This is one of the few games where Andray Blatche needs to come out shooting. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- With the Washington Capitals reeking of Redskins-esque disappointment this season, its finally time for die-hard Washington fans to shift their sports energy towards the Washington Wizards.
Are the Wizards going to stink less than any of the towns other professional teams? Probably not. But, this could be the season John Wall overtakes Alex Ovechkin as the city's most prized possession.
I previewed the franchise last week, outlining eight story lines that will unquestionably impact the Wizards season. My official prediction for this team is 27-39, a slight improvement from last year.
The following is essential information you'll need to know before tonight's opener against the New Jersey Nets.
News and Nuggets
*Rookie Jan Vesley will not make his rookie debut this evening. The 6-foot-11 forward will be sidelined with a hip injury. This means lots of Chris Singleton tonight, the Wizards other rookie forward from Florida State.
*Third year New Jersey big man Brook Lopez is out 6-8 weeks after fracturing his right foot during preseason action. Nets general manager Billy King atoned for the loss by acquiring Mehmet Okur from the Utah Jazz for a second round pick. This was a very creative move by the Nets front office. The 32-year-old Okur excelled under point guard Deron Williams as a tall shooting option while both wore Jazz uniforms and his $10 million contract will expire at the end of the season.
*DeShawn Stevenson, who I considered a hero for the Mavericks during last seasons title run, is now a Net. The motormouth guard and former Wizard signed with New Jersey just last week. He may average just seven points per game, but those points are loud and full of impact.
The Stat Pack
*Washington head coach Flip Saunders is 11-3 all-time in home openers.
*The Wizards won two out of three matchups last season and have beaten the Nets eight out of the last 10 meetings.
*JaVale McGee averaged 3.3 blocks per game against the Nets last season.
*Washington won 23 games last season. New Jersey won 24.
*Last season the Wizards were 28th in three-point percentage and 29th in total assists.
*Last season the Wizards ranked 17th in attendance.
The Key Matchups
Deron Williams vs. John Wall
A non-stop NBA debate that will surely continue is debating who the league's best point guard is? Their is a strong argument for Williams, who I'd say is the most well-rounded point guard in the league. A gifted passer and a terrific shooter, Williams has averaged nearly 18 and 10 for the past five seasons. He doesn't have the flash of Rajon Rondo or Chris Paul but he is a superb option in the clutch. Tonight Wall must use one distinct advantage on Williams: speed. The Nets aren't a very athletic team and Wall has the ability to outplay Williams if he can attack the rim.
Kris Humphries defense vs. Andray Blatche offense
Two of the NBA's most disrespected players go toe-to-toe tonight. In most cases, I am heavily against Blatche launching up outside shots. I will make an exception tonight. As weird-looking and embarrassing as Humphries is to the male race, he's a damn-good rebounder (10.4 per game last year). If Blatche catches heat on his jump shot, it pulls Humphries away from the basket and creates more second chance opportunities for Washington.
Wiz scorers vs. Nets scorers
Don't buy into any hype that these two teams have improved defensively. Both allowed over 100 points per game last season and both will continue to give up hundreds of open shots this year. Looking on paper, I just trust the Wizards scorers much more than the Nets. Give me Nick Young, Jordan Crawford, Rashard Lewis over Anthony Morrow, Damion James and Shawne Williams.
New Jersey 101, Washington 106.
Who is New Jersey going to rely on to score consistently outside Deron Williams? I've written about how the Nick Young-Andray Blatche-JaVale McGee combination is suspect for a long term solution, but not tonight. The Wizards will get it done to open the season.