By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 16, 2008
BARCELONA, Oct. 15 -- The Washington Wizards could have formed a pretty potent lineup out of players who were not available for Tuesday's 96-80 preseason loss to the New Orleans Hornets in Berlin.
Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood and Nick Young did not make the trip, and Antawn Jamison, Antonio Daniels and Juan Dixon watched the ugly loss in suits on the bench.
Haywood (torn ligament in his right wrist) and Arenas (expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season after left knee surgery) won't be back anytime soon. But Young's knee soreness is not serious, and Jamison, Daniels and Dixon could be back as soon as Friday night when the Wizards play the Hornets again at Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi.
Nobody was panicking over the one-sided nature of Tuesday's loss -- the Hornets scored the game's first 18 points and led by 41 -- but the team's veterans were clearly embarrassed during the first half and vowed to come out with a better effort Friday night.
Jamison's right knee is rapidly healing and the two-time all-star is ready for a return. If all goes well during practice on Thursday and during the Friday morning shoot-around, it's possible that Jamison could see his first action since going down with a knee contusion during the first quarter of the first preseason game at Dallas.
"It's coming along real well," Jamison said. "The pain has gone away, and I'm out there moving like I need to so it shouldn't be a problem."
Dixon, who was kicked hard in his right calf during a practice on Oct. 4, was tempted to suit up Tuesday night, but the decision was made that he should wait a few more days and make his preseason debut on Friday.
"It's feeling better," Dixon said. "I'd really like to get these last three preseason games under my belt."
Dixon, who has a partially guaranteed contract, is a safe bet to make the final 15-man roster, but one player who is trying to make a case for himself is Washington native DerMarr Johnson, who came off the bench Tuesday night to score a team-high 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in just under 22 minutes.
After the game, Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan made a point of praising the way Johnson helped spur a Washington run in the second half.
The problem for Johnson, who does not have a guaranteed contract, is that to keep him, the Wizards would have to cut either Dixon, a proven scorer who is familiar with Jordan's system, or Dee Brown, the team's lone backup point guard with Arenas out. Otherwise, the team would have to let go of a player with a guaranteed contract.
Wizards Notes: Defending the pick-and-roll is a crucial element to every NBA team's defensive strategy and that is particularly the case against the Hornets and point guard Chris Paul, who has become a master at creating mismatches.
The Wizards learned that the hard way during the first half Tuesday night when Paul repeatedly worked off of high screens before either finding a teammate for an open shot or creating a shot of his own.
When the Wizards trapped Paul with a double team, he typically flipped the ball to Tyson Chandler for a dunk or zipped a pass to Peja Stojakovic for an open jump shot; when they didn't, he drove to the basket or pulled up for short jump shots. Paul finished with nine points and 11 assists in 24 minutes Tuesday night and was clearly the best player on the floor.
Jordan felt the Wizards did a much better job of handling the Hornets in the second half Tuesday night when they outscored New Orleans 56-35 and at least made the final score respectable.
"They made us miss shots in the first half, and they put us in a bind with their pick-and-rolls," Jordan said. "They felt very good about themselves after a good little spurt, and we didn't feel too good about ourselves. But I was pleased with the way we came out in the second half. We tried some different combinations, and we just got more energy and were more active in the second half." . . .
Haywood will have surgery to repair the torn ligament in his right wrist on Thursday in New York. He suffered the injury during training camp in Richmond and is expected to miss four to six months.
The 7-foot Haywood averaged career-highs of 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots while shooting 52.8 percent last season.
Staff writer Michael Lee contributed to this report from Washington.