D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs. Nets, Game 5
On the board, so all aboard. Oh, how the pixels have turned. The caterpillar that was Marcin Gortat is now a beautiful butterfly, capable of mid-range jumpers and offensive rebounds which set one’s heart aflutter. Nene, il divo, has gone from coyly declining to play to being a game-changing defensive stopper. And if you look carefully, you’ll see that John Wall looks more complete than ever. There’s still the outstanding case of the missing team defensive identity. Prime suspect? Emeka Okafor.
Joining us for today’s opening statements is Devin Khapertian (@uuords), managing editor of the excellent Nets blog The Brooklyn Game. As they say in Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s home country: “Поехали!” Translation? Leggo.
Teams: Nets at Wizards
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Television: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: The offseason hullaballoo centered around the construction of a partially new “Big 4,” or “Big 3” plus Joe Johnson (can there be more than a “Big 3” at any time?), or “Big 5” since Brook Lopez is actually pretty big. But who outside of the Deron William/Joe Johnson/Paul Peirce/Kevin Garnett amalgam has been the biggest contributor so far? Which role player did you have high hopes for coming into the season, and have you seen enough to justify that hope so far?
@uuords: Before the preseason, I would’ve said Andrei Kirilenko, because he’s a man who can literally do and look like anything. He’s basketball’s shape-shifter. In preseason, it was Shaun Livingston who surprised me the most—he looked like the best player on the floor at times, and he played mostly with the starters with Deron Williams sitting out. True to form, both have played well—though Kirilenko is still moving a bit awkwardly as he recovers from back spasms, you can see his game-changing, heady two-way style on display already, and while Livingston hasn’t played as phenomenally as he did during preseason, he’s still been a great backup at the point.
Q #2: The Nets are 2-2. From where I’m sitting, that looks pretty, pretty good. But I imagine fans of the team weren’t well pleased with losses to Cleveland and Orlando. What about those matchups was dangerous for Brooklyn? Was there any basketball narrative parallelism between the wins against Miami and Utah?
@uuords: The Cleveland game I’m throwing out—the Nets lost by four points to a lower-seed playoff team without Kirilenko and with their best player (Williams) sitting the entire fourth quarter. It’s a different game if Alan Anderson doesn’t have to run point. The Magic game was just plain weird—the entire roster looked like it had just gotten off the plane ten minutes before game time and played listless against a young, athletic team. That’s part of what worries me with teams like the Wizards—John Wall and Bradley Beal present a matchup not dissimilar from Victor Oladipo and Arron Afflalo, while the Wizards bigs are good enough to give the Nets fits if they’re still treating road games like off nights. As for Miami and Utah, I’ll say that the Nets played almost exactly as well on both nights, which is good enough to beat the defending champs by one and a rebuilding Utah franchise to smithereens.
Q #3: You knew it was coming, right? You’re not getting out of here without a Blatche question…
We’ve seen many incarnations of Andray in Washington (“Lap Dance Tuesdray,” “Play Off Start Here Dray,” “Bhagavata Blatche,” and of course the great Wizards metaphor, “Baltche”), but even when Andray balled out in the vacuum that existed after the Wizards traded Jamison and Butler, we never really saw “Decent Basketball Player” Andray. Yes, that’s as far as I’m willing to go. Yes, it hurts as much as you might imagine. How does he fit in with all of the new additions? And will he or Brook Lopez win the “medical tape championship belt?” Also, what is that for, exactly?
@uuords: The championship belt is for the centers’ post-practice 3-point competition. Right now it looks like Blatche owns the belt, but that could change any day now. After his career season last year—sorry, guys—Blatche has stumbled out of the gate in 2013-14—you’re welcome, guys. Seriously, he’s looked listless on defense, and though he’s put down a few of his more impressive offensive moves, it still looks like he’s entering each offensive possession sans plan or direction. He’s still one of this team’s first players off the bench and a leader of the bench mob, and he’ll probably get the call to start when Kevin Garnett rests. But he hasn’t had #DrayDay like last year just yet.
BONUS: Over/unders! with @uuords
Over/under 52.5 wins for the Nets this season?
Over/under 3.5 young ladies named Anastasiya, Natalya, Oksana, or Svetlana in the owner’s box this season?
Over. I think we might already be over.
Over/under 17.5 PER for Blatche this season?
Under. I’m not saying he’ll revert completely to Baltcheitude, but I don’t think he’ll repeat just how outstanding he was last year.
Over/under 0.5 murders involving Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche?
Even. Someone’s soul will die this year. No telling who yet. I’m optimistic.
BONUS: PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION! with @uuords:
Gilbert Arenas famously said, “Impossible is nothing.” Kevin Garnett once wailed, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBUUUHHL!” Which statement was more correct?
@uuords: The one said by the guy with the ring.
Q #4: If a Blatche plays in Washington, do the boo birds overwhelm the transplants?
@ConorDDirks: Oh, man. More stars, and more hype, on a rebranded team from Brooklyn. Expect Nets jerseys. If you’ve been to a Wizards game when one of the more cosmopolitan teams comes to town, you know a few things: (1) the tickets are more expensive; (2) the Verizon Center is more full than usual; (3) the reason that it is more full is because several thousand obnoxious, away-team gear wearing gentlemen and ladies are there to let you know that they like the NBA, and that their team isn’t your team. Whether it’s Miami, New York, or L.A., these humans come out of the woodwork. I sometimes question whether they’re actually from the places they support, or whether they just watch SportsCenter and want you to know it.
The most painful manifestation of this phenomenon is the fact that, during the first three quarters, the crowd is often more vocally supportive of the away team. If it’s close in the fourth quarter, the home team might feel like they’re at home. It will be interesting, however, to note the competing sects at work here: Brooklyn transplants and bandwagoners vs. Those Who Still Resent Andray Blatche.
There was a time when Wizards fans faced a difficult moral quandary: whether to boo Blatche, a member of their own team, whenever he took the floor. Frustrations were high … ‘Dray was out of shape and missing the “unique” shots he had made in the past. As the heckling increased, confidence decreased, and before long our man Blatche took a permanent seat. Before settling on the fans’ right to freely express themselves through the act of booing, I was undecided. After all, without the boos and attendant mental stress, Andray may have been able to contribute more to the team’s success. At the end of the day, though, the tide of disgust was too strong. Does D.C. remember? Can that memory be reintegrated into a Wizards collective consciousness that uses the anti-Blatche energy for the powers of good?
If Wall plays like a star again, will the pro-Wizards contingent quiet the latent away crowd? The half-young Wizards will need all the help they can get. Despite being 2-2 thus far, this Brooklyn team is a “mature” Eastern conference contender with high aspirations, not mere juveniles contending for bottom-seed playoff spots. With that in mind, feast your eyes on a Wizards artifact, courtesy of the blog which eventually spawned the @wzzntzz Twitter account.