D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Magic, Game 18
“Effective magic is transcendent nature,” wrote George Eliot in her novel Middlemarch. And this applies to the Wizards tonight, as they, for the first time in what seems like ages, look to settle into a groove against sub-.500 teams and leave that tawdry group behind. There is nothing special about winning basketball games. It’s nature, eventually, for the good teams. But it is nature in its most logical, excellent incarnation, the kind that sorts out pollination and makes islands out of eruptions over the course of multiple ages. The opposite of what we’ve come to know as #SoWizards.
But how does a wizard battle against the very element of himself that sets him apart? When magic turns against a wizard, only his wits remain. It is for that reason that I hope team president (for life!) Ernie Grunfeld rolled high on his wisdom stat. With Nene planning to make a “sacrifice” for his “cheam,” perhaps a cleric should be recruited to cast a “Cure Minor Wounds” spell. Against the Magic, and Victor Oladipo’s “prismatic spray” of show-stopping dexterity, Washington will be looking to “chain [their] lightning,” recently bottled and ready for nationwide distribution. Had enough of me referencing Dungeons & Dragons? IMPOSSIBLE.
Teams: Wizards vs. Magic
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, DC
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Wizards favored by 6.5 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: Many members of the TAI staff were hoping to land Victor Oladipo in last summer’s draft, despite his not-so-subtly expressed reservations about Washington’s incumbent guard tandem.
How has Jacque Vaughn integrated Oladipo with Orlando’s guards? Do you see a Jameer Nelson trade on the horizon?
@erivera7: Head coach Jacque Vaughn has been playing Victor Oladipo at point guard and shooting guard since the start of the season, and the minutes have been split pretty evenly. The only change along the way is that Oladipo has gone from being the back-up point to the starting two-guard. I think a Jameer Nelson trade at the deadline is logical and will likely happen—assuming he stays healthy.
Q #2: So, Tobias Harris’s ankle is mysterious. It’s not, say, “Otto Porter’s hip” mysterious, but both players have a cloudy basketball-playing timeline. Who has emerged as Orlando’s go-to forward in Harris’s absence?
@erivera7: Andrew Nicholson. He’s been amazing. He continues to expand his offensive game, adding corner 3s to his arsenal, and he’s getting better as a rebounder and defender. I’m curious to see how the Magic re-integrate Tobias Harris once he fully recovers from his lingering ankle injury. I suspect he’ll see minutes at small forward to accommodate Nicholson (and Glen Davis).
Q #3: Orlando is currently slated ninth overall in the post-civilization, pre-renewal landscape of the Eastern Conference.
It’s early, but should Magic fans begin to hope for a surprise playoff appearance? Or, in the alternative, should Magic fans begin to worry about a draft-diminishing surprise playoff appearance?
@erivera7: It’s still early. Orlando started 12-13 last season and flirted with playoff possibilities, then proceeded to finish with a 20-62 record. If the Magic are hovering around the .500 mark at the All-Star break, then yeah, Magic fans should be worried. But I don’t think it’ll ever get to that point. Whether they want to admit it or not, ownership knows they need to tank this year and will do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Over/unders! with @erivera7:
Over/under 30.5 wins for the Orlando Magic this season?
Over/under 4.5 eyes-closed, fist-clenching self-congratulations per game by Rob Hennigan while pondering his acquisition of Nikola Vucevic?
Over/under 3.5 nicknames for Victor Oladipo generated by season’s end?
Over/under 5.5 more excellent performances by Arron Afflalo before someone outside of Orlando notices?
Philosophical Question! with @erivera7:
If a team is bad by design, but better than expected, is an injury to Tobias Harris or Jameer Nelson an injury like any other?
@erivera7: It’s an injury that’ll be treated with extra precaution so that both players aren’t “rushed back.”
Q #4: Can we change the subject?
@ConorDDirks: Really, I’d like to. I believe I speak for many of us here at the blog post factory known as Truth About It dot Net when I say that discussion of Washington’s beyond-poor bench is painful. It doesn’t make for good cocktail party conversation, it elicits the kind of gloom that causes several people at dinner to ask you if you’re feeling alright, which in turn alerts the other diners at the table that “something might be up” and everyone stops eating to look at you and wait for your response, which will sound crazy no matter how well or optimistically you phrase it. As noted by TAI’s Kyle Weidie just hours ago, Eric Maynor is at the very, very bottom of the NBA in on-court plus/minus differential per 48 minutes. Much of that is on Maynor, but the problem is exacerbated by the other members of the bench, who can’t do enough to pull the bucket, filled with sludge, up from the bottom of the well.
Kyle’s excellent piece frames the issue well, and drives home a point that Randy Wittman made after the game against the Hawks: he’s “gotta go out and win a game.” What choice does a coach, tasked only with winning games by the franchise, have? The bench, for now, is what it is. Whether it is bad enough for intervention by Ernie Grunfeld or Ted Leonsis will depend on a few variables, one of which is the continuation of good play from the starters, another is the continuation of minutes-related injuries like Bradley Beal’s fibula stress and Nene’s “sore” Achilles, and the final, most important variable is the continuation of lamentable performances by Maynor and the Maynor-Tones.
The subject should be changed, even if it can’t be. If you’ve been following the Wizards closely, you’ve enjoyed the team’s best November since 1984. John Wall has been almost entirely excellent even as he finds his way as a scorer, having already arrived as a distributor last season. After Washington’s slow start, there were plenty of reasons to assume the worst would come to pass. It hasn’t. Eight wins and nine losses after seventeen games isn’t what anyone would call a best-case scenario, but it is better than many, including myself, predicted after the team opened the season at 2-7. A win tonight would give Washington a record of 9-9 and the distinction of not being a losing team. That the team would still not be a winning team is a conversation for another day, hopefully tomorrow.