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On October 27th, 2009, the Washington Wizards started their 2009-10 regular season in Dallas versus the Mavericks. Fast forward to today and the Wizards will begin their 2010 preseason in Dallas at 8:30pm (TV:CSN | Radio: 106.7 The Fan).
Although the locations may be the same, that might be where the similarities end between the two teams. Only four players return from last season's opening night roster, with 12 of the 19 players on the current roster ready to make their Wizards' debut, including five rookies who will make their NBA preseason debut.
One of those five rookies is John Wall, selected with the #1 overall pick in June's draft by Washington and currently listed by the team as a probable starter at point guard tonight. Wall's first test will come against Jason Kidd, one of the league's best point guards over the last decade.
"It's great," said Wall on opening up against Kidd. "Every night in the NBA you get to play against a great player. Jason Kidd is a veteran of this game and he knows the tricks of the trade."
While the team has formed a strong bond through Summer League, off-season workouts, and training camp there is much work to be done. Head Coach Flip Saunders heads into the preseason with many unknowns in regards to his roster, and will look to use preseason as another way to evaluate and prepare his team as they head into the regular season.
"We have some important things to evaluate. Our up front people and who's going to be there. We have a couple spots available on this team and we need to figure out who's going to fill those spots," said Saunders. "We have to get our young guys a lot of minutes. So it will be more important for us to continue to play hard, work on execution and get those guys minutes then it will be to win every game during the preseason. We have to try to facilitate the development of our younger players."
Tonight's game will be a reunion of sorts for several players on both the Wizards and Mavericks roster. Last season on February 13th, the Wizards and Mavericks made a seven-player trade that included former Wizards Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson and current Wizard Josh Howard.
"It is going to be weird. I haven't seen them in a while," said Nick Young on playing against his former teammates. "I was on the team with them for almost three years. We built a friendship so it is going to be good to play against them."
"I have a job to do," added Andray Blatche on seeing his former teammates for the first time since the trade. "I play for the Washington Wizards and they play for Dallas. I'm going to go out there and do my job which is to compete and win. I understand they are my friends and that I grew up in the league with them, but that doesn't mean anything when I get on the court."
Following tonight's game, the Wizards will travel to Cleveland where they will face off against the Cavaliers on Thursday at 7:00pm.