Preview: Wizards at Kings ONE DOLLAR MOUNTAIN DEW NIGHT OH BOY

THE OPPONENT

You may think the Wizards suck, given their 7-15 record. But they been unlucky in close games, and have the point differential of an 8-14 team. Do not undersell the should-be-8-and-14 Washington Wizards!

How weird is this, right? The Wizards got two key players (former All-Star Gilbert Arenas and ace defender Brendan Haywood) make from injury, traded a high lottery pick for two veterans (one a former Rookie and Sixth Man of the Year), hired the offseason's priciest head coach and augmented the roster with veterans. The Kings lost their best player to injury after five games, drafted a (then-) 19-year-old, a 21-year-old and a 22-year-old, hired the offseason's cheapest head coach and augmented the roster with a 260-pound undersized power forward with bad knee history, a 76-year-old Oklahoman painter and Team Spain's fourth-string point guard.

The Kings have flirted with .500 all season, and sit 10-13 after a string of harrowing road losses. The Wizards are eight games under .500. WHAT.

Mike Miller has been alternatively injured and stubbornly dismissive of his history as a shooter. (Earl Boykins, a gunner himself, shoots twice as frequently per minute as Miller. Unbelievable.) Arenas has needed 18 FGAs a night (plus six FTAs) to get his 20 points. (By comparison, Tyreke Evans, age 20, gets those same 20 points on about 2-1/2 fewer shots a night.) Haywood's return has improved the defense only marginally, and that's under the assumption Flip Saunders hasn't helped in replacement of Eddie Jordan/Ed Tapscott, which probably isn't true. Caron Butler has fallen off the side of the Earth in terms of efficiency. Randy Foye has been a catastrophe. Antawn Jamison has been a champ since returning from injury, but he's clearly aggravated with what's gone on around him.

And now the Wizards have a lottery team without much of a kiddie corps to build with, while the Kings press on with one of the league's most promising young cores, far lower salary committments and a much better record.

WHAT NOW D.C.? WHAT NOW?

THE KEY BATTLE

Evans vs. Arenas. Gil might be off this season, but he can still penetrate and he still averages seven assists a night. He won't be an "Aaron Brooks problem" or a "Deron Williams problem." But he could be a bit of a problem. And we know from experience he has no issues playing before a defiant audience. (In fact, he might be one of the few better in locales hostile. Basically even home-road splits this season. Only slightly better at home for his career.) But to me a key to this game is Evans punishing Arenas. Gil's counterparts have shot better than 52 percent this season. The Wiz are terrible at forcing turnovers and foul too much. Conditions are perfect.

 

BOLD PROCLAMATION

Thursday Sacramento Bee headline: "Brockman Demasked, NBA to Weigh Whether Cthulhu Can Play."

INTERESTING SIDESHOW

$1. MOUNTAIN DEW. ALL. NIGHT. Boy, do I feel for Maloof Sports & Entertainment janitorial staff.

NUMERIC PREDICTION

Muff209 will quaff 208 beers. Juuuuuuust short.

DETAILS

7:30 PM. E-S-P-N. (Also, Comcast SportsNet. I guarantee you won't miss the first half-quarter on CSN.) Also, 1140 AM KHTK. Game thread at 7:30, Game Thread II at 8:30, Post-Game Thread at 10:15. Recap with a whiskey sour.

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