About a week ago, everyone outside of the Wizards' locker room wanted to blow up the pace-and-space offense, trade Marcin Gortat because of his struggles adapting and rebounding or claim doom and gloom because of Bradley Beal's absence.
Now two games later, after a blowout of the Milwaukee Bucks 115-86, how smart would that have been? The Wizards (5-4) appear to have gotten their swagger back by defeating a team that's expected to compete for a top four seed for the second time this season. And they're not even close to being whole with Drew Gooden (back spasms) ailing, Beal missing his third game in a row (left shoulder contusion) and Alan Anderson (left ankle surgery) yet to play this season.
But one of the other key pieces, Jared Dudley, appears to finally be in full swing. He had his best game of the season with 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot off the bench in 23 minutes.
"This whole summer, I had surgery, didn't get to work on my game," said Dudley, who had a bulging disk in his lower back repaired. "You come back you have to get back in shape. My weight is at where I want it to be. I wanted to work my way back instead of practicing, waiting until December. It's time. It's rhythm. Any time you see the ball go down you get a little confidence and your teammates look for you a little more."
Dudley played for the Bucks (5-6) last season. Because coach Jason Kidd started Giannis Antetokounmpo at power forward, Wizards coach Randy Wittman rode with Dudley over Kris Humphries who was coming off a career-high five three-pointers in the previous game.
After misfiring badly on his first attempt, Dudley had the hot hand. His basketball IQ is off the charts. How good can the Wizards be? They've already beaten an elite team in the San Antonio Spurs. The Orlando Magic aren't nearly that good, but they're more of a gatekeeper of the East. The Wizards have bested them twice like the Bucks who have given up an average of 116.5 points to Washington despite their length at every position.
"It's not so much scoring," Wittman said of Dudley. "Spacing, smart, ball movement, being in the right spot, fighting his tail off at the defensive end. I like those things that he's done the last couple of games."
Dudley is a key part of any success they have going forward. He was part of a bench that contributed 46 points.
"My game it's not stunning when you look out there. It's not something that I'm going to wow you," Dudley said. "Anytime I hit some shots, it buys me more time to do all the little things. ...
"Guarding this team, I know all their plays. I played there. I know their strengths and weaknesses. It's a huge advantage for me."