Ladies and gents, welcome to opening night at Verizon Center, where the Wizards’ took on…wait…huh? What’s that? You mean the past six games weren’t still preseason?
Everyone knows that our squad has sleepwalked through the first few games of 2007-’08, with Gilbert’s rusty bionic knee giving fans yet something else to worry about. After a team meeting held by co-captains Butler and Arenas, the Wizards snapped-the-hell outta’ whatever they were on and have had their collective game face on ever since.
Tonight’s game was a revenge game, and I’m serious, the NBA should really keep “revenge game” stats on players, you’d see some eye popping numbers. I remember when the Bullets, having just acquired Webber, went to Golden State to face ex-teammate Tom Gugliotta and the Warriors. Not only did Googs get off but C-Webb suffered his first of many shoulder injures.
Point blank, that beating was served nice n’ cold, and that’s what the Pacers went through tonight. Have you ever played a sports video game and gotten destroyed by a team that sucked in real life? That’s the frustration the Wiz felt opening night in the Nap as Jamal Tinsley and Lil Dun had Playstation-like performances. It wasn’t goin’ down like that this evening.
For the first time in eons, the Wiz jumped out of a tree and landed onto a team’s neck, ambush style, and never let go. In the first quarter, you could tell we had our mid season form back, from Caron being Caron (25pts, 7rebs, 4 pockets picked) and Gil being fearless with the drive n’ crash.
Story of the night was Brendan Todd Haywood (16pts, 11rebs), who continues to turn into the “Young Robert Parish” Doug Collins predicted him to be, is……get ready folks…A REAL NBA CENTER!!! He blocks, rebounds and what’s this? Offense!? Hell yeah! It’s about time! However, I can’t help but think, how much does he love the fact that Etan is out? I mean, not that Etan is hurt, but that he finally has “the time to shine” I haven’t seen Brendan smile like this since Chapel Hill.
Gilbert looks 99.9% his old self (30pts, 11ast), but he added a leg sleeve from the Melo-Iveson Fall Collection and whaddaya know it worked! He was cutting, crashing and bombing away on various Pacers and it was a sight for sore eyes. Another good thing to see was Andray (6pts, 5rebs, countless altered shots) and Darius (12 real bench points) becoming legitimately threatening bench players, where before it was basically Daniels (why is he still here?), and 24 walking fouls waiting to happen.
For the bad guys, Jermaine O’Neal (17pts, 9Rebs) was back in the house, and as each Pacer loss goes by, you can’t help but to daydream about whose jersey he’ll be wearing after All-Star. He just seems kinda disinterested at this point, and you can’t blame him. He’s 29, and this is his 11th year playing (remember, his “college” was basically taught by Professors Wallace and Grant in Rip City before Indy), so you know he’s ring hunting now. It’s almost like the Pacers needed help, and plucked a reluctant O’Neal from out a soda machine or something. It’s just a matter of time before the Danny Granger (11pts, 4rebs) era really begins in Indy. Danny’s got a quiet leadership about him that reminds me of a guy from Central Arkansas, who played in the Windy City a ways back.
Abe Pollin’s jet is going to shuttle the guys off to the Twin Cities to take on the T-Pups don’t’cha know (that’s for you A-Wil!). The key matchup in this one will be a new and improved Haywood against a new and improved Al Jefferson, so keep it locked right here.