Place: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
A pair of young teams looking to improve upon last year’s disappointing campaigns clash to open the season, but only one will have its star point guard running the show when the Washington Wizards travel to Cleveland to start a new campaign against the Cavaliers.
The teams combined for just 41 wins in the shortened 2011-12 season but are optimistic about the future with talented young point guards at the helm in Washington’s John Wall and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving.
The Wizards, however, will be without 2010 No. 1 overall pick Wall, who is expected to miss the first month of the season with a stress injury in his left knee. Forwards Nene (plantar fasciitis) and Kevin Seraphin (strained right calf) also will miss the opener.
Kyrie Irving, the 2011 top pick, is expected to start for Cleveland despite being listed day-to-day after having four wisdom teeth removed last week. Washington won two of three meetings last season, including a 96-85 win in the only game in Cleveland.
Washington Wizards (2011-12: 20-46): Washington closed last season on a six-game winning streak but will have a hard time replacing Wall, who averaged a team-high 16.3 points and 8.0 assists last year.
A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo will fill in at the point, and the Wizards will lean on rookie Bradley Beal, the No. 3 overall pick out of Florida, to pick up some of the scoring slack. New additions Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor will start in the frontcourt with third-year forward Trevor Booker.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2011-12: 21-45): The Cavaliers have gone 40-108 since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, but Irving represents a brighter future.The reigning Rookie of the Year averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds last season. After adding Irving and power forward Tristan Thompson two years ago, the Cavs continued rebuilding through the draft by picking shooting guard Dion Waiters and center Tyler Zeller this year.
They also have veteran center Anderson Varejao back after missing the final 41 games last season with a fractured wrist, and they added forward C.J. Miles to provide a spark off the bench.
1. Washington SG Jordan Crawford scored 49 points in two games against the Cavaliers last season.
2. The average age of Cleveland’s opening night roster is 24.9 years, and the starting five averages 23.7 years.
3. Waiters has earned a spot in the starting lineup for Cleveland, marking his first start since high school. Waiters came off the bench for two years at Syracuse.