While trying their best to win against the Blazers on Wednesday night, the Wizards were also trying their best to lose. That’s just the way it is with this team. A negative? Washington, after getting up 15 points in the fourth quarter, didn’t score a basket over a span of almost seven minutes as the Blazers made a 16-0 run to steal the lead, 80-79. The positives? Randy Wittman adjusted and the Wizards didn’t concede victory.
Here’s the coach talking about his main adjustment: putting Chris Singleton back in the game to guard LaMarcus Aldridge in an effort to minimize a “bad matchup” in the pick-and-roll when a bigger, slower Wizard was checking the Blazers All-Star.
But also… Why on EARTH did Singleton snag a defensive rebound, when the Wizards were up 84-82, and call a timeout with 0.5 seconds left? The “hero ball” we speak of in the title of this post is not the standard “hero ball” you’ve come to expect from the Wizards—the likes of Nick Young or Jordan Crawford taking a contested fadeaway on a one-pass possession with 17 seconds left on the shot clock. But this move could’ve thrown the hero defense by Singleton that was lauded by Wittman into the belly of the goat. Because Wizards.
After the timeout, Washington unsuccessfully tried to inbound the ball in those 0.5 seconds (Trevor Ariza was the passer). Portland’s Wes Matthews stole the rock (and almost got fouled by Nene in the process), and the Blazers somehow called timeout and were awarded possession at half court with 0.2 seconds on the clock. Not enough time to catch and shoot, but time enough for something.
Matthews took a straight jump shot at the rim from out of bounds, clearly hoping to miss, and miss the ball did, almost in the best way possible (for Portland). The basketball hit the rim and bounced high over the cylinder, touching the rim again on its way down. Singleton was around, heroically trying to make up for his mistake by boxing out Nicolas Batum; Trevor Ariza let the 19-rebound J.J. Hickson get around him and set up shop at the rim. Hickson almost got his hand on the ball after its second bounce, but mistimed his jump, and Ariza swatted it away. The Wizards were that close to unnecessarily going into overtime against a Blazers team that had just outscored them 18-to-5 to end the game. A game of inches, indeed. Let’s watch…
Chris Singleton can still be the hero of Washington’s first win. He finished with a team-high plus/minus of plus-10, and on the season, aside from 3-point percentage (Chris is attempting fewer long balls this season — 1.9 attempts per game last year, 0.6 this year), his numbers have improved across the board. His PER is up from 8.3 to 11.6, although this is still relatively low; Singleton’s PER this season ranks 22nd amongst 33 NBA sophomores who have played at least 100 minutes (Jan Vesely is tied for dead last with Miami’s Norris Cole with a PER of 4.7). Singleton’s eFG% has gone from .442 to .466; his TRB% from 9.2 to 13.1; his AST% from 5.0 to 6.7; and his points per 36 minutes from 7.7 to 11.7.
So will the NBA soph get more chances to be the hero (or at least prove he’s worth more playing time—Singleton has played over 20 minutes just four times this season)? With his ability to defend multiple positions, I’d certainly think so. He’s just got to limit the #SoWizards mental mistakes, like calling a timeout with a lead and half-a-second left.
>> Good read on the Wizards by Rafe Bartholomew as part of Grantland’s “A Fate Worse Than Death” series. The kicker paragraph:
But something curious has happened to this franchise. They purged last year’s awful team of supposed bad seeds like Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Rashard Lewis. They replaced those players with solid “professionals” like Nene, Okafor, and Trevor Ariza — pissing away $30 million and salary-cap flexibility in the process — and what did the Wizards end up with? A team that is probably no better than last year’s dismal crew, but that is less likely to attempt free throw–line dunks in the closing seconds of a 25-point loss and will probably avoid attaching its name to events likeLapdance Tuesdays. This is a group you will never want to watch, but at least Wizards owner Ted Leonsis can spread “Daily Affirmation”–style positive vibes on his blog about the team without looking like a fool.
>> John Feinstein advocates for Gary Williams as coach of the Wizards in the Washington Post. This would be a terrible idea. This is one of Feinstein’s arguments:
Because Williams will make Wall get back on defense, and if he doesn’t, Williams will find a seat for him on the bench until he does. Williams is a young 67 and won’t really care that much if he gets fired for ruffling anyone’s feathers. Randy Wittman is 53 and wants to coach a while longer, so he has to be more careful in his handling of his so-called stars in a star-driven league.
John Wall has a lot of issues, and maybe even issues defensively chasing the ball on screening action, but Wall certainly doesn’t have a reputation of not getting back on defense. It’s likely that Feinstein doesn’t pay much attention to the Wizards, can’t blame him, so he certainly hasn’t seen one of Wall’s LeBron-esque chase-down blocks.
Also, I’m not certain Randy Wittman gives a ton of f*cks about star NBA players. Perhaps he gives more f*cks than Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gives, but Witt is certainly from a similar cut. The fact that Feinstein’s base principle is that Gary Williams is loud, bored and hates losing is not a good enough reason to fire Wittman for a coach has no clue how to handle NBA players. The NBA is simply not a ‘my way or the highway’ type of league. The best coaches, even Popovich, develop a relationship (kind of like marriage) and a trust with their stars. Another Feinstein argument:
One final note: The last time Washington mattered in the NBA, when it won the title in 1978 and went to the Finals in 1979, the coach was Dick Motta, who went from Weber State to the Chicago Bulls to the Washington Bullets. Who then became the world champion Washington Bullets—led by a former college coach.
You don’t say. Well, the Wizards did matter in the Gilbert Arenas years, especially in their poor man’s rivalry with the Cavs. But no, that didn’t last long. And “mattered” only got to the levels of the second round of the playoffs, once. We get it. But also, there’s the whole deal about the NBA being vastly different than it was 33 years ago. I just hope that far down the road I’m not one of those old coots who dwells on how swell things were back in the good ole days.
The Wizards need a lot of fixing, and that starts much higher than the coach, but a sweaty blowhard like Gary Williams isn’t the answer.