On April 22nd, I held a Wizards trivia contest to win one of two copies of Stumbling On Wins: Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports by Dave Berri and Martin Schmidt, or some Wizards swag … which, as you can see from the pictures above is a pair of fuzzy Wizards/Zephyrs dice. Fancy, huh?
First, congrats goes to Thomas Pruitt and Wade Smith, the only two respondents to answer all nine trivia questions right. They both win a copy of the book. Also congrats to Marc Salmon, his email address was randomly selected from the entire pool of entries. Marc gets the lucky dice.
Now let’s go over the questions, answers and a bit of team history. In case you didn’t take part in the poll, I’m posting the answers at the bottom so you can take a guess at the questions if you feel so inclined.
#1 Which coach led the Washington Bullets in their ’97 1st round playoff matchup against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls?
- Bob Staak
- Bernie Bickerstaff
- Jim Lynam
- Wes Unseld
- Jim Brovelli
#2 Which Wizards General Manager has the best winning percentage during his tenure?
- Wes Unseld
- Ernie Grunfeld
- John Nash
#3 Which player did NOT score 50 points in a game while wearing a Wizards/Bullets uniform?
- Phil Chenier
- Earl Monroe
- Antawn Jamison
- Tracy Murray
- Michael Jordan
- Bernard King
- Moses Malone
#4 TRUE OF FALSE: Brendan Haywood is in the top 5 of career games played with the franchise.
#5 TRUE OR FALSE: Gilbert Arenas is the franchise’s all-time scoring average leader in playoff games.
#6 TRUE OR FALSE: In the 2000s, the Wizards have NOT drafted a player from the Big East conference.
#7 Which player did NOT make the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team with the franchise?
- Phil Chenier
- Tom Gugliotta
- Jeff Malone
- Juwan Howard
- Mitch Kupchak
- Rod Thorn
#8 On April 4th against the Nets, Andray Blatche came one rebound short of a triple-double. Who was the last Wizard to achieve a triple double?
- Caron Butler
- Gilbert Arenas
- Antawn Jamison
- DeShawn Stevenson
- Antonio Daniels
#9 Gilbert Arenas made the All-NBA 2nd team in ’06-07 and the All-NBA 3rd team in ’04-05 and ’05-06. Before him, who was the last member of the franchise to make an All-NBA 1st, 2nd or 3rd team?
- Juwan Howard
- Rod Strickland
- Caron Butler
- Antawn Jamison
- Chris Webber
#1 Which coach led the Washington Bullets in their ’97 1st round playoff matchup against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls? Bernie Bickerstaff
Jim Lynam started that ’96-97 season as the head coach, but was fired in early February after a 22-24 start. “It just wasn’t happening,” said GM Wes Unseld, whose team’s $34.5 million payroll was fourth highest in the NBA. Lynam was actually fired in the midst of a four-game West Coast swing, his Bullets losing at the Los Angeles Lakers and at the Utah Jazz in games two and three by a combined 52 points.
Assistant Bob Staak took over head coaching duties for the last game of the road trip; the team lost to the Denver Nuggets by two. Bernie Bickerstaff was brought in to coach over the all-star break. At the time Bickerstaff was the GM of the Nuggets, but that wasn’t expected to last long so he jumped at the opportunity. If you know your franchise history, you’ll know Bickerstaff was an assistant to Dick Motta on the ’77-78 Bullets championship team. So, knowing the nepotistical history/environment of Abe Pollin’s franchise, some called it a “buddy hire.” Elvin Hayes, who played on that title team with Unseld, called the hire a “great mistake.“
Within an hour of his first practice, Bickerstaff called the Bullets out of shape and ran the hell out of them. He also promised his players that he would get his ear pierced if they finished the season over .500. Chris Webber was, however, a tad weary of his new coach. Bickerstaff didn’t exactly get along with his buddy Jalen Rose in Denver.
The Bullets just went 3-6 under Bickerstaff over the remainder of February, but things picked up after that. The team went 11-4 in March and 8-3 in April, winning their last four games of the season, including the very last game in Cleveland, knocking the Cavaliers out of the eight seed in the East and taking the spot themselves.
Overall, Bickerstaff went 22-13 to end the ’96-97 season. Part of his strategy was to relieve Chris Webber from some of the ball-handing duties — remember, these were still the days of “Point Chris” when Webber thought he was a point guard — and put the rock, especially in transition, more into the hands of the actual point guard, Rod Strickland. Part of the issue with Lynam was that he let Webber, who was not known as the most coachable guy in the world at the time, and Juwan Howard have too much free reign in the offense.
Let’s take a quick look at some numbers. Strickland averaged 8.4 assists per game under Lynam. Post-Lynam, his assists jumped to 9.5 per game. Obviously his Usage% went up from 23.6% to 24.5%, but his turnovers only increased slightly from 3.2 per game to 3.4. Overall, Strickland became responsible for more assists while on the floor. His Assist% jumped from 37% to 39.5%, but team assists didn’t increase that much, just going from 23.41 to 23.44. However, team turnovers went down from 15.7 per game to 14.9.
No, these numbers didn’t drastically change, but you can’t argue with the results. Under Bickerstaff, the Bullets’ win-percentage was .629. Before Bernie, it was .468. The following season under Bickerstaff, Strickland was named 2nd Team All-NBA. Unfortunately, the team, in their first season being called the Wizards, was riddled with injuries, as has become the norm, and finished just 42-40, a single game out of the playoffs behind both the 8th-seeded New Jersey Nets and the 7th-seeded New York Knicks.
I can’t remember if Bickerstaff ever got that earring he promised after his team made the ’96-97 playoffs. With the recent firing of Vinny Del Negro, he likely won’t be an assistant with the Chicago Bulls next year, so who knows when I’ll get a chance to ask him. But hey, if he never did, maybe those who believe the Washington basketball franchise is cursed can point to that as a reason.
#2 Which Wizards General Manager has the best winning percentage during his tenure? Ernie Grunfeld
…. But barely over Wes Unseld. After going 26-56 this season, Grunfeld’s mark as GM stands at 241-333, a .420 winning percentage. Unseld is 226-316 all-time as GM (.417) and Josh Nash is 192-382 (.334).
The franchise’s all-time leader is Bob Ferry (698-614, .532) and second is Jerry Sachs (275-217, .559). No other GM in team history is above .500.
#3 Which player did NOT score 50 points in a game while wearing a Wizards/Bullets uniform? Antawn Jamison
The most Jamison scored in a Wizards uniform is 48 points, which he achieved four times, most recently against the Orlando Magic on April 17, 2007.
Otherwise, the franchise’s 50+ points in a game scorers are: Gilbert Arenas – 60 (12/17/06), 54 (12/22/06), 51 (1/5/07); Earl Monroe – 56 (2/13/68); Phil Chenier – 53 (12/6/72); Bernard King – 52 (12/29/90), 50 (3/6/91); Michael Jordan – 51 (12/29/01); Tracy Murray – 50 (2/10/98); and Moses Malone – 50 (4/8/87).
#4 TRUE OF FALSE: Brendan Haywood is in the top 5 of career games played with the franchise. False
Brendan Haywood’s 579 games with the team puts him 6th behind Kevin Loughery‘s 591 and Charles Jones‘ 595. Had Haywood not been traded, he likely would’ve finished the season in fourth behind Wes Unseld (984), Elvin Hayes (731) and Greg Ballard (643).
#5 TRUE OR FALSE: Gilbert Arenas is the franchise’s all-time scoring average leader in playoff games. False
Gilbert Arenas is third with a playoff average of 24.2 over 20 games. He’s behind Don Ohl (26.2, 12 games) and Earl Monroe (24.3, 29 games).
#6 TRUE OR FALSE: In the 2000s, the Wizards have NOT drafted a player from the Big East conference. True
From 97-99, the Wizards drafted players out of the Big East in three straight years — God Shammgod (Providence, ’97); Jahidi White (Georgetown, ’98); and Richard Hamilton (UCONN, ’99), but none so far in the 2000s.
#7 Which player did NOT make the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team with the franchise? Juwan Howard
Howard made the All-Rookie Second Team in ’94-95. The others were All-Rookie First Teamers: Phil Chenier (’71-72), Tom Gugliotta (’92-93), Jeff Malone (’83-84), Mitch Kupchak (’76-77), and Rod Thorn (’63-64).
#8 On April 4th against the Nets, Andray Blatche came one rebound short of a triple-double. Who was the last Wizard to achieve a triple double? Gilbert Arenas
On December 12, 2009, Arenas finished with 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers. Of course, that was the game where he missed two free-throws with the Wizards up 113-112 and six seconds left. The Pacers went on to win on a crazy last second play.
#9 Gilbert Arenas made the All-NBA 2nd team in ’06-07 and the All-NBA 3rd team in ’04-05 and ’05-06. Before him, who was the last member of the franchise to make an All-NBA 1st, 2nd or 3rd team? Rod Strickland
Strickland made the All-NBA 2nd team in ’97-98 and Howard made the 3rd team in ’95-96. Webber, Jamison, and Butler never made an All-NBA team with the franchise.
Nas: Memory Lane