#WizardsRank: Darius Songaila, No. 19: The Last White Knight
Hard to believe/interesting. Nonetheless, over the life of the site from the 2007-08 season to 2011-12, we’ve seen/lived/suffered through 131 wins, 263 losses, four coaches, two owners, one GM/team president, one Phil Chenier mustache removal, and 56 total players (amazingly, 48 players over the last three seasons).
TAI anonymously polled 27 members of the Wizards pixel establishment — from mainstream media to new media, TAI staffers included, to a few pixel consumers (readers of the site) — and got 17 responses.
Participants were given the full list of 56 in alphabetical order, and included for each player were total games, minutes, PER (player efficiency rating), and WS/48 (win-shares per 48 minutes) only from the last five seasons. Participants were asked to rate each player on the scale of 1-to-10 according to this criteria: on court performance; off court performance; intangibles; and own personal memory. Yes, this is totally subjective, but relatively collective.
NOTE: #WizardsRank Nos. 56 to 22 have been posted and links can be found below. Now, we’ll start releasing player rankings one or so at a time. -Kyle W.
4.82 out of 10
(157 games, 3,075 minutes, 12.8 PER, .064 WS/48)
“THEN IT WAS THE WHITE KNIGHT! DARIUS SONGAILA, THE WHITE KNIGHT! BACK IN THE GAME! WHITE KNIGHT!!”
There was a game, on April 2, 2009, the day after April Fool’s.
The Wizards had recently been trotting out a lineup of Javaris Crittenton, Caron Butler, Dominic McGuire, Antawn Jamison, and Brendan Haywood. Songaila started a bunch of games (29 that season), but gladly went back to sixth man with the return of Jamison from injury. Gilbert Arenas had also returned from missing the entire year up to that point, but he wasn’t playing in back-to-backs. Arenas’ first game of the season was five days prior against the Pistons and his second and final game came against the dreaded Cleveland Cavaliers on the day after pranks were certainly played in abundance around the Wizards’ locker room.
LeBron, who would later win his first MVP award, came into D.C. that Thursday evening with a 61-13 record, and his Cavs were winners of 13 straight (a franchise record at the time). The Wizards were 17-59, losers of eight of their previous nine. As circumstance called, the game was to be broadcast nationally on TNT. And you got it, Darius Songaila was the hero. Not Arenas, who played the rarely-seen role of facilitator with 11 points and 10 assists; not Butler, who led the Wizards with 25 points; not LeBron James, who dropped 31.
Songaila scored eight points in his first eight minutes in the game (at the end of the first and into the second quarter), and he capped a 109-101 Wizards upset with nine points in the fourth quarter. To go with 17 total points, he added six rebounds, a block, a steal, and three tough fouls in 24 minutes off the bench. In Arenas’ first game against the Pistons, with the Wizards down two points and with 4.5 seconds left, Gilbert missed a second free-throw and then threw up an ill-advised desperation 3-pointer from the corner when he could’ve called timeout or taken a better shot. Hero ball. Against the Cavs, Washington found themselves up 107-101 with 13.5 seconds left and Arenas again missing from the line. But this time Songaila had was around to be the yeoman’s hero. He rebounded Arenas’ miss and earned a trip to the free throw line himself, making both and sealing the win.
That night Songaila earned the nickname “White Knight” from Haywood. That night also got people — fans, media and team personnel — excited about what kind of team the Wizards could be, if healthy. But Songaila was traded to the Timberwolves less than three months later. And about nine months later: FINGER GUNZ!
There was also that infamous incident with LeBron in the 2008 playoffs — it ‘looked’ like Songaila punched James when LeBron really drew Darius’ arm into him; the protectionist league decided to suspend Songaila for Game 6 anyway, despite evidence to the contrary.
Songaila spent three seasons with Washington, losing to Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs for the first two, and unfortunately getting thrown off a sinking ship after his third. He never played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, ironically traded to New Orleans as part of a deal for former Wizard Antonio Daniels in September 2009. “D-Song” played decently in 75 games with the Hornets at 18.8 minutes, 7.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, but he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers the following September, where he only played 10 games, missing many due to an ailing back. Songaila still suits up professionally in the Ukraine and played for Lithuania in the London Olympics.
No, he didn’t have a good rebound rate (but he sure could box out — team defensive rebounding went up 1.9% with Songaila on the court; full disclosure: offensive rebounding went down 2.8% with him). No, he wasn’t athletic. Yes, he took very long shots from just inside the 3-point line that could frustrate people (someone had to spread the floor in the Princeton offense, amirite?). Also worth noting is that in that 2008-09 season, Songaila shot .459 from 16 feet to the 3-point line (68-for-148). For the bigs in the NBA who took at least 140 shots from 16-to-23 feet that year, Songaila ranked seventh best in field goal percentage after Chris Bosh (.481), Brad Miller (.478), Antonio McDyess (.474), Thaddeus Young (.470), Dirk Nowitzki (.470), and Amar’e Stoudemire (.469) — he shot better than the likes of Kevin Garnett, David West and Tim Duncan.
Darius Songaila was the Lithuanian king of the hockey assist (Wizards team assists went up about 3% when he was on the floor). He was the prince of pick-and-pop. He intently studied film before games while the likes of JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche goofed off — one former Wizards beat writer turned television personality observed that those two could’ve learned a lot by studying Songaila. He was nominated bench MVP by Caron “Tuff Juice” Butler. Songaila was highly respected by coaches and teammates alike because he worked hard everyday. And because he hated to lose … evident by the passion reflected in his game. In fact, the Wizards would have rather sent DeShawn Stevenson to Minnesota as part of the Mike Miller-Randy Foye deal, not their glue guy, who only matched his ability to hold the team together with the pastiness of his skin. Worth noting, when the trade did go down, Songaila was off hunting in the wilderness without a care in the world.
“If he had the body of a . . . Kwame Brown, he’d be an All-Star,” once said Steve Buckhantz, Wizards television play-by-play man, about Songaila. That is a pretty big compliment, but still, as a Wizards fan, I don’t know whether to laugh to cry. (Or maybe I should laugh to keep from crying, as Caron Butler once said during the plight of the 2009-10 season.) In any case, for all the rearview mirror knuckleheads the Wizards have fielded, Darius Songaila is cut from an opposite jig, and is worthy of a No. 19 #WizardsRank.
Kyle Weidie ][ @Truth_About_It
When new Wizard Emeka Okafor was in his third NBA season, Darius Songaila evidently cooked him… in a fryer.
No. 56: Cedric Jackson; No. 55: Mike Bibby; No. 54: Paul Davis; No. 53: Edwin Ubiles; No. 52: Quinton Ross.
No. 51: Mike Wilks; No. 50: Mike Harris; No. 49: Javaris Crittenton; No. 48: Dee Brown; No. 47: Morris Almond.
No. 46: Larry Owens; No. 45: Mustafa Shakur; No. 44: Brian Cook; No. 43: Hamady N’diaye; No. 42: Rashard Lewis.
No. 41: Hilton Armstrong; No. 40: Oleksiy Pecherov; No. 39: Mike James; No. 38: Fabricio Oberto; No. 37: Ronny Turiaf.
No. 36: Lester Hudson; No. 35: Yi Jianlian; No. 34: Juan Dixon; No. 33: Josh Howard; No. 32: Chris Singleton.
No. 31: Al Thornton; No. 30: Shelvin Mack; No. 29: Mo Evans; No. 28: Mike Miller; No. 27: Alonzo Gee.
No. 26: Randy Foye; No. 25: Dominic McGuire; No. 24: Andray Blatche; No. 23: Earl Boykins; No. 22: Roger Mason.