Saturday, January 26, 2013

Heart of the Wolves

After going 2-3 on their 5 game West coast swing, the Wizards were back in snowy D.C. to take on the 17-22 Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves' recent history as a franchise has been defined by injuries to key players. Among others, star point guard Ricky Rubio had just returned from a torn ACL on Dec 15th, after being out since March of last year. Meanwhile, star power forward Kevin Love had injured his third and fourth metacarpals in his shooting hand at a morning workout during training camp. Following a brief November return, Love again injured his shooting hand, suffering a fractured wrist. Though Rubio is fortunately back in the lineup, Love is expected to be out for another 10 weeks, putting a major dent in Minnesota's playoff hopes.

The Wizards, though also hit hard by injuries this season, are on the mend. Both John Wall and Trevor Ariza had returned from their respective injuries, and had made positive impacts over the last several games. A.J. Price has made a nice comeback from his injury, as well, making considerable contributions during his brief tenure as the team's starting point guard. Tonight, however, Wall had regained his starting role for the first time since making his return, but had the unenviable task of matching up with Ricky Rubio.

While the Wizards were away from home, I was still hard at work as a fan photographer, only for a different sport. I had booked 2 games for the other major professional sports occupant of the arena, the Washington Capitals. I'm not really much of a hockey fan, but I must say the atmosphere is captivating. Not only are the players themselves impressive, but the fans are eccentric, and the arena is energized in a way that I have never seen at a Wizards game.

Verizon Center before the Washington Capitals game against the Montreal Canadiens

Nevertheless, I was happy to see the basketball configuration back in place, and be able to photograph the players and fans of a sport I am much more familiar with. Before the game, I was able to catch two 10-day contracted players from the Timberwolves warming up. Both players, Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale, had already made immediate impacts, combining for 26 points in Minnesota's win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday.

Timberwolves forward Chris Johnson practices free throws during pregame warm-ups.  In three games since being signed to a 10-day contract by Minnesota, Johnson has averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds.

Tonight was, without question, my most auspicious performance as a fan photographer. I was able to shoot nearly 200 photos before the game started, and cruised to well over 400 shots for the night. With the recent snow, the arena was a little bare, but it was an enthusiastic bunch. I was able to get a great picture of some kids posing with Wizards forward Trevor Booker on his way back to the locker room. There was also a sizable contingent of fans in Timberwolves' apparel from Spain, undoubtedly in attendance to see their countryman Ricky Rubio.

Wizards forward Chris Singleton goes up for the jam and is fouled by Timberwolves forward Louis Amundson
Chris Singleton takes his free throws

I was able to watch the last 2 minutes of what turned out to be a blowout win in favor of the home team. Jordan Crawford scored 19 points off the bench, leading the Wizards to a 114-101 victory, still just their 10th of the season. Derrick Williams led the Wolves with 18 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort.

D.C. native and Louisiana State grad Chris Johnson has played for 9  professional basketball teams in his 4 year career
Wizards guard Garrett Temple looks for a screen from forward Trevor Booker. Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams, 7, and guard Luke Ridnour, 13, defend

The Wizards will stay in D.C. to take on the Bulls tomorrow at the Verizon Center.