Back In The ATL Already? Wizards-Hawks Game 2 Preview; Team Exercises Options On Young & McGee
Just released: Team President Ernie Grunfeld announced that the Wizards would exercise the contract options on Nick Young and JaVale McGee. Young will be retained for his fourth season (2010-11) for an estimated $2,630,503, and McGee for his third season (also 10-11) for an estimated $1,601,040. [Salary Source: HoopsHype]
Now on to the preview of tonight’s game … back to the ATL already?
The Wizards were in Atlanta just over 10 days ago for a preseason game that was disappointing … to put it simply. Of course, they were without Gilbert Arenas and Mike Miller due to the flu, and Antawn Jamison due to a shoulder subluxation. Still, lack of effort is lack of effort.
Part of me wonders if tonight the players will be more motivated because of such a languid effort against a full Hawks squad last time. The other part of me says the past shouldn’t matter. Games now count, the effort should be present regardless.
I’m pumped for the game. Many say the Hawks and Wiz will be battling for that last home court playoff spot in the East … so this could be a potential first round matchup. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s going to be a long season. And right now, the “coulds” are at about 98%. That will be reduced to about 54% by January and will show exponential decay as the season progresses further.
Here are some story-lines for tonight:
Al Horford got his man with 24 and 16 in Atlanta’s opener against the Pacers. He also ‘got his man’ going against the likes of Roy ‘The Robot’ Hibbert and Jeff Foster. Brendan Haywood is a different story … hopefully (Brendan Todd has also been watching film on Alfred Joel).
Note #1: In four matchups against each other, Al Horford has gotten the best of Haywood (although in more minutes of action). Stat averages below:
Note #2: Al’s paw, Tito, played three games with the Bullets in 93-94. I think I might have gotten his autograph as a young boy … I’ll have to check my archives.
Each team has a ton of talent in the backcourt … but how will they match up on defense? I’ve heard whispers of Joe Johnson guarding Gilbert Arenas and Mike Bibby on Mike Miller (assuming Miller starts … I don’t see why he wouldn’t). This seems a bit absurd. Sure, Johnson is the longer, stronger (that’s what she said) defender. But I think Arenas still gets where he wants against either. And if the 6’2″ Bibby is on the 6’8″ Miller, I have confidence that Flip Saunders has something in his playbook to take advantage of that height mismatch.
Part of me suspects that whomever catches fire more between Jamal Crawford and Randy Foye, two of the supposed primary scorers off each team’s respective bench, will have a medium to high impact on the outcome. Crawford only had 3 points on 1-3 FGs, 3 assists, and 4 fouls in 11:32 off the bench against the Pacers. We know the story of Randy Foye (19 points in 30 minutes off the bench) … now we just have to get the guy a good nickname.
>> Butler Bounce Back
Against Dallas, Tuff Juice didn’t have a particularly bad game … he didn’t have a particularly good game either. He also sat out during a key stretch in the 4th quarter (from 7:36 to 2:48) during which the Wiz went on an 11-7 run to hold off the Mavs. Mike Prada of Bullets Forever did a good job breaking down this and subsequent comments regarding Butler by Coach Saunders:
I thought Flip Saunders displayed some masterful psychology in the post-game press conference when he went out of his way to say Caron Butler was “Mr. Steady.” This was not a particularly strong game for Butler. He shot just 6/17 and he allowed Shawn Marion to have a solid game against him, a game that, if Dallas gave Marion more touches, would have been better. More importantly, he didn’t play in crunch time when the Wizards really extended their lead, which I’m sure wasn’t exactly what Butler had in mind (or anyone else). Butler certainly didn’t play like a “Mr. Steady” tonight. But Saunders knows it’s a long season, and he has to keep one of his stars in good spirits. By praising him, Saunders is indirectly saying, “Yes, I went away from you in crunch time, but it wasn’t because of anything you did wrong. It was because the combination we had out there was playing great. I didn’t bench you because you made any mistakes.” That’s great management by Saunders. It eliminates any possibility of Butler getting annoyed for not playing in crunch time, because his contributions were recognized, and it allows Saunders the luxury of not playing the starting five if they aren’t the most effective lineup.
I agree with this assessment, but am not going to make much of the goings-ons … other than to suspect that Caron will have a good night against Marvin Williams and Maurice Evans.
>> Defending Josh Smith
Smith isn’t the most dynamic scorer in the world. Him making bad decisions and hanging out on the perimeter is defense enough against him in the half-court. But defending Smith involves much more than stopping him when the ball is in his hands. Keeping up with Smith in transition and watching out for him attacking on the offensive boards requires athleticism and focus. Oberto has the focus, just not the feet quickness. Although Blatche doesn’t match Smith’s athleticism, he comes closer than Oberto … but his focus is still developing … or it’s “A Process” as Flip Saunders and Ernie Grunfeld would say.
I’m interested to see how Smith will be addressed. The Hawks actually pose a unique chance for the Wizards to play a smaller lineup such as Arenas, Foye/Stevenson, Miller, Butler and Blatche/Haywood. Any one of those combinations could be exciting to watch as they implement Saunders’ offensive philosophy.
Game Time: 7:30 EST
TV: Comcast Sports Net DC (Fox Sports South in Atlanta)
Wen:As I did on Tuesday, Bullets Forever’s Mike Prada will be chatting on CSNWashington.com tonight.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan (790 AM in Atlanta)
Links: Wizards Insider: The Other Side
>> Relevant ATL Music: Goodie Mob – Thought Process