Gameday Dish: Nets and Wizards Looking to Reboot

The Washington Wizards will pay a visit to the New Jersey Nets tonight in Newark. The Wiz have yet to come out on top away from home this season and are currently on a 5-game losing streak. The Nets are winless in 8 and trail behind the Wizards with the worst record in the East. One thing is for certain tonight – one of these squads will pull out of their early-season tailspins and walk away victorious.

The Wiz, playing without first overall pick PG John Wall and sixth-year PF Andray Blatche, fell to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night 103-89 in D.C. Both of these leading scorers are expected to be out of action again this evening, as well as Yi Jianlian, who will miss 2-4 weeks with a sprained right MCL.

The Nets also have to contend with some major adjust-ments to their roster. SG Anthony Morrow, who ranks third on the team in scoring with 12.8 ppg, will be sidelined for the next 2-3 weeks due to a hamstring injury he suffered during warmups before Tuesday’s 82-77 loss to the Sixers. Meanwhile Sasha Vujacic, who was sporting yellow and purple at the Prudential Center just a few days ago, might debut his new red, white and blue duds tonight.

New Jersey acquired combo guard Vujacic and two first-round picks yesterday in exchange for Terrence Williams, Joe Smith and two second-round picks. The former Laker and NBA champion should bring some needed energy on the defensive end and top-notch outside marksman-ship on offense. The Nets can certainly use his scoring abilities as they currently rank 29th in the NBA in points per game at 92.7. And veteran Vujacic’s championship experience will be valuable to this young Nets franchise that is in the throws of rebuilding and learning how to win.

This game is the first of three meetings between these Eastern Conference teams this season. The Wizards have bested the Nets the last 5 times they’ve played and beaten them 4 consecutive times in New Jersey. A bright spot for New Jersey is seveth-year PG Devon Harris, who has averaged 23 points in his last four meetings with Washington.

Tonight Ian and I go up against Steve and fellow YES announcer Marv on TNT. Should be interesting to see how the ratings compare. You can help out Bird and the Czar by tuning into Wizards @ Nets at 7:00 PM ET on YES.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Nick Young

Now in his fourth year with the Wizards, shooting guard Nick Young has been anxious to earn more minutes so he can do what he does best: score.

As he’s matured, Young has worked increasingly hard to improve in all the areas that Head Coach Flip Saunders needs him to, and in return he’s been rewarded with more court time. Young is showing his appreciation for this opportunity with an impressive run of high-scoring displays, topped by a stellar performance against the Lakers last week. Young came off the bench and sank six threes in route to a season-high 30 points.

Young is great for Washington’s second unit because he can be explosive and put points on the board in a hurry. In the past Young’s shoot-first mentality frequently led him to opt for off-balance, low-percentage shots rather than passing to his teammates. But he appears to be making better decisions these days, and he’s getting better results. Young also gives the Wizards another guard who is capable of playing multiple positions. His ability to hold  his own at small forward gives his team some versatility and helps fantasy owners too.

Nick Young is averaging 12.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in 22 minutes per game. As he continues to sharpen his shot selections and all-around game, his numbers will go up. The Wiz play three games this week including a rematch with the Lakers at home on Tuesday, so look for Young to go big again.

Gameday Dish: Wizards vs. Hawks on the Thanksgiving Menu

The Atlanta Hawks host the Washington Wizards tonight at Philips Arena in the Peach State. As uncomfortable away from D.C. as a rafter of Turkeys trying to maneuver on any of the ATL’s busy highway interchanges, the Wiz are winless on the road this young season at 0-6. And they have a ten-game losing streak against the Hawks coming into this Thanksgiving night contest.  Washington was last victorious against Atlanta in a regular season game almost three full calendar years ago.

From most calculated perspectives, the Wizards would appear to be an easy takedown. But on this national holiday, hope arrives in a cornucopia of forms for the squad from our capital city.  The Hawks have lost three games in a row, most recently bested in New Jersey 107-101 in OT on Tuesday night. The Wizards, on the other hand, are coming off of a hard fought, 116-114 overtime victory against our once-upon-a-time (temporary) capital city team – the Philadelphia Sixers.

Third-year center, 7-footer JaVale McGee had his best game of the 2010-11 season in the win, with season-high’s of 24 points and 18 boards – 10 of those rebounds coming on the offensive glass. And first overall pick PG John Wall was back in the Wiz lineup against the Sixers after missing the previous four games with a sprained left foot. Wall finished with 25 points and 6 dimes coming off the bench.

The speedster caused problems for Atlanta in their first season matchup, contributing 28 points and nine assists. Wall is a tough assignment for veteran Mike Bibby, who is approaching the end of his career and no longer has the quickness to keep up with the spry rookie. So it will be interesting to see if Atlanta adjusts their lineup to have someone else defend Wall.

Joe Johnson suffered a preseason injury to his left hand, which may be contributing to his slow start. And the Hawks have been struggling of late, going 2-7 in the last nine games. They are trying to regain the chemistry that ignited their 6-0 run to start the season.

Most of the attention in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division this season has been on D-Wade, LeBron and the Miami Heat. But tonight at 8pm ET on TNT, the spotlight will be focused on the intra-division matchup between the Hawks and the Wizards.  Eat up, settle in and enjoy the NBA action while you recover. Dick Stockton, Chris Webber and I will be doing the same. Happy Thanksgiving 2010!

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Kirk Hinrich

Kirk Hinrich was a great pickup for the Washington Wizards from the standpoint that he’s an experienced veteran who has played both the point guard and off guard positions. The Wiz couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Hinrich for their No. 1 draft pick John Wall.

This is a familiar role for Hinrich, who was willing to take a step back to give point guard Derrick Rose room to develop when the Bulls drafted him first overall in 2008. A consummate professional, Hinrich has proven to be an unselfish player who leads by example. As co-captain he will be able to pass on some of the wisdom he’s acquired over the years and help prepare Wall for what he’ll encounter in the league.

Hinrich contributes on a nightly basis. He can defend both the 1 and 2 guard positions, run the show on offense from the point position, make threes to stretch the defense, and he’s a great free throw shooter. Hinrich also has the ability and toughness to play at the small forward position if Washington wants to play three smalls together: Wall, Hinrich and Gilbert Arenas.

Averaging 11 points, 3 rebounds, nearly 5 assists and 1 steal per game, Hinrich is a very valuable addition the Washington Wizards and can add value to your roster too. Available in over 60% of fantasy leagues, Hinrich will log around 36 minutes in each of Washington’s four games this week.