– To commemorate the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday, the Verizon Center staff played speeches and showed pictures of Dr. King. The players themselves wore red, white, black and green shoes (photo courtesy of Bullets Forever), that were sent over from Nike specifically for MLK day. If you’re wondering what wearing shoes that represent the Pan-African flag has to do with MLK day, that makes two of us.
– Both Flip Saunders and Nate McMillan commented on the 1pm start time for today’s game and Saunders decided to go with a tactic that he used in Detroit and Minnesota: “We had breakfast this morning, so hopefully they’ll get a little fuel in their tanks. I used to do it with previous teams, but I came here and we didn’t have it, so we tried to make sure they could have something. Most of the time. they don’t get up in the morning, and say I’m going to go eat breakfast, so then they get to the game and they’re scrambling trying to get something, so we had some things set up.”
– Portland coach Nate McMillan had a different take on the early start: “It’s a challenge, its something different, and its probably the first and last game we’ll have like this, so we gotta be ready to play. We got our guys in here last night, and put them through a workout, and got them to bed as quick as possible–in fact we tried to make it lights out at midnight.”
– The Blazers have dealt with tremendous adversity this season. They’ve lost Travis Outlaw for much of the regular season with a stress fracture in his left foot, they lost Greg Oden for the season with a fractured patella, Brandon Roy has been battling a tight hamstring as of late, and their backup center, Joel Pryzbilla is out for the season with ruptured right patella tendon. Things have gotten so bad for the Blazers, that they are now starting 36-year-old, 6’9″ Juwan Howard at the center position. Despite the turbulent nature of this season, the Blazers are fifth in the Western Conference. If nothing else, it offers the Wizards a certain degree of hope that good, cohesive basketball can be played even in the face of adversity. The fact that the Wizards beat the shorthanded Blazers this evening for their second consecutive victory won’t hurt their confidence either.
– Coming into today’s game, Washington Wizards guard Mike Miller and Portland Trailblazers guard Brandon Roy were questionable. Miller was battling a strained calf and Roy was trying to overcome a strained hamstring. Miller got his calf ready by getting extra treatment with the trainer and working out on the practice court. Roy went and did some shooting drills on the main court, so that he could get a sense of his hamstring felt. Both Coach Saunders and Coach McMillan both admitted during their pre-game press conferences, that they would know about 10-15 minutes before game time whether their respective players would play or not. Come game time, Roy was in a suit sitting next to the Blazers’ assistant coaches and Miller was listed as active. Miller ended up with 13 points, four assists, four rebounds, and numerous hustle plays. Said McMillan after the game about Roy: “Jay [the trainer] and I didn’t like what we were hearing, so we held him. I don’t have any regrets about that.”
– Blazers guard Jerryd Bayless made the second start of his career on Friday against the Orlando Magic, and he was ineffective. He was 0-for-6 from the field, with one point, and three assists in 20 minutes of play. He was so ineffective, that Steve Blake had to finish the game for him. I asked Coach McMillan if he was concerned about Bayless’ confidence going into his third start today against the Wizards: “Bayless is fine, he’s basically a second year guy who’s basically playing like a rookie season, where he’s getting minutes consistently, and there are going to be some nights when the shot is not falling. We NEED him to score, he’s done a good job for us. Its just like any other player or game, where you didn’t play well, you find your rhythm, you get in the gym and you shoot a little bit more.”
– Five minutes after that, I asked Bayless about his struggles against the Magic, and he completely shrugged them off: “Every player goes thru stretches like that, things like that happen, but I’m ready, and I’m not thinking about that at all tonight.” Bayless still struggled from the field (3-for-9) but he dished out eight assists, and played good, solid pressure defense on Randy Foye.
– Speaking of Randy Foye, Coach Saunders mentioned that there are times when he wants to hug Foye and then other times when he wants to strangle him. Foye most played at shooting guard at the beginning of the year, but with the absence of Arenas, he’s been thrust into the starting point guard role. Foye doesn’t seem to mind the tough love: “He’s tough on me during the game, when I make a mistake, he’ll let me know about it. And if something happens and I don’t make a read, he’ll let me know about it… but after the game he’ll love me up.” Foye played another solid game tonight and finished with 17 points and eight assists.
– Antawn Jamison should make the All-Star game this year. I know I’m biased because I cover the Wizards, but he’s on an absolute tear as of late, and he’s been the only consistent member of this team with or without Arenas in the lineup. For the season, the 33 year old Jamison is averaging 22 points and nine rebounds a game. This month, he’s averaging 26.6 points a game, and every time I go talk to an opposing coach, they all mention t hat Jamison is playing at an All-Star level. In today’s game, Jamison scored 28 points, and hit countless big baskets to keep his team in the game–particularly in the third quarter.
– Wednesday night, when the Wizards take on the Mavericks, they will be going for their first three game win streak of the season The Wizards opened up the 2009-2010 season by defeating the Mavericks in Dallas, 102-91.
Final score: Wizards 97 -Blazers 92