Wizards make roster move, with Wall set to return
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Just 11 games in, the season is barely a month old and the Washington Wizards are undergoing another transition. As practice concluded on Monday, reserve point guard Lester Hudson was carrying a FedEx box as he walked out of Verizon Center, perhaps for the final time, after he was waived earlier in the day to make room for swingman Alonzo Gee.
Inside the gym, Gee was getting acclimated again with the team he jilted last season after two 10-day contracts in order to join a playoff team in the San Antonio Spurs. The somewhat surprising reunion with Gee came a day after a disappointing 115-110 overtime defeat to the Detroit Pistons that Coach Flip Saunders described as, "probably as tough a loss as I've had here in two years."
Gee isn't expected to offer much assistance when the Wizards host the Philadelphia 76ers at Verizon Center on Tuesday, but the team might have to make some more adjustments with No. 1 overall pick John Wall expected to return after missing the past four games with a sprained left foot. Wall participated in the entire practice and has been progressing since suffering the injury in Chicago on Nov. 13. He was on the active list against the Pistons and was able to move - and dance - without any problems during pregame warmups, although he did not dress.
Saunders said Wall told him he was a "little sore" after practice and wasn't sure who would comprise his starting back court if Wall is healthy enough to play. "Haven't thought about that, will worry about it when the time comes. We're going to wait and see, play it by ear and see how it feels and what our medical people think."
With Wall sidelined, the Wizards (4-8) have been able to break even with some inspired play from Gilbert Arenas and Kirk Hinrich, who developed solid chemistry while leading the team to two wins at home. In the four games without Wall, the two most seasoned veterans on the active roster have combined to average 32.3 points and 14.1 assists.
"I think we're both getting our time handling the ball and making decisions," Hinrich said. "It's easy to play with a guy like Gilbert. He can make you look good. He can make tough shots and stretch the defense and the defense has to respect him. It's one of those things where we've kind of naturally played well together."
Hinrich said the Wizards should be more worried about how to close out games than figuring out how to play with Wall again. Arenas said recently that adjusting to Wall wouldn't be a problem. "John's strengths are different than ours. He's more of a fast break machine. So when he's in the game we have to lay back and let him do his thing and then we find our rhythm."
Arenas added last week that he would be willing to return to the reserve role that he played in his first four games after coming back from a strained tendon in his right foot. "This is John's team. So when he gets back, everybody falls back into place. I'll be coming back off the bench as the sixth man, and then from there, we'll find our way."
Arenas set a career high with 16 assists against the Pistons, setting up his teammates with beautiful passes and directing an efficient offense that shot nearly 54 percent. But Saunders said Arenas was in a "no-win situation" with the game at the end of regulation, when he decided to not shoot over a double-team and "made the right play" by dishing the ball out to a wide-open Andray Blatche for a three-pointer.
"I'm never going to be critical of a guy that hits an open player because that's playing unselfish basketball," Saunders said. "I think everyone's used to him taking that shot because that's what he does. But he's not there yet. He's just not totally there from a standpoint of physically and mentally, to constantly make those plays yet."
Hudson was disappointed that he would no longer have the chance to make any plays for the Wizards, but felt that something was wrong when the team had a 1 p.m. practice and he got a phone call at 10 a.m. telling him that he needed to meet with President Ernie Grunfeld and Tommy Sheppard, the vice president of basketball administration. He became expendable with the Wizards having three capable point guards in Wall, Arenas and Hinrich.
"They told me I'm a good NBA player, I just need to work on some things. Don't hang my head, it's a numbers game, stuff like that," Hudson said. The kind words softened the blow "a little bit, but I always had to work for what I get. Even when I was young, coming up in high school, nobody every thought I would make it to this level. So, either way it go, I'm blessed."
Gee, 23, was released by the Spurs last week, but the Wizards quickly reached out to the 6-foot-6 second-year forward who impressed the coaching with his intensity and aggressive play as he averaged 7.4 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11 games - including two starts - last season. He returns to a team that is slightly different than the one he left behind, but Gee said he was excited to return. "It's an unbelievable feeling," Gee said. "I'm glad I had the opportunity to be here and it helped me out. They boosted my confidence up and I'm glad to be back. It's a young team and I feel like we can grow as a group."