Updated: Dec. 28, 2006, 10:47 AM ET

Arenas: The Wizard Of Awe

A few questions after Gilbert Arenas throws in 39 points for the sizzling Wizards, who move into a virtual tie with the Magic atop the Southeast Division after a 114-107 win over the Bobcats . . .

First, the hard-hitting question. Any significance in Arenas' recent switch, prompted by Kobe Bryant's ribbing of his shot selection -- of Arenas apparently saying "quality shot" instead of "hibachi" when his shots are in mid-flight?

I can't imagine him doing that for every shot. Maybe at the free throw line.

Gerald Wallace, who looked pretty springy with 40 points, says Arenas was shooting from Greensboro on Wednesday. Is he a mad gunner? You've got to be if you drop 60 on the Lakers and then 54 on the Suns, right?

Look, he's shooting 40.5 percent from three. That's pretty efficient. It's one thing if he wasn't making good use of his shots. If you're not, you're not helping your team win. He is.

Maybe you're right. See the way he took that charge that fouled out Raymond Felton? Then he hits a 3 for a 101-97 lead. Big momentum shifter.

That's the maturation process. I think he's grown as the true leader of the team. Taking charges -- he's not afraid to do it all.

Still, the shoulder chip that Arenas nurtures with motivational slights is probably the size of a prize-winning pumpkin at the county fair.

I'd never want my players saying anything bad about him. Being a second-round pick works as motivation -- he's arguably the best second-round pick ever. Every single team in the league passed on him. He'll always have that.

More and more, it seems something good has come out of Washington's overall No. 1 pick of Kwame Brown -- getting Caron Butler from the Lakers.

Caron's good for 20 a game, you can post him, he can rebound and is a great free throw shooter. And he does it so unassumingly.

These are clearly the Phoenix Suns of the East, third in scoring (behind the Suns and Nuggets) in the NBA. So, who should the Wiz fear?

Nobody. There's not a team in the East they can't beat. Everyone said Phoenix couldn't win with its offensive style, but we've seen them get to the conference finals in two of the past three seasons, and they're doing it against tougher competition. The Wizards probably wouldn't want to see the Heat with Shaq. The Wizards are a dangerous team.

So are their alternate uniforms. Here's your chance to say something charitable about the gold and black.

No way. I like the old Bullets red, white and blue. Very patriotic.

ESPN analyst Jon Barry played 14 NBA seasons for eight different teams before retiring this season.

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A Winning Frye Guy
Knicks
David Dow/Getty Images
Channing Frye, right, who forced a third OT with a tying jumper, helped the Knicks win with 26 points against the Pistons.


Observation Deck: I'm Not Danny
 John Hollinger
Hollinger
 Danny Ferry
Ferry

IMPOSTER CAVS GM: As some of you may know, the NBA moved most of the media away from courtside to seats that are farther up in the crowd. This had led to a few interactions that have been, um ... interesting.

The best one yet came tonight -- and I'm dead serious, this really happened -- at the Cavs-Hawks game in Atlanta. A little girl came up to me before the start of the third quarter, pen and paper in hand, and said, "Mr. Ferry, can I have your autograph?"

WHAT BROWN CAN DO: Mike Brown is taking some heat because of Cleveland's offensive struggles, but he's completely remade this team defensively. Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are making efforts they never would have two or thee seasons ago; Ilgauskas, for instance, went to the floor for a ball three times tonight (I'm not talking about the times he fell down, either -- just when he was diving after loose balls). Overall, Cleveland is fourth in the NBA in Defensive Efficiency, and may move up after holding the Hawks to 78 tonight. They'll probably drop a bit as a weak early schedule gets more difficult, but it's still a big improvement.

HAIR DON'T: Somebody needs to tell Scot Pollard that people will always notice you if you're 7-feet tall; there's really no need to have a mohawk on top of that. Just a suggestion.

-- John Hollinger at Philips Arena



Hitting 40 And Beyond

Wednesday marked the first time this season that four players have scored at least 40 points in the same day.

Richard Hamilton 51
Stephon Marbury 41
Ben Gordon 40
Gerald Wallace 40

The last time that this happened was April 9, 2005:
Vince Carter 45
Gilbert Arenas 44
LeBron James 40
Manu Ginobili 40

-- ESPN Research


Records At A Glance




Knicks Take 3rd OT Win In 10 Days

Knicks top Pistons, 151-145, in triple OT


Wade Wrist Watch Begins
Dwyane Wade
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Dwyane Wade reacts after injuring his right wrist midway through the first quarter. It appeared he got hurt coming off a screen while covering Kirk Hinrich. "It felt like my wrist got pulled out of place. It's pretty painful. It feels like it got yanked out of the socket. I don't have any strength in it. I knew I was done," said Wade.




Extreme Behavior
Richard Hamilton

Wednesday's Best
Pistons guard Richard Hamilton: Shoots 19-for-37, and sinks all 12 free throws en route to 51 points. Perhaps the coup de grace was fouling out Stephon Marbury (41 points) with some apparent thespian skills. Of note, Rip's team lost.

Chris Webber

Wednesday's Worst
Sixers forward Chris Webber: Returns to scene of his greatest triumphs (and near-triumphs) with a thud. Drops in four points on 2-for-9 shooting in a 101-76 thrashing in Sacramento, the city he once ruled.

Quote of the Day
"We had them. We had them put away so many times. Missed free throw here, down three, three-point plays, it was crazy, man. But they showed a lot of resiliency. I'm sure they're happy with the win, very extremely happy beating us in a thriller like that."
-- Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, after his team lost to the Knicks in triple OT, 151-145.

See how all 223 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres



Thorpe Speed: Guarded Choices


INSIDE KNICKS-PISTONS: With his Knicks up three with less than 10 seconds to play in regulation, David Lee left Carlos Delfino, who was spotted up on the wing behind the 3-point line, to help on a Tayshaun Prince drive. Why? He should have known Delfino was in the game as a designated shooter -- half of his attempts this season are 3's. Situations like that are "no help" -- forcing your opponent to convert a contested 2 while burning clock. Discipline is a must.

FORD FOCUS: I always thought T.J. Ford struggled with the balancing act required of a true lead guard, not sure when he should look for his shot and when to distribute. He can always get a shot off due to his skill and quickness, making the decisions even tougher. Without Chris Bosh in the lineup, Ford seems more in command of his game and is far more assertive.

NOT JUST GIL: Brendan Haywood may have only scored eight points in Charlotte, but scoring six of the first 15 Wizards points with nice post moves and one strong dunk seemed to open the floodgates for their shooters. Caron Butler was just as instrumental -- he had the other nine of the first 15 and together with Haywood went 7-7 from the field in the opening minutes. Coaches always stress strong starts on the road -- Haywood and Butler got them going before Gilbert Arenas took over.

-- David Thorpe



Comparison And Contrast

If there is one thing, above all else, that I would tell people to focus on during the first half of the season, it's this: You need to look at the process, not the results.

This is incredibly difficult because we're a results-oriented society and, like almost any sport, the NBA is a results-oriented business -- wins and losses are the only currency accepted here. But, although coaches will recoil in horror when I say this, if you're trying to gauge the quality of a team, win-loss record is terribly overrated.

Complete John Hollinger story Insider



Glow, Canada

Luke (Barrie, Ontario): Raps are only at No. 20? Still behind the Clippers and Blazers after beating both on the road and taking over the Titanic? Drop your bias and show Toronto some love!

Committee's counter: We've said it a million times, Luke. If we really let our biases factor in, Toronto would never drop out of the top three. We love Canada that much.

Full Marc Stein blog Insider

 

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