That the Washington Wizards have even been able to stay afloat in the absence of Gilbert Arenas has been quite impressive thus far. This is largely the same team that completely disintegrated with the loss of Hibachi at the end of last season, and somehow they are currently one of just five teams in the Eastern Conference playing basketball above the .500 mark. They have done it with added contributions from virtually everyone on the roster, particularly Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche.
Certainly prior to last night, however, they had also been doing it with a decline in production -- particularly offensively -- from one DeShawn Stevenson.
Stevenson did a solid job for the Wizards last year, complementing Hibachi in the backcourt by putting up 11.2 points per game on a very effective 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 40.4 percent from deep. He has been off to a putrid start this season, though, going for just 8.0 points per game on 38.1 percent shooting from the field and 35.1 shooting from deep. With Arenas gone, the need for everyone to step up offensively has been sizable, and that the Wiz have been as successful as they have even with the drop-off from Stevenson has been admirable.
But for one of the few times this season, Stevenson showed major signs of offensive life last night in Miami. He shot 8-for-15 from the field and 6-for-12 from beyond the arc en route to 26 points and a decisive 104-91 victory for the Wizards over the division rival Heat. Certainly, it was only one game, but shooters are shooters, and sometimes all it takes is one game to get oneself back on track for the days to come. The TNT announcers were raving about his peformance, and the community of Wizards fans was thrilled with it as well. If this game can be the one that turns it around for Stevenson, the Wiz sans Gil could be even more dangerous than anyone imagined for the times to come in the Eastern Conference.