Kobe is fighting the triangle. Vince is injured. Vin Baker still can’t play in Boston. Ah, the joys of the NBA season have dawned upon us, and already I miss the NBA on NBC.

Though I love its NBA commercials, I still have not adjusted to ESPN’s coverage. ESPN’s intro music will never reach the levels of John Tesh’s NBC theme. After disappearing into oblivion, Brent Musberger is back to make every two-foot shot and rebound sound death-defying. Bill Walton is talking too much now that he does not have Snapper Jones to hold him back. And please, please could ESPN choose better games to cover. It’s one thing when you show one Knicks game, but it’s pure insanity when you decide to show two of their games within a single week. At least it got rid of Tim Hardaway from the halftime show.

Comparable to the changes made in the television coverage of the NBA, is the new look of the Washington Wizards. After getting nowhere last season with the addition of Michael Jordan, Washington decided to revamp its roster, ridding itself of Rip Hamilton and adding well-traveled North Carolina alumnus Jerry Stackhouse. Telling from the first five games of the season, it seems like Wizards management (aka Jordan) pulled off a rare clever move. Stack has become Washington’s leading scorer with 24.8 points per game, but more importantly, he is not the egotistical, ball-hog from his Philadelphia 76ers days.

Stackhouse learned a lot last year playing in the balanced Detroit Pistons team, which finished second in the Eastern Conference. The experience helped him realize that he did not have to do everything on a team, and permitted him to trust his teammates. Now as a Wizard, Stack is incorporating this knowledge to good use. It also helps that Jordan is holding his reins.

While Stack holds his own, no player so far in this very young season looks more improved than last year’s number one pick, Kwame Brown. While some second-year players suffer sophomore slumps, Brown has taken a road less traveled and gone from guaranteed Sam Bowie status to the second coming of Kevin Garnett. What’s even more impressive is that he has defied all the doubts coming from the media, fans and my mouth, and shown the potential that Jordan saw in him last year.

Brown is bar none the most intimidating frontcourt player the Wizards have this season on both the defensive and offensive ends. After getting mainly garbage time last year, Brown is averaging a double with 11 points and 11 rebounds a game, along with three blocks. Moreover the 20-year-old player adds some much-needed youth and spunk to a lineup that includes seasoned veterans like Stackhouse, Jordan and Byron Russell. His impressive performance also compensates for the absence of Jahidi White due to injury and the slow start of Brendan Haywood.

Perhaps Brown took offense to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s comments regarding how Georgetown’s Mike Sweetney was better than him. Whatever the reason, Brown is fortunately not the scared, timid rookie from last year. Otherwise you might see Patrick Ewing come off the bench in a Wizards uniform.

Though Washington has found its starting power forward for the next 10 years, it continues to search for an adequate point guard. I may be speaking too early, but so far, it seems that the Wizards look more effective with babyface Tyronn Lue starting than new acquisition Larry Hughes. Lue, who apparently really improved his game over the offseason, has more than just fast legs now. He has developed a pretty accurate outside shot, become a better ball-handler and he can cut through the lane effectively.

With the Wizards already short-handed on the bench, it might be better if they started Lue and used Hughes off the bench. Other than Jordan, Washington’s depth runs thin. It must resort to Christian Laettner to back up at center, and Jared Jeffries needs some more polishing. By the way, there was a Juan Dixon sighting on Wednesday.

Compared to last year, there is no doubt the Wizards are at least more fun to watch. Whether it’ll translate to a New Jersey Nets-like result rather than a Clippers-like one is something that is too early to predict. A lot of it will depend on the performances of the newest Washington players, especially Stackhouse and Hughes.

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