The 2008-2009 Washington Wizards season was a major letdown. Injuries to key players like Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood made another playoff appearance under Eddie Jordan a near impossibility in the revitalized Easter Conference. The team got off to a slow start, and someone had to be the scapegoat, so management decided to fire Eddie Jordan, a very solid coach in the NBA. To add insult to injury, no pun intended, the Wizards got the worst pick they could have possibly gotten in the draft lottery by getting the 5th overall selection. A weak draft class aside from Blake Griffin lead the team to deal the pick and some cap space to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. This deal greatly improved the team along with the addition of Fabricio Oberto. Oberto adds much needed depth in the front court. The team looks to grow under the tutelage of excellent Coach Flip Saunders. Saunders comes from Detroit, where he took the Pistons to 3 straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances, so the team has a coach who can take them to the next level, if not to a Championship (Knock on wood). A healthy team, with great off season acquisitions is ushering in a new era in DC hoops. Now lets take a look at the 10 most intriguing matchups the team will have on their quest for a 2nd NBA title in franchise history.
Is there a better way to start the list than with the first game? The Wiz travel to perennial title contender Dallas to see just how good the offseason acquisitions they made were, and how healthy the team really is. It will be the first opportunity to see how Flip Saunders uses his 8 man rotation that he is inputing. Its safe to assume that the rotation will include Gilbert, Jamison, Butler, Jamison, Miller, and Foye. But who will the final 2 be? Does he go with Blatche and McGee for size? But then Nick Young is getting in only when foul trouble arises. This game is so interesting because fans will really get to see what the rotation will be for the season. On Dallas' end, it should be interesting to see the impact that Marion and Drew Gooden bring to the team as they try to get back to Finals for the first time since they lost to Miami in 2006.
The general consensus in the Eastern Conference is that the Cavs, Magic, and Celtics are the top 3. At this point I don't see any arguments against that. However, Miami and Washington I believe to be in a tossup for the 4th best team in the East to start the year. This is the Wizards first ESPN game of the year, and will be a great chance to show what the team is made of against a very evenly matched team. Though only the Wizards 5th game of the year, the team will have been able to go through some trial and error with the 8 man rotation, so that will probably be more clear cut by this game. Dwayne Wade looks to build on his incredible '09 season after a rough injury plagued '08. Washington will be looking to get more revenge on the Heat for knocking out of the 2nd round in 2005, the fartherst the Wizards had gone in the playoffs since 1982.
Flip Saunders' old team comes back to the nations capitol along with former Wizards' Rip Hamilton and the one and only Kwame Brown. Homecomings for local collegiate legends in Chris Wilcox (Terps) and rookie Dejuan Summers (Hoyas). Should be interesting to see Flip coach his old team, under rookie head coach John Kuester formerly a Cavs assistant. Other storylines include the addition of former UConn national championship teammates Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, and how the team will play without bad boy Rasheed Wallace.
Eddie Jordan is coming back. Enough said.
Late season game between 2 teams that should be in the thick of the playoff race in their respective conferences. Game is in the middle of a brutal West Coast trip against the likes of Utah Denver and the Lakers. The Trail Blazers are one of the most exciting young teams lead by recently resigned Brandon Roy, and Greg Oden's quest for NBA success is a story that cannot go ignored. Washington really needs to take this game to build confidence heading into the final month of the regular season.
Defending NBA Champion Los Angeles comes to town bringing new comer Ron Artest to fill the void of losing Trevor Ariza to Houston. Game is going to really show how Washington stacks up against the best in the game. Can't miss an opportunity to watch Kobe play either.
It would be a crime to leave Wizards Cavs off of this list. Especially when this is the Cavaliers only appearance at the Verizon center this season. Playoff woes against Cleveland, have lead to a heated rivalry and disdain for King James in the Nation's Capitol. The addition of Shaq makes the Cavs even more enticing to watch, especially after Shaq's appearance at Monday Night Raw in the Verizon Center. I just hope Deshawn Stevenson gets off the bench so he can trash talk King James some more.
Season finale on ESPN against a team that should be in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race with Washington. This has to be on the list. Scoring machine Danny Granger comes to town with former Hoya big Roy Hibbert, National Champion Tyler Hansbrough, and Company. #3 Might be a little high, but I expect the seeding in the Eastern Conference playoffs to still be on the line come this game.
The Wizards are one of the few teams to have relative success against the 2008 champs since Ray Allen and KG came to Boston. Late season game, that has the potential to be a preview of an early playoff matchup. Sam Cassell returns to Boston, but this time as a Washington assistant. Hopefully the Wizards can repeat past success against the Celtics as they look to finish their 2010 campaign on a high note.
One of the NBA's freshest and fiercest rivalries comes to the Q on Agent Zero's 28th birthday. This should be one of the biggest games of the entire NBA season, a must watch for all basketball fans, and a crime that this is not receiving a national broadcast on ESPN or TNT. This is a crucial game as the Wizards ring in the New Year with consecutive games: VS the Spurs, AT Philly, AT Cleveland, VS Orlando, VS the Hornets, VS Detroit, and at Atlanta. A 500 record in this stretch would be great for the team, but nothing would make it better than beating the Cavs on Gil's birthday. Thank goodness Sacramento comes to town after that brutal 2 week stretch.