By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
December 11, 2012
Although they play in separate conferences of the NBA and are based in cities located approximately 1,000 miles apart, the New Orleans Hornets and Washington Wizards have shared one unfortunate similarity early in the 2012-13 season. Both clubs have a recent No. 1 overall draft pick on their roster, but neither promising player has been available lately due to injury.
Washington point guard John Wall and New Orleans power forward Anthony Davis were the first players chosen in the 2010 and 2012 NBA drafts, respectively, representing new eras for each franchise. However, Wall was sidelined in late September with a knee injury. He has not practiced or played in a game since then, a major contributing factor to Washington’s poor start to the regular season. Meanwhile, an examination determined that Davis has a stress reaction in his left ankle. Prior to his injury, the Kentucky product displayed his impressive potential in six appearances. Davis averaged 16.0 points and 8.3 rebounds, highlighted by a 28-point, 11-rebound output on Nov. 17 at Milwaukee. The Hornets went 2-4 in Davis’ six games, then immediately lost the next four contests in which the 19-year-old did not play.
Intriguing matchup: Center, Robin Lopez vs. Emeka Okafor
The Hornets’ current man in the pivot faces their starting center from the past three seasons, Okafor. Lopez is averaging a career-best 11.9 points per game, along with 5.5 rebounds and 1.95 blocks. Entering Monday’s game, Lopez ranked 10th in the league in rejections.
It’s been a brutal beginning to the 2012-13 regular season for the Wizards, who opened with 12 consecutive losses. The Wizards became only the second team in NBA history to start back-to-back years at 0-8 at worse, after dropping their first eight games in 2011-12. Washington finally ended its season-opening misery on Nov. 28 with an 84-82 home victory over Portland. Six days later, the Wizards found the win column again, posting a stunning 105-101 triumph over defending NBA champion Miami. With star point guard John Wall sidelined indefinitely by injury, no Wizards player is averaging 15 points per game.
After finishing 20-46 last season, the Wizards hoped an infusion of experience would make an immediate impact in the standings. In a trade with New Orleans, Washington acquired nine-year veterans Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, both of whom have primarily been starters. The Wizards also picked up shooting guard Martell Webster and point guards A.J. Price and Shaun Livingston. Price, previously a backup with Indiana, has been pressed into starting duty as a temporary fill-in for Wall. Along with the group of seasoned NBA vets, the Wizards selected University of Florida wing Bradley Beal with the No. 3 pick in the draft. Beal was chosen immediately after the Kentucky duo of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats).
Wall is Washington’s most talented player, but with him out of action, Nene is its most important contributor. Nene – the native of Brazil has gone by one name since legally dropping the surname “Hilario” in 2009 – is a rugged interior scorer and rebounder. The 11th-year player was acquired from Denver in a trade last season, but has battled injuries since his arrival in D.C. The Wizards have been easing him back into game action over the past three weeks.
On the rise
Burly third-year power forward Kevin Seraphin has improved steadily in his brief NBA career, particularly on the offensive end, where he’s shown a knack for rebounding and has displayed a soft mid-range shooting touch. The native of France was a relatively unknown first-round pick in 2010.
Jordan Crawford was Washington’s leading scorer early in 2012-13, a streaky perimeter gunner capable of big games, but also prone to dubious shot selection. In victories over Portland and Miami, the Xavier (Ohio) product totaled 41 points.
On the sideline
Randy Wittman replaced Flip Saunders early in the 2011-12 season following the Wizards’ abysmal start. Wittman, was the head coach for Cleveland and Minnesota, but in those franchise’s pre-LeBron James and post-Kevin Garnett eras, respectively. Wittman is seeking his first winning season.
Did you know?
The Hornets’ Roger Mason is a native of the Washington, D.C. area and has played a total three seasons for the Wizards, including in 2011-12.
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