D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Hawks, Game 21
Tonight, the Wizards embark on a journey in which six out of their eight games to close out 2014 will be on the road. Tonight, the Hawks seek revenge … or pay-back—someone once described the difference. Maybe the Wizards want their own revenge or pay-back or redemption for that thing that happened in Atlanta in November 2012—you know, the game when the Wizards ran off the court thinking that they had won for the first time all season only to find out that they had lost, dropping them to 0-10, by the time the run-off celebration got to the locker room? (Also, the Al Horford’s kid brother / candy / boobies game.) I think Randy Wittman cried that night. Or maybe #WittmanTears happened another night last season, but it did happen (perhaps after the San Antonio game when they went 0-12). Maybe there will be tears tonight, maybe there won’t be.
Teams: Wizards at Hawks
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Hawks fav’d by 5.5 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
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Q #1: Since losing to the Wizards in D.C. on Nov. 30, the Hawks predictably lost to the Spurs in San Antonio (as did the Wizards), and have gone 2-1 thus far in a four-game home stand with strong wins against the Clippers and Cavaliers, and a close loss to the Thunder. What’s one below-the-surface observation that you’ve seen in the three games since Washington and Atlanta last faced?
@BuddyGrizzard: I liked the body language when the Hawks walked off the floor after the San Antonio loss. They were clearly furious that they failed to close that game out, and that’s what you like to see. The OKC game again showed that Coach Bud’s system is working and the Hawks have the talent to compete… but not the talent to contend. The Hawks are right where they’ve been since the dawn of time, stuck in the middle.
The Hawks should be less concerned about measuring themselves against teams that may still be around during the conference finals, and more concerned about teams like the Wizards. If you look ahead to the brutal January schedule for the Hawks, if this team doesn’t pick up some wins by the end of the year, it will be in full tank mode by February 1st.
Q #2: A flirtation with .500 this late in the season is much ado about much ado in Washington. But since beating the Orlando Magic at home to go 9-9, the Wizards have lost their last two games. Atlanta is at an even 11-11 right now and the Wiz Kids are soooooo jealous. What do the Hawks need to do to counter what happened to them against the Wizards last time out and prevent from going below the #SoWizards line of .500?
@BuddyGrizzard: In order to avoid what happened last time against the Wizards, the Hawks need to trade the team’s entire $14 million wing rotation for one wing that can guard somebody. When Trevor Ariza scores 24 and Martel Webster adds 19, there’s something wrong with your wing rotation.
What really needs to happen is that Jeff Teague needs to show some pride, as I suggested in my Wizards team preview, and not allow John Wall’s team to surpass his Hawks. Teague started the season on an All-Star pace, but hasn’t been able to sustain that level of production. Wall looks like a lock for his first All-Star appearance. If Teague wants respect, winning the season series against these Southeast Division upstarts would be a good place to start.
Q #3: The Hawks will have a considerable amount of money to spend next summer. Worth thinking about this summer only a quarter through this season, considering future contracts on the books, free agents, and team needs, how do you see the Hawks’ plan rendering this summer and for next season? Will Danny Ferry play it cool and wait until the 2015 summer? Or will he be more inclined to use cap space for a trade since a team like the Hawks might have to overpay to outright sign a free agent? Any free agents on the list that you might have your eye on?
@BuddyGrizzard: I expect this Hawks team to look very different by the time summer rolls around. First of all, Omer Asik just switched agents to Arn Tellem, Al Horford’s agent. Horford has been loud and persistent in his complaints about the Hawks’ lack of a true center, so this team could look completely different before the month is out. Ferry has done an outstanding job of jettisoning or avoiding bad contracts (except Kyle Korver) and stockpiling value contracts. But there will be no playing it cool for Ferry. Horford’s impending free agency in 2016 is like a ticking time bomb that Ferry must figure out how to defuse.
As far as free agents next summer, Luol Deng would be the obvious target if the Hawks can make the money work. He’s a character guy and has the Duke connection with Danny Ferry and Hawks assistant Quin Snyder. Deng would finally give the Hawks a wing defender, and he’s ideal for the unselfish ball movement Mike Budenholzer preaches. Ariza himself could also be a target, and if the Hawks fail to land Asik, potential center targets could include Marcin Gortat, Emeka Okafor (assuming he returns to health), and Spencer Hawes.
Q #4: So, Wizards…
@Truth_About_It: Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a ‘chill, we’ll be alright’ air about the Wizards… or rather, from the Wizards organization. Alas, being cool under the collar is a generally recommended best practice in life.
So “there’s still 62 games left,” they say. Don’t look back, look forward. Don’t panic for the outside world, or even for your internal world, Mr. Grunfeld.
Still, sometimes urgency breeds passion, passion to act swiftly and correctly. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race. Among stiff competition, it gets left behind. Is there or is there not a fire burning in Washington’s belly? For Wizards Twitter, it burns … it burns like Usher tells you to let it. This season has lost 24.39 percent of its body mass. Bad losses are not unexpected on occasion, but those which might affect the ability to make the playoffs at the end of the season will never be recovered.
And if these losses are so bad, perhaps detrimental, why can’t the Wizards live more in the moment so they don’t pull their hair out about the past? Cool is for the other side of the pillow when you sleep.
Win seven out of nine and some in the franchise might dislocate their shoulder Chris Webber style trying to pat themselves on the back. Losing three out of the last five and the last two in a row isn’t necessarily the end of the world, either, even if the Wizards were caught at the urinal shaking it too many times against Milwaukee and Denver.
Randy Wittman has fire. He questioned his team’s carefree attitude before the Milwaukee game and put out an all-points-bulletin on team leadership, meaning not only John Wall, but Grunfeld’s bevy of precious veterans. Wittman must find a way to impose his fire on his team.
Marcin Gortat doesn’t want to get punked. Well, in order to do that, you have to do some punking and not let yourself get pushed further away from the hoop as a game progresses. Also, don’t “rebound like a guard,” as you say, Marcin. The Pole will once again be the keyest of keys tonight. Martell Webster’s return will help, but with Nene out with a Nene, the focus will on Gortat versus Al Horford. Last time out, Gortat fought valiantly, scoring 12 points on 6-for-11 shooting with seven rebounds. Horford scored 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting, but most of his attempts, and makes, were contested jumpers, and he was held to three rebounds. A Trevor Booker-Paul Millsap wildcard matchup should also prove interesting.
Every next game is the next biggest game, you know—that is, until Nene takes a precautionary seat against a juggernaut in a presumed loss (go team go!). So with this in mind, there should be no surprise when despair and/or even a little bit of vitriol emerges from a loss. The consequences don’t excuse the emotion … but hey, be cool.