The Week in Wizards, the basketball ones — Dec. 2 to 8 (Debuts, Injuries & Pink Elephants) | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Week in Wizards, the basketball ones — Dec. 2 to 8 (Debuts, Injuries & Pink Elephants)

Updated: December 9, 2013

The week that was and the week that will be in Washington Wizards, #SoWizards, and pixels otherwise—mostly to do with basketball.


The previous seven days were supposed to provide a reprieve for the Wizards. Coming off a two-week stretch in which they played eight games, winning six, Randy Wittman’s team had two simple assignments last week: take care of home court against the lowly Magic and Bucks, and get some rest/stay healthy.

They blew it. (Sorta. We don’t want to get too dramatic, but the Wizards also cannot help themselves.)

The week started fine enough with a blowout win over the Magic and an ascent into .500 heaven. (Pearly gates for Wizards, purgatory for most everyone else.) The starters got plenty of rest and the Wiz Kids … well, let’s just say that they got precious developmental time once again—whether they did anything useful with it continues to be the question.

It was later revealed that Nene, after taking a convenient seat against the Pacers in Indiana on November 29 (a 20-point loss) and returning to the court for a crucial win the next night against the Hawks in D.C., had to be implored to play against Orlando on Monday. From Jason Reid’s column in Sunday’s Washington Post (and probably the best/only good column Reid has written about the Wizards to date):

Before the game, Nene told Wizards center Marcin Gortat he needed a night off. Nene figured his new best friend on the team would provide a sympathetic ear, but he guessed wrong.

Although Gortat joined the Wizards just before the season began, he has been with them long enough to know how to handle Nene. Gortat cut off Nene mid-sentence and challenged him to play through his pain, which he did. For Gortat, mission accomplished.

“I know he wasn’t happy with me,” Gortat said. “I know he was in pain. But it’s better he’s angry with me and he plays. You know why? Because our team needs him.”

It’s not that Nene lacks heart, Wizards people insist, but that he prefers to work when he’s in top form. Don’t we all?

After three days rest, Nene ducked out of Friday’s game against the Bucks at some point during the third quarter, later telling the media, “I need to step back and I need to walk away a little bit.” He would go on to fade into the Brazilian jungle, walking backwards while giving earthlings a stare that conveys confidence, comfort, and a flair for the dramatic. His pride shall return when the man above gives him a sign.

On that same night, the Wizards suffered a disastrous overtime loss to Milwaukee despite the best efforts of John Wall, which were heroic yet flawed. The Bucks, fighting injury bugs of their own, managed to show up the Washington franchise when it comes to young pups being ready to lift their play and rise to the occasion when called upon. In Washington, injuries have long brought opportunities for the Wiz Kids. Unfortunately, a Wiz Kid playing himself out of the rotation in favor of another Wiz Kid also comes into play; or maybe a creaky veteran on the roster plays because he is ‘not as terrible.’

Speaking of injuries… On top of it all, Martell Webster rolled his ankle on Friday evening. It seemed to be healing better than expected over the weekend, per reports from CSN Washington, but his status is still day-to-day, and it could be better for him in the long run if he at least sat out tonight’s game against the Nuggets, if not longer. Ankle injuries can linger, and the Wizards should continue to be extra careful with injuries to all key players, not just Wall, Bradley Beal, and Nene.

Chris Singleton and Otto Porter recently made their season debuts (Singleton with a single minute on Nov. 26 and Porter last Friday). Both must adjust to the season quickly, because their services are direly needed. Although, as Porter looked completely lost in his debut on Friday, the Wizards plan to bring him along as slow as his game and jump shot release seem to be right about now. Wittman on Porter’s debut to the Washington Post’s Michael Lee: “He said his legs felt like Jell-O out there a little bit, the first time he was out there. Keep monitoring that.”

The Wizards will play just three games in the week ahead and will once again have the three days between Monday and Friday off, but each opponent is also solid. The Denver Nuggets, without an injured JaVale McGee, come to Washington tonight, the Wizards travel to Atlanta for a game on Friday, and the ‘pouting’ L.A. Clippers come to town on Saturday.

Bradley Beal coming back from a stress injury will unquestionably help stop the bleeding. Beal’s scheduled two-week rest period is set to end tomorrow, and one only assumes that he will get evaluated with another MRI in the coming days, if not today. If cleared, perhaps Beal gets a practice or two under his belt and makes his return Friday in Atlanta or Saturday back in D.C. But with heavy minutes clearly leading to this current stress injury, the Wizards might be wise to let Beal’s soft bones heal for another week at least.

But can the Wizards afford to be patient with roster inefficiencies while holding their breath for injuries? That’s the million dollar question… Or at least the $1.35 million question, which is the estimated amount that the Wizards are currently under the luxury tax (remember: the tax is not calculated until the last day of the regular season, so Washington can go above, or below, the tax until then without repercussions). The Wizards are still right in attempting to avoid being luxury tax payors at this junction, but the hindrance of such in terms of being able to make necessary improvements to the roster cheapens the playoff talk.

The reality is that the Wizards have scrapped part of their rebuilding plans a couple times over since Leonsis took control (i.e., in no particular order: declaring Wall/Crawford/Blatche the next Big 3, calling JaVale McGee “erudite,” extending Blatche’s contract, trading McGee for a great but chronically injured player, amnestying Blatche, and trading Crawford to Boston for nothing—Steez is doing pretty damn well, by the way). Still, the Washington franchise is bound to keep preaching patience. Problem is, patience walks across a treacherous balance beam set up by the Wizards themselves.

Leonsis has a greatest latest mantra per his blog, Ted’s Take, today:

“…we must find ways to win at home and to play short handed, and be productive. That has to be our mantra as a franchise and deal well with the cards that are handed to us as a team.”

Life, injuries … those hands are dealt without regard. But Ernie Grunfeld has assembled the players at the table, and if they keep blowing opportunities dealt to them, it’s not the dealer’s fault. Patience can only be tested for so long until inaction becomes detrimental. There’s an internal clock beating like a tell-tale heart within the Wizards organization. It’s nervous. It’s loud. It knows cash is tight and options are few, but if some of the current trends continue, there will be no other choice. Maybe the table is ultimately flipped over and six shooters start firing. Maybe the Wizards fold ’em and play at another table with a new dealer.

Like sands through an hour glass, these are the days of our #SoWizards lives.

Tweet of the Week:

Quote of the Week:

“I’m laughing at him right now because his calf is the size of my wrist. He’s got to put on some weight. He might get destroyed out there. He’s so small, seriously.” —Marcin Gortat on Otto Porter

Plays of the Week:

Instagrams of the Week:

[John Wall at his mansion in the snow -- via]

[John Wall at his mansion in the snow — via]

[Jan Vesely shares a picture of someone's basketball court toilet -- via]

[Jan Vesely shares a picture of someone’s basketball court toilet — via]

[Shaun Livingston and Andray Blatche, sad in Brooklyn -- via]

[Shaun Livingston and Andray Blatche, sad in Brooklyn — via]



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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.