After going four years without making a single regular season appearance on national television, the Washington Wizards will appear on ESPN for the second time in six weeks tomorrow night when they host the Chicago Bulls at 8 pm.
Although they participated in 11 postseason games last year and performed on either TNT or ESPN in each of those games, they were yet to display their talent to the hold world in the regular season. That all changed on November 26th against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although they lost the game by a score of 1113-87, this game essentially started a new era in Washington.
It started an era that features the Wizards as one of the elite teams in the NBA. Not only will they be one of the top teams this season, but they should be major contenders for years to come.
Now, about that game that they will be performing on ESPN for: It should be a good one. The 25-11 Chicago Bulls currently hold a half-game lead on the 24-11 Wizards for the third seed in the Eastern Conference. It is too early to start worrying about seeding, but in order to be a good team in this league, you have to beat the good teams.
After losing three straight games to three of the NBA’s best, the Wizards have yet to prove that they can consistently beat the upper echelon of the league. A win tomorrow night against a healthy Chicago Bulls team will go a long way in proving that they can accomplish that.
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Just how healthy are the Chicago Bulls at the moment? Well, for the first time in two years, Derrick Rose is healthy, but not performing all that well. He has only played 28.8 minutes per game this year, averaging 16.8 points and 4.9 assists while shooting under 40 percent from the field.
However, let’s give the guy a break. He has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons, only participating in 49 total games over those years. Considering all that he has been through, those numbers aren’t all that bad. And as long as he stays healthy, he will start to look more and more like his former MVP-self.
Another pleasant surprise for Chicago comes at the power forward position, where the veteran Pau Gasol has been able to stay healthy for the first time in three years. After winning back-to-back championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, he missed at least 17 games in each of the next three seasons. Holding at the age of 34 and battling through so many injuries, it did not look like the 14-year veteran had much left in him.
Jan 3, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol (16) is defended by Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger (7) during the second quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
However, he came to Chicago and started looking like he was 25-years-old again. Through 33 games this year, he stands at fifth in the league in rebounds with 11.1 per game, fourth in blocks with 2.3 per game, and is averaging the fifth-most points out of any power forwrad in the league (18.1 points per game).
Although it did not look like the Bulls would be a major threat this season, they have quickly changed everyone’s mind. It should a fun game game to watch in the Nations Capital on Friday night.