More so than in any other sports, the loss of just one player can change the entire identity of a team in the game of basketball.
And when the injury bug bites in the NBA, it bites hard.
“It’s tough. I can tell you that,” said coach Flip Saunders.
Already missing two impact players heading into Tuesday night’s match-up with the Milwaukee Bucks (24-38), the Washington Wizards (16-47) lost their hottest player, and ultimately lost the game 95-86.
Forward Andray Blatche, who entered the night with a streak of three games in which he has scored 20+ points, injured his right shoulder three minutes into the first quarter on a loose ball scramble with Milwaukee’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
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“We were already missing all of our small forwards,” said guard Nick Young, who finished the day with 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting. “Then Dray went down. It’s just crazy.”
John Wall (12 games), Blatche (8 games), JaVale McGee (3 games) and Nick Young (3 games) have all been inactive due to injury at some point during the season, forcing Washington to send a hodge podge of young, unproven players to the floor. On Tuesday night, Saunders watched as five rookies – Wall, Trevor Booker, Jordan Crawford, Hamady Ndiaye and Mustafa Shakur – ran the floor together.
“That was probably our best thing tonight, to be honest,” Saunders told the media after the game. “They competed and we had a really good stretch during that time. I thought they did some pretty good things.”
Crawford led the way for the young crew, scoring 22 points in 27 minutes off the bench.
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After another tough outing for the flailing Wizards, Saunders said the days leading up to Washington’s meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers will be like training camp.
“There are minutes to be had,” Saunders admitted. “Whoever is going to start on Saturday will be determined over these next three days.”