Amidst all that went on Wednesday night (the trading of Antawn Jamison to Cleveland and a basketball game, of all things), I thought it would be a good idea to stroll around the very sparse Verizon Center concourse (you can probably chop the “announced” attendance of 13,143 by 40%) during halftime and a bit during the third quarter to get a beat on the fan pulse/reaction to the trade.
- Who will be the Wizards’ Captain? Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner reports that Flip Saunders joked, “I’m going to be the team captain.”
- Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports that a night of partying might have ultimately led to Josh Howard‘s exit from the Mavericks. Specifically, a night of partying after a Dallas game in Boston on January 18th and before they were supposed to play the Wizards in D.C. on January 20th. Howard missed the game versus the Wiz with what was described as a “stomach illness.”
- It’s safe to say that Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com wasn’t the biggest fan of Howard. He takes time to pick apart some of Josh’s quotes since he joined the Wizards.
- Mike James will obviously be seeking a buyout, and while negotiations occur, he’s been granted an indefinite leave from the team. For some reason, despite coming into training camp in great shape and at times being part of the rotation in camp, Flip Saunders just didn’t factor James into his plans. Mike obviously sees this as a slight, and there will probably never be a definitive answer as to why things have gone down the way they have. Not being traded is clearly another disappointment on top of everything. In negotiating a buyout, James will obviously lose out on some money. But for a guy who wants to play as bad as he does, it’s probably something he’s more than willing to do.
- Don’t count on seeing Zydrunas Ilgauskas in a Wizards uniform, but if you do, he will be wearing #17 instead of #11, which is Elvin Hayes‘ retired number. The last Wizard to wear #17? Dee Brown last season.
- Now that Dominic McGuire has been traded, Josh Howard will go from #55 to #5. Break out your Juwan Howard Bullets jerseys everyone! Flip said that Josh will probably start against the Nuggets this evening.
- Al Thornton, who is optimistic he will play against Denver tonight, will wear #14. Other Wizards who have sported #14 include: Michael Adams, Robert Pack, Doug Overton, and most recently, Oleksiy Pecherov.
- John Krolik, the Cavs blogger for the ESPN TrueHoop Network, among a writer for other sites, and an all-around decent guy, rips the departed Dominic McGuire on ProBasketballTalk, calling him the trade deadline’s “Mr. Irrelevant.” Krolik also calls McGuire, “a player worse than most high-level D-Leaguers.”
- Tom Ziller Tweets that the Wizards have “no chance” of receiving the protected 2nd round pick from Sacramento in the McGuire trade.
Web Reaction To Jamison Trade
Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were riding the team bus to Orlando a few weeks ago, when they started talking about legacy and what they hoped to accomplish in Washington. Despite all the trade rumors and endless speculation that they would get dealt, the two former all-stars — who famously led the Wizards to the playoffs with Gilbert Arenas sidelined for most of the 2008-09 campaign — still held out the faintest hope.
“That was our dream and our vision to have our numbers retire here, our kids grow old here and things of that nature,” Jamison said. “Just disappointed it didn’t happen that way. Sitting on that bus every game. It was one of the fondest memories that we had, and we talked about doing everything possible to make it happen. We wish it could’ve been different, but I’m glad something positive came out of it.”
Jamison was the spokesman for the team, the guy management last season sent out in front of the fans to apologize for such a poor season, and had him go out in front of the fans again this season to apologize for the Gilbert Arenas gun mess. Jamison was the good soldier who went off at his teammates with a locker room tirade after they went through the motions up in Indiana earlier this season — remember, the honeydew mellon game? He could’ve demanded a trade, but he kept on fighting. When asked if he thought he deserved to play somewhere with a chance, he said, yeah he had a right, but that he wanted it to still happen in DC and expressed gratitude for everything that Abe Pollin and his family had done for him, and because of that, he was going to keep battling for the Wizards.
Jamison said this season has been the most stressful of his career, with the Wizards dealing with the loss of owner Abe Pollin and Arenas suspended for the remainder of the season for bringing guns to the locker room in a dispute with Javaris Crittenton in late December. After playing what turned out to be his final game for the organization in Charlotte, Jamison said he needed a break and didn’t want to see a basketball until he came back for practice after the all-star break.
“I’ve never felt that way about the game,” he said. “I was just tired, like, ‘What is going on?’ “
[Michael Wilbon: Antawn Jamison trade means lots of losses, but brighter future ahead for Wizards - Washington Post]
Getting back to the Wizards, the question now is how long they’ll be this bad. They’ll need, just like every other team in the league, some luck with the draft lottery and they’ll need the kind of scouting/good fortune that yielded players such as Toni Kukoc, Tony Parker and Josh Howard (once an all-star) at the end of the first round. They’ll also need to identify a player or two (like Arenas six years ago) who goes from afterthought to all-star, like, say, Chauncey Billups when he got to Detroit. It can be done. But it’s going to take some organizational know-how. The roster is very likely to turn over completely before the Wizards are ready to even say the word “playoffs.” I can’t imagine Andray Blatche or Nick Young or Mike Miller will still be here when the Wizards become viable again.
Like any team starting from nothing, this will be a mess for awhile.
I realize we, as fans of this franchise, have witnessed too many failed rebuilding efforts to put too much trust in rebuilding, but just because it failed before doesn’t mean we should refuse to rebuild. Every great team in this league (except the Lakers, who are the Lakers) went through rebuilding. It’s the only chance you get to get good. That doesn’t mean every rebuilding team succeeds, but to win in this league, you need a franchise cornerstone, smart cap management, several building blocks to complement your cornerstone and a few veterans to help show the way. You don’t get those pieces unless you commit to a long-term rebuilding plan and give yourself options.
The final couple of hours leading up to the Washington Wizards’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves last night featured seemingly more gossip and rumors than the New York Post’s Page Six.
With the trade deadline about a day away, players, coaches, media members and fans around the Verizon Center were buzzing about extra moves the dismal, out-of-the-playoff-picture Wizards may make. And sure enough, even though Antawn Jamison’s face flashed amongst animated flames on the arena’s megatron, a pending deal to send the former franchise player to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a three-team trade was reported about 20 minutes before game time.
Even when the game started, and the new-look Wizards finally took to the court, most of the writers/bloggers were still in the media room getting final details on the trade. Fans were not really paying attention to the game either, and the entire Verizon Center had a weird vibe to it. As Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post so eloquently tweeted, “of the four players featured on the 6th St. Verizon Center banner in 2010 (Arenas, Butler, Jamison and Haywood), three are gone and one has been suspended for the year.”
During my time covering the team, I never saw Jamison decline an interview request or skip out the back way to avoid the press. When he talked, he talked for a very long time no matter what. The running joke around the pressroom all season was that you better be prepared to stand around for a while when Jamison was talking, because he’s complete and long-winded, but it was remarkable to see the kind of grace Jamison had in these situations. He was patient, answering tough questions for every out-of-town reporter coming in looking for a fresh angle on the team. Even if he was asked the same question a thousand times, he never got distressed.
But Saunders didn’t come to Washington to build a team from scratch. In fact, it was the exact opposite. The Wizards were already built, and assuming they were healthy, they were going to be competitive even before Mike Miller and Randy Foye arrived just before the 2009 draft. When they did arrived, that simply solidified that Washington was ready to win this year at all costs. Ernie Grunfeld went all in. And busted, badly.
[Brian Spencer: The Washington Wizards Have Officially Become the Franchise of Misfit Toys - Empty The Bench]
Can we start referring to Flip Saunders, head coach of the sunken ship that is the Washington Wizards, King Moonraiser instead? Because at this point, with his team decimated and looking more and more like the Southeast Division’s version of the New Jersey Nets (they of the 5-49 record), Saunders is not as much a NBA coach as he is the caretaker of a team full of forgotten, disregarded, and, yes, unloved toys players.
After the Wizards dealt Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to the Mavericks in what was essentially a salary dump, most Wizards fans were hoping that Antawn Jamison would be the next Wizard to leave town — not on a sour note or because he isn’t a talented player anymore, but because this team needs a new direction. Relying on the “Big Three” of Gilbert Arenas, Jamison, and Butler simply wasn’t working, and it was time to try something else.
Jamison is also a locker-room leader, a true professional, and a player the Cavs notoriously stagnant offense desperately needs. Jamison can shoulder the load for James and work with him in the pick and roll. The pick and roll possibilities with Jamison-James with Shaq for cleanup is positively devastating.
The good news is that Jamison doesn’t have Stoudemire’s alpha dog ego. Jamison’s been a third option in Washington before, and thrived in the role. He’s toiled in Golden State and on some bad Wizards teams. He doesn’t need to be the focus of an offense. He’s always willing to adapt his game. He’s never been a prima donna. Jamison’s upside isn’t sky-high, but he’s an extremely low-risk upgrade for the rest of the year.
I’ve gotten on Jamison for his shot-jacking in the past, but the bottom line is he produces. He’s like Zach Randolph in that he’ll get his 20-and-10 even if he frustrates you sometimes with his decision making. And you could even argue that the bad habits Jamison has picked up are more the result of being infected with Washington Wizards poison than anything. Given a fresh start on a Cleveland squad that has a real chance to win it all, Jamison could re-learn to keep his ego in check and be a difference-maker.