The Washington Wizards saw an eventful week pass as, just a few days after earning their first road win of the season, youngsters JaVale McGee and John Wall represented the team at the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, shedding the light on Washington, D.C. basketball with a spectacular showing that should keep fans marveling over their efforts for quite some time.

Toppling the Cleveland Cavaliers has become business as usual for many teams this season but for the Wizards, their victory over the woeful team might have been their biggest win of the year. Washington came through Cleveland on Feb. 13 and notched their first road victory of the season with a 115-100 triumph over the struggling Cavaliers. The Wizards put together their finest road performance of the year, as guard Nick Young scored a game-high 31 points, Wall added 19 points and 14 assists and reserve guard Kirk Hinrich scored 17 points off the bench.

But two days of rest didn’t do the Wizards any good as they headed south to face division rival Orlando on Feb. 16. Much like their early season matchup, the Magic ran through the Wizards in a 101-76 defeat, dropping Washington to 15-39 on the year. Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard continued his stellar play against Washington, erupting for 32 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. In a preview of things to come for All-Star Weekend, Wall enhanced up his 14-assist game with 27 points while forward Andray Blatche contributed 17 points and nine rebounds.

After their loss to Orlando, it was off to Los Angeles for Wall and McGee to showcase their talents as part of a star-studded group. First up was Wall, who shattered a rookie All-Star record with 22 assists in the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge on Feb. 18. Wall added 12 points, but it was his passing that stole the show. He dealt out high bounce passes, behind-the-back feeds and no-look tosses that paved the way for the Washington rookie to win the game’s MVP trophy, giving the Wizards another accomplishment to take pride in.

McGee participated in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, but had the odds stacked against him as he faced down Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin. One night after seeing his teammate bag the Rookie/Sophomore game’s MVP award, McGee pulled out all the stops in effort to nab the dunk crown, but it wasn’t meant to be. Griffin brought the crowd out of their seats with a slam that featured a choir, a car and a standing ovation.

Although McGee failed to win the competition, his repertoire of slams was impressive. The seven-footer opened up by dunking two balls in two rims and followed that with three balls in one dunk. McGee brought out teammates, he brought out his mother and he brought out at least four pairs of shoes for each dunk to earn second-place honors and praise from the event’s commentators.

The Wizards will return to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 22 for action against the Indiana Pacers.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO