D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Pistons, Preseason Game 6
The Wizards play the Pistons on their home turf in Detroit tonight, and since Jordan Crawford is no longer a Wizard, we don’t have to make much ado about it. Still, this second-to-last preseason game might be Randy Wittman’s final true look at what he has going into this season. With the last preseason game (against the Cavs in Cincy) coming as soon as tomorrow night, don’t look for Wittman to risk taxing those such as Nene (or more of his starters) too much in a back-to-back before the games start counting. Joining us for today’s opening statements is Dan Feldman (@danfeld11) of the TrueHoop Network blog Piston Powered (@PistonPowered).
Teams: Wizards at Pistons
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
Television: NBA TV
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: In the offseason my gut feeling was that the Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond 3-4-5 combo simply would not work, partially because Smith at 3 seems like a bad offensive situation for him and partially because I suspected that Drummond would be better coming off the bench for another season. The trio has obviously started all preseason games, so how have they looked? (And will they give the small ball lineup of Wall-Beal-Webster-Ariza-Nene the Wizards are capable of turning to fits?)
@danfeld11: Drummond is way too good to come off the bench. Heck, he was too good to come off the bench last year (though that didn’t stop Lawrence Frank).
It’s tough to say now how the frontline will work, because the Pistons’ backcourt has not been at full strength. Brandon Jennings (wisdom tooth), Rodney Stuckey (slammed thumb in car door), Will Bynum (food poisoning) and Chauncey Billups (old) — what a comical set of circumstances — have been out during the preseason, and second-rounder Peyton Siva can’t orchestrate a work-in-progress offense.
Maybe Smith, Monroe and Drummond will work together. Maybe they won’t. But they have no chance without decent guards to alleviate some spacing pressure.
Q #2: Oh, the Pistons know injuries, too? Brandon Jennings will be out for another two weeks or so with wisdom teeth issues. Yes, wisdom teeth issues. Brandon Jennings. Otherwise… how is Detroit’s backcourt situation shaping out? Is it the weakest link? If not, what is Detroit’s weakest link?
@danfeld11: The weakest link is probably shooting guard. Chauncey Billups is in line to start and is likely the best option, but at 37, how much can he be counted on? Rodney Stuckey, emerging as a Maurice Cheeks favorite, can’t shoot, making him a terrible fit with that front line. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope isn’t ready, at least if you read between the lines of Cheeks’ statements. Kyle Singler started at shooting guard much of last season, so an upgrade was in order but might not be coming. Between the bunch, I’m hopeful one will emerge as a quality option, but the key will be how long it takes to determine whom, and how many games the Pistons lose before they identify him.
Q #3: Are the Pistons playing it smart and cautiously safe at the risk of positioning themselves badly by (likely) deferring the Greg Monroe extension conversation till next summer? (And should the Wizards have done the same with John Wall?)
@danfeld11: Both the Pistons and Monroe are handling this wisely. The Pistons shouldn’t extend Monroe unless they can lock him up for less than a max deal, and he won’t accept that, because he can likely get a max next summer. If the Pistons want to keep him then, they’re not going to lose him as a restricted free agent.
The Wizards and Wall were in a similar situation, and they probably shouldn’t have given him a max extension, but the circumstances are a little different. Wall, unlike Monroe, is the team leader. It’s important to have a happy leader. (Though I also might argue a slighted leader would help set the proper tone, too.)
Q #4: The road to the playoffs for Washington starts in Detroit?
@Truth_About_It: Road to the playoffs through the D? Sounds about right, if only for the fact that the Pistons swept the Wizards last season, four games to zip. It started with a late-December 32-point shellacking in Detroit that gave the Wizards a six-game losing streak and a record of 3-21. Jordan Crawford led the team to a 1-for-13 start from the field and never looked back. At the end, we were asking for songs to dedicate to Randy Wittman, who only had nine players available. The very next night back in the District, Wittman’s lost offense went down to the very same Pistons. Then we wondered to which dreadful city we could move the Wizards to match their dreadful 3-22 record.
Come mid-February, in their last game before the All-Star break — in Detroit — the Wizards put together a stinker in terms of effort and lost for the third time in a row to the Pistons (fifth straight loss going back to the previous season). John Wall let Jose Calderon hit 3s on him, and in general, Detroit’s big combination of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe tore up Wittman’s small-ball lineup late in the game.
And the final loss against Detroit last season will always be particularly memorable for #soWizards fans. It was the night of Steve Buckhantz’s retracted dagger, when an illusion of victory (a Trevor Ariza net-swinging 3-pointer from the corner-wing) choked at the hands of defeat (technically, it was an airball). It was the closest of all four losses, but one in which Monroe and Jason Maxiell (now in Orlando) dominated the paint.
The gist: these Wizards don’t match up well against these Pistons.* And unless Washington finds a way to have presence in the paint — against everyone, but especially against teams like Detroit — they will fall closer to pretender on the spectrum than playoff contender.
Notes: *SCHOENE (via ESPN Insider) is predicting the Pistons to finish 5th in the East with a record of 49-33, and it’s somewhat easy to see why, given the success of Mo Cheeks’ coaching acumen.
Also read: I wrote a Wizards fantasy basketball profile of sorts for Shatter The Glass. Check it out.