PHILADELPHIA - The best thing about all that went wrong for the Wizards in their preseason opener against the 76ers four nights ago was that it didn’t count.
Technically, the stakes are the same tonight. But when SportsCenter leads with Wizards coach Flip Saunders’ frustrated postgame comments, it’s an indication that there’s already plenty to prove for Washington, whether there are six days or six weeks to go before the regular season starts.
“I always say, I want to feel somebody,” Saunders said this evening, seated on the scorer’s table next to the court at Wells Fargo Center. “The last two days at practice, I felt [Trevor] Booker, how passionate he played, how aggressive he played, the things he did. I want to feel more guys tonight because if I feel somebody, I’m going to feel better about playing those guys.”
Saunders doesn’t have much choice with Nick Young, needing to play his top returning scorer only a day after he rejoined the team, but he wasn’t sure how many minutes. Young, for his part, hasn’t yet acquired Wizards color scheme-ready shoes but said he liked the new red road uniforms that the Wizards will wear for the first time. As an indication of how long he’s been away from the team, Young kind of forgot that the home uniform was white…
“The reason we’re going to play him some is we got six days to get ready,” Saunders said. “He needs some cardiovascular conditioning, game-type things, just get him short stints, get his wind going a little bit and get on the floor, playing with the guys a little bit.”
The Wizards plan to be more cautious with rookie Jan Vesely, who did go through the pregame warmups but appears set not to do much else.
“I would say it’s probably doubtful that he’ll go tonight,” Saunders said. “I just think that based on where he’s at and what he’s done the last couple days that we probably won’t do anything.”
Among the key matchups that the Sixers used to destroy Wizards at Verizon Center on Friday – and depending on how it shakes out, could also indicate if the visitors have got any fight in them tonight – was a one-sided battle at center, where Spencer Hawes looked like an all-star, racking up 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
“I think, one, JaVale [McGee] didn’t fight him early around the bucket,” Saunders said. “He’s got to fight him more, and maybe respect him a little bit more. I think he just thought well, Spencer’s not going to do anything, and he kicked his butt in the first quarter.”
Again, as to what the coach wants to see from the Wizards as a group: “I just want to see some better mental alertness, mental quickness from the players. I want to see a little bit of that passion. You can’t play this game without a great amount of passion. I want to see the ability to fight back through adversity. I thought that last time when things went kind of bad, it was like ‘It’s an exhibition game, we’ll just let it go.’ Now they have to understand that no matter who it is, when things go bad, you’ve got to find a way to fight through it.”