By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The Wizards have had plenty of time for practice thanks to a schedule that has included only seven games in the season's first 20 days. But starting tonight, when the Wizards (1-6) host the Miami Heat (5-5) at Verizon Center, things will pick up significantly.
The Wizards visit Atlanta tomorrow night, host the Houston Rockets Friday night and cap another back-to-back with a game against the Knicks in New York on Saturday night.
Then, Thanksgiving week features home games against Golden State, Orlando and Atlanta. As strange as it may sound given the grind that is a long NBA season, Coach Eddie Jordan and his players are actually looking forward to the run of games.
"You just don't get a rhythm playing every few days," Jordan said. "Once the season starts, players love playing games. They feed off of that rhythm and we're a little bit behind in that."
The Wizards have played the fewest games in the league so far and that has been a recipe for inconsistent, often disjointed basketball. Even after putting things together and earning their first win of the season over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, the Wizards came out flat and were beaten in every aspect during Friday's 97-77 loss in Miami.
Despite facing one of the smaller front lines in the league, the Wizards were outrebounded 52-33 and had no answer for Dwyane Wade when the Heat star took over the game in the third quarter.
Wade led a 20-2 Miami run that turned a close game into a blowout.
"It was embarrassing," said second-year Wizards guard Nick Young, who has been one of the team's few consistent performers. "They just played better than we did and we didn't respond very well. We have to do better than that."
Tonight would be as good a time as any because the Wizards have already dug themselves a hole. They are 4 1/2 games behind Southeast Division leader Orlando and are one of only two teams in the Eastern Conference without at least four wins.
Plenty of time remains to get things turned around. The team is hopeful that three-time all-star Gilbert Arenas will provide a major lift when he returns (possibly in late December), but the clock is ticking.
"Before the season got started, one thing we preached was we have to start quickly," forward Antawn Jamison said. "We haven't done that, but while we're in the hole, it's not to the point where it's impossible to get out. We need to do something now before that hole becomes a lot more difficult to get out of. It's just playing with a sense of urgency. One thing I like is having four games in five nights. That should get us in a rhythm and get us playing basketball a lot more than we have been playing."
Miami shot a season-low 40.2 percent and was outrebounded 52-35 in Sunday's 107-96 loss at Toronto. Wade, who hurt the Wizards by scoring 12 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter Friday night, rolled his right ankle in the second half Sunday and will be a game-time decision tonight. He sat out yesterday's practice.
The Heat is also facing a back-to-back with a home game against Toronto tomorrow night, so it's possible that Wade could rest the ankle tonight.
Jordan isn't counting on that, however.
"Don't give me false hope," Jordan joked.Homecoming
Tonight's game should be special for Heat rookie forward Michael Beasley, who grew up in Prince George's County. The No. 2 overall pick out of Kansas State is off to a solid start. Beasley is second on the team in scoring behind Wade with a 16.3 points per game average.
Beasley finished with 19 points on Friday night with two of his scores coming on drives against Wizards all-stars Jamison and Caron Butler.
"He's real crafty," Jamison said. "That's one thing I like about him. He's a lefty but he's a different type of lefty because he uses both hands, and I didn't know that his first step was that quick. And he plays with a lot of confidence. There aren't too many rookies that play with that type of swagger and he's in a good situation with D-Wade and [Shawn] Marion. It's a good fit for him."