There are two states Wizards fans should be in after last night’s game: anxiousness relieved and mid-range.
Between Jamison being out for the next ten games or so, and an inconsistent preseason where the Wizards’ major players didn’t really see a ton of court time together, fans really didn’t know what to expect on opening night … in hostile territory and against a team that many expect to be amongst the best in the West (after the Lakers and Spurs).
There are certainly many different types of swagger, just ask Dan Steinberg. What was seen last night was ‘Sustainability Swag’. Every time Dirk started heating up, every time you thought the Mavs might make a run, the Wizards’ veterans came together and withstood oncoming water like a brick wall. The Wiz didn’t dazzle and amaze. They simply looked good. They were poised. Such composure and consistency on the court has been a rare sight for this franchise. Enjoy this one folks, you deserved it.
But at the same time, it was just one game. Wizards fans should stay mid-range, which is the basketball version of ‘Staying Medium’ … via Jim Zorn. Not to associate the Wizards with Dan Snyder’s sinking Titanic. Zorn seems like a good guy, but aside from that, the philosophy of not getting too high or low after wins and losses is a good one. Yes, beating Dallas was a great win that puts others on notice. But again, it was just one game, this team needs something more sustaining.
He looked great. I could say “he’s back” like everyone else, but it was a bit different. The knee definitely looks like it’s made a solid return. Arenas was stopping on a dime, pulling up for mid-range jumpers. Sure, a 36-year old Jason Kidd was guarding him on many of those, but Arenas looked so quick, so fluid in doing so. I don’t think many defenders could have gotten a good contest on his shot. Arenas also showed no hesitation getting into the lane, especially with the smaller J.J. Barea on him. All those inside shots Arenas missed in the preseason are long forgotten. He was playing the angles off the glass like Minnesota Fats used to play the angles on a pool table. Arenas got to the line (8-9), had good lift on his jumper, and most importantly, a 3-1 assist/turnover ratio.
The floor spacing, the substitution patterns … they looked as comfortable as a warm bed next to your girlfriend (or wife, or significant other) on a cold winter day. Nineteen assists to 39 made FGs (a 48.7 basket assisted upon percent) isn’t great, but it’s decent. More importantly, the Wizards only had nine turnovers and shot a fair .464 from the field.
Last season, on only four occasions did the Wizards score more than 100 points, have less than 10 turnovers, and an Assisted FGs % over 48 (game #2 @ DET, game #15 @ NJN, game # 19 vs. DET, and game #77 vs. CLE). The Wizards won three of those games, losing to the Pistons in the second game of the season.
Flip’s footprint of efficiency was all over this game.
Three straight dunks? I’d say the wrist is back. But that’s not all. Haywood looked more agile and less robotic on the offensive end. At one point with about 4:00 left in the first, he caught a pass just inside the three-point line. Dallas center Erick Dampier foolishly gambled, not realizing that Brendan was hungry for the rim. Haywood turned around and saw a lane filled with a Jason Kidd and a Drew Gooden who wanted no part of him. He took one dribble and skied to the basket like I’ve never seen him do for his third straight dunk, marking the official awakening of Flip Saunders’ offense after a sluggish start.
Blatche moved his feet, contested shots hard, and ran the court with purpose … all the things I like to see him do outside of picking up glamor stats like points, rebounds and blocks. I only remember two mistakes, an ill-advised airball with Dirk in his face and a lax moment in transition where Dampier, of all people, was allowed to jet down the court for a dunk. Both gaffes are certainly forgivable because of their small quantity.
But more on Blatche later …
Oberto is just your classic hustling baller. Sure he picked up some fouls (five of them) – I think part of it was the refs picking on him a bit. But Oberto’s defense on Nowitzki late in the game was much better than expected, he really seemed to bother Dirk. Fab finished second to Foye with a plus-15.
I wish he was quicker on his feet on defense. And I wish he was better at running a team. But boy can Foye score. That jump shot is smooth like Billy Dee Williams. I’m starting to think like Mike Prada of Bullets Forever … maybe it’s time to punt the Randy Foye Point Guard Experiment because he is much better playing off the ball. Or maybe he’s just best with facilitators around him, such as Stevenson at the two and Mike Miller at the three. (BTW … I call Stevenson a “facilitator” because he doesn’t look to score. Yes, he took one bad shot last night, but otherwise, he didn’t really force any action and I liked how he got after it on defense.)
As we know he’s capable of, Miller did a little bit of everything. He hit a couple big threes (his only points). But more important was his presence on defense. I noticed much of the team doing the little things such as communication through pointing and keeping heads on a swivel to see ball and man, which is a credit to Flip and his staff. But Miller seemed to lead the team in this area. He’s just a smart basketball guy.
Predictably, all Charles Barkley and Chris Webber could talk about during the Wiz-Mavs highlights shown at halftime of the Lakers-Clippers game was how disappointed they were with Dallas without giving the Wizards any credit. Wonder if they would have said the same thing if they, you know, actually watched the game