As you already know by now, the Wizards were supposed to host the New Jersey Nets in their season opener today at 7 p.m. at Verizon Center. But the NBA labor dispute has wiped out the first month, and no meetings have been scheduled since the last breakdown in negotiations, suggesting that it could be awhile before games are actually played.
It’s been only seven months since the Wizards last played at Verizon Center, but it feels so much longer. John Wall has played in more exhibition games and organized scrimmages than the number of regular season games missed last season (13). Nick Young has refused to cut his hair and his Afro now makes him 6-feet-10. JaVale McGee has gone from planking to doing the flying Buddha to rapping at Benihana.
Rashard Lewis has had plenty of time to get healthy. Andray Blatche tried to assume a leadership role and organize workouts before most of his teammates opted to play in Las Vegas. Trevor Booker has already had time to sign in Israel, get hurt, and come back. Kevin Seraphin is playing in Spain. Othyus Jeffers, unfortunately, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
You probably have forgotten that the Wizards ended last season with four consecutive home wins, including victories over Atlanta and Boston; teams that advanced to the second round of the playoffs. But here are five story lines that won’t get addressed on Nov. 2.
1. John Wall’s possible breakout campaign
Wall has already declared his desire to go down as the best point guard to ever play the game, and he would’ve gotten a nice test against Nets point guard Deron Williams, who is one of, if not the best point guard in the league right now. Wall has been spectacular this summer, tearing up summer leagues and sprinting past the competition. He wants to make a Derrick Rose-type leap, but he’ll have to wait. And, how could anybody forget his debut last season?
2. Flip Saunders’s ability to turn it around
Saunders has two losing seasons with the Wizards, leading the team to a total of 49 wins after averaging about 46 wins in his first 13 seasons in Detroit and Minnesota. He will be in the third year of a four-year, $18 million deal and will have to show some improvement, though the Wizards remain one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
3. The development of Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee
Many times last season, Blatche and McGee appeared to be mismatched parts in the frontcourt, with both players occasionally occupying the same space and getting in each others’ way. They will still be looked upon to make strides and prove themselves worthy running mates with Wall. McGee could become a restricted free agent in 2012 and Blatche will be in the second year of a five-year deal that will pay him $35 million.
4. A backcourt mate for Wall
If Nick Young flees in free agency, Jordan Crawford would likely be the shooting guard to pair with Wall. If Young stays, he and Crawford would have to find a way to share the floor, since they rarely had the chance with Young’s knee injury late last season. Both players have no scruples when it comes to shot selection, but Crawford does possess some playmaking ability to perhaps make it work.
5. Rashard Lewis’s health
Lewis will be the second-highest-paid player in the NBA, behind Kobe Bryant, but the Wizards aren’t expecting him to play at an all-star level. Right now, they just want to see him on the court after dealing with knee problems. Unless they waive him using the amnesty clause, the Wizards will look to Lewis to provide some veteran leadership and valuable contributions for a team that currently has just two players under contract with more than four years of experience.
What were you looking to see for the season opener? Do you think the Wizards would’ve defeated the Nets tonight?