D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs 76ers, Game 2
Can you smell the season-opening magic in the air? Probably not. But still, with a win tonight, the Wizards hope to climb out of a hole to play .500 ball for the first time since November 2007, when they lost five games in a row to start the season, but then won six in a row to pull to 6-5—that fifth win came against the 76ers. (And no, when the Wizards won their season opener in Dallas in 2009 and then lost the next game against the Hawks to become a .500 team does not count as climbing out of a hole to .500.)
So… especially in consideration of the state of the Sixers, let’s go ahead and dub this a must-win of the Wiz. Yes, the second game of the season, a must-win. Joining us today for the opening statements is Eric Goldwein (@EricGoldwein) of the TrueHoop Sixers blog, Hoop76. Now let us go, a k a Leggo!
Teams: Wizards vs 76ers
Time: 7:oo p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN Washington
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Wizards favored by 9.0 points
Q #1: The 76ers have had some up-and-down times over the past several years (four playoff appearances, three first round exits in the previous six seasons), while the Wizards have been consistently terrible (in the previous six seasons: one player appearance, a first round exit in 2008).
This year is a little unique for Philly, as they are widely expected to be very bad—”tanking,” some call it. The Wizards, even when they were dedicated to being one of the worst teams in the league, were never expected to be flat-out terrible; there was always some amount of hope (which was eventually crushed).
So, what’s it like going into a season almost knowing that the loss count (and lottery balls) will be as important as anything Philly will do with a brand new GM and a brand new coach? Do you keep a close eye on Andre Wiggins (perhaps avoiding attachment via false hope)?
@ericgoldwein: It’s refreshing that wins don’t matter, but this season is about much more than ping-pong balls; it’s about developing players who’ll fit into the team’s long-term plans, and boosting the value of the trade bait. That means improving Michael Carter-Williams’ jump shot, cutting down Tony Wroten’s erratic play, and turning James Anderson into a 3-point threat. It also means continuing the development of Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, and Spencer Hawes—young players who might not be here next season, but could yield draft picks/prospects before the trade deadline.
The 2014 draft is mostly out of the Sixers’ control. Even a perfectly executed tank job would give them just a 25 percent shot at the top pick—likely Andrew Wiggins, but by no means a guarantee. But player progression and development is in their hands. If they can find a few cheap keepers and stock up on more first-round picks, this season will be a success—whether or not they luck out in the lottery.
Q #2: Wait… Are you really telling me that the 76ers beat the Miami Heat on Wednesday? How in the heck did that happen? What kind of magic elixir poured out by drunken basketball god allowed this?
@ericgoldwein: There’s a difference between losing intentionally, and not doing everything possible to win. And while perception is that the Sixers are doing the former—tanking—reality is that they’re still going to show up, compete and occasionally come up with wins like they did on Wednesday versus the Heat.
Let’s not overreact. Any NBA team with a rotation’s worth of serviceable players—Wizards included—is capable of beating a Heat team on the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, sans Dwyane Wade. That the Sixers squeaked by Miami, overcoming a 9.5 point spread, is only a bit shocking. But the way they pulled off the win—pushing the ball, abandoning the long 2-pointer, rallying behind a rookie—bodes well for the future of the franchise.
Q #3: Will Thaddeus Young be traded this season? Is there a market for him? And will Evan Turner really ‘get his money’ regardless (and what kind of money might that be)?
@ericgoldwein: Yes. Young’s efficient two-way game makes him the best player on the Sixers, but that skill-set would be better suited on a team looking to win games right now. Not to mention, he’s got a low-risk contract—three years, $28 million; cap-conscience competitors, I think, would be willing to give up at least a low first-rounder for him.
I don’t expect to see Evan Turner in a Sixers uniform next season, but the former No. 2 pick—playing on the final year of his rookie deal—could bring back value in a trade. How much depends on how his production, but if he’s playing well, look for GM Sam Hinkie to sell high and give another team the chance to sign Turner to a four-year, $30 million-plus deal.
Q #4: So how will the Wizards rebound? Also, how will they literally rebound?
@Truth_About_It: Philly’s front line of Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young are certainly not as intimidating as Detroit’s Monroe/Drummond combo, but it won’t be a cakewalk. Hawes and Young, each six-year veterans and Philly’s most-tenured players, have skill sets (Young is agile and Hawes is a bear) that will pose problems for any combo the Wizards throw at them, even a Gortat/Nene combo.
You’ll certainly recall that Washington got out-scored in the paint by Detroit, 56-28. That same night, the Sixers out-scored the Heat in the paint 50-36. If Nene can’t play—and it appears that he and his calf will be a game-time decision—forcing the Wizards to rely on the newly-acquired Marcin Gortat, the too small Trevor Booker, and the dumbfounded Kevin Seraphin, then this game could spell trouble.
The Wizards will need: John Wall and Bradley Beal to crush Philly’s backcourt (they can’t both have poor back-to-back efforts, can they?); and they will need to dominate the 76ers’ second unit. Brett Brown’s second most used lineup on Wednesday featured Tony Wroten, Evan Turner, Darius Morris, Lavoy Allen, and Daniel Orton. Bigs Allen and Orton, it can be argued, perhaps too easily, are more promising that the Booker and Seraphin duo. So, quite sad that Philly might pose a greater challenge in the paint than Washington is equipped to handle. But hey, #SoWizards.
Otherwise, when your team is built around guards, you count on the guards to win. So, you’re both welcome to show us something at any time, John and Brad.