Wizards In Detroit For Opener
The 2013-’14 NBA regular season tips off Tuesday night, but the Wizards don’t get at it until Wednesday in Detroit. The Wizards held a final practice this morning before flying to the motor city.
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Not wanting a repeat of the 0-12 start that buried the team’s playoff hopes last season, the Wizards moved injured center Emeka Okafor to Phoenix on Friday, getting veteran center Marcin Gortat in return. Gortat should help Washington in the paint where they were next to last in scoring season ago. The addition of Gortat also allows Nene to move to power forward, a much better fit for his finesse game. With the injury to Okafor, the Wizards were dangerously thin inside and players and front office alike are thrilled about his addition.
Make no mistake, the Wizards strength is on the perimeter, specifically the backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall was injured out of the gate a year ago and by the time he returned, the Wizards were a dismal 5-28. Wall has been signed to a maximum contract ensuring he remains the “face of the franchise” while Beal’s electric preseason is a sign of big things to come in the very near future.
Detroit is also hoping for a bounce back season under new coach Maurice Cheeks. The Pistons made a big splash in the offseason signing Josh Smith, formerly with Atlanta. Smith will certainly play a lot of small forward as Detroit has a pair of very talented, young big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The Pistons are hobbled in the backcourt with starters Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey sidelined. Detroit will have to rely on veteran Chauncey Billups in the backcourt who has returned to the Pistons to close out his storied career.
The Wizards also acquired guards Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall and Malcolm Lee in the Gortat deal, but as expected, the team waived the trio on Monday. The players were added in the salary cap conscious league and with Washington already having 15 players under guaranteed contracts (NBA maximum), there was no space on the roster. In addition to Gortat, there are four other new players on the Wizards roster, a pair of veterans and the team’s two draft selections from the 2013 NBA draft. Washington added a pair of free agents filling specific needs in point guard Eric Maynor and combo forward Al Harrington. The Wizards wanted a stronger backup to Wall and a forward with perimeter shooting and they should fill those roles well. Forward Otto Porter was the third selection overall in the NBA draft out of Georgetown, but has been nursing a hip injury. Second round pick Glen Rice is an athletic option with three point range who can also play both shooting guard and small forward. Ten players return from last season, including forward Chris Singleton who is out with a foot injury, as well as perimeter players Garrett Temple and Martell Webster who were re-signed.
Tom Blaz is a co-owner of the DCPRO Sports Report. You may follow Tom on twitter @AubieTom