas eventually calmed down, as he always does, and opened us up his mind, heart and soul about, well, everything. At one point, when asked about the bench, he praised DeShawn Stevenson's ability to play his role by saying he job previously was basically to make some shots and "irritate" the other team like Dennis Rodman used to do. I guess that's a compliment...
I eventually asked him about his mid-range jumper, which he seems to be knocking down far more proficiently than he did earlier in the season. Why is he stroking that shot now when he wasn't before?
"Now, I'm concentrating on shooting. Before, it was like 'Shit, I'm open, let me just shoot it before coach yells at me for not shooting it.' At the beginning, Twan was out, and I was scoring. Then, there was this little part about 6, 7 games ago where if I saw an open shot, I was taking it, but I wasn't in rhythm. I wasn't thinking about shooting. Now, I'm thinking about shooting again. When I come off the pick, I'm shooting instead of just thinking about passing."
I also asked him about Antawn Jamison's comments from last week and what it meant to hear him and Flip Saunders imploring him to be more aggressive. He said it helped a lot to hear those comments from them.
"I was afraid what those guys were going to think. I've been gone for two years. You come back, and they're holding up the ship. If you're coming back and you're coming back shooting, you don't want them to look at you sideways."
Brendan Haywood reads the scouting reports
Talk to Gilbert Arenas, and he'll break down offensive schemes and stuff like that in a very detailed manner. Brendan Haywood is the same way, except defensively.
I asked Haywood what the team strategy was on Andrew Bogut, who was held to just eight points on 4-14 shooting. Haywood had a major hand in that, of course, but Andray Blatche did a good job on Bogut as well. That's really key, because Bogut does so many things for the Bucks.
"Our strategy wasn't to double Bogut at all. We really just kind of wanted to stay at home. You don't want to make anyone comfortable, so you want to sometimes, when he starts dribbling, fake at him a little bit, make him think he might be being doubled when he's really not. But our whole thing was, listen, let's not let this guy get to his left. Even though he's right-handed, he really likes to use his left hand. Let's keep him off his left hand and take away his space for his jump shot."
Now THAT'S a detailed breakdown. It shows Haywood does his homework on players to make sure they won't get in their comfort zone. That's a huge part of being a good defensive player, and Haywood seems to have mastered it.
I also asked Haywood about the team's strategy on Brandon Jennings, who had 17 points, but needed 21 shots to get there.
"We really tried to converge at [Jennings] at the rim. We realized early on that he drives to score more than he drives to pass, so we really tried to step up, take away his scoring angles and make him shoot jump shots. That's just the name of the game. You make guys take contested jump shots, you're going to play good defense."
This is an interesting observation by Haywood. I have noticed a couple times that Jennings tends to shoot those little floaters once he gets into the lane instead of focusing on driving and dishing. He passes really well off the pick and roll on the perimeter, but not as well when he gets to the rim. Again, Haywood did his homework tonight and does it all season. That's the sign of a defensive leader.
Flip Saunders on Andray Blatche:
"Andray's in a tough situation. Right now, our two most consistent people have really been Antawn and Brendan. At times, it's tough to take those guys out. Sometimes, when Antawn gets on a roll, he's one of those guys where he gets on a roll, you want to keep him playing because he doesn't seem to get tired. He gets better as he keeps on going. But to Andray's credit, he's kept a positive attitude these past few games, and even though he played 19 minutes, he had a solid 19 minutes."
Antawn Jamison on beating two very different teams (Toronto and Milwaukee) in back-to-back nights.
"Knowing that the style of play [between TOR and MIL] is very different, for you to be able to adjust to that really speaks volumes. That's the type of team that we have to be. We can be a team that can run up and down the court with you, or we can be a team that can play physical and rebound and just grind it out."
Gilbert Arenas on the last play:
"On the last play, they were so worried about me, and I was like 'You're about get a rude awakening, because this is Earl's show.'"