Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nick Young scores 24 in Wizards' third preseason win

This is the preseason; it doesn't count. With that being said, the Wizards (3-1) have looked impressive while also winning a few games as they prepare for their regular season opener on October 28 against the Magic.

I haven't had the chance to watch many of their games so far, but John Wall again had a decent night, scoring 19 points (on 8-18 shooting) and dishing out seven assists in 35 minutes. But he did get to the free throw line just twice, making both, and also had five turnovers. More important than the win, though, is that Wall is learning valuable lessons before his rookie season begins. According to the AP game story, he learned one last night after picking up two quick fouls:
"The second foul, I should have let it go. I should have let the play go on," Wall said. "I'm more valuable to the team than getting a cheap foul. The preseason is good for learning things that will prepare me for the season, and hopefully, in the season, I won't pick up that cheap foul."

Wall didn't need to be too hard on himself. He sparked Washington in the second quarter, when the Wizards (3-1) took control of the game. He had five of his seven assists in the period as Washington built an 18-point lead.

"You just try to get everybody involved, and whoever has the hot hand, you keep going to them," Wall said. "As a point guard, it's your role to keep everyone happy."
Obviously it's not a huge shock that the Wizards want Wall to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble, but he may also be getting a feel for how NBA officials operate and what he can and can't get away with while he matures into a better defensive player.

Starting in place of Gilbert Arenas -- more on him below -- Nick Young scored 24 points in 31 minutes and seemingly had the hot hand. He made most of his shots, shooting an impressive 10-14 from the field and 4-7 from three-point range. If he shoots that well during the season, he should find plenty of minutes as a scoring threat off the bench. Still, in typical Young fashion, he didn't have a rebound or an assist, though he did have two steals.

Rounding out the rest of the starting five, Kirk Hinrich (as the third guard) had eight points and eight assists, Andray Blatche had nine points, six rebounds, and four assists, and Yi Jianlian, starting at center, had eight points, nine rebounds, and three assists. Oddly enough, Hinrich and Yi had a combined nine field goal attempts, though Yi did get to the three throw line seven times (making four).

With Arenas out and Al Thornton nursing a left ankle sprain, the bulk of the bench minutes went to Cartier Martin (26), JaVale McGee (25), Adam Morrison (17), and Trevor Booker (15). Martin scored 11 points on 5-7 shooting and chipped in three rebounds and two assists. McGee had a strong game too, putting together a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds) on 6-10 shooting and getting to the free throw line six times (making four). Morrison and Booker added five and four points, respectively.

But back to Arenas: According to Gene Wang of The Washington Post, before the game last night Flip Saunders said that Arenas wasn't going to play because his knee was "acting up" and was "a little sore." Normally that would be the end of the story for most players -- but not for Arenas. After the game, Arenas said that he wanted to give Young the chance to play, hinting that he probably could have played if he had to. Here's what he said:
"I know he's kind of frustrated he's not getting a chance to crack the three position, especially since we're going three guards, so I told him I'd go ahead and fake an injury or say something's wrong with me so you can start," a smiling Arenas said in the locker room.

When asked about the health of his knee, Arenas said, "I'm fine," and indicated he would play on Thursday in the Wizards' final home preseason game against Milwaukee.
Arenas's comments should usually be taken with a grain of salt, especially in this case because he was smiling when he said it. Still, even though it's only the preseason, Arenas took some of the spotlight off of Wall and the rest of the team to admit, or possibly make up, something that didn't really need to be revealed. If this is a sign that the fun-loving and joking Arenas is going to return, I have no problem with that if his play on the court returns to the way it was a few seasons ago too. But with the current condition of his knee, that may not be possible.

Quick update/comment: Kyle Weidie of Truth About It defends Arenas here and makes the case that if Arenas is willing to sacrifice in a preseason game, then that's seemingly a good sign for the upcoming season. He may be right, and I actually hope he's right. I just don't understand why Arenas had to say anything about it if that's what he was really doing. Maybe that's just his nature. But, to me, if he's really willing to sacrifice to make the guys around him better, he would keep these kinds of things in the clubhouse and wouldn't share them, even if he was just joking around (which is likely).

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