Washington Wizards face stretch of five games in six days
Thursday, March 11, 2010
When the snowpocalypse struck the Washington region on Feb. 6, forcing the postponement of a home game against the Atlanta Hawks, the Wizards weren't exactly complaining. The blizzard stranded the team for three days in Orlando, where players got to enjoy some sun and didn't have to worry about shoveling or driving along icy roads.
Coach Flip Saunders actually referred to the time in Florida as a "mini-all-star break before the all-star break."
But eventually, the Wizards were going to have to deal with the hoopocalypse -- a grueling avalanche of games that finds them playing five times in six nights in four different cities. After playing their rescheduled game against the Hawks on Thursday at Verizon Center, they will face Detroit in Auburn Hills, Mich., on Friday and host the Orlando Magic on Saturday. Then, after playing a rare back-to-back-to-back set, the Wizards will travel to play back-to-back road games in Utah and Denver.
"The rock star tour," Saunders joked. "We're going total AAU basketball after this. Games every day."
No team has been forced to play this many games in such a close period of time since the lockout-shortened season in 1998-99, when the league had to cram a 50-game schedule into four months.
In a season that has already seen owner Abe Pollin die, Gilbert Arenas suspended for bringing guns into the locker room and three starters dealt at the trade deadline, reserve guard Nick Young could only shake his head about the Wizards' current schedule situation.
"Whew. It's crazy," Young said. "I've seen everything this year."
Guard Mike Miller said he understood that the NBA had little choice but to place the Wizards in this predicament, since the league had to take into consideration the schedules of the Hawks and Wizards and arena availability. "We can't control weather. One of those things that happens," Miller said. "It's obviously going to be tough. Everyone goes through it, but we got the best jobs in the world. Sometimes you got to go through a little more than you bargain for, but at the end of the day, it's still basketball and we're still playing."
The most difficult part about the stretch is that the Wizards (21-40) are struggling. After losing to Houston, 96-88, on Tuesday, the Wizards are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and have failed to score more than 90 points in any of their past five games. Four of their five opponents are among the top eight teams in the NBA.
The Hawks already have won their first two meetings against the Wizards, and most of the pieces that led the Wizards to two wins over Orlando are gone. They have yet to play Utah and will not have Josh Howard (knee surgery) for their rematch against the Denver Nuggets, whom they upset the day after the trade deadline.
Detroit (22-42) is a half-game worse than the Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings, but the Pistons have three wins over their former coach, Saunders, this season.
"We got some monsters coming in, but I'm up to the challenge. I got to make sure everybody else is on the same page," said reserve forward James Singleton. "This many games in this many days is going to give guys a real sniff in the NBA, because some guys haven't played much. This is going to let them know, because every team we go against is going to be a strong team."
Saunders gave his players the day off on Wednesday to help them have some rested legs. "Should be fun," Miller said. "The bottom line is, we got to play 82 games this year. It's just a different way of playing the games. Obviously, we have our hands full. I don't think it matters who we play during that stretch. It makes it a little more difficult when the competition is like that."