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WASHINGTON (AP) - It sure sounded like an insult. A dismissive dig, at least. The sort of thing Gilbert Arenas loves to hear so he can store it away for extra motivation.

Oddsmakers have made Washington -3.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 217.5 total points (View NBA Sports Books).

 

After Arenas scored a franchise-record 60 points to lead the Washington Wizards past the Los Angeles Lakers in December, Kobe Bryant sniffed, ``He doesn't seem to have much of a conscience,'' and made reference to his counterpart ``just chucking it up there.''

Bryant also warned, ``I'll be ready next time.'' Well, next time for two of the NBA's top four scorers comes Saturday night, when Arenas' Wizards host Bryant's Lakers.

Asked this week about his ``conscience'' comment, Bryant put his best spin on it, saying, ``That was a compliment.'' Perhaps in a further effort to extend an apologetic hand, Bryant said of Arenas: ``He's playing extremely, extremely good basketball.''

Arenas never misses a chance to point out real or perceived slights, something that's getting tougher as he piles up Eastern Conference player of the week awards and heads to his third All-Star game - as a first-time starter, no less.

He's willing to give Bryant the benefit of the doubt in this instance.

``Kobe and I have been friends since I came into this league, and I didn't take offense to it. At the end of the day, he's my idol. That's who I grew up watching and that's who I grew up trying to be like,'' Arenas said. ``So as far as I'm concerned, the blood is still good between me and him.''

Don't get Arenas wrong, though. It's not as if he's preparing to be a bit player Saturday.

``I didn't say I'm not going to be in attack mode. I'm going to be in attack mode - you can believe that,'' he said. ``It's just going to be a good game. He has a reputation that he's trying to uphold, and everyone is wondering, ``What is Gil going to do?' And I'm going to do what I do: I'm going to attack him.''

Arenas is second in the league with a 29.5-point scoring average, while Bryant ranks fourth at 28.8.

Both have their teams winning much more than a year ago. Washington is atop the Eastern Conference at 27-18, and Los Angeles entered Friday's game at Indiana with a 28-18 record, good for second place in the Pacific Division.

There are other players who could help determine the outcome Saturday, of course. Washington's Brendan Haywood against Los Angeles' Will Bynum in the paint, for example. Or Jarvis Hayes, who moves into the Wizards' starting lineup to replace Antawn Jamison, out at least three weeks with a knee injury.

The game also could mark the Washington debut of Darius Songaila, a much-needed big man who's missed the entire season after back surgery. At practice Friday, Songaila said a decision on his availability will be made after Saturday's shootaround.

But the focus certainly will be on the two biggest stars on the floor: Kobe vs. Gilbert.

Caron Butler, who played for the Lakers in 2004-05 and now is Arenas' teammate, has no doubt that Bryant is looking forward to this rematch.

``Kobe marks dates on his calendar and is secretly saying, 'That's my game right there,''' said Butler, who's headed to his first All-Star appearance. ``I'm almost positive this game is marked on his calendar.''

It sometimes seems that Arenas figures out a way to circle every date on the schedule.

Under the heading ``Lakers and Kobe Up Next'' on his NBA.com blog, Arenas says, ``I'm going back to the Hibachi days,'' a reference to the hot grill he likens himself to when his game heats up.

``At the end of the day, hopefully we win,'' Arenas continues. ``No matter what goes on during the game, we want that win and that's the most important part about it.''

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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