Break out the Yakety-Sax, the slide-whistle and whatever other devices you need to comically convey a professional(ish) basketball match-up between the 12-44 Washington Wizards and the 7-47 Charlotte Bobcats … it’s time for the Lottery Toilet Bowl! Before you potentially watch basketball action that will likely later lead you to using an abrasive scrub on your retinas, John Pettice (@BobcatsPlanet) of BobcatsPlanet.com, along with TAI’s Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) and Ryan Gracia (@rgracia2378) are here to provide three answers to three questions. Let it begin, I think…
#1) How are the Wizards/ Bobcats actively trying to tank?
DIAMOND: Whether by intention or injuries, the Wiz are ramping up PT for the lackluster Jan Vesely (averaging 32 mpg in April) and the bench mob, while cutting back on John Wall’s minutes. Wall played less then 30 minutes in two of the past three games — that hasn’t happened since January. I had to recheck Charlotte’s depth chart — I love the Association but couldn’t come closing to naming the ‘Cats starting lineup off the top of my head. Apparently a guy named “Cory Higgins” is getting major minutes and just led them in scoring. That is all.
GRACIA: The season is effectively over for both teams. There’s a better chance that the players have already begun planning for their summer vacations (because, ya know, it’s either that or blow it in the club), than begun planning for an undefeated end to the season. These are two very young teams with little playoff experience between them. So with the playoffs already out of the picture, they may question the importance of continuing to play hard and therefore may not give their utmost effort for every play … to put it nicely.
PETTICE: The depth of the Bobcats tanking can be summed up in two words: Desagana Diop. The fact that this “athlete” is on this professional roster and has managed to somehow start nine games is proof enough to me that Charlotte is in full-on tank mode. Don’t believe me? I present to you Exhibit A: Take a look at this piece of evidence and then get back to me, I’ll wait… Now that you’ve had a chance to watch this Diop “highlight” I present to you Exhibit B: The numbers… Diop is shooting 34-percent from the field (25-percent at home). Even more absurd is that he is shooting 16-percent from the free throw line. For those who are wondering, no he does not have hooks for hands. Having Diop on your roster is simply a one-man tank job.
#2) OK, how are the Wizards/Bobcats actively NOT trying to tank?
DIAMOND: The Wiz are doing some things right on the limp to the finish. Kevin Seraphin’s improvement, the benching of Andray Blatche, some competitive games on the road — there are signs of hope in DC. Meanwhile, the Bobcats have unleashed Byron Mullens on the NBA. But let’s be real: Charlotte’s been actively tanking since the season started. (Right? Because if not, what the heck were they doing all year?)
GRACIA: I wish I could say that by starting the youngest lineup in franchise history in the April 1st loss to Toronto meant the Wizards were in the process of obvious tanking. Unfortunately, though, this is just the saddening reality of the team’s situation. But Randy Wittman essentially benched Andray Blatche for the year, forcing him to get back into shape. And with him on the court for extended minutes after his calf injury, the Wizards may as well have been begging to lose games. Less than a week earlier, team brass shoved two of the knuckle-est of heads out the door, and acquired an established veteran presence (and Brian Cook) to help guide this group of youngsters. This gives me the understanding that the Wizards organization is, at the very least, trying to make this team better before season’s end. As for the Bobcats, this is a team run by the ultimate competitor, Michael Jordan. And as professionals trying to keep their job as secure as possible, I can’t see why any players on this team would willingly tank in front of the greatest who ever played just to have a kid out of college (or Europe) come in and take their job for next season.
PETTICE: If we can ignore the 340-plus pounds of Diop, we can argue that this team is not actively attempting to tank. Here’s the reason: Charlotte is just horribly bad because of the combination of youth, the lockout-shortened training camp and limited practice time due to the compressed schedule. The addition of rookies Kemba Walker and the very, very raw Bismack Biyombo, combined with the loss of contributors Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston and Kwame Brown over the offseason, left Charlotte in a mess for this season; the 7-47 record clearly shows that. This was a group that needed every second of extra camp that it could get.
#3) Vegas won’t touch the spread of this game with a 10-foot poll — well, at least Danny Sheridan is calling it a “pick ‘em” [NOTE: at game time, Charlotte was favored by one point] — so who wins this game? What player/stat likely makes this game really ugly? What player/stat could potentially give this game some redeeming factors?
DIAMOND: I like DC to get a rare victory. They’ve owned the ‘Cats — as much as they’ve owned any team this year — with two straight wins against Charlotte. The stat that both dooms and redeems this game is the combined 0-16 losing streak. It’s going to be ugly … and you’re probably a masochist if you tune in … but someone’s got to win the Toilet Bowl.
GRACIA: When the Wizards lost to the also-woeful Nets on March 26th, Nets coach Lawrence Frank said, “The NBA called. They were about to throw both of us out of the building” for the poor display of basketball that night. This came after his team had just ended a five-game losing streak. The Wizards, at the time, came into that one having lost three straight. If a matchup of teams with eight combined losses ends up with a quote like Frank’s, I am frightened at what the sight of two teams with 16 combined losses (Bobcats – 11, Wizards – five) will provide us. If he can come back from his plantar fasciitis issue, Nene, a center with a true basketball brain, could give this game some interest that it may lack otherwise. Having Crawford continually jack up thoughtless jumpers, on the other hand, could nullify Nene’s on-court intelligence. But with the Brazilian likely out, I’ll take the scrappy Bobcats in this one – the truest of underdog stories.
PETTICE: The Wizards will easily win this game. Outside of Biyombo, the rest of the Bobcats big men break out in a bad case of the heebie-jeebies at the thought of defense. The player that will make this game ugly is Byron Mullens. Mullens has stepped up his offensive game quite a bit over the last few contests, but his defense… Well, it’s better that we don’t speak about that. The two players who will make this game worth watching are John Wall of the Wizards and Bismack Biyombo of the Bobcats. Wall is so much fun to watch, you just can’t teach that kind of speed. If the Wizards ever lose their minds and decide to trade him, hit Rich Cho up right away. For the Bobcats, Biyombo is worth the price of admission. Three years from now, he will be a fixture on the NBA’s all-defensive team.