The Washington Wizards returned home to the Verizon Center on Oct. 12 for their second week of preseason play and despite continued flashes of brilliance by their rookies, won one and lost one.
A 107-92 win over the Atlanta Hawks was enough to earn the team’s backcourt some praise, as Nick Young and rookie John Wall exploded for 43 points, seven assists and three steals. The tandem was impressive in their appearance, with Wall continuing to flash his top-pick pedigree and Young sinking nearly every shot he launched. Young nailed 10 of his 14 shots and routinely finished setups created by the speedy Wall.
“We played good team basketball, which is what you want to see” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said after the win. “We had high assists and low turnovers, which is what good teams do. shot the ball well. Part of that was because we had guys getting him open shots.”
Young’s breakout performance came after controversial star Gilbert Arenas sat out the contest with what was reported as knee soreness, which granted Young a start and additional playing time.
But Arenas admitted to reporters after the game that he faked the injury to earn Young a start. The gesture, while admirable, was a violation of NBA policy and resulted in a fine for Arenas and added media criticism. The former “Agent Zero” endured a two-day backlash from television and radio sources questioning if the ex-star would ever “get it.”
Washington entered an Oct. 14 game against the Milwaukee Bucks with a 3-1 record, a sizzling rookie and a series of questions revolving around its one-time megastar. Arenas didn’t start, but entered the game at the 7:05 mark in the first quarter and immediately made his presence known.
He waved his hand to acknowledge the fans who shouted his name, then proceeded to collect three steals, a rebound, a blocked shot and a behind-the-back pass to Wall, which the rookie converted on a flashy layup. Then it was over. Arenas left the game after only three minutes of exciting play to a real injury this time, a strained groin.
The Wizards eventually fell to Milwaukee, 96-88, as the offense fell apart in the second half, scoring only 31 points. Despite the loss, Wall passed his test against the Bucks’ Brandon Jennings, a finalist for last year’s Rookie of the Year Award. Wall finished with 15 points, 11 assists and two steals and made a series of highlight plays. But the Washington rookie said it was all for nothing.
“It means nothing if you don’t get the win,” Wall said. “It’s great to have the double-double, but I think we took a step back, we didn’t move forward like we did last game.”
Washington will play the New York Knicks on Oct.17 at 6 p.m. as the team tries to improve on its 3-2 preseason record.