OKLAHOMA CITY — The Washington Wizards will try to pick up their second straight victory as they take on the hosting Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Wizards will have the same starting lineup of Arenas, Miller, Butler, Jamison and Haywood. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City will start Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha in the back court and Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic up front.
The Wizards will see a familiar face in Etan Thomas, who before being traded from Washington over the summer in the deal that brought Mike Miller and Randy Foye to the District was the longest tenured player on the team.
Thomas came to Oklahoma City after Washington shipped him — along with Oleksiy Pecherov and Darius Songaila and the No. 5 pick — to Minnesota. The Timberwolves shortly thereafter shipped Thomas to the Thunder.
Thomas after missing all of the 2007-08 season with after heart surgery and being limited to 26 games last season, has played in all 12 games this season. He is averaging 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds off the bench for the Thunder.
Thomas didn’t speak pre-game, but you have to imagine he’s looking forward to going against his former rival Brendan Haywood.
Haywood said he doesn’t expect it to seem weird playing against Thomas because, “We practiced against each other all the time in practice … I don’t think it’ll be that big a deal. It’s the NBA, man. You see a lot of guys you used to play with and now play agianst them.”
Haywood and his teammates should be extra fresh tonight after Flip Saunders decided to cancel this morning’s shoot-around to allow them some extra rest. Instead, the coach held a 3 p.m. strategizing meeting with his players at the team hotel before they headed over to Ford Center.
“Rest is important,” Saunders said. “Especially when we were gone for so long and then had a chance to get home. A lot of times in the mornings when you know you’ve got to get up, you start looking at the clock. When you know you can sleep in, you get a better rest.”
It’s the second time this week that Saunders has altered the game-day routine in an attempt to give his players more rest. On Wednesday, rather than holding a morning shoot-around, Saunders held a 4:45 p.m. walk-thru for the Cleveland game.
“It makes sense, especially at home,” the coach said. “The more I’m around with the D.C. traffic and where these guys live. It would be different if it were a 7:30 or 8 o’clock game. But guys come in [for morning shoot-around] and by the time they get out of the locker room [afterwards], it’s 12, or 12:30 and they might get home around 1 or 1:15, and then they’ve got to turn around in a couple hours and come back out with the traffic.
“And some times going through what you want to do against a team in late afternoon, it’s fresher in their mind and you remember what you want to do and what you have to execute,” Saunders said.
Mike Miller said he appreciates the efforts Saunders continues to make to help his players.
“I felt good,” Miller said of the altered day on Wednesday. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I felt good and feel good today too. You sleep good. As long as you take care of yourself it’s pretty easy anyways. Just something you have to get used to. I’ve had the same routine for 10 years now so it’s just something you’ve got to get to get used to but so far it seems like it’s working.
“He’s great to play for, easy to play for and as long as you go out there and do your job, he’s easy to play for,” Miller added.
One of the Wizards might want to take Flip around town for dinner or lunch, however. When asked what spots in D.C. Flip was becoming familiar with, he only named two and said he still knows very little about D.C.
“I haven’t learned it that much,” Saunders said with a chuckle. “I know Subway and I know Papa John’s.”