The Washington Wizards are going to China -- again!
The team announced that some former and current players, including NBA Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, Romanian giant Gheorghe Muresan and contemporary stars Caron Butler and Randy Foye, will be making the 10-day journey Sept. 5 for a series of clinics and other goodwill activities in Beijing and Shanghai, promoting USA balling to a hoop-crazy populace.
Besides time and distance, a China trip is not the big deal maybe it once was (2008 Summer Olympics). But the news of the tour is a nice reminder that another NBA season is around the corner – and that maybe the Wizards might be good this year. They won just 19 games last season, suffering season-long injuries to starters Agent Zero Gilbert Arenas and center Brendan Haywood. A panel of sportswriters voting on the The NBA On ESPN.com gives them the nod (over Oklahoma and the Clippers) as likely the league’s most improved team.
New Coach Flip Saunders is a top NBA coach who has tutored many top players. You can bet Saunders is looking to cement his personal NBA legacy with a title, just like Doc Rivers did with Boston and what George Karl yearns for with Denver.
Thirty years ago there was also a nice group in Washington, NBA champions in 1978 and the runner-up in 1979. Unseld simply could go get the ball off the board better than anybody. And the "Big E" Elvin Hayes, another Hall of Famer, defined the power forward position in his era. Add Bobby Dandridge and the point, Tommy Henderson, along with Grevey, Kupchak and Greg Ballard, not to mention smooth Larry Wright and pesky Charles Johnson.
The new season starts Oct. 27. Maybe the Wizards (Bullets) get really good on 30-year cycles.