This is a pretty big weekend for the newest Chicago Bulls.
Before facing the team that recently gave up on them, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden look to make a good impression in their first home game as Bulls teammates when they face the Washington Wizards on Friday.
This is the first chance for Chicago fans to see the team’s newest players in person after the first three games in a Bulls uniform for Hughes and Gooden came away from the United Center.
The two players and their new team will be back on the road Sunday in a nationally televised game in Cleveland, which shipped Hughes and Gooden to Chicago as part of an 11-player deal shortly before Thursday’s trade deadline.
“I’m happy with it,” Hughes said of the trade. “We did a lot of winning in Cleveland and I gained a lot of good experience, but I was definitely ready for a change. I like the position I’m in now.”
Hughes may get a cordial welcome from the Bulls home crowd after scoring 29 points and tying a season high with six assists in a 113-107 victory at Indiana on Wednesday. He scored a combined 27 points in his first two games with Chicago (23-34) as the team lost at Houston and Dallas.
Gooden had his first double-double as a member of the Bulls on Wednesday with 10 points and 15 rebounds, including a season-high eight offensive boards.
“Larry was excited, but for me, I didn’t know what to expect,” Gooden said. “I’m getting along with these guys - they’re a great group of guys - and I know we have a chance to make a good run at the playoffs.”
Chicago is 10th in the East, but among a group of six teams within 5 1/2 games of each other that are battling for the conference’s final three playoff spots.
Leading that mix is Washington (27-30), which is 1 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia for the sixth seed.
The injury bug, though, continues to plague the Wizards, as they learned Wednesday that Caron Butler has a small labral tear of the left joint in his hip. The All-Star forward has missed the last 10 games with what was originally diagnosed as a strained hip flexor, and a timetable for his return is unclear, though it’s certain he will not play this weekend.
Washington is 4-10 this season when playing without Butler, who is averaging 21.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
Last weekend, Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas revealed he is not close to being ready to play despite originally targeting March 2 as his return date from knee surgery. He’s missed all but eight games this season.
Despite the absence of Butler and Arenas, Washington recently put together back-to-back wins, including a road victory over Western Conference power New Orleans on Monday. The following night, however, the Wizards lost 94-69 at Houston to a Rockets team which won its 13th straight despite missing Yao Ming.
Washington recorded its lowest point total of the season in the defeat, scoring a franchise-low 23 points in the first half en route to a 28-point deficit.
“We had some opportunities, but didn’t capitalize,” said Antawn Jamison, who led the Wizards with 18 points. “In the first half our shots weren’t close and we were complaining about calls too much.”
Washington hopes to bounce back against a Chicago team which has given up an average of 110.0 points in its last five games.