The Wizards will play the Cavaliers on Friday night at Verizon Center without point guard John Wall, who was suspended by the league for an altercation on Wednesday against Heat center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Wall was suspended for one game for throwing a punch after Ilgauskas caught Wall with multiple elbow shots near his head. Ilgauskas was fined, but not suspended for his actions.
Wizards coach Flip Saunders said he’s prepared to play yet another game without a key player, as recent injuries have decimated the team, but to lose Wall to a suspension was a bit of a blow.
“Anytime you have a confrontation like that, you’re never surprised [by a suspension]. Z [Zydrunas Ilgauskas] kind of took three swings at him,” Saunders said.
“You’d hope someone would call a foul on the first one, and maybe the whole situation wouldn’t have escalated. But unfortunately, they [the officials] didn’t,” Saunders said.
“When you’re out there and you have a big guy, 7’2” taking swings at your face, you react. Will he learn now to maybe push instead of try and throw a punch, you hope so. But the one thing it does is that people know that John’s not going to back down, either. He’s not going to stand there and let people do those things,” Saunders said.
Without Wall, and guard Nick Young, who is still bothered by soreness in his left knee, the load once again falls to rookie Jordan Crawford. Crawford scored a career high 39 points in Wednesday’s game against the Heat. Also back from injury is Andray Blatche, who will be playing in his second game after missing 11 straight with a shoulder injury.
“We’ll probably move Jordan [Crawford] to the one, and we’ll probably start Dray [Andray Blatche], give him some time so we’ll have some more offensive punch to start the game,” Saunders said.
“The tough thing is we actually started getting into a rhythm on the road with John and Jordan playing together and putting the ball in John’s hand and letting him run the offense. He’s penetrating, and playing very, very well. So it’s disappointing from that standpoint,” Saunders said.
The lone bright spot once again is that injuries – and suspensions – give other players the opportunity to step up.
“For what we’re trying to do, it gives some of our younger players some opportunities in different situations to be evaluated,” Saunders said.
Newly signed Othyus Jeffers and Mustafa Shakur could be two of those players receiving extended minutes and helping Crawford shoulder some of the load.
“It’s definitely going to be tough without John, but O [Othyus Jeffers] has been playing, Staf [Mustafa Shakur] is ready to come in and play some major minutes, and you can see a little more hunger in us,” Crawford said.
“Right now in each game, it really doesn’t matter who’s out. We’re really going to give it our all.”