A Preview About The Washington Wizards
Here’s the graphic TAI used for its preview of the Wizards last year …
And here’s another graphic that was used to represent the 19-win campaign in 2009-09 ….
These old graphics are here to help you to remember to forget.
Things will be much different this time around (we hope) …
… so let’s get into our thoughts/analysis.
Team Name: The Washington NBA Team
Last Year’s Record: 26-56
Key Losses: Who?
Key Additions: John Wall and some other guys … Kirk Hinrich, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, Hilton Armstrong, Yi Jianlian, and some other cats who may or may not make the team.
Significant Offseason Moves.
-by Rashad Mobley
Unlike so many NBA teams that sought to make moves via the now-legendary 2010 free agency class, the Washington Wizards made their power moves well before those free agents were available. First, Ted Leonsis reached an agreement with the family of the late Abe Pollin to become the owner of the Washington Wizards. Then, Leonsis and Irene Pollin (Abe’s wife) used their magical powers to will the Wizards into winning the No. 1 pick of the draft. A couple weeks after that, the NBA officially approved Leonsis as the owner of the Wizards, and a couple weeks after that, his team drafted University of Kentucky phenom, John Wall with the top draft pick in 2010.
Leonsis has made quite an impact during his first few months as Wizards owner. He complied a 101 point to-do list based on emails he received from fans, he vowed to keep troubled guard Gilbert Arenas (more on him later) in D.C., for now, and he even picked up a $100K fine for crossing David Stern with his comments about the league’s salary cap. Wall has been no slouch in the impact department either. He put on a dazzling display in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League, and he’s continued to play beyond his years in the first few preseason games. And as a reward, head coach Flip Saunders named Wall (along with Kirk Hinrich) a team captain.
The Wizards also made two significant moves via the more traditional trade route. They acquired Hinrich from the Bulls, in an effort to boost the backcourt, and they acquired Yi Jianlian from the Nets to provide some frontcourt depth. Both players have already exceeded expectations according to Saunders.
And finally, the Wizards retained three players from last year’s roster, who figure to play major roles in the 2010-2011 season. Andray Blatche, who carried the Wizards after they lost Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood via trade, was signed to a 5-year, $35 million contract extension. JaVale McGee, who just barely missed making the USA team this summer, had the fourth year option of his contract exercised. And although he may end up having the biggest impact of any player on the Wizards roster, the retention of Gilbert Arenas get mentioned last in the significant move department. Leonsis has been consistent in his message that Arenas is a part of this team and will not be traded, and so far Coach Saunders has been just as consistent by teaming Arenas and Wall in the starting backcourt. Still, given Arenas’ antics this preseason, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Leonsis make another type of move–the kind that involves shipping Gilbert elsewhere.
-by Beckley Mason
Nearly every strength that the Wizards can boast coming into this season stems from the addition of John Wall. Some of these benefits are material: the Wizards will be fast at most positions, including the front court. With Wall setting a blistering pace– his coast to coast solo sieges were the highlight of the Wizards’ preseason– the team should make a major leap in Pace (21st in the league last year). Yi Jianlian has also been sprinting (racing) past opposing defenses and has gotten free for a couple breakaway dunks this preseason. Part of the Wizards’ speed is an effect of being such a young team–Josh Howard is the only 30 year old on the club who projects to get any minutes (Hinrich will turn 30 on January 2nd).
The youthful Wizards will also benefit from the sense of new beginnings that surround John Wall’s arrival and the ownership of NHL success Ted Leonsis. After making a name for himself on the national stage this summer, Javale McGee is one of a few Wizards, Nick Young and Andre Blatche also come to mind, who seem ready to capitalize on their tantalizing potential. This team has the mojo right now, and the city and players can feel it. Can you quantify optimism? Maybe not, but with a roster that includes only four players who were in training camp last year, the sense is that the Wizards are ready for a bright new era.
-by Adam McGinnis
When forecasting the 2010-2011 Washington Wizards, the prevailing national media narrative is one must focus on potential issues between John Wall and Gilbert Arenas playing together.
This easy and lazy analysis is predictable, and all indications so far is that this is more media driven fiction than empirical based fact. Wall and Arenas have formed a solid relationship and are constantly joking around. Wall is an eager, humble pupil but also a forceful team leader at point guard. Gilbert has been a vocal mentor to Wall and yet, accepted his role of playing off the ball, even flourishing in limited preseason action so far. Wall and Arenas are the team’s two best players, and this squad has far greater issues than them.
- Rebounding- The team struggled last season on both the offensive and defensive glass after the departures of Brandon Haywood and Antwan Jamison. The projected starters, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee, have an inconsistent track record in this department.
- Low Post Scoring- Blatche developed an effective low post game at the end of last season, but still has a tendency to force it through double teams and appears to be more comfortable operating from the high post. The freakish athlete McGee has yet to display an effective go to move and remains a work in progress. Yi and Hilton Armstrong will likely not be making opponent’s worry about their offense on the block.
- Defense- Perimeter defense is expected to be a strength with the additions of Wall and Hinrich, but Arenas is still a liability. The Wizards do not have a legitimate defensive stopper who can guard athletic NBA wings. And if they employ their three-guard lineup of Wall/Hinrich/Arenas, this weakness will be even more glaring. Blatche and McGee’s slender builds make them susceptible to be pushed around by stronger, thicker bigs. McGee’s deft shot blocking skills are somewhat neutralized by his stubborn inclination to leave his feet on shot fakes.
- 3-Spot- Al Thornton is a question mark, Nick Young has never really played the position and Josh Howard is coming off major knee surgery. Cartier Martin and Adam Morrison are battling to just make the team. This training position camp battle is far from settled, stabilized or effective.
- Rotation- Coach Saunders has admitted that the rotation is a work in progress and aside from maybe four players, playing time will be based on a night-to-night basis. It could be months before a consistent rotation develops and player roles are defined.
- Wall’s Jump Shot- Wall’s primary weakness is his jump shot, and while he has shown he can positively impact a game when it’s not falling, he has to be able to consistently knock it down so teams resist just sagging off of him.
- Arenas Media Scrutiny- Gilbert is under a microscope more than any NBA star not in Miami Beach. The media sharks and snakes are ready to pounce. If Gilbert struggles, or the team plays poorly, how he will handle the media’s likelihood to point toward him and his contract as scapegoats? There is a potential for his teammates, while liking Arenas personally, to get tired of answering media questions about him.
- Franchise Futility- New owner Ted Leonsis wants to go young, improve the defense, and create a fresh winning culture from the bottom up. Obviously, this does not happen over night and losing still permeates this franchise. How can it not? The Wizards have lost 119 games in the past two years and have only won one playoff series in 28 years.
There is nothing positive about this history at all.
-by John Townsend
Team goals are tough to define, when you are a pubescent basketball team like the Wizards.
This summer, Leonsis blogged about the ninth wonder of the world. He described a team with identifiable stars, but plays as a unit. A team that is deep; talented; and filled with character, passion, and heart.
This ninth wonder of the world is a great, great sports team:
“[The team] gels, plays with an identity, adheres to a system, makes the playoffs on a consistent basis, sells out the building, and then wins a championship… or two…or three.
It isn’t all about the “I.” It is about the “We.” It knows the “Secret.” It gets it.”
Unfortunately, this team is not the Washington Wizards. At least not this year’s version.
For starters, the team has a “sticking” problem: the players abandon team basketball for long stretches, trying instead to play one-on-one rather than getting others involved.
Andray Blatche — one of the more recognizable “stars” — is frustrated and said that he doesn’t know his role on the offense.
I’m digressing … team goals …
In some sort of twisted fortune, the Wizards are not expected to accomplish much this season. ESPN predicted that the Wiz will finish among the bottom five teams in the Association. CBS Sports pegs them as a darkhorse to finish with the worst record in the league.
When you are young (like I once was … two years ago), you have a natural tendency to rebel. You want to stand out and prove people wrong. The Wizards have that opportunity this year. But if the Wizards want to “shock a lot of people,” they are going to have to give opposing teams 48 minutes of hell. (Thank you, Spurs bloggers!)
There are going to be growing pains and inexplicable decisions that will produce some real stinkers of games. This is all expected. It is part of a maturation process. They key to being a consistent playoff team will be to first understand their roles and connect their each other as more than just teammates. The young Wizards (average age 24.4) must grow, learn, and listen — talent alone just doesn’t cut it.
Note to team: Congratulations, kids, you’re in the NBA. We all know that you can play. It’s time to show people that you can play together. If you want to run … run. But make sure you sprint back on defense, too. If you want to light-up the scoreboard … do it. But do it within the Wizards offensive system. Our coaches know more than you think you do. (And could probably still do it better than you can.) You think you can make playoffs? Prove it. Win some games. Win a lot of games.
And remember: If you want to win … you have to learn how.
Winning Back The Fans.
-by Kyle Weidie
Wizards fans, those remaining after the last two seasons, are probably caught in a mental conundrum in how exactly to address their team emotionally. They’re used to losing, but the last two years were especially loser-ish (or loser-y). Thus, it’s probably hard to wash what likely tastes like vegemite on a communion wafer out of their mouths and truly throw their full, monetary support back into this historically futile franchise.
But that’s partially why new owner Ted Leonsis has provided heavy doses of mouthwash via marketing dazzle. Immensely aided by John Wall, Leonsis been able to promote the team and build excitement going forward.
And yes, it’s ALL about John Wall. Without him, and with any other player in the ’10 draft instead, the same marketing efforts would probably be met with a great deal of skepticism in Washington.
‘Oh, you’re a young team? Who cares? We’ve seen more misspent youth than the gathering of the Juggalos.’ -Sincerely, Wizards fans.
John Wall makes people care. But does he make people understand?
The die-hard fans won’t be a problem. They are immune to understanding, they are devoted.
No, it’s the casual fans — or the former disgruntled fans — that Leonsis wants to evangelize with pumped in organ music, urinal beer holders, red stairs, warmer pizza and fresher buns. Oh, and the Wall to McGee alley-oops that are like sweet tambourine music to the ears.
Understanding takes time and patience. If you build it slowly, fans will come, slowly … and then will become converts praising Wall as their savior. This, of course, brings unprecedented pressure upon the 20-year old.
But if anyone can handle it, Wall can.
And one day, people will no longer be baffled by attempts to explain the “it” factor which people claim the young kid possesses. Wizards fans will simply bask in his talents and say, “Wow, ‘it’ is him.”