The Week in Wizards, the basketball ones — Dec. 9 to 15 | Truth About It.net

The Week in Wizards, the basketball ones — Dec. 9 to 15

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Updated: December 16, 2013

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

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You can visit other Wiz-related sites for sugarcoating, because there was nothing sweet about Washington’s disastrous week. The three defeats came in a variety of miserable ways. Edged out by an undermanned Nuggets squad (on the heels of losing to an equally undermanned Bucks team)? Check. Losing on an overtime buzzer-beater? Check. Embarrassed on your home court by Lob City? Check.

Since becoming a .500 club, the Wizards have dropped four straight contests, poor late-game execution cost them chances to pull out easily attainable victories, and now reside in ninth place in the terrible Eastern Conference.

After blowing chances to defend their home court, the Wizards now embark on an important four-game road trip. They have two games in New York versus the Knicks (Monday) and Nets (Wednesday), then visit Boston and Minnesota. Washington has already defeated three of these teams at home (Knicks, Nets, T-Wolves), so the match-ups are winnable, but nothing is ever simple or easy in #SoWizards world. On the road against NBA teams seeking payback is never easy, either.

Here is a list of major storylines of the past week, headlined via song titles:

“Bad Moon Rising”

We have officially reached the quarter pole of the NBA season and Washington is plummeting on a downward trend. During the first week, I scolded the national media buzzards for ridiculously speculating about Randy Wittman’s job status, but it is now time to be concerned about this team. Washington is dropping winnable games by questionable crunch time play calls. They no longer defend their home court. The rotation is in constant flux. The Wizards could easily drop these next four road games. And before you know it, this season could be spiraling out of control. Followers of this team know first-hand how this tragic story can unfold. Fairly or unfairly, Wittman’s name will start resurfacing on the hot seat unless this bleeding stops soon. It is questionable whether replacing the coach would fix the permanent cracks in this franchise’s foundation (bad drafts, free agent misses, poor trades), but it would not be without merit. The Eastern Conference’s emptiness allows more leeway for struggles and opportunity to quickly rebound in the standings. However, bad basketball is bad basketball. And lately, the Wizards, under the direction of Wittman, are producing a heap of ugly hoops.

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia”

The worst bench in the entire NBA delivered its best outing of the season in Atlanta. The second unit increased the lead and mostly outplayed the starters. Crazy, huh? This positive development was sandwiched in between two duds. They were out scored 35-5 by Nuggets reserves and their weak first-half effort on Saturday night was responsible for Clippers piling up an insurmountable lead. Wall’s on/off numbers are still insane. The Wizards are plus-4.6 points when Wall is on the court and minus-22.6 when off for a net difference of 27.3. I asked Wall if feels extra pressure to make up for his struggling bench. “Not really too much pressure,” he said. “We just have to play more minutes. That is the toughest part, logging extra minutes in the early part of the season. But I think those guys are playing better. Since the Atlanta game, finally finding a rhythm and an identity of what they want to be in the second group.”

“Mr. Pitiful”

We reached peak #MaynorTime when Eric Maynor launched a gawd awful shot against Denver that was mocked on Deadspin. He was immediately benched after this embarrassing play. He sat the next two contests in favor of Garrett Temple at backup point guard. Go read Conor Dirks’ superb breakdown of Maynor. Somehow he brilliantly makes Kevin Costner’s expensive cinematic flop “Waterworld” relevant in the discussion.

“The Shape I’m In”

Due to Nene’s absence, Trevor Booker was inserted into the starting lineup and balled out. For the week, Cook Book averaged a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds per game, and he shot 23-for-41 from the field (56%). The most impressive part of his hot streak was Booker’s consistency in flourishing in the midrange game. From outside twelve feet, he shot 6-for-13 (46%).

Against Atlanta, Booker became to the go-to guy in crunch time. He scored the Wizards’ final six points in regulation. On Saturday I asked Booker what has been the difference in his improved performance. “Just confidence. I think my teammates believe in me so I am just shooting the ball with confidence,” he said.

Wall agreed with Booker’s assessment. “Confidence. I think anybody in this league, once you play, you get confidence and you feel like you can do anything against anybody, ” said Wall. “That is big, somebody that is stepping it up and getting an opportunity to play in a situation with guys being down. He is making a heckuva performance from his game.”

“Who is He?”

In Washington’s 22nd game of the season, their most recent lottery pick made his first NBA basket on a smooth jumper versus the Hawks. This marked the first time that Otto Porter has looked comfortable on the court. Porter had mildly complained about not getting the ball in the Nuggets game. For those keeping score at home, Porter has totaled four points and is 37 points behind Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett.

“Folsom Prison Blues”

One of the criticisms of Marcin Gortat from his last season in Phoenix was that he checked out when the team started to struggle. I have seen no signs of the Polish Machine acting this way in D.C., but he did admit after the Clippers loss the was confused about his current role in the offense.

“I just don’t like the position I play,” Gortat said. “I’m constantly drifting more and more away from the basket. Quite honestly, that’s not my game. I’m capable of making a play or two plays like that but I feel more comfortable underneath the basket. I just got to talk to coach and clear things up. Just make sure we’re on the same page.”

John Wall sees why Gortat might be mixed up in his role:

“I don’t know. He’s just not taking the same shots we’re used to him taking, especially in pick-and-roll situations and him getting his jump shot. He’s turned a lot of those down the last couple of games, but I think he just got to get his confidence back and being able to take those shots, ’cause, especially in the fourth quarter when guys are starting to trap me on pick-and-rolls, it’s up to him to make the play. We still believe in him to make those shots, to make those extra passes. I think he just got to get back into a rhythm.”

Bullets Forever’s Mike Prada breaks down that Marcin has a point. (Marcin tweeted out his displeasure about the reports.) Maybe the Polish Machine is just missing his Brazilian bestie.

“Stankonia”

The Wizards had an off night in Atlanta on Thursday evening and John Wall visited the NBA TV studios. Wall broke down offensive strategy with ex-Wizard/Bullet Chris Webber. Wall also co-hosted a club party with Lil Wayne’s ex-Wife, Toya Wright. Rapper T.I. made an appearance. I will never rip on the Wizards players for having a social life and hanging out with their buddies. But when Wall comes out flat in a game the following night, it opens himself up to a certain line of criticism.

“Life During Wartime”

During the Nuggets game last Monday, the Wizards organization broke news that forward Al Harrington underwent knee surgery in Colorado and will be out at least a month. It was also announced that Bradley Beal has been medically cleared and will start “ramping” up his workout activity. Beal still has not practiced with the team but has been going through pre-game shooting workouts with assistant coach Sam Cassell. Martell Webster, recovering from a sprained ankle suffered against the Bucks, sat out versus the Nuggets, but returned against the Hawks. Webster still does not look his normal self. Nene took the whole week off to rest his sore achilles. On the Wizards and Clippers television broadcast on Saturday, Steve Buckhantz said Nene was getting the dry needle treatment (similar to what he reported Wall getting on his knee earlier this season as part of the maintenance process). The Wizards are now winless in six games this season without Nene and are 3-24 in his absence since the beginning of the last season. So keep those #Pray4Nene nightly rosaries coming…

To begin the 2013-14 campaign, Wall came out with a “No More Excuses” motto. The hashtag #NoMoreExcuses picked up steam and the clever saying became popular with fans on social media. Leonsis seconded this approach by publicly declaring that injuries would not be used as excuses, either. Let me use the reasonable crutch then: Washington clearly misses two of their top players in Beal and Nene. Other key rotations cogs, Ariza and Webster, have missed time due to ailments. Wall and Gortat are the only Wiz players to appear in all 23 games. With the second unit struggling to execute simple basketball schemes, injuries have played a major factor in this disappointing stretch. In light of the current situation, I wanted to know if Wall was still rolling with the “No More Excuses” mantra. Here’s what he said on Saturday:

“Still no excuses, I mean it is tough. That is something we have dealt every four years that I have been here. Playing through injuries and somebody stepping up. I think guys are learning that they can get a chance to play big role. Even Glen Rice is stepped up and playing big minutes. But out of three of these four games, we had a chance to win three of those games. We just to learn how to close out those games. That is something that will help us when we make the playoffs and do what we are supposed to do.”

Videos of the Week

On Saturday night before the game, Coach Wittman was asked about his playing days with Doc Rivers. As Wittman started to crack jokes about how Rivers never passed him the ball, a voice beamed out from thirty feet away: “Pass the ball, Witt,” screamed Rivers as he walked down a far Verizon Center hallway. Little chance that Rivers knew Wittman was joshing about their teammate history. They are definitely besties. Here is video of the comedic exchange.

Instagrams of the Week

Uncle Al Harrington was beaming with pride after Young Simba, Otto Porter, scored his first professional points. (via instagram.com/bucketz7)

Al Harrington Instagram

 Bradley Beal with his WCW

 

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Wiz Twitter

Marcos Maidana defeated Adrien Broner in a boxing match on Saturday evening. (This caused many hilarious photoshops to immediately pop up on Twitter.) Wizards players reacted to the fight:

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Steve Buckhantz has also been a nice addition to #WizardsTwitter.

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steve buckhantz, tnt, ernie johnson, shaq, truth about it, wizards, adam mcginnis

Shaq, Buck & EJ

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