Prior to yesterday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets in Barcelona, Spain, there was plenty for the Washington Wizards to feel good about. Forward Antawn Jamison’s injured knee had healed much quicker than expected, and he was inserted into the starting lineup. Juan Dixon, who had missed all of preseason with an injured calf, was also scheduled to see his first action of the preseason.
Unfortunately neither player could prevent the Wizards from losing their third game in a row.
The Hornets’ Melvin Ely had 19 points and eight rebounds and All-Star guard Chris Paul added 10 points and eight assists to help the Hornets wrap up the NBA’s annual preseason tour of Europe with a 102-80 victory over the Wizards.
Wizards forward Caron Butler and rookie center JaVale McGee led the Wizards with 15 points each. Jamison shot just 4-of-14 to finish with nine points, while Juan Dixon shot 0-of-4 from the field and finished with one point, while dishing out five assists.
Despite the lopsided loss, Jamison felt good about how his knee held up
“The knee is healthy, no limitations, no problems,” Jamison said. “It’s just that being out so long, the timing is definitely not there. Everything otherwise feels great. It was kind of a surprise that I was in that good of shape and was able to run up and down the court for an extended amount of time. It’s just a matter of time before I get back into a rhythm offensively and defensively.”
Jamison also spoke on the overall performance of the team.
“That’s what preseasons all about,” Jamison said. “[We have] a lot of wrinkles we need to get situated, defensively we have to get better, some of the young guys have to know better what they have to do.”
When Coach Eddie Jordan was asked about the play of his team, he was less than generous with his assessment.
“I was pleased with JaVale’s effort, but he made a lot of mistakes but we knew that would happen. I’m not pleased with Andray’s performance and I’m not pleased with Oleksiy’s performance. They missed their assignments while not giving enough effort.”
McGee, in a surprise move by Coach Jordan, started at center over veteran Etan Thomas. Both players are expected to see extended playing time during this preseason, and will continue to do so throughout the season, due to the injury of center Brendan Haywood. Haywood had surgery earlier this week to replace torn ligaments in his wrist, and is expected to be out four to six months.
Coach Jordan explained his decision to start McGree and not Thomas after the game.
“He missed a lot of defensive assignments but we were hoping that his length and his activity would protect the rim and he did some of that for us. He’s so far behind the other centers we have, I just wanted to give him a shot as a starter. That’s what the preseason is for.”
The Hornets’ Paul definitely saw the talent in the young rookie
“He can fly,” said Paul, “I mean, that’s plain and simple. He can fly. I think it was early the third quarter, I came and did an in-and-out move and thought — I just knew — that I had enough room to get my shot off and he blocked it. He’s easily one of the most athletic big guys in the NBA. You can put him in that Dwight Howard category.”
Dixon, who is one of the many guards expected to replace the production of the injured Gilbert Arenas(out until January with an injured knee), caught the eye of Coach Jordan with his all around play.
“I liked the way he helped the other four players. He passed the ball well, he brought the ball up the floor quick enough, he pressured the ball and he looked to score. He looked to run the offense and he looked to pass. It was good to have Juan out there doing those things. Even though he didn’t score at a high rate, he played well.”
The Wizards returned home early Saturday morning, and were given the day off to recover. They are scheduled to practice on Sunday in preparation for their next preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs next game is on Wednesday, October 22nd in San Antonio at 8:30 pm ET.
Guard Nick Young, who has an injured right knee, and did not make the overseas trip, is expected to re-evaluated on Sunday as well.