D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Thunder, Game 6
The Wizards have themselves a November winning streak for the first time in four years. The days of Trevor Ariza being the only Wizards player to play well have been replaced with a much more balanced attack. John Wall is playing more aggressive on both ends, Bradley Beal is playing better after a slow start, and the combination of Nene and Marcin Gortat has been effective on both ends of the floor. And yes, Ariza is still playing well. The Wizards will need the help of the entire team as they go on the road to play three games in four nights. First up? The Thunder in Oklahoma City—a place the Wizards have never won.
Teams: Wizards at Thunder
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Television: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Wizards tickets … anyone?
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Q #1: Can the Thunder win a title with its current roster? And if not, what (if any) realistic trades can they make?
@royceyoung: I think they could, but it would take some breaks, and some luck. I think they’re missing at least one knockdown shooter to help spread the floor and let Durant take advantage of double-teams. But if the second unit remains as productive as it has been so far, and if Steven Adams is actually this good, the Thunder are a better team than they were last season when they won 60 games.
Q #2: Kevin Durant won everyone over when he tweeted his decision to re-sign with the Thunder in 2010. What will it take to keep him in OKC beyond 2016?
@royceyoung: A winning team. And not one that is consistently good. But I think at least one championship in OKC in the next three seasons might be necessary. Or at the very least, something to give Durant the confidence he can win one (or three). He’s seen LeBron’s path from Cleveland to Miami and the payoff there, and I don’t think he’d feel all that terrible doing that for championships.
Q #3: I asked Patrick Hayes of the Detroit Pistons’ Blog Piston Powered if Chauncey Billups’ leadership was hype or legitimate, and he convinced me that it was indeed real. Does Derek Fisher bring that same type of quality to OKC? And if not, how the hell does he still have a roster spot?
@royceyoung: Fisher’s leadership is definitely real. Pregame huddles, postgame talks, Fisher is always out front. He’s essentially a player-coach and for a Thunder roster that’s still really, really young, having that kind of presence is good. But he plays too much. Way too much. I think the justification from Brooks is that it makes Fisher’s voice a little stronger if he’s on the court.
Q #4: It is early, but Durant is averaging 11 made free throws a game (on 12 attempts), which is well above his career numbers. Is that an early season anomaly, was that because Westbrook was hurt, or is he making a conscious effort to get to the line more often this season?
@royceyoung: I think he’s being a bit more aggressive at the rim so far, but it is skewed because he took 24 against the Jazz in the opener. But he’s posting a little more and attacking in the paint, and he’s great at drawing contact, and he gets call, so it produces a bunch of freebies.
Q #5: What’s the status of John Wall’s jumper?
@Rashad20: John Wall has allegedly worked on his jumper every summer, and while he improved his shooting percentage from 40 percent (rookie year) to 44 percent (last year), he still hasn’t consistently convinced opposing defenders to stop sagging off of him. So far this season, Wall is shooting just 41 percent from the field, but he is shooting a career-high 39 percent (9-for-23) from the 3-point line. His bread-and-butter is still getting in the lane, and he still struggles with the mid-range jumper:
And just for kicks, here is John Wall’s shot chart from last year’s game in Oklahoma City, when he shot a season low 16.7-percent from the field:
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