ATLANTA — Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan has decided to give the youth movement a try, electing to start rookie center JaVale McGee and second-year point guard Dee Brown for tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Roughly an hour and 15 minutes before tip-off, Jordan walked into the trainers room here in the visiting locker room at Phillips Arena, beckoned for McGee and then walked up to Brown, who was sitting in his locker, and told him to step into his office.
The players — both wide-eyed and unsure of what awaited — followed, but emerged with smiles of relief and excitement.
“That’ was some scary [stuff],” McGee said to Brown with a grin.
“Yeah, a coach has never taken me into his office before and talked to me, so I didn’t know what was going on,” he exclaimed.
McGee returned to the trainers room and Brown sat back and couldn’t help but soak up the moment.
“A smile came on my face automatically. It was just a crazy experience. It was just humbling and a blessing,” said Brown, who spent his rookie season warming the bench in Utah and then played professionally in Turkey. “This is my first start in the NBA. I’ve just got to go out there and try to run the team and play whatever role they need me to play.”
McGee, who is enters the game averaging 9.0 points and 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game, replaces Etan Thomas as the starter. Thomas, who was out of basketball all last season while recovering from heart surgery, was expected to back Brendan Haywood up, but became the starter when Haywood had to have wrist surgery. Thomas is averaging 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.
Brown replaces Juan Dixon, who was starting in place of an injured Antonio Daniels. Dixon had given the Wizards a boost off the bench, averaging 6.8 points and 4.0 assists while directing several rallies from double-digit deficits. He also served as a good setup man for fellow backup guard Nick Young.
But when moved into the starting lineup, his numbers dipped slightly to 4.7 points and 3.6 assits, and wasn’t his usual aggressive self because he had to defer to all-star forwards Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.
Jordan said he felt like McGee and Brown could help the Wizards start games better, and that Dixon and Thomas probably are better suited to come off the bench.
“I don’t have a problem with [Brown and McGee] because I know Dee is a pure point guard, and he’s going to push the ball and look soley to distribute,” Jordan said. “And felt that Juan is better in his aggressive role coming off the bench. He did an adequate job at point starting us out, looking to facilitate, but it takes away half of his aggressiveness and I want him to be him. So I like him coming off the bench.
“And I think JaVale will give us some athleticism at the rim, and again it goes to Etan. Etan is suited in his own way to come off the bench and bring some force in his way and he’s been in that role for years. So we know what we have there opposed to Etan being a starter and still trying to find his way. … We’re going to try it and see where it goes.”