The Washington Wizards are still road warriors. A six-game road stretch interrupted by two days at home comes to end tonight against the New Jersey Nets. It will be a new beginning for the Wizards with center Nene now a part of the roster and hotel rooming list.
Wizards head coach Randy Wittman did not say if Nene, acquired last week in a trade with Denver, would start in his team debut. Nene just passed his team physical on Sunday and the Wizards only had one formal practice on Tuesday.
You know it is just a matter of him getting a comfort level, said Wittman of Nene. We are going to throw him in. I dont have any problems of thinking he is going to sink. He is going to swim. We cant flood him with a lot all at one time and we have enough bodies to have him in and out and playing different positions.
In addition to integrating Nene, center Brian Cook, via trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, and swingman Edwin Ubiles, on a 10-day contract, just joined the Wizards over the weekend in Memphis. It has Wittman looking to simplify the offense, much like he did when he replaced Flip Saunders, so his new players can just play and not spend time out there thinking what they are supposed to do .
It is a Wizards team that recently, with the exception of the second half last week in Atlanta, has been doing what it is suppose to do on offense led by John Wall. In 11 games since the All-Star break Wall is averaging 20.5 points, 8.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds, while shooting 49 percent from the field.
We are playing a lot better, said Wizards forward Maurice Evans. We are spacing the floor with different combinations. Guys are sharing the ball and we are playing with a different kind of energy right now.
Last week Wittman already adjusted the rotation and started to use Wall and Shelvin at times in the same back court. Going forward Wittman has more options and he will also use Nene and Kevin Seraphin together to strengthen the low post presence. In three starts after JaVale McGee was traded, Serpahin scored 34 points and grabbed 28 rebounds with impressive defensive performances against the Hornets Chris Kaman and the Grizzlies Marc Gasol.
Nene can play both positions, the five and the four. Kevin (Seraphin) has played well of late, said Wittman. You have to continue to build that part of this team of being able to throw the ball inside and play out. Once you can collapse a defense by having somebody in there (low post) that you have to pay particular attention to it helps the perimeter people much more.
The Wizards will not have Andray Blatche. Since he returned from a calf injury nine games ago, Blatche has struggled to regain his form. Because of the nature of his injury Blatche was unable to maintain conditioning. Wittman said it was a mistake to try and play Blatche into shape and will sit him until he is fit.
Like the Wizards, the Nets have lost six of seven games. Also like the Wizards, the Nets were busy at the trade deadline. There was no Dwight Howard deal, but the Nets acquired forward Gerald Wallace from Portland for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a protected first-round draft pick.
Wallace has given the Wizards problems in the past and in his second game with the Nets on Monday against the Cavaliers had 27 points and 12 rebounds. Wall and the Wizards will also have to deal with Nets point guard Deron Williams who is averaging 22.1 points and 8.1 assists per game.