D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Nuggets, Game 20
When last I (dis)graced the pages of these opening statements, before last week’s game against the Orlando Magic, I hoped that the subject would change, and that TAI staff and readers alike could unfurrow their brows (a condition induced by the Maynorisms of Washington’s “bench”) long enough to enjoy John Wall’s jump to consistent national relevance. Washington’s reply was prompt: the team outplayed the Magic so thoroughly through three quarters of play that Washington’s spent starters were able to sit out the final quarter of a stretch of nine games in fourteen days. That illusion of safety, a sweet mirage, only carried over in its transience.
Randy Wittman, who often has a tale of locker-room prophecy after a loss, claims that he could see his team drinking from the ephemeral oasis of false confidence before the Milwaukee game:
“When I went into the locker room to talk to them before the game … the sense in the locker room, it was carefree unlike the last two weeks. I told our guys when we walked out, ‘We could be in trouble tonight.’”
They were. As the ankles rolled, and players headed into the locker room for a date with the succubus inhabiting Washington’s MRI machine, the “next men up” performed the basketball equivalent of spraying the entire room with machine gun fire with their eyes closed. A heroic performance by Wall (30 points, eight assists) looked like it would be enough against a bad Milwaukee team, but after the Bucks came back to tie the game from five down in their final two possessions, a Chris Singleton (1-for-10 from the floor) attempt looked as tired as Wall did in the overtime period. Wall’s exhaustion was unsurprising. He wisely, but depressingly, waved off an Eric Maynor (4 mins) substitution in the second half.
Teams: Wizards vs. Nuggets
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, DC
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Nuggets fav’d by 2 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: I read a thing the other day. It was a thing that said a mean thing about a human that used to play for the Wizards.
That human was JaVale McGee, and the thing that was said, by an “Eastern Conference scout,” was this: “The other big reason they improved is because JaVale McGee went down. I hate to say it, but that’s been a bonus for them.” First, yeah, that’s a snipe. Is there any truth to it? What effect has Big Daddy Wookie’s absence had on this team?
@PrincePickaxe: Big Daddy Wookie. That’s a new one. Fitting, as most JaValian monikers are, but new.
This idea that the Nuggets are suddenly a juggernaut without JaVale is pretty erroneous. What hurt the Nuggets early on was Brian Shaw’s insistence to play mentally-taxing, deliberate, inside-out basketball. You can’t fault JaVale for doing what he was told. And I think it’s funny how easily people forget that Kenneth Faried was trying to post up on a consistent basis in the first handful of games as well.
The Nuggets are improving because wrinkles are being ironed out. JaVale was one of those wrinkles, but so was everyone else. His post-up game really isn’t as bad as the rest of the world would truly love to believe — especially Shaquille O’Neal. Plus, he was only averaging 16 minutes per game. How much damage could he really have caused?
The Nuggets are a better team with JaVale McGee, but George Karl was onto something last year. JaVale simply isn’t mature nor skilled enough to be getting touches each game. When he gets back, if he does start, his role should be as an interior rim protector and occasional monster slam-dunk guy. Nothing more, nothing less. Give him that role and the Nuggets should be fine.
Q #2: Denver’s season has mirrored Washington’s in a few ways, although Washington’s hole was not as shallow: a panic-inducing slow start, a rebound, and on Friday evening, disappointing losses for both teams to Boston and Milwaukee, respectively.
With Ty Lawson injured against Boston, Martell Webster leaving at the end of the first quarter against Milwaukee, and Nene leaving later in the same game, both teams are also dealing with some injuries. Give me the worst-case scenario for the game against Washington. Just get it out into the universe, hope it blends with your aura, hope your aura isn’t one of those colors they say is bad, and that everyone wins. That can’t happen, but you get the point.
@PrincePickaxe: Worst-case scenario from the Nuggets’ standpoint is a blowout loss. Worst-case scenario from the Wizards’ standpoint is a blowout loss. I can’t really think of anything worse. Perhaps more players from both teams get injured? Perhaps Nate Robinson loses his cool and spearheads a brawl with the Wizards players and the fans. But outside of an anomaly, a blowout loss for each team would surely be the worst thing that could happen. It’s early in the season and both teams are already fighting for playoff positioning. They’re also trying to establish morale and build a culture around winning. Blowout losses are counterproductive to both those goals. And of course, a good game between both teams is always enjoyable for the fans too.
Q #3: I really enjoyed this “film room” breakdown of the Ty Lawson-to-Randy Foye connection that the team has developed this season.
Foye’s term with Washington is one of the most bitter memories of long-standing Wizards fans because of context: the end of the Gilbert-Caron-Jamison era, the draft pick (traded to Minnesota in order to acquire Foye … and Mike Miller) which became Ricky Rubio, and could have been Stephen Curry. What is Foye doing well this season?
@PrincePickaxe: Foye has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the year. I was never very impressed with his game prior to joining the Nuggets, but that’s changed within only a month’s span of seeing him play on a consistent basis. Foye isn’t an outstanding athlete and doesn’t posses gaudy skills, but he’s a smart player with a smooth shooting stroke who’s committed to doing the requisite dirty work every NBA team is strapped with each season. More than anything, his 3-point shooting has helped the Nuggets in an area of desperate need. Right now the Nuggets are 13th in the NBA in 3-pointers made per game and 10th in 3-point percentage. They finished 20th and 25th in those categories last year. Much of this can be attributed to Foye.
Over/unders! with @PrincePickaxe:
Over/under 49.5 wins for the Denver Nuggets this season?
Over/under 5.5 different “itis-based” injuries for Nene this season?
Under. Nene’s a good dude. He loved Colorado and did good things for the Nuggets. I’ll always root for him and the dormancy of his injuries.
Over/under 1.5 high school exchange students in the Denver area being mistaken for Evan Fournier on a regular basis?
Under. How many high-school exchange students are 6-6? Not many. However, I’ll take the over on all other tall, Eastern European-looking dudes. I actually swore I saw Fournier in Cherry Creek the other day. Turns out it was just… well… an Eastern European-looking dude.
Over/under 0.5 more cities razed this season by Timofey Mozgov?
Under. I’ll keep rooting for Mozgov to operate in Terminator Mode, but I have a feeling his utter dominance is a lot like Christmas: It only comes around once a year.
Philosophical Question! with @PrincePickaxe:
Can a breath be deep enough in Denver but too deep in Washington?
@PrincePickaxe: Counter-question: Do you ingest psilocybinic mushrooms before you compose these questions? If so, you might want to move to Colorado. Those things are pretty popular out here — as are most other psychedelic drugs. Not that I’d know from experience or anything…
Q #4: Was Thomas Edison a #SoWizards fan??
@ConorDDirks: He was a moderately intelligent individual, so probably not. But it is the mark of true brilliance to foresee the struggles/woes/other sports cliches indicating failure of a team that plays a sport which has not yet been invented. So it was that Edison placed clues to the mystery of basketball success in the annals of history like the Freemasons leaving a map on the back of the Declaration of Independence for Nicolas Cage to find in National Treasure:
“Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability…. We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”
Man, listen. You don’t roll into a season expecting that all of your players, flying around a hard floor at high speeds with other large people, will be capable of avoiding injury. Whether the injury is temporary (as Martell Webster’s most recent ding seems to be) or chronic (almost every part of Nene’s lower leg has caused him to miss time), the “preparation” that Edison was speaking of all those years before you were born has to happen on the part of the bench players waiting for opportunity, on the part of the coach getting the most out of his bench, and more importantly, it has to happen before the season, as a team’s front office pieces together a roster.
For the Wizards, the bench has been a failure on all available fronts. Players like Kevin Seraphin and Eric Maynor have fallen off a fucking cliff. There’s no evidence that Randy Wittman has been able to get through to a group of players that recently signed an endorsement deal with the “minus” half of plus/minus. And finally, the only member of Washington’s horrendous 2011 draft who has justified his draft position this season is Shelvin Mack, playing very well for the Atlanta Hawks after being cut in favor of retaining Jannero Pargo as a third-string point guard behind A.J. Price in October 2012. To reiterate the indirect point from the prologue of these statements, these are not points that are enjoyable to re-frame after each depth-related development, but they are, by reason of the aforementioned lack of preparation, the story of this team. And yet…the sun came up this morning. John Wall still lives. Go Wizards.