Game time: 7 p.m. EST
Location: Greenville, SC
Last season the Washington Wizards finished 44-38, which was their best finish in almost a decade. Winning one more game than the then Charlotte Bobcats, the Wizards finished as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. For Charlotte fans, Washington finishing a game better was quite painful, as Washington ended up facing a formidable yet worn out Chicago Bulls squad, while Charlotte ran head first into the Miami Heat featuring Lebron James and a rested Dwyane Wade. Despite that misfortune, in the regular season Charlotte won the series against the Wizards three games to one. Looking forward to this year, the two teams seem to be primed to compete for the Southeast division (along with the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks).
What's new with the Wizards? Not only did the former Bullets return the majority of their core, the team made quite a few meaningful additions, such as Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries, and DeJuan Blair. Despite those quality signings, the team lost Trevor Ariza, their best perimeter defender, to the Houston Rockets in free agency. Still, most in the nation's capital consider the offseason a net positive and expect Washington to be battling for home court advantage come April. With John Wall, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, and Nene Hilario still in the mix, the expectations don't seem that outlandish.
Projected starters based on prior preseason games:
PG: Kemba Walker and John Wall
SG: Lance Stephenson and Bradley Beal
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Paul Pierce
PF: Marvin Williams and Nene Hilario
C: Al Jefferson and Marcin Gortat
Al Jefferson versus Marcin Gortat: Last year this was a great battle that went back and forth during the four games they played against each other. In Charlotte's one loss to Washington last year, Jefferson was held to just six points on 3/9 from the field, while Gortat had 18 points and and 13 rebounds. Jefferson bounced back in their second meeting to put up 26 points and 10 rebounds on 65 percent shooting. However, in the next two games Gortat made Jefferson work for it and forced him into 45 percent shooting or worse. Not only is fight down low fun to watch, Gortat is a hand full in the pick and roll, which is one of Jefferson's largest weaknesses. Considering it's preseason, I'm not expecting too much effort from either big man, but the crowd should at least get a few nice battles before the first quarter is over.
Bradley Beal versus Lance Stephenson: At just 21 years old, Beal is entering his third year in the league after a promising sophomore campaign. After being selected right behind Charlotte's own Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the 2012 draft, most argue he's had the more successful NBA career and has the brighter future. If he can bring his shooting percentages up and expand on a pick and roll game he flashed in the playoffs, then most people might be right. However, tonight he will have his hands full with the much bigger Stephenson, who in the Hornets first preseason game was not shy to "free-Lance" TM @MullensMafia. After just turning 24 years old himself, Stephenson may take tonight as a personal challenge.
Where to watch: Unfortunately, as of this article it seems the game will not be televised by anyone, which may mean it will be impossible to watch unless you are in the building. Be checking the comments and twitter (@At_the_Hive) throughout the day for updates on that situation.
Final ramblings: Scared of the John Wall - Marcin Gortat pick and roll. Hoping to see better defensive chemistry from Stephenson and Kidd-Gilchrist after watching multiple breakdowns in the first preseason game. Curious if P.J. Hairston can build upon his first NBA action after improving each game in the summer league; specifically will be watching his shot selection and defensive rotations. Excited to see another Kidd-Gilchrist jump shot (if you missed the one from Wednesday, check out Dakota Scmidt from Queen City Hoop's compilation video).