Opening Night: Wizards vs. Mavericks at Dallas
Game night is finally here. It seems like only yesterday I was pouting about my favorite league in my favorite sport ending and it’s back already.
I must admit, just under three hours before the Wizards tip off their season against the Mavericks in Dallas, I’m not exactly as pumped as I feel I should be. A lot of it probably has to do with Jamison being injured and my current level of optimism being a bit more guarded as a result.
Meh … all of this will probably change once the ball is thrown in the air and I’ll be as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve (or whatever holiday you may celebrate where you know will be getting presents the next day).
BTW, if you listened to The Dagger Report podcast, I predicted the Wizards to win 107-106 in OT.
Tonight, while watching from the comfort of my apartment in D.C., I’ll also be on CSNWashington.com chatting about the Wizards-Mavs. Of course, the game will also be televised on Comcast and brought to you by Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier. But if you’re online as well and want to talk Wizards, join me on Comcast’s website.
Things I’m Looking For:
- How the Wizards address Dirk Nowitzki on defense. He gave Jamison fits during their preseason matchup, and he’s a tough guard regardless of who’s trying to do it. Will Flip run more doubles at Dirk to get the ball out of his hands? I’m very curious to how the big German will be handled.
- Brendan Haywood’s mark. He dominated Drew Gooden when they faced off. Dallas is expected to start Erick Dampier, but I still think Haywood has the upper hand. If he’s able to camp out around the paint/rim/block area, he might really open the floor for his teammates.
- Watch out for Shawn Marion. He’s a sneaky dude and surely part of Flip Saunders’ game plan will be to not lose focus on Marion, especially on the offensive boards. It’s just about who on the Wizards will provide that level of focus.
- Gilbert Arenas is back! Hey, he’s certainly a reason to get excited. As I link below, Rick Carlisle and the Mavs will be throwing different defensive looks at Arenas … which, in my opinion, won’t matter too much. It’s all on Gil. Can he finish when he gets into the paint? Will he actually make his free-throws (.698 FT% during the preseason)?
- Dallas’ guards. Not sure how much Rodrigue Beaubois, aka ‘The Darker Tony Parker’, will play … but Jose Barea is also jet quick and Jason Kidd is no slouch, even at age 36. The Wizards traditionally aren’t good at dealing with quick guards and if Arenas gives Kidd too much space, it might come back to haunt him.
- Who steps up? Antawn Jamison will be out for a bit … so who is going to fill The Gentleman’s big shoes? There are a TON of eyes on Andray Blatche.
Game Night Links:
On the eve of training camp, Saunders gave each player a T-shirt and cap bearing the slogan “Our Time,” then stressed his expectation to establish a true winning tradition.
“It was to give them a sense of urgency, that every game is important and every game you have to go out and play,” Saunders said. “You don’t go out to play to win. You go out to play well because if you play well, you have a chance to win. If you don’t play well, you don’t have a chance to win in this league. You’re not going to play bad and win games. Just isn’t going to happen.”
In many ways this “new era” is rooted in the hope generated from an older one. It was a week-long “era” — following a win over a Detroit Pistons team coached by Saunders — from Jan. 26, 2007 to Feb. 2, 2007, when Arenas, Butler and Jamison had the Wizards sitting atop the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately for the Wizards, the season also began to unravel that same week, when Jamison sprained his knee in Auburn Hills, Mich.
That all-star trio hasn’t shared the floor at full strength since April 1, 2007, the day Butler broke his hand while slapping a backboard in Milwaukee. Three days later, Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace fell intoArenas’s knee, simultaneously setting back Arenas’s career and any hope of Washington’s ascension.
- Six Lessons From The Preseason [via Bullets Forever]
- Ex-Bullet Haywoode Workman will be reffing tonight’s game (along with Ron Garretson and Michael Smith) [via Dallas Basketball.com]
- Wizards – Mavericks Matchup [via Agent Dagger]
- Dallas Mavericks hope support can help Nowitzki [via Dallas News.com]