Final Preparations For Season Opener
Sunday, October 28, 2007
While teams get key players healthy while making final decisions before tomorrow's deadline for setting opening night rosters, the Washington Wizards will have no such issues.
A roster of 13 is set and with the exception of center Etan Thomas -- out indefinitely after undergoing heart surgery on Oct. 11 -- every player will be available today when the team begins preparations for Wednesday's regular season opener at Indiana.
After opening the preseason 4-1, the Wizards finished with a rough road trip that included losses at Atlanta, Detroit and Toronto. Friday's 98-64 loss to the Raptors was particularly ugly as the Wizards fell behind early and never put up a fight.
The Wizards shot poorly in the final three preseason games and the defensive intensity they showed in the first five games was absent as well.
"We've got four days to sharpen some things up," said guard Gilbert Arenas, who sat out Friday's game but said he will go full speed today. "We've been struggling offensively and really haven't been in sync. We're a team that averages 104 points a game and I think we only broke 100 once [in a win over Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas] so that's not really us. We just have to get in the gym and work on some things to make sure we're ready."
Coach Eddie Jordan's rotation appears set and will include starters Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood. The top reserves figure to be Antonio Daniels, Darius Songaila and Andray Blatche while Roger Mason Jr., who gives the team a three-point shooting threat off the bench, also is likely to have a role.
Rookie guard Nick Young improved as the preseason went along and wound up averaging 10 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting, so Jordan may look for ways to use him as well.
The coaches also like rookie forward Dominic McGuire, particularly on the defensive end. Rookie forward-center Oleksiy Pecherov suffered a setback when he missed two games with a bruised thigh and looked rusty Friday so he may have to earn minutes in practice as the season gets under way.
"The preseason is over and now it's about figuring out who those top eight or nine guys are going to be and then we can roll from there," Haywood said. "Coach has it all under control and we all understand what we need to do."
Young wowed teammates with a dazzling dunking display during Friday morning's shoot-around in Toronto and appears to be an ideal candidate for the slam dunk contest that takes place over All-Star Weekend.
The 6-foot-6 Young is an explosive leaper with long arms and big hands so he's able to do some special things in the air. He also has some creativity as evidenced by his most impressive dunk during Friday's impromptu show.
Young tossed the ball in the air, ran and caught it off the bounce as he was completing a 360-degree turn and then flipped the ball between his legs before throwing it down with one hand. He was serenaded with cheers from stunned teammates.
The only current Wizard to appear in a dunk contest is Stevenson, who in 2001 while playing with the Utah Jazz finished second to Desmond Mason. No player in franchise history has won the event. But judging by what he did Friday, Young would have a shot.