The Detroit Pistons gave the Wizards their most humiliating defeat of the season on Dec. 21, a 32-point beatdown in which Coach Randy Wittman’s dry erase board got pelted with a mini-basketball by the mascot, Hooper, and his team – which was missing John Wall, Nene, Bradley Beal, Trevor Booker, Trevor Ariza and A.J. Price – needed to score five points in 90 seconds to avoid a franchise record for fewest points scored.
After the 100-68 loss at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Wittman offered an apology to Wizards fans, ownership and management for the performance. The next night, Nene and Beal returned but the Wizards still lost again by nine.
But as the teams reunite on Wednesday, Pistons Coach Lawrence Frank is expecting a much more competitive game – and a much different team.
“Washington, when we played them was undermanned,” Frank said. And in the second game, “Nene was on a minutes restriction. It’s a different team.”
The Wizards (15-35) have won four consecutive games and 11 of their past 18 games and Frank credited good health and the return of Wall for leading to the turnaround.
“You’re talking about the No. 1 pick in the draft and that’s saying something. Since he’s come back, they’ve played very, very well,” Frank said. “He can take the ball coast-to-coast, 94 feet, tough to find anyone quicker or faster. Plus, he’s a high energy guy and his ability to go 0-to-60, off the charts. Attack the paint, live in the paint. Very, very good. Especially when you’re injured and you have to sit back a little bit. I had the benefit of seeing him work out this summer, of seeing his drive. Can’t forget, he was the former No. 1 pick in the draft. And despite being injured, sometimes people forget about you a little bit, but he’s a top shelf player.”
Frank continued, “Defensively, they’ve been off the charts. They’ve beaten some good teams. They have an inside presence with Nene. Nene is an outstanding player. Bradley Beal is coming off a 28-point game. [Emeka] Okafor is one of the top defensive big guys. I mean, [Martell] Webster is having an outstanding year. They have options and they are defending. For us, we played them that back to back, but totally different team.”