Don't read too much into Washington's 3-7 record. Many predicted the Wizards would make the playoffs. Look for a rapid climb in the standings now that Antawn Jamison has returned from a shoulder injury. Jamison scored 31points and grabbed 10 rebounds Wednesday night in his season debut, a 17-point win over Cleveland.
“They had some injuries,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “When they're healthy they're a much different team. They're a talented team. We'll have to play with energy and play well.”
For all the talk about the lack of a dominant defensive inside presence, Oklahoma City ranks eighth in the league in blocked shots (5.5).
Jeff Green (1.1) leads the team. Etan Thomas (0.9), Nick Collison (0.8), Thabo Sefolosha (0.8) and Kevin Durant (0.7) also are contributing.
“We're doing a good job with our weak-side (defense),” Brooks said. “Last year we struggled guarding the ball. This year we're doing a better job. We're not a great shot-block team but are putting ourselves in position to get a few.”
Green said: “We have athletic guys with long arms who can jump and force bad shots. It's just hustle, making a play.”
Three back-to-backs in a nine-day span ended with a lopsided loss at Orlando. But the Thunder is 4-3 away from the Ford Center, highlighted by road wins at San Antonio, Miami and Detroit. Last season OKC was 8-33 in road games.
“It shows we're growing as a team,” Durant said. “We know how to handle situations throughout a game. Last year when we were up nine points with about four minutes left (like at Miami) we probably would have given the game away. Now we're sustaining leads and making plays down the stretch.”
COLLISON'S ANKLE IMPROVING
Collison is emerging as the Thunder's top interior reserve. The past week, Collison has played some game-on-the-line, fourth-quarter minutes. He said an ankle injury that's hampered him since training camp is 90 to 95 percent healed.
“It feels pretty good but it was still a little tender in our last home game (last Sunday),” Collison said. “Hopefully it will keep improving. It depends on what happens in the game. If I jam it or something it's sore the rest of the night.”
Guard Kyle Weaver averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 56 games his rookie season. He started 19 games. With Shaun Livingston sidelined (arthroscopic knee surgery) Weaver will be active every game. He scored 11 points in his season debut Wednesday night after the Magic built a 30-point lead.
“The biggest thing is to be ready,” Weaver said. “It was good to get in that first time to get the feel back. It was good to get to play a whole quarter. I made a couple of shots which helped my rhythm.”