Andray Blatche and Mike Miller Help Wizards Overcome Early Injuries
Despite early season injury woes to two of their "big three", the Washington Wizards have gotten off to a strong start to their 2009-10 season. The Wizards began their season by stunning the Dallas Mavericks on the road, 102-91, behind 29 points and nine assists from Gilbert Arenas. Returning east, Washington couldn't keep up with the young Atlanta Hawks squad, losing by 11, but rebounded nicely by impressing a lively Verizon Center home crowd with a dominating performance over the New Jersey Nets, 123-104.
Though the season is still very young, Wizards faithful can rest easy knowing that they won't have to rely on the output of Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison alone to have a legitimate shot at a successful campaign.
Forward Andray Blatche is off to the best start of his career, averaging 21 points, 6.3 boards and over a block per outing. In the Wizards' home debut, Blatche was a force to be reckoned with as he went 15-18 from the field en route to a 30 point performance. If Blatche can sustain anything remotely close to what he has shown through the first three games of the season for an extended stretch, the Wizards will leapfrog into the discussion from "average playoff team" to possible contender in the eastern conference.
Not to be overlooked are the performances of newcomers Mike Miller and Randy Foye.
Miller, a 10th year veteran, has brought consistency to the lineup. Playing an average of 30 minutes a game, Miller has contributed six, seven, and nine points to go with eight, 10, and 11 rebounds in each of the first three matchups. Throw in his two steals in each of the games and the Wizards have now found a solid contributor off the bench—something they have lacked for the past several seasons. (Note: Miller has started games thus far due to injuries in the starting lineup. His role, when the starters return, will likely be that of a sixth man.)
Randy Foye has also made the most of the time he has been on the floor, averaging 15 points to go along with five assists. Foye's emergence will likely take playing time away from veteran DeShawn Stevenson and Nick Young, but thus far, Foye has been a clear upgrade over the two.
The Wizards are sitting with a 2-1 record going into their second week of action, featuring matchups against three eastern conference foes (at Cleveland, Miami, and at Indiana). With Butler's status listed as day to day and Jamison out at least another month, the Washington coaching staff will have plenty of time to get a good look at who their contributors will be. While Blatche, Miller, and Foye have made an early impact, consistency will be the key to seeing time on the floor and earning coach Flip Saunders' trust.
Javal McGee, DeShawn Stevenson, Nick Young, and Dominic McGuire have yet to join the party. Whether they become imperative parts of the Wizards' season is yet to be seen, but each had better make their mark sooner rather than later. The Washington Wizards' train is leaving the station.
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