The Washington Wizards ended preseason play by dropping their final two contests to finish with a record of3-4. But with only a few days left until opening night, a healthy exit from exhibition play was the main goal.
The Wizards were competitive, falling to the New York Knicks on Oct. 17, 92-90, and losing to the Detroit Pistons, 98-92, on Oct. 20. Head coach Flip Saunders gave his reserves a final few minutes of action, playing several of his bench men for major minutes before the team decides on its final roster.
Washington released center Sean Marks and small forward Adam Morrison this week and more cuts should be coming soon.
One player who won’t have to worry about making the roster is top overall draft pick John Wall. The point guard was his usual spectacular self, finishing the week with averages of 16 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and two steals in both games.
Wall finished the Wizards preseason as their leading scorer, passer and steal-producer, concluding exhibition play with averages of 15.7 points, 7.9 assists and 2.14 steals per game in seven outings. Washington knows what it has in Wall: an electric athlete who can defend, score and make plays for his teammates. If he can avoid injury, he should be a favorite to win Rookie of the Year.
Al Thornton received his first major action of the preseason against the Knicks, and showed what he’s capable of, with 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes off the bench. As a result, the young forward received a starting nod for the following game, but showed why he’s been an enigma for most of his professional career, scoring just one point and collecting two rebounds in an 0-for-5 performance.
Fourth-year reserve guard Nick Young continued his up-and-down preseason as well, scoring three points against New York before scoring 13 points against Detroit. Consistent outings from Young and Thornton could go a long way to solidifying Washington’s bench this season. With both men playing similar positions, Thornton may keep playing the hot hand as the primary backup once starter Josh Howard recovers from an injury.
Gilbert Arenas (groin) and Howard (ACL) missed the final week of the preseason but both are expected to return to action in the coming weeks. Washington will open their season on Oct. 28 when the team visits the Orlando Magic.