D.C. Council Game 18: Wizards 98 vs Magic 80: Where There's Hookah Smoke, There's Fire | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

D.C. Council Game 18: Wizards 98 vs Magic 80: Where There’s Hookah Smoke, There’s Fire

Updated: December 3, 2013

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council: setting the scene, recapping key points, providing the analysis, evaluating players, and catching anything that you may have missed from the Washington Wizards. Game No. 18: Wizards vs Magic; contributors: Conor Dirks and Adam Rubin from the Verizon Center, and Sean Fagan from his pad in Brooklyn.

Washington Wizards 98 vs Orlando Magic 80
[box score]

Jump to Council Player Ratings


DC Council Key Legislature

As the clock began to run in the beginning of the fourth quarter, there was palpable unease in the sparse Verizon Center crowd. Shellshock, classical conditioning, whatever you prefer to call it: there was no reason to expect anything but a brief series of unbelievably frustrating non-sets on offense and lapses on defense before a boxer’s stare from Randy Wittman, a sigh, and a lost or diminished lead which denigrates the very idea of an NBA second unit before the starters return en masse.

A group consisting of Eric Maynor, Martell Webster, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, and Nene started the quarter with a 75-61 lead. When Nene checked out of the game with 6:39 remaining in the fourth, the unthinkable had occurred. The lead was inexplicably larger than it had been at the beginning of the quarter. How’d it happen? A Jan Vesely free throw, a Chris Singleton 3-pointer, a Martell Webster 3-pointer after the Magic left Webster open in the corner to shift to Eric Maynor (I know Jacque Vaughn didn’t tell you to do that, Orlando fellows), and a masterful move leading to a finger roll by Nene. Meanwhile, for Orlando: two offensive fouls, a bad pass, and a Moe Harkless dunk.

The Magic had something to do with Washington’s apparent bench competency, but the result is the same: instead of subbing the starters back in to close out the game, the sometimes surly, cool-seated coach of the Washington Wizards took the rest of his starters out of the game, and let the bench close out the first easy win of the season. If you had shown “Conor Dirks from November 15, 2013” the play-by-play of this game’s fourth quarter, he would have known you were not from the future. And yet you were. You were.

—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)


DC Council Chair

It is fitting that Ariza, one of the few, if not only, bright spots during Washington’s rocky start, was the star on the night that the Wizards clawed back to .500. The Magic did not receive the memo that Ariza has been unconscious from the field as of late and obliged Hookah by leaving him standing open from behind the arc (4-for-4) and torch Orlando to the tune of 24 points in only 31 minutes of court time. The strangest part about the “new” Ariza is how much his game looks like an evolutionary step forward from one of the Wizards former Big 3, Caron Butler. There are the “No, no, yes!” jump shots, the defensive intensity, and the complete inability to read the player’s emotion on the floor. Ariza is evolutionary in that he rebounds better than Butler, his stroke is better from behind the arc, and his plastic man arms are more disruptive.

So where did this Hookah come from? Or rather, where the hell was this Trevor Ariza last year? The short answer may be the most definitive: it’s a contract year and Trevor Ariza loves playing for his contract. Or the answer is somewhat more sophisticated in that the Wizards have finally managed to find a system that maximizes the abilities of their shooters (Ariza, Beal and Webster), and the octopus is reaping the benefits.

—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)


DC Council Vetoed Participation

Poised to put Eric Maynor in this position it would be unfair to not mention the futility of Jan Vesely on Monday night. Garbage time is when Vesely has the opportunity to demonstrate to the coaching staff that he deserves the continued PT he has been receiving, even as the rest of the Wizards round themselves back into health. Instead, Vesely had one of his throwback nightmare games in that he didn’t accomplish much on the floor besides fouling the opposition, getting bullied in the paint, and attempting a few terrible jump shots. With Chris Singleton back at full health and looking somewhat competitive, the Airwolf Pup is going to have to step up his game in the next few weeks to ensure that he isn’t riding pine next to Trevor Booker.

—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)


DC Council Top Aide

Early in the game, John Wall was shooting 1-for-8, and struggling mightily to convert even the most open of looks. Yet even as he struggled, the players around him excelled. By halftime, Wall had tallied nine assists and had a plus/minus differential of plus-23. Except that one time that Victor “Omigod” Oladipo deked him and shot like a rocket to the hoop for a two-handed dunk, Wall’s defense on a fired-up Oladipo was a large part of why the Wizards’ starting unit was able to stretch the lead out of reach. Over and over again, Wall played Oladipo into taking contested jumpers instead of working for a better look. And on the offensive end, Wall fatigued Oladipo as the game wore on, eventually breaking his back with a fallaway 3-pointer that 2011 John Wall would have only made in a wet dream.

How appropriate is it to grant John Wall the “Top Aide” award? The entire Wizards team other than Wall contributed eight assists, while the “Game Changer” assisted 13 baskets in under three quarters of game time.

—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)


DC Council Session

That Session Was … Four Years in the Making.

It may seem like an overreaction to celebrate a .500 record in early December. But when a team has not been .500 at any point in a season since starting 2-2 during the 2009-10 campaign, a little celebration is understandable. Randy Wittman downplayed the significance of the milestone in his pregame comments, but the players were all smiles in the postgame locker room.

Marcin Gortat and Nene seemed to take particular delight in sticking it to the media who had doubted the team.

Marcin Gortat: “Maybe at the end I’m going to be the guy who’s gonna laugh from some of the people here that we won 50 games.”

Nene, when asked how he felt about reaching .500: “Well, that’s for the big mouths, you know, who have no clue what’s going on here. We have a good team and always have a good team.”

True, .500 is not exactly championship-level basketball, but it is good enough for third place in the East. And after a 2-7 start, that’s good enough for me.

—Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)


DC Council Mayor

There was a strange moment late in the first quarter when Randy Wittman put the following five people on the court together: Eric Maynor, Trevor Ariza, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely. It was unclear what Wittman expected to happen, but the scene unfolded much like one would expect: a series of turnovers, missed shots, over-dribbling and, most notably, a lost seven-point lead.

The moral of the story is that Wittman has not yet figured out a viable bench rotation. But at least he learned from his first quarter mistake. When Maynor entered the game in the third quarter, Wittman left Gortat on the floor and ran the offense through Ariza. The result was two quick baskets for Gortat and a protected lead.

After the game, Wittman was quick to praise his team’s effort and defensive improvement as the catalyst for its 7-2 stretch. And he’s right. The Wizards’ interior defense was historically bad to start the season. But the bench problem cannot be ignored. If Washingotn hopes to continue its run against tougher competition, Wittman must find a way to bridge the great divide between John Wall’s starters and Eric Maynor’s bench unit. One option, which Wittman seemed to embrace against Orlando, is keeping either Gortat or Nene on the floor at all times as a fail safe option in the post. Otherwise, it’s a bunch of non-shooters dribbling and passing around the perimeter.

—Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)


DC Council Players

John Wall

4 out of 5 stars

29 mins | plus-26 | 16 pts | 5-14 FGs | 2-4 3Ps | 4-4 FTs | 4 rebs | 13 asts | 1 stls | 3 TOs

It wasn’t John Wall’s best game. He settled for too many jumpers and missed most of them. He gambled too much on defense and did not bother to recover after reaching for steals. But it says a lot about how far Wall has come that he can drop 13 assists against three turnovers and be plus-26 in an 18-point blowout win without playing a great game. Wall has raised his floor considerably over the last two weeks. If he continues to attack the rim and set up teammates like he did against Orlando—even on nights when his shot is not falling—then the Wizards have a legitimate shot at hosting Game 1 of a first round playoff series. —A. Rubin

Martell Webster

1 out of 5 stars

27 mins | plus-21 | 5 pts | 2-6 FGs | 1-2 3Ps | 4 rebs | 3 PFs

In a blowout, usually one of the starters has an off night which gets ignored because of the greater victory. In last night’s game the forgotten man was Martell Webster, who was less than his usual self, having an off shooting night and being invisible in other facets of the game. However, it largely didn’t matter as Webster got to play decoy for Trevor Ariza’s big night and let the other starters do the heavy lifting. —S. Fagan

Trevor Ariza

5 out of 5 stars

31 mins | plus-17 | 24  pts | 8-9 FGs | 4-4 3Ps | 4-4 FTs| 6 rebs | 2 ast | 1 stl | 3 TOs

After the game, a smiling Trevor Ariza deflected praise about his hot shooting, grinning as he noted the absurd amount of open looks John Wall had been blessing him with over the last two games. Where there’s hookah smoke, there’s fire, though, and over the years, many other players have been incapable of knocking down the same shots that Ariza has hit with something more than regularity this season. There is no conflict of interest in this contract year for Trevor, as his agenda collides and coalesces with the hopes of a team desperate to make the playoffs. After the game, Ariza had a little something to say about Washington’s emerging “style”:

“We were playing our style of basketball. Basketball that we like, basketball that we work on every day. We stuck with it, we got open shots, and a lot of open looks.”

—C. Dirks


3.5 out of 5 stars

31 mins | plus-19 | 14 pts | 5-12 FGs | 4-5 FTs | 6 rebs | 1 ast | 1 stl | 3 blks | 2 TOs

While Nene didn’t have enough lift to push a dunk through early in the game, that lack of elevation didn’t stop him from blocking pretty much everything Glen “Big Baby” Davis put up in the air. It was almost comical watching Nene succinctly put Davis to shame like an older brother (you’ll notice that Nene means “baby”) gently, but completely winning a backyard game of one-on-one.

After the game, Nene was in rare form, coupling his post-win giddiness with polite reminders regarding his part in alerting the team to the correct way to play their chosen sport, his sacrifice to play through injuries, and jabs at the media (“big mouths”) who doubted the Wizards early on.

Said Nene regarding the Wizards playing nine games in the last 14 days:

“Excuse me, but we’ve been busting our butt. We’ve been busting our butt. That’s good man, I know we’ve got a couple players sore—like myself and other players—but when you play the right way, you forget a little bit of the pain. Just a little bit.”

And more Nene, this time on the possibility of adding Porter and Beal to the mix:

“I just talked to John, Martell, and Ariza, guys over there, I said ‘come on guys, don’t change. Just keep basic. Keep playing the right way.’ It’s no secret. Basketball’s a simple sport when you play the right way. So I hope we don’t change.”

Never change, Nene. —C. Dirks

Marcin Gortat

3 out of 5 stars

29 mins | plus-24 | 13 pts | 4-7 FGs | 5-6 FTs | 5 rebs | 1 asts | 0 blks | 1 TOs

In the post-game locker room, all of the starters expressed relief with getting the fourth quarter off after playing nine games in 14 days—all, except Gortat. When asked by the Washington Post’s Michael Lee how he felt about his rest in the fourth quarter, Gortat offered a surprising response: “Not good. I want to play … I like to play. I wasn’t tired at all. So I was able to play another 12 minutes.” After years of injury woes, it was refreshing to hear a starter complain about getting too much rest.

Gortat also welcomed the Polish ambassador to the game. After Gortat said that the ambassador will be in D.C. for the next five years, and he looks forward to building a relationship with the embassy, TAI’s Conor Dirks asked Gortat if he would be staying in D.C. as well. Gortat offered a non-committal endorsement of the Wizards:

“I’m going to be here for the next seven months. You got to ask the gentleman on the third or fourth floor. That’s not my decision. I wish to play here. It’s a fun organization. It’s a great city.”

—A. Rubin

Jan Vesely

1.5 out of 5 stars

19 mins | plus-3 | 2 pts | 0-3 FGs | 2-6 FTs | 5 rebs | 0 asts | 1 stl | 1 blk  | 1 TO | 5 fouls

Jan Vesely did what Jan Vesely does. He missed all of his field goal attempts, fouled opponents at an alarming rate, grabbed offensive rebounds, passed the ball immediately upon receipt, missed an alley-oop, and shot 2-for-6 from the line. Keep moving. Nothing to see here. —A. Rubin

Chris Singleton

2.5 out of 5 stars

24 mins | minus-2 | 11 pts | 4-7 FGs | 1-2 3Ps | 2-2 FTs | 6 rebs | 3 TOs

There was no more desperate beneficiary of John Wall’s presence than Chris Singleton. With Wall on the floor, Singleton made a cameo as an electric, big-bodied slasher, scoring on back-to-back drives. The second of these came on a drive by Wall, with Singleton angling towards the basket on an intersecting course. Wall caught Singleton with his left eye and left the ball for him (jump-pass!). Unlike Jan Vesely, C-Sing is dynamic enough to be capable of finishing basketball plays with moving parts.

Without Wall, Singleton struggled a bit. Although he was able to convert a fourth-quarter 3-pointer with Maynor in the game, he also spent the majority of #MaynorTime jacking up awkward shots after receiving passes on the perimeter.  —C. Dirks

Eric Maynor

1 out of 5 stars

19 mins | minus-8 | 2 pts | 1-4 FGs | 3 asts | 1 TO

Eric Maynor played the entire fourth quarter and the Washington Wizards beat the Orlando Magic. Sometimes it looked like Maynor was being controlled by a cosmic NBA 2K14 player who was arguing with his girlfriend and forgot to pause the game, but luckily the opponent AI was set to “rookie.”—C. Dirks

Trevor Booker

2 out of 5

14 mins | minus-9 | 6 pts | 3-6 FGs | 5 rebs | 1 asts | 1 stl | 2 TOs

One day after complaining about his playing time, Trevor played 14 minutes in the blowout victory. Unfortunately, Booker ended the game with a team worst plus/minus of minus-9. In fairness, most of the blame goes to Randy Wittman for throwing out an indefensible lineup of Eric Maynor, Trevor Ariza, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely and Booker to close out the first quarter. But Booker did nothing to distinguish himself or carve out a bigger role in the rotation. Although, he did have a nice putback off a missed Vesely jumper with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter to stop a mini-run by Orlando and maintain the lead at a safe enough margin to keep the starters on the bench for good. —A. Rubin


Basketball Action!




Conor Dirks on EmailConor Dirks on FacebookConor Dirks on GoogleConor Dirks on InstagramConor Dirks on LinkedinConor Dirks on Twitter
Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.