When news of the Gilbert Arenas-Rashard Lewis trade broke, it was received with a groan. The less-than-enthusiastic reception of the 31-year-old Lewis wasn’t so much a public damnation of his basketball abilities, nor an uninterested dismissal of his more intangible, clichéd qualities – veteran leadership, for instance. No, it was the result of a city, of a fanbase, coming to grips with the end of an era.
The Washington Wizards traded away their (cult) hero, and all they got in return was a “lousy” stretch four.
Just a week before Christmas, Lewis arrived in the nation’s capital with his long frame, his long contract, and his long face. Rough. Nick Young—by way of Gilbert Arenas’ interview with ESPN’s Michael Wallace—made Lewis’ first impressions public:
“He was telling me about Rashard Lewis. Nick was like, ‘I don’t know if he’s going to make it two weeks here. He feels like the world just ended.’ “
The highlights and good times from John Wall’s rookie year represent the icing on the big ol’ cookie (or cake) that vested hype-machine types gladly diddle themselves to while resting assured on pillows encased with media & PR mints at night. Fodder for rainbows, puppy dogs and ice cream, but relatively useless to Wall himself. He doesn’t seem to take comfort in digits and puffery. Rather, he’s the sort wired to be driven toward success by frustration and failure, i.e., he’s a non-believer in the injury/rebuilding excuses readily applied by some around him. Nor does he appear to possess a complacency or apathy toward loving the game of basketball as some of his teammates have so often conveyed. He actually appears to despise such attitudes. At least this is what dime-store pessimists such as myself optimistically believe.
No, it’s not ‘John Wall Wednesday’ here at Truth About It.net, although there could be a subsequent related post coming this evening that would make it three in a row about the 2010 No. 1 NBA Draft pick. But, you see, no biggie when it comes to the franchise pillar. Wall’s inaugural season has barely been put to rest as his NBA future looks to gainfully go from embryonic to full-on fetus mode. And then who knows… a crawl, walk or sprint into the postseason seems inevitable. Rookie year perspective is a prerequisite, yet no one will know how to properly assess Wall’s 2010-11 until a couple/several years from now. In the meantime, let’s take a videographic look at the experience of the rookie’s emotions through his carefully considered and well-trained quotes to the media covering his team, the Washington Wizards. Dissect this one way now and be ready to reconsider down the road.
He breezes past defenders with more than quickness, aided by long strides and big steps. Still, he often waits.
In attacking the rim with an offensive mind, Wall plays the waiting game. Waiting for the defending arms to clear out of the way. Waiting, and bracing, for a potential hit… a foul call if he’s lucky. Waiting for the last possible second to release his shot, a layup attempt at his final destination. Waiting until the coast is clear. Waiting to finish with points.
Some haven’t considered the exciting, scary thought — those two emotions coming from two different angles. You didn’t see an NBA-ready John Wall this season. His rookie eating habits were horrible, but expected for a teenager. His mentality fought to adjust to League-caliber athletes, and in many instances made them adjust to him. His body was not always fully healthy, and he admittedly rushed back before fully healed (yet one day he’ll have to play hurt like Kobe Bryant). His semi-suspect Reebok shoes went through some “adjustments” to make them “firmer” after Wizards officials and training staff met with the shoe company, according to the Washington Post’s Michael Lee. If these things were holding Wall back to even the slightest degree, Wizards fans should be the excited ones, and the rest of the League should be scared.
Countless people, possibly from Iowa, likely a family member or a friend, probably told Kirk Hinrich, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” in reference to his tenure with the Wizards. It amounted to an eight-month rental, a Nietzschian level of suffering in exchange for a better future, while the depreciation of basketball assets actually made Kirk weaker, ironically. In reality, aside from a potential second round playoff match-up, Atlanta may be no closer to the mindset of sweet home Chicago than Washington was. But in the eye of the beholder, Hinrich carriers on as if left with no other choice. This is an ode to Kirk Hinrich, mostly because he now possesses the forced knowledge of what it’s like to be a Washington Wizard…
An unwilling District arrival after a Bullish flirtation with a puppet King,
The Wizard Kirk Hinrich role-played the reluctant leader with hints of relent,
But with a bounty fit for royalty that would make anyone sing,
The counter-Beltway mentality of balancing patience through lost time and money spent.
A transfer’s exchange of stale talent for a fresh rebuild, A temporary professor breaking basketball barriers for Walls, A shoulder shrug compliance to it is what it is.
The unappreciated professional who comes with great skill, Not necessarily the leader, but a Captain to all, Don’t worry much for fair Kirk, because it’s all just part of the biz.
When a key deadline trade goes down between a playoff team needing help and a non-playoff team needing to rebuild, most feel bad for the veteran going to the losing situation — Sasha Vujacic, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, Maurice “Mo” Evans come to mind from this season. The secondary consideration, partially because he’s going to that losing team, is the young player who would gladly trade riding the bench during a playoff run for a chance to suit up for a team going nowhere. Jordan Crawford got that and more when he went from Atlanta to Washington. He got off to a hot start with a new team that he wouldn’t give up on, even when hindered by a back injury. He got that treasured green light, which is rare, even for a lottery team. But what happens when that green light ends?
Crawford arrived in Washington at February’s trade deadline along with the 18th pick of the 2011 draft and a good veteran influence in Evans. In exchange, the Wizards gave up Kirk Hinrich (owed $8 million next season) and Hilton Armstrong. They also got the unexpected bonus of a money-saving buyout of Mike Bibby, who also came with Crawford and Evans from Atlanta. Because of a knee injury to Nick Young, he suddenly found himself going from the 12th or 13th man on the bench to full-time starter by his seventh game with the Wizards. He ended up starting his final 17 games in Washington, out of 26 total games with the team. The carefree Wizards bunch went a respectable 7-10 in those last 17 games, during which Crawford averaged 20 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists (to 3.1 turnovers), and 1.3 steals. Pretty impressive for the 27th pick of the 2010 draft.
As the NBA regular season has concluded and the playoffs are now underway, sports pundits peppered the airwaves and series of tubes last week with playoffs prognostications. Storylines were plentiful abound.
Can the Los Angeles Lakers three-peat? Will the Kendrick Perkins trade prevent Boston Celtics from a championship? Do the San Antonio Spurs have another title in them? Will Lebron James finally get a ring now that he’s surrounded himself with more talent? Can the Oklahoma City Thunder or Chicago Bulls parlay their regular season accomplishments into deep playoff runs?
While the opinions of media members and fans do carry some weight (just ask them!), I thought it would be a good idea to ask the players, who actually compete against playoff the participants, what two teams they see making the NBA finals and who will win it all.
I complied the predictions of Washington Wizards John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Mo Evans, Nick Young, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, JaVale McGee, Othyus Jeffers, and Coach Flip Saunders in the video below. Watch to find out which two players chose to be coy in their responses.
Tension arises from the final Washington Wizards game of the season. Many fans were content with the loss to Cleveland. The 100-93 defeat on Wednesday means they stand-alone with the fourth-worst record in the NBA, and not tied with two other teams (New Jersey and Sacramento) for the fifth worst record, which could have had major implications on the NBA Draft Lottery. Other the other hand, they lost to Cleveland and looked pretty terrible in doing so.
Here’s where the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” conflict arises. During the game, Comcast’s television play-by-play man Steve Buckhantz mentioned multiple times how Flip Saunders instructed his players before the game that he wanted them to treat it like a playoff affair. But removing John Wall, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee from the fourth quarter equation (when Washington went into the final period with a 74-71 lead), and then later taking out Jordan Crawford three and a half minutes into the period (the Cavaliers having taken an 81-76 lead), clearly swings the philosophy from treating it like a playoff atmosphere to tanking for the lottery. Worth mentioning that Wall “tweaked” something or another during the game (didn’t look major, better to be safe than sorry), Blatche and McGee were playing like they didn’t deserve to stay on the floor (we’ll get to them), and Crawford was 2-14 from the field (the lackadaisical demeanor assumed by some on the team clearly having an effect on the unit as a whole).
Flip Saunders told the Washington Post:
“I thought our first, main group played really well. I probably would like to see them play the whole game, the way they were playing. We were moving the ball, we were really active and pretty much dominating in many aspects. But it was a good opportunity for us to see a lot of the young guys.”
Thursday was exit interview day for the Washington Wizards. Players cleaned out their lockers for the offseason, engaged in parting conversations with the coaching staff, and met with the media as they trickled out of the Verizon Center with their belongings. JaVale McGee and Yi Jianlian lugged big garbage sacks full of their stuff while Nick Young was carefully leaving with a fat head poster of himself.
Throughout the individual interviews, there was an overlapping sense of reflection and relief that a long season had concluded. Jordan Crawford was thankful for the opportunity he received with the Wizards. Trevor Booker gave himself a B-minus grade for his rookie campaign. John Wall emphasized learning how to lead grown men in the NBA. And Nick Young mused nostalgic about his four-year career with the organization.
The past month of solid play provided optimism for next season, but since the Wizards missed the playoffs, the unknown future of a labor dispute is no longer looming. It has now officially moved to the forefront, with the clock ticking down to the end of June when the CBA expires.
This was apparent in Mo Evans, Vice President of the NBA Players Association Executive Committee, articulating the Union’s positions of not budging on a hard cap, contract lengths or giving up the Larry Bird Rights that past generations of players had won. Also, Young proclaiming that he is basically unemployed was a chilling reminder that he might not have a job for awhile, with or without the Wizards.
Big night tonight. The Washington Capitals begin their post-season with a game against the New York Rangers in D.C. while the Washington Wizards begin their off-season after their final match of the year against the Cavaliers in Cleveland. The Wiz Kids will one day be in the playoffs, next year according to John Wall, but until then, fans will have to be content with marking May 17 down on their calendars (when the NBA’s Draft Lottery will be held), while watching 16 other teams compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Speaking of the NBA playoffs, I dropped some opinionated knowledge on ESPN.com about who will shine in the post-season … check it out if you will.
On Monday, 71-year old NBA referee Dick Bavetta called the Wizards home finale against the Boston Celtics. Known as the Cal Ripken Jr. of referees, Bavetta has been calling games since 1975 and has never missed an assignment. Going into this season, Bavetta had called an NBA-record 2,434 games that he’s obviously continued to build on in this his 36th season.
Watching him work a game from the sideline is an interesting experience. He barely makes a sound. Imagine that, a silent NBA referee. Bavetta doesn’t scream, he doesn’t even talk, much. Instead, he opts to communicate with the other members of his crew with hand signals and gestures, as well as getting players into their correct position in the same manner. I imagine he does it to conserve energy. Regardless of reason, the effective use of such a method conveys the respect that comes with time and age. There have been reports that the league would prefer Bavetta to retire, as they did not assign the dean of referees to work the NBA Finals last season. With clouds of a potential lockout looming, this season could really be the last for the legend.
Sure, the best thing about the missed Von Wafer dunk on Monday night was him unknowingly flexing/basking in his own non-accomplishment afterward on the baseline, and then turning around to run back on defense only to find a teammate who’d recovered the live ball directly in his path. That teammate, Jermaine O’Neal, ended up being called for a violation because Wafer ran into him after he’d picked up his dribble, causing him to take another dribble. Boston turnover.
Actually, the “best thing” was that Wafer’s dunk would have put the Celtics up four points with three minutes left in overtime; Washington ended up winning by one point. But another “thing” about the failed dunk attempt was the warm towel and icy-hot rubdown that JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche offered Wafer as he easily glided toward the basket, unimpeded and observed from a comfy distance by the defense. Maybe the courteous treatment actually helped Wafer blow his easy dunk off the rim. We’ll never know.
What we do know is what the whole event looked like from the sideline, in picture form, and partially obscured by referee Dick Bavetta: