The Wizards play game No. 41 tonight, but the midseason evaluation has already started. I looked at the positives that head coach Flip Saunders would prefer to focus in today’s print edition, and he readily admitted before tonight’s game against Phoenix that it’s not something the Wizards can escape until they do finally get their first win on the road.
“I feel very good but I’m disappointed in our ability not to win on the road,” said Saunders when asked for a midseason evaluation of his team. “There’s no question that right now that’s our lightning bolt.”
Washington’s other talking point is John Wall, who has had at least nine assists in all nine games that the Wizards have played in January. The bigger question against the Suns, who have won four games in a row, could be Wall's defense against Steve Nash. Notice that I didn’t characterize it as a one-on-one battle.
“I hope he just worries about himself,” said Saunders. “He can’t control how Nash plays, how he wants to play. What he can do is he can try to contain his effectiveness and the same thing with [Rajon] Rondo [on Saturday]. But for the most important thing is it’s not how he does against those guys, it’s how our team does against their team.”
On the injury front, Saunders basically said Rashard Lewis has some soreness in his right knee, that he’ll have to be monitored, but the busy upcoming stretch (eight games in 11 days) will lead to more guys getting playing time anyway.
The coach was also asked about Josh Howard, and said his lingering absence is due to tendonitis, not last year’s left knee injury and surgery.
“It had nothing to do with the surgery itself,” said Saunders. “He has some tendonitis in it, it’s given him some pain.”
He also said the team is trying not to rush Howard back and end up in a situation where he does get shut down for the year. The Wizards hope/expect him to play some time during their four-game road trip to the Midwest that begins next week.