Our friend Andray Blatche visits D.C. this evening as the northeast prepares for a blizzard. After playing the Wizards tonight, the Nets are slated to play the San Antonio Spurs in Brooklyn on Sunday. So the potential of getting stuck in Washington could be a good thing for them. Shadow Room, anyone?
“Yea, I got the braces done too … this season, everything is new. Everything is going to be fresh. Everything is going to be more exciting. You know, it will be good this year.”
—Andray Blatche, September 2009
Under Avery Johnson’s coaching, Brooklyn stood at 14-14. Since he was fired in late-December, they are 15-6 under new coach P.J. Carlesimo, but they have lost four of their last seven—two on the road to Memphis and Houston and two at home to Orlando and the L.A. Lakers. Currently tied with the Bulls for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, Brooklyn can’t afford to falter against the Wizards tonight… before facing San Antonio, before going on the road to play the Pacers on Monday, before a hot Denver Nuggets team comes to the BK next Wednesday, and before the league heads into the All-Star break after that.
The Prince of Party has played a slightly diminished role under new leadership, removing the luster from those ready to anoint Blatche as the NBA’s Most Improved Player a quarter into the season. In his 21 games during the Carlesimo era, Blatche is playing 3.4 less minutes, taking 1.9 less shots, pulling down 1.1 less rebounds, and scoring 2.4 less points. All negligible, perhaps.
In consideration of the entire season, Blatche has spent 956 minutes on the court for the Nets over 49 games, and 1,421 minutes off the court. When Blatche rides the bench, Brooklyn shoots the ball 2.7 percent better, tallies 3.1 more assists, turns the ball over 1.5 times less, commits 2.5 less fouls, and scores four points more per 48 minutes.
Brooklyn’s team plus/minus when Blatche is on the court: plus-0.1; team plus/minus when Blatche is off the court: plus-1.7—all the subtle factors of losing that one would expect. Overall, the Brooklyn team averages a single more point per game than they allow opponents.
To quote Blatche from late-November:
“Anybody seen how the Wizards are doing?”
The Wizards are 9-7 over their last 16 games. They have won seven of their last eight at home.
Over the 16 games (and 768 total minutes), 12 different 5-man units have spent at least 15 minutes on the court together for Washington. Only four of them have a cumulative positive in plus/minus.
John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, and Emeka Okafor have played 61 minutes together—just under eight percent of total minutes over the last 16 games—and have lead the team with a plus-51.
A.J. Price, Beal, Webster, Nene and Okafor have played 110 minutes together (just over 14 percent of the minutes) and have provided a plus-44 during their run.
The last two positives:
- Price, Webster, Trevor Ariza, Kevin Seraphin, and Okafor: 17 minutes, plus-10.
- Garrett Temple, Beal, Webster, Seraphin, and Okafor: 23 minutes, plus-1.
The falloff in production from Beal (who has missed the last five games with an injured wrist) to Temple is significant, as expected.
Replace Beal with Temple alongside Wall, Webster, Nene, and Okafor, and that 5-man unit is a team-worst minus-13 in 70 total minutes over the last five games.
The second-worst lineup playing 15 or more minutes over the last 16 games: Price, Jordan Crawford, Ariza, Trevor Booker, and Kevin Seraphin—26 total minutes, minus-8. Randy Wittman should avoid playing that crew together at all costs.
So how ARE the Wizards doing?
Adjusting mostly due to injury (John Wall’s) but clearly also because of team personnel construct deficiencies, Ted Leonsis, on January 17, as his now NHL-worst Washington Capitals got set for their first practice at the Verizon Center, said:
“I’d like to see us play .500, playoff-caliber like basketball for the next 45 games, 48 games, whatever’s left this year, and just see what we’ve got.”
The Wizards are 6-6 since, most recently beating the New York Knicks in Washington.
“Playoff-caliber like,” one could argue. Plus, the John Wall Effect. Per an ESPN TrueHoop post today:
The Wizards’ offensive efficiency, or points per 100 possessions, is 99.8 in the 15 games with Wall, compared to 93.1 in the 33 games without him.
Although, playoff basketball is much different than the regular season, when the game grinds down and the ills of a sub-par halfcourt offense can be direly exposed with the sweep of a broom.
But hey, the Wizards just want to “start a conversation” … a playoff conversation. Getting swept in the first round of the playoffs would be a luxury at this point. Another lost season—this season—only heightens expectations going forward. Ernie Grunfeld will be around for another year, at least. Can he be trusted to make the necessary maneuvers to propel the Wizards to actual relevancy? Can he at least avoid getting caught with his pants down, squatting over a urinal, should a top player like John Wall get injured again? (Citing how the Bulls have done without Derrick Rose here is a prerequisite.)
Most importantly, can the Wizards improve their homegrown talent. All draft picks not named Wall or Beal have been disappointments on varying levels. Grunfeld can’t afford to be crapping the pisser with each one of Seraphin, Booker, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and the now-twice-departed Shelvin Mack. (Seraphin is obviously the closest, and certainly brings some value from being 2010′s 17th overall pick.)
The end story on this day is that the Wizards and Blatche are still pretty much in the same boat—one is still paying the other after all—floating, albeit with hope, but without much wherewithal on how to paddle forward and in which direction to go.
Tonight is just another chapter, but another important page-turner nonetheless.
Meanwhile… In Wizards Land…
Trevor Ariza works the hookah.
Kevin Seraphin works the potatoes.
Bradley Beal works out.
(Pre-Clippers game, via Adam McGinnis)