Truth About It.net 2009-10 Washington Wizards TrueHoop Network Preview | Truth About It.net

Truth About It.net 2009-10 Washington Wizards TrueHoop Network Preview

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Updated: October 26, 2009



Ok, as chance would have it, my preview for ESPN’s TrueHoop Network (of which Truth About It.net is apart) and my preview in conjunction with the big NBA blogger preview (coordinated by Jeff Clark of Celtics Blog), happen to fall on the same day — the Monday before the start of the 09-10 season. Perfect timing if you ask me.

So, below you will find my massive, bang-it-out, smörgåsbord (don’t worry, the proper accents on the Swedish word come for free) preview of the Washington Wizards. Some content is specific to the TrueHoop Network preview, and some content is specific to the big NBA blog preview (which, for the Wizards, was actually supposed to be posted on Sunday, but I waited).

Enjoy and godspeed.

Basketball is a thinking man’s game?

Sure, many Wizards have a championship on the brain, but what else?


Team Name: The Washington Basketball Team (Kind of like some news outlets refuse to use the name ‘Redskins’, but I more just wish the team name and colors never changed from the ‘Bullets’ in the first place — I still use ‘Wizards’ anyway).

Key Losses: Darius Songaila, Oleksiy Pecherov, Etan Thomas, the 5th pick (Ricky Rubio – traded predraft to Minnesota for Miller and Foye), the 32nd pick (Jermain Taylor – traded during the draft to Houston for $$$).

Key Additions: Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Fabricio Oberto, Flip Saunders and his coaching staff (Randy Wittman, Don Zierden and Sam Cassell).

Last Year’s Record: 19-63

CRYSTAL BALL

The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of Truth About It.net.

Crowd Says: 42-40
Truth About It Says: 55-27

YES WE CAN!

The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

Is it possible Gilbert Arenas comes back a better, more complete player than before? Is it possible Caron Butler solidifies himself as an All-Star, proving to be more than a second fiddle? Is it possible Antawn Jamison maintains his workman-like consistency? Is it possible Brendan Haywood shows the world he’s a top ten NBA center? Is it possible a deep and diverse supporting cast comes together under the leadership of Flip Saunders? Whether you think all of these improbabilities can magically come together with a dash of wizardry is possible or not doesn’t matter. It only matters that those in the locker room believe.

The Wizards certainly have their share of ‘in-house’ skeptics — just peruse some of the fan comments on the Washington Post’s Wizards Insider. Not as bad as perpetually irrational Redskins fans currently provoked by inept ownership, but you can clearly make the connection amongst sports fans bred in the swamp-like confines of the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia for you outsiders).

You can’t blame fans of a team that’s won eight playoff games in the last 20 years for continuing to sip from a half-empty glass. You can, however, blame these malcontents for buying into the alleged ‘Curse O’ Les Boulez.’

Sure, the franchise has dealt with injuries that have the timing of a political sex scandal unleashed weeks before election day. But who are Wizards fans to cry ‘woe is me’? It would be equally absurd to seek out reconciliatory voodoo in an attempt to reverse some perceived past transgression against fate when fate could really care less about an NBA team in the Nation’s Capital.

Keep doubting Arenas — it only fuels his fire. Say Saunders has never gotten a team “there.” That worn out cliché always runs rampant, plaguing almost every coach who hasn’t won … until they win. Red Auerbach (647), Larry Brown (1,900), and Dick Motta (738) all took their lumps before winning a championship (games coached before title season). Don’t be surprised when what you think is impossible becomes a reality.

With Saunders slated to coach his thousandth game in early December, an Arenas focused on basketball only, a driven Butler who’s lighter, more limber from yoga and with less sugary carbonation in his system, and a mix of hungry veterans and talented youth, the Wizards have their deepest team in decades. 2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Factor in Gilbert Arenas’ stomach tattoo (which, by the way, is a tiger face) and the fact that the Wizards play their home games in D.C.’s Chinatown, and all the cards are in place for the team to shush naysayers and have one of the best seasons in franchise history. Think it’s impossible now, but when the Wizards do something like make the Eastern Conference finals, just don’t call it a fluke.

NO YOU WON’T

A rousing dissent from a rival blogger(s).

The Wizards are gearing up for some offensive fireworks, adding Randy Foye and Mike Miller to Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and hopefully a healthy Gilbert Arenas. But the last time Washington had an above average defense was in 1998, and unless the team leads the league in scoring they won’t make out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

[Mike Kurylo, Knickerblogger.net]

Maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll get to hear about how they totally would have put together a run if they hadn’t gotten injured. I can’t wait to hear that old chestnut! It’s like the Nutcracker, comes every year! True story, the biggest proponents of the public option are the Wizards.

[Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm]

The return of Gilbert Arenas and his career 42 percent field goal shooting should really push them over the top. Of what I’m not sure. A cliff maybe?

[Matt McHale, By The Horns]

QUESTION MARKS

1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?

Instead of pushing the panic button and divesting the team of talented, but costly, players in the spirit of rebuilding, Ernie Grunfeld traded the 5th pick in a weak draft, along with spare parts, for talented veterans. In my opinion, it was the right move. We can argue if Miller and Foye were the best options on the market, but they do fill team needs. And at this juncture, it’s a moot point. Moving on ….

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

  • Offensive firepower: Four players who have averaged more than 20 ppg during a single season at some point in their career (Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and why yes, I am including Mike James’ 05-06. Got a problem with that? Figure you would), and two players over 16 ppg (Miller and Foye).
  • Willingness to listen to a new coach: Not like the players were completely tuning Eddie Jordan out … but because of circumstances, there is now a heightened desire to listen.
  • Depth: Players 1-14 can be expected to be called upon at any point for significant contribution (the status of current 15th man Paul Davis notwithstanding). The buzz indicates that there hasn’t been a deeper team since Phil Chenier was wearing short-shorts.
  • Constancy of main guys: The Big Three (Arenas, Butler and Jamison), and the ‘Plus 1′ (Haywood) should all be very familiar with the games each other games by now … even if they haven’t had that much actual court time together.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

  • Defense: With really only three suitable defensive players (using “suitable” loosely) — Brendan Haywood, DeShawn Stevenson, and Dominic McGuire with Haywood being the best by far — this team needs huge commitments from its main stars on the defensive end.Even more importantly, the squad needs to learn how to play with more defensive focus/communication as a cohesive unit. With defense unquestionably being the biggest question mark surrounding this team (yes, even more than health, which is something you really can’t control anyway), the Wizards have a looooong way to go before they can prove themselves worthy.
  • Frontcourt dearth: What do you do when your only reliable post scorer goes down for the first 10 games or so of the season? (Talking about Antawn Jamison, whose post game can be considered more unconventionally effective than reliable). Well, you start a 34-year old Argentine whose career high average of ‘getting buckets son’ stands at 4.8 ppg in Jamison’s place at the PF spot.Brendan Haywood is one of the top five centers in the East, but might not be as effective if you’re asking him to play more than 34 minutes per game (which would set his career high in mpg by about five minutes). Nor will the Wizards be running many offensive plays for Haywood.After the temporarily starting Oberto, you have Andray Blatche who battles with inconsistency more than Gary Busey struggles with a dog covered in nose candy, a guy who calls himself ‘Big Daddy Wookie’ aka JaVale McGee with incomprehensible athleticism, but little muscle and intuition … and that’s about it.Dominic McGuire is capable of playing the four spot, but his frame doesn’t exactly make him suitable. Because of the thin frontcourt, you could see Caron Butler or Mike Miller swing to the four when Saunders wants to go small.
  • Point Guard play: Can Gilbert Arenas change his game to “run” a team? Can Randy Foye really be effective at the point despite oodles of statistical evidence that indicates he can’t? Is that Mike James … he’s still in the league? I once heard that Javaris Crittenton played high school ball with Dwight Howard, is that so?You can keep asking questions, but I really don’t have any answers as to who will efficiently and effectively implement Flip Saunders’ notoriously bulky offensive playbook … especially during the times when Arenas’ rehabilitated knee needs some rest on the bench.Point guard play is more of a question than a weakness that I could have put below at #5.
  • Integration: There are three new players expected to receive significant playing time, two players who missed pretty much all of last season, several ‘youths’ who are trying to find their way in this world, and all of this under a brand spanking new coach. The Wizards will have to use some of the early season to develop as a unit. Problem being, they really can’t afford a high learning curve and a slow start.

4. What are the goals for this team?

To make it past the second round of the playoffs and to hopefully build upon that … whether it be toward the end of the 09-10 season as the team begins to gel, or into the following season with a bit of adjustment/retooling.

5. The “Creative/Open Ended/Team Specific” Question:

Is this really “the” year for Andray Blatche? Who knows and we will see. Since this is the third year in a row that this question has been asked, I really don’t care to answer with anything other than a “Well, I’m going to hope for the best.”

ALL-A-TWITTER

A 140-character insight from a player.

@bigdaddywookie: bcuz if i was cursing all willy nilly the twitter bloggers would make a killing

This is JaVale McGee, aka @bigdaddywookie, responding to someone when asked why he censors the ‘s’ word. Clearly, the Wizard who tweets the most understands the implications of being front and center in the public domain. But don’t look for too much fan interaction from the second year NBAer. He follows fewer than 20 people (in contrast to over 1,700 followers), and has claimed to only follow females and family members. Most of McGee’s tweets seem to be interactions with ‘video honeys.’

ON THE RECORD

Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

“I think people shouldn’t be scared to mention championship. We’ve got a lot of pieces in place, and management did a great job this summer. Now we’ve got to put it together.
-Caron Butler [via The Washington Times, August 27, 2009]

THE 2008-09 ALMANAC

Some key stats from last season.

Offense: 26th
Defense: 29th
Pace: 17th
Team Factor Strength(s): none
Team Factor Weakness(es): Shooting Allowed (30th), Shooting (29th), Defensive Rebounding (26th)

THE PLAY

Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?

9.2 seconds? Everyone knows the ball will be in Gilbert Arenas’ hands. He can drive, create and is deadly from 10 feet beyond the arc. Too bad other team. You already used your foul to give, and must play it straight up. Feel the heat of the hibachi yet?

No need for the Wizards to even call a timeout. Taking the ball side-out after a timeout only gives the defense a chance to set up, and perhaps get a delay-of-game peek at the play. Nope. 9.2 seconds allows Arenas to get up the court, see the double-team coming, and jet past with already built momentum.

The remaining defense doesn’t know whether to run at Gil, or stay home on the shooters. Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Mike Miller? Good luck with that decision. The opposing head coach mouths a curse word, but his throat is too dry to make a sound. Gilbert continues to the hoop, but not unimpeded. Up steps a big defender, ready to swat Arenas’ shot in the other direction. But it’s too easy for Agent Zero — he saw this scenario in his dreams. His no-look, drop-off bounce pass attaches itself to Brendan Haywood’s mitts. Dunk …. game OVER.

THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE

The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

JaVale McGee will shine brightly, and he’ll have some rough outings. The inconsistent minutes he will receive will be predicated on how he performs in spot play, as he’ll probably be outside of Flip Saunders’ eight-man rotation. McGee will, however, have a good chance to earn more time in the ‘plus two’ part of the rotation that’s contingent on game-by-game factors, such as foul trouble. Many fans will cry for more Epic Vale; hopefully they’ll be drowned out by the sound of winning. Be patient folks, the kid is only a 21-year-old NBA sophomore.

IF YOU’RE WATCHING THE BOTTOM LINE, YOU’RE WATCHING THIS

The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

Not only did Ernie Grunfeld make the team immediately better with his summertime maneuvering, but he also left himself with the financial flexibility to make a midseason move, or to retool next summer. The Wizards have more of what Grunfeld likes to call “assets” than the average NBA team.

Many expected the $6.5 million expiring contract of Mike James to be moved this summer. Didn’t happen. James now serves among the ill-equipped backup point guards (including Javaris Crittenton and Randy Foye) currently on the roster.

After James, Mike Miller ($9.8 million), Fabricio Oberto ($1.99 million), Brendan Haywood ($6 million) are all set to come off the books. In addition, the Wizards’ hold team options on Javaris Crittenton ($2.3 million), McGee ($1.6 million), and qualifying offers on Randy Foye ($4.8 million), and Dominic McGuire (just over $1 million). Clearly most of this crop is fueled to reach its growing heights through motivation, which bodes well for the organization. With the exception of Oberto, each one on the list could easily provide a reason to be retained for 2010-11. However, some could also be traded away to a team looking to shed salary in an effort to procure a bigger star to push the Wizards over the hump.

With the Wizards currently about $8 million over the luxury tax threshold, Grunfeld will have to get creative with his assets. It’s highly unlikely that owner Abe Pollin will continue to give him free reign to spend more of his money (i.e., commit to another long term contract via a trade) without significant results.

FINAL SAY

Okay, so my prediction of 55 wins sounds a bit optimistic. But don’t say the Wizards can’t do it just because they would tie the 97-98 San Antonio Spurs for the second best turnaround in NBA history with 36 wins. That’s like walking to the roulette table and putting it all on red because black has come up the past ten times. What has happened in the past has nothing to do with the probabilities of the future. It’s not going to be easy, especially with a brutal March (11 of 16 games on the road, five back-to-back sets), but if team health remains copacetic, a 50+ win season should be within reach.

That’s All Folks!

{thanks for stopping by}


[UPDATE]

Preview blurbs and links for all NBA teams by their respective TrueHoop Network blog:

TEAM BLOGGERS SAY
WINS*

Bret Lagree | Hoopinion

“The Hawks have not built, nor do they appear to be building, a championship contender. … Joe Johnson is poised to be a free agent in the summer of 2010. Johnson is not a franchise player, yet he’s the Hawks’ best player.”

45

Zach Lowe | CelticsHub

“It seems reasonable to say anything short of an 18th championship would be a disappointment.”

58

Brett Hainline | Queen City Hoops

“Great defense + equally bad offense = average. With an improving division around them, that equation does not get them their first playoff berth. But at least they won’t suck.”

36

Matt McHale | By the Horns

“During the offseason, the Bulls lost free agent Ben Gordon, whom many people considered the team’s best or second-best player (after Derrick Rose). Memo to Chicago fans: Don’t sweat it. Seriously. Gordon will be replaced by John Salmons, who not only gave the Bulls almost as many points per game (18.3 versus 20.7) but was slightly more efficient in how he scored them.”

43

John Krolik | Cavs the Blog

“After last season’s playoff heartbreak, Danny Ferry has changed up the equation … However, Shaq could disrupt the delicate offensive and defensive chemistry the Cavaliers rode to 66 wins and the conference finals, despite the fact he will be the best player LeBron has ever played with if he continues to play like he did last season. The big question for the Cavs this seasons whether they overreacted to two clutch 3s by Rashard Lewis, or made the risk they needed to take to finally get LeBron a ring.”

61

Rob Mahoney | The Two Man Game

“’Rebuilding’ teams seek financial flexibility and the acquisition of young, productive assets. Quality squads amass veteran talent, no matter the cost, in pursuit of a title. Defying all logic, the Mavs have simultaneously moved in both directions.”

50

Jeremy Wagner | Roundball Mining Company

“The only players still on the roster who exceeded expectations in 2008-09 were Nene and Birdman. It is reasonable to expect every member of the Nuggets, other than thirty-something Chauncey Billups, to improve.”

53

Dan Feldman | PistonPowered

“However the minutes shake out between Chris Wilcox, Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace, they won’t be as good as Rasheed Wallace. But Sheed wasn’t that great last year. He looked old and disinterested, so the drop here won’t be too steep.”

36

Rasheed Malek |Warriors World

“Under the ownership of Chris Cohan, the Warriors have made the playoffs exactly one time and have gone through numerous coaches, players and executives. Going into this season, Larry Riley is the man in charge taking over for Chris Mullin.”

28

Anup Shah and Brody Rollins | Rockets Buzz

“The speed revolution has overtaken some of basketball’s peers, most notably football … Is basketball headed in the same direction? [Aaron] Brooks provides an excellent case study. Beginning the year as the Rockets number one threat on offense with Ron Artest’s departure and injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Brooks will have every opportunity to prove that size really doesn’t matter.”

39

Jared Wade | Eight Points, Nine Seconds

“It’s hard to believe that anything short of the postseason will remove the dark cloud over Conseco. … Ultimately, it will come down to one thing: [Mike Jr.] Dunleavy’s knee.”

32

Kevin Arnovitz | ClipperBlog

“[Blake] Griffin and [Eric] Gordon may not be saviors, but they’re something. Griffin’s skills and his tenacious work ethic (the guy runs up sand dunes in his free time) will be a boon to a team desperate for cultural overhaul. Gordon offers an enticing combination of spot-up shooting and forays into the paint. He finished third in true shooting percentage among starting off guards in his rookie campaign, something that can only help a team that ranked dead last in offensive efficiency last season.”

32

Kurt Helin | Forum Blue and Gold

“God, is it good to be hated again.”

64

Chip Crain | 3 Shades of Blue

“The 2009-10 version of the Grizzlies have put together a starting five where every player scored 30 points or more in a game last year. The oldest starter is only 28 years old (Zach Randolph) and the youngest won’t turn 22 until after the start of the season (O.J. Mayo). They are young, talented and hungry for success. So why do most people focus on the two players not on a rookie contract this season?”

20

Matthew Bunch | Hot Hot Hoops

“38.6 minutes. 30.2 points. 49.1 percent shooting. Five rebounds. 7.5 assists. 2.2 steals. 1.3 blocks. That’s what [Dwyane] Wade averaged last season. You’re going to keep that guy out of the playoffs? Good luck.”

44

Jeremy Schmidt | Bucksketball

“If the Bucks get anything out of their three small forwards, if they can keep [Andrew] Bogut and [Michael] Redd healthy and if they get a season worthy of the number ten selection out of Brandon Jennings at the point, the playoffs will be within reach. But that’s a lot of ifs.”

29

Patrick Hodgdon | Howlin’ T-Wolf

“”Ever since his arrival, David Kahn has had seemingly one mission, other than to look like the smartest guy in the room at every turn, and that is to get as much cap space for next summer as he possibly can. … The obvious question lies in whether or not the Wolves will actually be able to lure one of the better free agent players to come to Minnesota.”

23

Mark Ginocchio and Sebastian Priuti | Nets are Scorching

“Lingering doubts about Brooklyn could spoil any change the Nets have of landing a top free agent next summer.”

29

Niall Doherty and Ryan Schwan | Hornets247

“Enter Emeka Okafor. He’s a near match to a healthy Chandler, is more durable, and doesn’t look like he’s having muscle spasms when making a post move.”

47

Mike Kurylo | Knickerblogger

“2010 could be New York’s return to winning.”

31

Royce Young | Daily Thunder

“The Thunder may not win more than half their games, but with over half the roster unable to get an alcoholic beverage still, steady improvement and progression is the name of the game.”

34

Zach McCann | Orlando Magic Daily

“Take away either Hedo Turkoglu or Courtney Lee and the Magic aren’t getting to face the Lakers in the Finals. No way. But does that mean the Magic were wrong to let them go? Were the Magic foolish to allow a borderline All-Star and a possible future All-Star leave the team when both clearly wanted to stay in Orlando? Absolutely not. I believe the Magic are an entirely better team than they were four months ago.”

59

Carey R. Smith | Philadunkia

“The travesty of a deal that Billy King gave to Samuel Dalembert remains easily one of the worst contracts in NBA history. Hopefully this season Dalembert, his inflated self-worth and his contract will be dealt for a couple of expiring contracts and some much-needed cap space.”

39

Michael Schwartz | Valley of the Suns

“Two years ago the Suns were chic championship picks. Last year, the Suns were (accurately) thought to be a fringe playoff team. This year there are almost no expectations outside of their locker room. … There will be no mistaking what the Suns are this season: a lightning-speed team that will score points in bunches and likely give them up almost as quickly while struggling badly on the boards. But they will once again be the most exciting team in basketball.”

46

Max Handelman | Beyond Bowie

“The Blazers effectively bumbled their way to a 54-win season despite a mediocre performance from Greg Oden, the loss of Martell Webster for the season, and at times starting three rookies. This team is only getting better, kids.”

53

Zach Harper | Cowbell Kingdom

“Enter Tyreke Evans — a bulldozer-sized menace who will test the strength of every team’s defense at its entry point. He immediately creates matchup problems against teams with traditional point guards and will look to have a similar impact as fellow Memphis alum, Derrick Rose.”

22

Timothy Varner | 48 Minutes of Hell

During the Celtics heyday, Red Auerbach boasted a winning percentage of .719. In the modern era, Pat Riley’s Showtime Lakers played to the tune of .733. Phil Jackson’s Jordan Bulls dominated the 90s with an otherworldly percentage of .771. Jackson’s three-peat Lakers? .735. In his 12 seasons with San Antonio, Gregg Popovich, whose cynical disdain for the regular season runs more than skin deep, has, nevertheless, posted a winning percentage of .707. That’s the company the Spurs keep. What should we expect this season? 58 wins and a run at the title. Same as every other year.”

55

RaptorsRepublic

“How is a rookie(ish) head coach going to integrate nine new players into a new system with two new assistant coaches?”

41

Spencer Ryan Hall | Salt City Hoops

“With young Wesley Matthews providing the good luck charm, Boozer in a contract year, Deron Williams with a chip on his shoulder, and a new longer-haired version of Andrei Kirilenko the Jazz have no reason to be anything other than beastly this season. And I mean that in a good way. Every prediction from the Jazz camp, however, comes with the ominous caveat ‘If we can stay healthy.’”

46

Kyle Weidie | Truth About It

“Flip Saunders has never gotten a team ‘there.’ That worn out cliché always runs rampant, plaguing almost every coach who hasn’t won … until they win. Red Auerbach (647), Larry Brown (1,900), and Dick Motta (738) all took their lumps before winning a championship (games coached before title season). Don’t be surprised when what you think is impossible becomes a reality. … 2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Factor in Gilbert Arenas’ stomach tattoo and the fact that the Wizards play their home games in D.C.’s Chinatown, and all the cards are in place.”

42

* As predicted by a consensus of all TrueHoop Network bloggers.




13 Comments

  1. DenzelWOi

    November 2, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Good night, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! A little late..!

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