PHILADELPHIA — Flip Saunders had said he wanted his reserve players to step up after several consecutive poor showings, and he gave them a chance to protect a lead and win the game. They just about gave him a heart attack a few times, but Mike James, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee held on to give the Wizards a 90-89 victory over Eddie Jordan and the 76ers.
A comedy of errors best describes the Wizards’ final stretch. JaVale McGee pulled down a rebound and went the length of the floor rather than sending an outlet pass to a guard, or at least getting to his team’s offensive end and holding the ball while waiting for backup. Instead he took off from about 15 feet out and tried to lay the ball in but was stripped of the ball on a WHAT-WAS-HE-THINKING?! play.
Says McGee: “I was thinking about dunking it, but he smacked my arm like five times and they didn’t call it. But I definitely feel like I should have held on to it. But I got to halfcourt and waited, then it just opened up for me so I went with it.”
He recounted this in his locker room with Andray Blatche sitting next to him and holding his hard, rolling his eyes, shaking his head in disbelief, and also chuckling. “Yeah, you better say you learned you should’ve held onto it!” said 7-Day-Dray, who himself had a solid 10-point, six-rebound game.
Nick Young also gave McGee a hard time.
“He was supposed to run a play, but it was like he had the Devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other,” Young laughed. “He tried to stop, but the Devil told him to keep going.”
McGee couldn’t help but laugh.
Young had his own blooper when shortly after making a big game-tying shot to knot the game 88-88 with 43 seconds left, he fould Willie Green on a shot attempt with 1 second left. Fortunately for the Wizards Green made only one free throw.
Then Mike James on the other end drew a foul with 0.3 seconds left on a 3-pointer. He went to the line and made the first two attempts, then wanted to miss off the rim so time would run out. Mike tried a left-handed shot, but threw up an airball.
“We told him all he had to do was hit the rim, but he had to go and try to shoot a left-handed free throw,” Randy Foye said having a good laugh at James’ H-O-R-S-E-like shot. “But, we got the win and that’s what it’s all about.”
Said a smiling James: “Tried the left hand shot. I’m not going to that any more. I thought my left hand was better than that, you know what I’m saying? But obviously, I need some more practice with that in the summer time. Yeah, (if it was a game of H-O-R-S-E), I would’ve gotten H. I would’ve definitely gotten H on that.”
As far as the starters go, the Wizards got off to a slow start, but found their rhythm. Foye said he’s beginning to gain comfort as a point guard and picking his spots on when to shoot and when to set up his teammates. He had 17 points and four assists.
Brendan Haywood had his best preseason game with 13 points and eight rebounds and two blocks. Haywood, who had his conflicts with Eddie Jordan during their time together in D.C., no doubt had a little motivation. Late in the third quarter, with the Wizards’ offensive end being in front of Philly’s bench, Haywood threw down a two-handed putback jam and hung on the rim for a second came down and paused to glare in Jordan’s direction before jogging back up the floor.
Haywood got out of the locker room before we could talk to him about his performance and going against Jordan, though.
The Wizards got some good news in the Antawn Jamison shoulder department. He was in the weight room lifting before the game, “working on my chest, my shoulders, my delts, my bi’s and tri’s,” Jamison said with a smile after the game. “Yeah, I’ve got my range of motion and can lift and things of that nature. Basketball-wise, they won’t let me do any of that. But strength is up, and they’re impressed as far as how fast I’ve been able to heal and how strong the shoulder is. Right now, it’s me being patient as far as going along with the plan.”
Prior to lifting for the first time today, Jamison had been working with resistance bands. But “they won’t let me shoot at all. I’ve been trying, but no.”
Jamison said he wished he could have played against Jordan tonight, but not because he harbors ill will to his former coach.
“Eddie’s a good guy. Would’ve been nice to be out there talking a little trash to him,” Jamison grinned. “But I told him I’d see him regular season. Eddie’s a good guy.”
Jamison said it wouldn’t have been the first time he played against a former coach, but Jordan is the coach he’s played for the longest in the NBA, and he remains fond of him.
“Eddie’s my guy. He got me to two All-Star [appearances],” Jamison said. “It was good to see him and Mike O’Koren and Randy [Ayers] get the opportunity to coach again. … When people get fired you realized you’re messing with their lives, their livelihood and opportunity to get paid. But to see them bounce back quickly and come into a good situation is great as well. During the regular season, they’re going to try to make it tough for us, and we’re going to try to win that game as well.”
— Mike Jones