The season is nine games old, but tonight the Wizards will be battling to get right back to where they started. After a dismal 0-5 start, Washington has capitalized on better shooting, tougher defense and a cushy schedule to vault itself back into the mix in the Eastern Conference. The Wiz have won four straight, including a 109-90 victory against Portland on Saturday - the fourth consecutive game in which they have limited their opponent to 90 points.
Tonight the Wiz welcome Andre Iguodala and the Philadelphia 76ers to Verizon Center with a chance to get back to .500.
- With Gilbert Arenas sitting out to rest his sore knee, rookie roommate Nick Young picked a perfect night for his coming out party. The former USC guard tallied a career-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 15 minutes on the floor. He also hit 2-of-3 triples, showing off the offense that led the Wizards to draft him 16th overall in June. If Young can continue to produce off the bench, Eddie Jordan will start to loosen the reigns a little bit. When that happens, be on the lookout for some high flying flushes - the kid has ups and he and his teammates have their sights set on the Slam Dunk contest All-Star weekend in New Orleans.
- Antonio Daniels also had his best performance of the young season in Agent Zero's absence. AD got the start and finished with 10 points and 10 assists, again proving his ability to step in and run the show if Gil were to miss any more time. At the end of last season, it was Daniels who - along with Antawn Jamison - led the Wizards in scoring and assists. In his last 13 starts, he's posting a very reliable 12.3 points and 10.2 dishes.
Wizards Will Retire Earl The Pearl's #10
- The Wizards announced they will retire Earl Monroe's number Saturday December 1, when they host the Raptors. Earl "The Pearl" was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets out of Winston-Salem State University with the second overall pick in the first round of the 1967 NBA Draft. Monroe won Rookie of the Year honors in 1968 after averaging 24.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He played four years with the Bullets, averaging 23.7 points, and helped the team reach the 1970-71 NBA Finals. In 1990 Monroe was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame and he was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996. His #10 uniform will join Wes Unseld’s #41, Elvin Hayes’ #11 and Gus Johnson’s #25 in the Verizon Center rafters.
- “This is a great honor. I was drafted by the Bullets and it was in Baltimore where I started my professional career. It was four great years with a lot of fond memories. It was a wonderful experience. My four years with the Bullets set the tone for the rest of my career, and now it brings me full circle with my number being retired.” - Earl "The Pearl" Monroe
The 76ers last played Friday against the same TrailBlazer team that visited D.C. the following night. After trailing 45-27 at the break and by as many as 22 in the third, Philly stormed back with 36 points in the final frame to grab a 92-88 win. Iguodala leads a young team with 18.3 points, 6.7 boards and 5 assists per game. The 76ers (3-6) finished strong a year ago after dealing Allen Iverson to Denver earlier in the season, but have struggled in the early going. Guards Andre Miller and Willie Green and center Samuel Dalembert all average double figures in scoring, but with sharpshooter Kyle Korver out with a groin injury, bench production has been hard to find.
With Gilbert taking yesterday's practice off to gear up for a stretch of four games in five days, expect the hibachi to be steaming tonight. Both teams are well-rested and the Wizards are itching to keep their hot streak going. Washington has the offensive fire-power to blow this one open, but the Sixers are very quick defensively and could force turnovers in the open court.
- Brendan Haywood v. Samuel Dalembert - Both players are putting up career numbers so far this season. Haywood has been superb in his uncontested starting center role, averaging a double-double (10.2 points, 10.3 boards) and nearly two (1.89) blocks per game. Meanwhile, after his gig with the Canadian national team this summer, Dalembert is putting up 10.4 points, 8.3 boards and 2.2 blocks per contest. These guys will be throwing some lumber around down low and with lots of jumpers going up from the perimeter, there will be lots of opportunites for offensive rebounds - Haywood's new-found specialty. Brendan is pulling down 4.8 offensive boards per game, good for second best in the NBA.
- The Wiz are on a mission and Gil will be ready to go tonight. I'll take Washington by 12 to get back to 5-5.
-- The Tar Heel