Last night the Wizards won for the first time in nine months. Tonight, they try to win their first road game in 283 days, which is about nine months and a week, and which would also give Washington just their fourth road win in one year and nine months. And all and all, the Wizards haven’t won in Chicago in three years and nine months. Some oblvious gambling weirdo probably thinks Washington is due. In any case, the 1-8 Wizards play the 9-2 Bulls at 8 PM… Three questions, three answers with Rashad Mobley, John Converse Townsend and Kyle Weidie starts now…
#1) Chicago is tied with Oklahoma City with the best winning percentage in the NBA (.818, both 9-2), but they will also be playing in their third game in as many nights this evening, and M.V.P. Derrick Rose aggrivated a “turf toe” injury in a 111-100 win in Minnesota last night [UPDATE: Rose's turf toe is evidently bad enough to the point where he is likely out tonight and to the point where Chicago has signed former Wizard Mike James.]. Do the 1-8 Wizards, buzzing from their first win and a new starting lineup, even have a chance?
MOBLEY: I was too busy watching the Wizards win their first game to see the Bulls defeat the T-Wolves last night, but I did make it a point to read a recap from A Wolf Among Wolves. The Bulls jumped out to a lead, Ricky Rubio led a furious comeback, and then Rose shut it down. If Wall, Vesely, Booker and Singleton can bring that level of energy, perhaps the Bulls and a banged up Rose, won’t be able to muster a response after playing their third game in three nights.
TOWNSEND: Sure, the Wizards have a chance … until Tom Thibodeau’s defense punches them in the mouf. After the initial shock, the question becomes whether Washington can maintain its focus and counter. The Bulls will likely be standing on lifeless legs, a step slower in taking the floor on a third consecutive night, but the Wizards must again choose smart over swag to keep the game close. It won’t be easy: this year’s Bulls have allowed the fewest points (206) in their first three homes games since the start of the shot clock era.
WEIDIE: Body Language. The Wizards have been terrible at it this year…. body language being that wicked little pixel troll which causes the Wizards to abandon any aspirations of good on the court. Even with a banged up Rose (or no Rose), even with a tired Bulls team, who are we kidding? These are the Washington Wizards, people. It’ll be a win if the Wizards just display effort and quell bad body language for even just 45 of 48 minutes against the Bulls. And the final score? Who cares… I thought we were all lottery watching already anyway.
#2) Speaking of that new starting lineup, featuring Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker joining John Wall, Nick Young and JaVale McGee instead of Rashard Lewis and Andray Blatche, what are the odds that Flip Saunders’ uses it again tonight? And how disappointed should Wizards fans be if he doesn’t? BONUS: the nagging injuries to Lewis and Blatche… Legit excuse for a change, or nice and convenient cover up?
MOBLEY: LSU coach Les Miles has been getting slammed by writers and fans since the BCS championship game ended for being too stubborn to make a QB adjustment against Alabama. Flip Saunders waited eight games before making a change, and when he made a second change in the ninth game, the Wizards finally won. But if he reverts to the old lineup, writers and fans of the Wizards should join the LSU fans and be critical. In terms of Flip playing the nagging injuries card? It was very clever of him to play coy like that, but it seems to me his stature as a head coach would have been boosted had he owned up to just flat out benching both players.
TOWNSEND: If Flip Saunders doesn’t want get run out of the gym (and smothered under an avalanche of criticism and pixels in D.C.), he must start Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker. The nagging injuries to Rashard Lewis (sore knee(s)) and Andray Blatche (sticky shoulder) could very well be legitimate concerns; they could also be nothing more than predictably imagined roster solutions. The truth behind the injury report is irrelevant. What’s important, however, is that player roles have been shuffled (at least in the short term).
WEIDIE: Look, if management doesn’t realize by now that either the rebuild should NOT include Andray Blatche, or that Blatche should never see the starting lineup again on mere principle of a common sense life, then populating the WWW with wicked pixels just seems, well, senseless. Singleton and Booker are young, and one of them is likely not a career starter, but the mistakes they may make in the starting lineup is by far dwarfed by the energy and toughness they provide, two of the absolute guiding principles of this rebuild. If the kids make mistakes it’s okay… it’s for the FUTURE. But if Saunders trots out the uninspiring presences of Blatche and Lewis, then we are all screwed. And as far as the injury(ish) hullaballo… I guess was nice to do in order to keep pressure off both those no longer starting and those who must fill in for them. But still, if the injuries to Lewis and Blatche were used as an “excuse” to get them out of the starting lineup, then it fits right in with the franchise’s myrid of historical absurdities, albeit pretty low on the list.
#3) Assuming the starting lineup remains the same, or even if it doesn’t, which Bulls big man will give the Wizards the most trouble? Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah?
MOBLEY: Joakim Noah is a hustle player who has the ability to extend plays, but so are Booker and Singleton, so conventional wisdom says that the Wizards have a fighting chance in that department. Boozer is a physical, but average defender, but he has the type of offensive game that could get McGee, Blatche and even Booker in some quick foul trouble. He’s the guy to watch out for tonight.
TOWNSEND: Carlos Boozer. Boozer scored as many as 30 points against the Wizards last year, averaging a double-double in two meetings. He’s the number two option on the 2011-12 Bulls team, one that features Derrick Rose doing much of his dishing and driving out of pick-and-roll sets better than ever before. Joakim Noah, meanwhile, has continued to lose minutes to second-year center Omer Asik, particularly in the 4th quarter.
WEIDIE: Boozer. Sure, Noah’s hustle will likely, as always, pay dividends against a less-than middling team like the Wizards. But Boozer is the offensive stud. No one on the Wizards, not Booker, not Singleton, not Serpahin, not McGee, not Gene Banks, and especially not Andray Blatche, can really check Boozer in the post to success. Their best chance? Foul him hard, he shoots 64-percent from the free-throw line, which is acutally better than McGee’s 51.9-percent, Booker’s 54.5-percent, Singleton’s 50-percent, and slightly worse than Blatche’s 65-percent.