Center Stage: What The Wizards Have To Focus On To Compete In The East

Jennifer JohnsonAnalyst INovember 1, 2008

Coach Eddie Jordan must be worn out already.  And his Washington Wizards have played one game so far this season.  

With C Brendan Haywood,  possibly done with a torn ligament in his right wrist, and G Gilbert Arenas, trying to get healthy on a bum right knee, the Wiz are limping their way into tonight’s game versus the Detroit Pistons.   

Without these stars to accompany the green youngsters on their roster, Washington has to piece together a lineup that will compete with their strong Eastern Conference foes.

And that starts with the center position.   Back in the seventies and eighties, the number five slot was reserved for the greatest players in professional  basketball.   

The Wizards,  known than as the Bullets,  were carried by power big men, Wes Unseld and Moses Malone.   The front court dominated the stat sheets, setting all time records for most rebounds and blocked shots while wearing the pride of DC basketball on their shoulders.  

In this age of pro basketball, guys who are seven feet tall,  prefer to take jump shots instead of posting up their man and using their offensive moves to drive towards the basket.     

The prototype center feeds off perimeter scoring, and uses loose balls and turnovers to showcase his talent to the masses.  Players like Dallas Mavericks C Dirk Nowitski, and Detroit Piston Center Rasheed Wallace hurt their opponents by the three point shot.  

The Wizards don’t have the luxury of either type of offense to open this season.   The good news is that that they do have C Etan Thomas back from a career –threatening heart condition that sidelined him for the entire 2007-2008 season.    

Coach Jordan praised Thomas for his ability to compete at this level again after what he’s been through.  “He’s a monster out there.  And that’s what we need that sort of presence.”  “It’s a credit to him for having a great camp and improving every day.”

Washington also improved their back-court by drafting JaVale McGhee out of Nevada-Reno in June of this year. 

He’s got long arms, and led his division three conference in shot blocking.   He doesn’t have the NBA body, and needs to improve his footwork and offensive skills, but the man can make players wish they didn’t drive into his lane.  

Watching him in  preseason, it was encouraging to see someone in a Wizards uniform, take charge of the physical mentality of the team.  

It’s easy to stand at the top of the key and play horse.  What makes a player go from good to great is heart.  Desire to be the best is what motivates teams to elevate their game.  

I hope the passion for old school,  knock  him down basketball  starts tonight against the Pistons.   Can the Wiz grab the rock from the clutches of their eager opponent?  Or will they shoot their way out of another victory?