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Atkins leads Washington past New Jersey in Arenas' absence

WASHINGTON (AP) -- With Gilbert Arenas ailing, Chucky Atkins made
a strong case for the playing time he feels he deserves.

Atkins started for the first time this season and ran the
offense effectively, scoring 12 points with nine assists Tuesday
night to lead a balanced attack in the Washington Wizards' 94-74
victory over the New Jersey Nets.

Atkins started all 82 games for the Los Angeles Lakers last
season but has been a bit player since the trade that brought him
to the Wizards. He's averaging only 17 minutes and hasn't played at
all in four of the team's first 20 games, festering discontentment
that became public when he suggested to The Washington Times that
he would like to be traded.

Tuesday's game helped Atkins' morale, but he started only
because Arenas, the team's best player, was on the bench with a
badly bruised back.

"I ain't saying I should be starting, but I think I deserve
some minutes," Atkins said. "That's all I'm saying. It's not a
situation where I'm saying I demand to be traded. I'm in a peculiar
situation myself. I'm in a contract season. They made a trade for
me, and I want to play, I want to compete, that's all."

Arenas, who leads the Wizards in scoring (27.7 points), assists
(6.2), steals (1.58), minutes (41.4) and turnovers (3.9), sat out
for the first time this season. He bruised his back when he crashed
to the floor after his shot was blocked from behind Saturday in a
loss to Chicago. He played Sunday at Miami but struggled through a
5-for-24 shooting performance.

Yet, without Arenas, the Wizards never trailed and had five
players in double figures as they broke a three-game losing streak
in the final game before their five-game West Coast road trip.
Jarvis Hayes scored 19 points, Antawn Jamison had 12 points and
eight rebounds, Etan Thomas scored 12, and Caron Butler added 12
points and 10 rebounds.

But no one played more than Atkins, who said he wasn't about to
ask to come out despite getting winded during his 45 minutes on the
court, much of it defending Jason Kidd.

"He's a professional," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said.
"He probably made a slight mistake by going public before he had a
conversation with the GM, but I've said all along he's been a
professional on the floor at practice, in the locker room, on the
planes, on busses. I never saw any real unhappiness or anything
like that."

Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said
there were no plans to trade Atkins.

Vince Carter, who started 0-for-6, scored 14 points, Richard
Jefferson scored 13, and Kidd had 12 for the Nets, who shot 29 in
the first quarter and 39 percent for the game. New Jersey, which
had a four-game road winning streak snapped, got only two points
from its reserves in the first three quarters.

"It was just an up-and-down effort once again," Carter said.
"We've just got to defend. If we have any plans of making it into
the second season, we definitely won't do it playing the defense
we're playing right now."

The Wizards took control early. Atkins had three assists, Hayes
scored nine points, and Washington shot 65 percent in the first
quarter to take a 29-14 lead. The lead grew to 38-18 in the second
before the Nets had their only good run, a half-ending 17-4 spurt
to pull within 42-35 at halftime.

Hayes made a 3-pointer to get the lead back to 10 early in the
third quarter, and the Nets didn't get within single digits again.
Hayes finished 7-for-12 from the field, including 4-for-5 from
3-point range, to lead the team in scoring for the first time this
season.

"A lot of times when a guy is out who's their best player, it's
a proving ground," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "It's an
opportunity for others to show, and that's what they did. We
obviously couldn't get enough done."

Game notes
Nets F Jason Collins returned after missing three straight
games with a sore right leg, although Clifford Robinson continued
to start. Collins went scoreless in 16 minutes. ... Hayes completed
a four-point play in the first quarter after being fouled by Carter
while making a 3-pointer.