Pregame report: Pelicans at Wizards
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
News and updates prior to Saturday’s interconference game between New Orleans and Washington:
• New Orleans has gotten off to several sluggish starts in recent games, often having to recover from an early deficit. Pelicans Coach Monty Williams has decided to move Greg Stiemsma back into the starting lineup, replacing Alexis Ajinca. Williams said he is making the move partly based on Stiemsma’s edge in experience. Ajinca had started the previous 13 games. The Pelicans were 7-6 in that stretch, but have lost four of their last five contests.
• Andre Miller will make his Washington debut tonight, reuniting with his former head coach as an NBA rookie in Cleveland, current Wizards sideline boss Randy Wittman. Wittman on Miller: “He’s a savvy player. He’s going to really help our second unit in terms of his know-how.”
• Informed by a Washington reporter that Miller said the only difference between Wittman now and 15 years ago in Cleveland is Wittman’s gray hair, Wittman jokingly responded, “He might not play tonight.”
• Al Harrington has been activated by the Wizards, but it sounds uncertain whether he’ll get on the court. Wittman said “I don’t think he’s ready for a flurry of minutes.”
• Williams’ description of the Wizards: “Dangerous, deep. They shoot the ball a lot better than they have in the past. They’re healthier now. Trevor (Ariza) is playing the best I’ve ever seen him play, even when he was with the Lakers. Martell (Webster) is deadly outside. John Wall is an All-Star. They have two bigs who can really get it done. We have to play better from the start.”
• What’s at stake for the Pelicans (23-31): New Orleans is seeking its first win since the All-Star break, having lost games vs. New York and Charlotte. The Pelicans have an extremely difficult upcoming stretch, with four consecutive games against plus-.500 opponents, including the Clippers (twice), Dallas and Phoenix.
• What’s at stake for the Wizards (26-28): The Wizards are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, with a realistic shot of moving up a spot and gaining homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. On the other hand, they’re only one game ahead of seventh-place Charlotte. Avoiding finishing seventh or eighth in the East is crucial this spring, because landing No. 7 or No. 8 would mean a first-round date with either Indiana or Miami.