With a healthy Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler returning to their lineup, the Washington Wizards opened the 2007-08 season believing they’d be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. So far, that has not been the case.
The Wizards look to avoid opening with three straight losses for the first time in 15 years when they meet the Orlando Magic in their home opener on Saturday.
With Arenas (left knee surgery) and Butler (broken right hand) out at the end of last season, Washington (0-2) limped into the playoffs before being swept by Cleveland in the first round.
The Wizards have those two All-Stars back on the court, but the results they’ve been hoping for have been absent.
They lost to Indiana 119-110 in overtime in Wednesday’s season opener, and then got crushed by new-look Boston 103-83 on Friday. The Wizards were outscored 37-18 in the second quarter in the Celtics’ season opener.
“The energy was high,” said Butler, who scored 18 points. “It was a great atmosphere for basketball. But, at the same time, in the second quarter we didn’t bask in the same energy.”
Washington is 0-2 for the first time since 1997-98, and hasn’t opened a season with three straight losses since starting 0-4 in 1992-93 when the franchise was known as the Bullets.
The Wizards’ shooting problems have been the biggest reason for their early woes, as they’ve connected on just 35.8 percent of their shots. They missed all 16 of their 3-pointers on Friday, the first time they failed to make a 3-point basket since missing all 15 in a 102-82 loss to New York last Nov. 15.
Arenas scored 21 points on 5-of-20 shooting from the floor against the Celtics. He averaged 30 points, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds in three games against the Magic last season.
Antawn Jamison averaged 33.3 points—his best against any opponent—and 11.5 boards in four games against Orlando last season. Jamison scored a career-high 48 points in Washington’s 95-89 loss to the Magic on April 17 last season, a game Arenas missed with his season-ending injury.
The Wizards split their four games against the Magic last season, with each team winning once at the Verizon Center.
Orlando (1-1) lost to Detroit 116-92 on Friday after beating Milwaukee 102-83 in Wednesday’s season opener.
After holding Milwaukee to 37.9 percent shooting, the Magic could not slow down the Pistons, who connected on 58.9 percent of their shots.
“We’re not close to that right now,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said about the Pistons. “That’s how far away we are as a basketball team right now. That’s OK because we’re in game two of 82. But, it’s going to go step by step by step and we have to realize that’s how far we have to go. We have to come with that kind of commitment every day.”
Rashard Lewis had 21 points on 5-of-11 shooting on Friday after scoring 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting in his Orlando debut on Wednesday.
Lewis, the former Seattle All-Star who agreed to an $118 million contract in a sign-and-trade deal in the offseason, had 26 points and 10 rebounds in his only game against Washington last season.
The Magic have lost their last two road openers, while the Wizards have won their last two home openers.