WASHINGTON -- Gilbert Arenas does things his way.
Used to be, he spoke - and blogged - his mind on all manner of topics. These days, he's refusing to speak to the media, before or after games - until, as he put it Friday night, the NBA tells him he has to talk.
Enigmatic as ever, Arenas did not take a shot in the first quarter of the Washington Wizards' 123-115 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, then had 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting -- all in the third quarter. He also had nine assists in his 21 minutes.
It was another step in Arenas' comeback, featuring flashes of the flair that made him a three-time All-Star before he was a three-time surgery patient.
"You know, Gil likes to play mind games," Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "But you can see, when he's attacking and stuff, it's hard to guard him. So we just need more of that before the regular season comes - him being aggressive."
Arenas' performance was the good news for Washington. The bad? Brendan Haywood left in the first quarter with a sprained right ankle, and coach Flip Saunders said his starting center probably won't play in the Wizards' next game, Sunday at Toronto.
"He's a big factor in this team. Hopefully he's all right," Stevenson said. "He's walking on it, so we'll get him back. We can't afford to lose him."
Haywood limped out of the locker room after the game and, like Arenas, declined to speak to reporters.
Down the hallway, in the visitors' quarters, the Mavericks were heaping praise on Shawn Marion, who scored 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting in his Dallas debut after sitting out the preseason opener with a calf injury.
"He is a unique player," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "All of us have all really loved him from a far and are really happy to have him with us. He's going to bring a lot of good things to us on both ends."
Jason Kidd said the Mavericks ran only about two plays for Marion, who found other ways to score.
"Getting loose balls, tip-ins, keeping the ball alive, getting out in transition, finishing above the rim," said Kidd, who had 15 points and seven assists.
Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison scored 19 apiece for Washington.
This was Washington's lone preseason appearance at its home arena, and the announced crowd of 8,102 clearly wanted to see how Arenas would fare, given that he only played 15 games over the past two seasons combined. The point guard had three operations on his left knee in about 1 1/2 years.
Midway through the first quarter, as the shot clock ran down, Arenas stood atop the 3-point line, dribbling. Fans were shouting, "Shoot!" He opted instead to dish to Butler for an open jumper at the buzzer.
When Arenas went to the sideline 9:12 into the game, he had four assists and more personal fouls - one - than field-goal attempts.
But Arenas returned and played the entire third quarter. After some halftime prodding from Saunders, he was far more active, accounting - via basket or assist - for Washington's first 12 points of the second half.
"We all encouraged him to be aggressive," Saunders said. "He's starting to feel more comfortable every time he steps on the floor, and there's no question, the second half, he showed a great amount of explosion to do what he wants to do."
Arenas threw an alley-oop pass for Andray Blatche on Washington's first possession of the third quarter. He made a 21-foot jumper on his first field-goal attempt, 1:46 into the quarter. He assisted on Stevenson's 3-pointer. He drove past Kidd for a layup. He passed to Jamison for a 3.
And later, when Arenas barreled through the lane and made a layup while getting fouled and bumped to the floor, he got right up. The spectators roared.
"Well, any notion that he can't score - I think that was erased," Saunders said. "We've just got to get him now to ... put it all together."
Notes: Haywood clutched his right ankle after being fouled about 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Haywood stayed in for another 5 1/2 minutes before leaving. ... Asked before the game whether Josh Howard could miss the start of the regular season, Carlisle replied: "Stay tuned."