No one said that turning around the Washington Wizards franchise would be a quick fix, so it might not be a surprise that the team exited their first week of the 2010-2011 NBA season with a winless record after opening on the road against two playoff teams from last year.

The Wizards were blown out, 112-83, in their season opener by the Orlando Magic on Oct. 28 in a game where everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong. Orlando powered past the Wizards by exploiting an array of mismatches on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

Magic center Dwight Howard controlled the middle of a soft Wizard defense and shied Washington away from anything inside, limiting Washington’s five frontcourt starters to a combined 35 points. The Wizards were led in points by a guard—but it wasn’t the top pick John Wall. Reserve swingman Cartier Martin finished with 17 points to pace the team while Wall struggled with his shot, hitting just 6-of-19 attempts from the field and finishing with 14 points and nine assists.

Orlando’s fast-moving offense gave the Wizards problems from start to finish, as the Magic opened a 59-34 halftime lead and never blinked. The Magic (1-1) punished the Wizards on the glass, outrebounding them 53-25, and held Washington to a woeful 37.2 percent from the field. Washington’s starting power forward and center combo of JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche combined for 13 points, one block and just four rebounds.

Looking for a better showing, Washington took the Atlanta Hawks down to the wire on Oct. 30 in a 99-94 loss behind Wall’s 28 points and nine assists. Blatche rebounded from a poor opener to register 18 points and seven rebounds and Al Thornton added a strong game with 24 points and seven rebounds.

The Hawks (2-0) made it to the second round of last year’s playoffs, so seeing Wall rip through their defense was an encouraging sign for Washington. Wall flashed explosion and breakneck speed as he single-handedly kept the Wizards alive. He scored a dozen straight points at one stretch in the third quarter and outperformed Atlanta All-Star forward Joe Johnson for much of the game, before Johnson caught fire late to stave off the winless Wizards.

After a week of play, it’s clear that Washington will struggle to score points in the paint this season. Blatche is the team’s only legitimate low post presence, but he still hasn’t fully gotten back into shape as he recovers from an offseason foot injury. Thornton performed well against Atlanta but failed to show up for the opener with Orlando, continuing his inconsistent appearances from last season. The team is best suited for a fast-break style of play with the explosive Wall. Washington will face the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 2 in its home opener at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO