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News » Wizards' Pecherov proving his worth

Wizards' Pecherov proving his worth

Wizards' Pecherov proving his worth
At last, after months of watching and waiting, all the hard work and persistence paid off for Washington Wizards forward/center Oleksiy Pecherov.

With six players injured, Caron Butler out with the flu and his team down to just eight healthy players, Pecherov finally got a chance to prove what he is capable of.

In 23 minutes of action Wednesday against the visiting Nets, the 7-foot Ukrainian recorded a season-high 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting and also pulled down five rebounds.

"He's been dying for his chance, and every day in practice he's working hard," Wizards guard Mike James said. "One of the first guys in, one of the last guys to leave. And because of that, he's been ready. When he got his number called, he was ready and he made plays."

The game - only his 35th of 2008-09 - marked the most extensive playing time for Pecherov this season. So when Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott sent Pecherov into the game with 50 seconds left in the first quarter, he made the most of his opportunity.

A short time later, he did what Tapscott and his staff have tried to get him to do more often - play inside - and scored on a layup. The next trip down the court, Pecherov drew a foul in the paint and hit both free throws. He then grabbed a defensive rebound - even more of a rarity for him.

"I'm happy for Pech because I know he's a hard worker and he takes this seriously," Tapscott said. "Anytime an opportunity opens up, you'd love to see a guy go in and apply all the things you ask him to do in practice, and I felt he applied a number of things."

The application of those practice lessons are what Tapscott has waited to see. After battling foot injuries for a chunk of last season and last summer, Pecherov was limited again in training camp and had to play catch-up. A failure to pick up on the Wizards' defensive schemes limited his opportunities. Playing behind two reliable veteran forwards in Antawn Jamison and Darius Songaila also kept him on the bench. Pecherov spent much of November and December on the inactive list and made only four appearances in the first 30 games.

Despite the lack of activity, he remained optimistic. He said he joked with Jamison before the team's Dec. 13 game at Philadelphia: "I a tourist right now. I stay in nice hotels, eat good food, watch you play. I a tourist. But just you wait."

Pecherov continued to work as well, arriving early to get in extra work and staying after practice to hone his technique.

"I tried to stay ready, make sure I was in shape to be in conditioning, working out by myself, stay late after practice," Pecherov said. "I just understand if you want to be a good player you have to work hard. I can control what I can control, so I try to stay ready. If coach calls my name, I'll be ready and put for my best effort. If not, I'll stay working hard."

Pecherov entered the Jan. 9 game at Chicago and scored nine points in five minutes but didn't record a rebound. He then played in only four of the next 12 games, logging a combined 22 minutes. When the opportunity for extended playing time presented itself Wednesday, he displayed a more complete game on both ends of the floor.

Pecherov said he was encouraged by his play but will continue to work while waiting for his next opportunity. On Friday against visiting Denver, the Wizards again likely will have only eight players available, so his chances look good.

"He needs to get better defensively, but our whole team needs to get better defensively, and he'll work at that and it will come," Tapscott said. "And a lot of people don't play 7-footers at the 3-point line, which always gives him an advantage. But what I was most happy with was a couple of shots in tight: hook in the lane, power move, things that if he can do that and keep the 3-point shot, he really opens things up for himself."

DENVER Nuggets at WASHINGTON Wizards

When: 8 p.m.

Where: Verizon Center

TV/radio: CSN, ESPN, ESPN 980

Probable starters: Nuggets - F Carmelo Anthony, F Kenyon Martin, C Nene Hilario, G Anthony Carter, G J.R. Smith. Wizards - F Dominic McGuire, F Antawn Jamison, C Darius Songalia, G Nick Young, G Mike James.

Injuries: Nuggets - Questionable: G Chauncey Billups (ankle). Out: F/C Steven Hunter (knee). Wizards - Questionable: G/F Caron Butler (flu). Out: C Andray Blatche (knee), C Brendan Haywood (wrist), C Etan Thomas (knee), G Gilbert Arenas (knee), G DeShawn Stevenson (back), G Juan Dixon (elbow).

Outlook: The Wizards are coming off Wednesday's 115-88 loss to visiting New Jersey, a game in which they dressed only eight players. Stevenson, Dixon and Butler all missed practice Thursday, so it looks like the Wizards will be short-handed again. This is the first time this season the teams have met; in the last meeting, Denver won 111-100 on Feb. 8, 2008. Denver beat Oklahoma City 114-113 on Wednesday; Anthony picked up the slack of not having Billups, finishing with 32 points and 11 assists.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 6, 2009


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