Sure the Wizards could have gone with a younger guy, perhaps a promising prospect, or even a hard worker from the D-League … but little Earl Boykins is what the Wizards get, a move that clearly has the words ‘offense’ and ‘veteran’ in mind.
Flip Saunders and Boykins go back to the old days in Cleveland, where both were born and raised (not together of course, Saunders is 54 and Boykins is 33). Saunders also saw him play a lot when he coached in Minnesota and Boykins played for the divisional foe Denver Nuggets. Flip said that the 5’5″ guard gives the Wizards something different than what’s currently on the roster, has the ability to pick up things fast, and with his quickness, is a tough matchup for any team.
Saunders also praised Boykins for his floor effectiveness, especially in the fourth quarter, and for his ability to shoot free-throws. Boykins is a career .879 from the charity stripe and finished in the NBA’s top ten from ’03-04 to ’06-07. And free-throw shooting is something the Wizards definitely need.
Boykins wasn’t shipped all the way from Italy, where he spent last season playing. He was hanging out in Denver, Colorado, training in the high altitude, confident some team would need him and come calling … and Washington did. Sort of unfortunate for the Wizards because of injuries resulting in the need to sign someone, but certainly fortunate for Boykins.
When asked about the backcourt injuries his team is facing, going from seven deep in training camp to an available three (Arenas, Stevenson, and Young) with four down (Miller, Crittenton, James, and Foye ), Flip Saunders said, “Maybe I had this kiss of death when I said ‘those things always work themselves’ out … unfortunately they did.”
Boykins said that he’d been contacted by some other teams, but wouldn’t divulge whom. “I’m here, it doesn’t matter,” he said. And “here” is in Washington for a team that not only needs his services for depth, but needs them now … as in playing time against Detroit this Saturday. Saunders even indicated that a backcourt lineup of Boykins and Arenas is a possibility because:
- They played alongside each other briefly in Golden State (in ’02-03 when Arenas was named NBA Most Improved Player),
- Detroit sometimes plays a small lineup (the combo of Will Bynum, Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon are the first and second Piston lineups ranked by plus/minus), and
- As Saunders said, “When you down on numbers as we are, you play a lot of combinations.”
Perhaps the most important aspect that could instill the confidence of Wizards fans in the decision to go with Boykins over another player was a quote from Saunders that piggy-backed off something said by Boykins, “We needed someone to come in, as what Earl said, that they can adjust to our players. Find out what our other guys can do and help those guys play to their strengths, and not to have to go through a teaching phrase with a perimeter young guard.”