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Playing the Opener at Verizon Center Is Welcomed by Weary Wizards

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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Wizards will open at home for the first time since 1999, something that was greatly appreciated by a team that played six of its seven preseason games on the road and also made a week-long trip to Europe.

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The Wizards are 3-2 in season openers under Coach Eddie Jordan.

"We've been on the road forever so it's going to be strange playing a home game, I guess," Jordan said. "But it doesn't mean all that much. I'm glad we're at home, you have to defend your home court and you're very familiar. Hopefully you bring a lot of energy with the crowd. The main thing is, you want to win the darn game."

Several veterans said they are eager for the regular season opener.

"I know I'm excited," all-star Caron Butler said. "You don't sleep. It's a fresh start so you want to go out there and start the season off right. It's the first time for the fans to see this team and you really want to give them a good showing."

New-Look Nets

If Jordan and the Wizards are curious about what to expect out of their younger players this season, imagine how New Jersey Nets Coach Lawrence Frank feels.

After trading franchise player Jason Kidd last season, the Nets further shook up their roster over the summer by trading leading scorer Richard Jefferson for second-year forward Yi Jianlian and adding rookies Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Lopez could start tonight, and Frank's yet-to-be-determined rotation will also include former Wizard Jarvis Hayes. Forward-center Josh Boone, a key player last season, is expected to return tonight after being out for nine days with a rapid heartbeat. Outside of Vince Carter and Devin Harris, the Nets are a batch of unproven youngsters or veterans such as Hayes who have been role players elsewhere.

The Nets, 34-48 last season, have been projected in most circles to finish the season as a lottery team. That doesn't mean that Jordan is taking his opening-night opponent lightly.

"They are a good team, very well coached," Jordan said. "We respect every team in this league. They have an all-star in Vince Carter and whenever you have an all-star like that, they can control the game, so we respect them. This is not a team where we say: 'Geez, I'm glad it's New Jersey, let's get our feet wet and get a win.' No way."

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