Sunday, January 13, 2013

ATLiens

After four days off, the Washington Wizards were back at the Verizon Center Saturday night to take on the 21-14 Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta had earned a home victory the previous night against the Utah Jazz, and were looking for more success tonight in D.C.

Hawks rookie guard John Jenkins practices against player development instructor Nick Van Exel
Jenkins takes a shot over Van Exel


The Wizards lineup was bolstered tonight by the addition of star guard John Wall, who would make his season debut, after being out with a stress injury to his left kneecap he suffered in September.

Hawks guard Jeff Teague takes a jumper during warm-ups
Before the game, I was able to take a few pictures of Wall. He seemed comfortable shooting around, and it was pretty clear all eyes were on his return. I didn't arrive at the Verizon center until after 5 P.M. for tonight's game, so I had limited time to take my own pictures, but was fortunate enough to catch Wall, who's return was unquestionably the main topic of the evening.

Wizards guard John Wall practices free throws before making his season debut

After pumping out a solid 120 fan photos before the game even started, I felt comfortable with the pace I had set for myself. My goal for the night was to take 300 photos, which I was able to eclipse with considerable ease. It must have been about mid-way through the first quarter when I heard a loud roar from the crowd, so I peered into the seats from where I was working in the 200 level, to see a standing ovation for John Wall, who had just entered the game for the first time this season. Maybe help had finally arrived for the Washington Wizards.

There weren't a whole lot of Atlanta fans in attendance. It's my observation that the Hawks have a relatively small fan base outside of ATL. In fact, I can count on one finger the number of Atlanta fans that I saw, which is a slap in the face of the organization, because they've been consistently good for a few years, and currently sit in 4th place in the Eastern Conference. One thing I can say about the Hawks is that their jerseys are a little mundane, and even though they have players that could potentially put fans in the seats, such as Josh Smith and Al Horford, they could probably do a better job of marketing the team, especially to fans outside of their local market.

By the end of the game, I had taken almost 350 fan photos, which well exceeded my expectations for the night. I'm almost positive that if this game were on a weeknight, as opposed to a weekend, there would have been a much more diminutive crowd, but Saturday night games are always a decent draw, no matter what team happens to be in town.

Bradley Beal and A.J. Price led the Wizards to 103-93 win with 16 points a piece. Wall chipped in 14 points, playing 20 minutes off the bench in his return. Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 19 points, and Al Horford contributed 16 points and 12 rebounds in the loss. The Wizards will host Orlando at the Verizon Center on Monday, before heading on a 5 game west-coast swing.