After a busy offseason which saw the Washington Wizards add another high-profile rookie and a pair of solid veterans, the team appeared wired to make some noise this season—noise which sounds less like the terrifying screech of recent seasons, and more like serious, competitive, hopeful music.
But the tune changed some after star guard John Wall was ruled out for the next eight weeks with a stress injury in his left knee. Star big man Nene was already shelved with a left foot injury of his own, and now the Wizards appear to be on an interesting note as the debut of the 2012-2013 season approaches.
Wall is the franchise and Nene is one of the best front-court players in the league. So how will the Wizards fare without them for the start of the season? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley sound off.
Green: When any team is missing their top two players, you’re talking about a tall task for any franchise, whether in football, hockey, baseball or basketball. The team’s first month includes games against Atlanta, San Antonio, Portland and multiple games against Indiana and Boston. That’s a pretty tough slate to start with for any team, healthy or not.
Riley: The Wizards don’t have to go undefeated during the first month, they just have to hold the ship until the captains get back. Sandwiched in that opening slate are multiple games against Charlotte and tipoffs against Milwaukee, Utah and a crumbling Dallas team. I also think it’s safe to say that games against the Spurs and Hawks are winnable games, considering that San Antonio is another year older and Atlanta just lost their top player, Joe Johnson, this summer to free agency.
Green: But where’s the scoring going to come from, Riley? You’re talking about taking away the guy who ignites the offense and their best half-court player in Nene. Let’s not act like this team is the Lakers or the Heat and they’re just dripping with depth. Despite the acquisitions of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, this team still isn’t that talented to me. I didn’t think this team could make the playoffs even with Wall and Nene healthy. This was a 38-44 team in the making, so they definitely won’t be faring well without their impact players.
Riley: The NBA isn’t all about scoring, Mr. Green, and this team was already gearing itself to be a lockdown, defensive club before Wall and Nene went down, so their injuries will only reemphasize that point. The Chicago Bulls fared pretty well without Derrick Rose for much of last season and they’re probably one of the most offensively-challenged teams in the league when their star guard isn’t playing. Wizards head coach Randy Wittman has shown himself to be a pretty knowledgeable coach and I trust he’ll be able to adjust.