Opening Statements: Wizards vs Kings, Game 50
Wizards and Kings: Origins of a Legacy of a Hardwood Dynasty: the Musical. This is one of those NBA matchups that sounds like a cross between a children’s quasi-comedy like A Kid in King Arthur’s Court and a high fantasy novel with a cover picturing at least three of the following: an unrealistically muscular man with long hair holding a sword while leaning against a crag who also happens to be the rightful heir to the crown; an unimaginably aged wizard riding a dragon; an unrealistically thin woman wearing a garment that couldn’t possibly stay on without modern technology that didn’t exist in the novel’s medieval setting unless…MAGIC. In reality, it’s an NBA matchup between two teams who aren’t done putting the pieces together yet.
Teams: Wizards vs. Kings
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Wizards favored by 5.5 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: As a longtime consumer of Washington Wizards basketball, I am familiar with players who seem to shine when the team is limping along, but aren’t able to transition into a new role when the team puts on its serious pants (Jordan Crawford!).
I’ve been impressed with Isaiah Thomas. How does he fit on a good Kings team?
@gwiss: Isaiah Thomas seemed like he could fall into the trap of being a me-first guy who put up big numbers off the bench and wouldn’t translate as a starter. And the Kings organization put multiple obstacles in his way over the years. Isaiah overcame Jimmer Fredette, Aaron Brooks, and Greivis Vasquez, each of whom was brought in to be the starting point guard instead of Isaiah. When Isaiah took over the starting position early this season, he excelled even more than Kings fans might have hoped. Not only did he maintain his production, he improved.
More importantly, it’s become clear that Isaiah is at his best with other consistent players around him. Off the bench, Isaiah often led big comebacks for the Kings. As a starter, he’s still capable of taking over a game, but he’s better with other good players next to him. When DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay were sidelined by injuries, Isaiah’s efficiency plummeted as his usage increased. His efficiency returned with Cousins and Gay returning to the lineup.
Isaiah has proven himself worthy of a starting role in the NBA, and has shown himself capable of fitting into a good team. Whether than will be with the Kings is going to depend a lot on the market Isaiah finds in restricted free agency this summer.
Q #2: The Wizards employ a coach who has no problem with long two-pointers mere inches from the 3-point line, or hand-off screens in the midrange, or so many other plays that statistics tell us should be minimized in the name of offensive efficiency, as long as they are what the defense gives him.
“B.S. analytics,” Randy Wittman would say. I’m not sure how to feel about it (really). How’s life with the Fahrenheit 451 of stat sheets, the (perhaps unfairly) oft-derided geek enemy Rudy Gay?
@gwiss: Rudy Gay’s resurgence in Sacramento is arguably the best kept secret in the NBA. The Raptors are an amazing story with how they’ve thrived since trading Gay, but the Kings have benefited as well. Gay has a 60.8 TS% since joining the Kings. He’s fit into the offense with a 25.9% usage rate (compared to 30.6% in Toronto), and has had no problem being a second or third option. Even the most optimistic Kings fans didn’t expect Rudy to be this good.
Q #3: Randy Wittman, after the Wizards lost to the Cavaliers, said that his team was “not a good team.” He went on to blame effort and readiness, two hallmarks of post-game #WittmanFace blame-laying.
Does Mike Malone have a go-to excuse for Kings losses, or does he like to switch it up to keep us media types on our toes?
@gwiss: Michael Malone is a treasure. He’s blunt, brash, but genuine, and tells you exactly what he thinks. He generally takes the blame for losses and puts it on himself, but he’s not afraid to tell you exactly what the team is doing wrong. He’ll focus on the team as a whole with criticism, and is careful to never call out an individual. But he’s blasted the team for poor effort, poor defense, poor execution. If there’s a problem with how the team played, he’ll tell you what the problem was. If he sounds like a broken record, it’s only because the Kings remain consistently terrible on defense.
Over/Unders! with @gwiss:
Over/under 33.5 wins for the Sacramento Kings this season?
Under. I’ll take the under, barely. The Kings are on pace for around 30 wins right now, but are on pace for about 25 if you adjust for their win percentage since the Rudy Gay trade. I’ll take the under because being a longtime Kings fan has taught me to hedge my bets and go low.
Over/under 33.5 grams of fat per serving in the chip on Demarcus Cousins’ shoulder after not making the All-Star game?
Over. It’s a big chip with a side of queso. It sucks that DeMarcus didn’t get named to the All-Star game, but objectively it’s understandable. I think he 100% deserved a spot, but so did Anthony Davis. So did LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard. The West is just stacked with talented big men. But that won’t stop DeMarcus from taking it personally.
Over/under 0.5 tears shed for the regions of spacetime where even gravity cannot escape: the plush arena seats (surely they’ve been burned?) of former Kings owners, the Maloofs?
Over. But they’re tears of joy. I can’t even begin to describe how different this season feels. At any moment I’m afraid I’ll wake up, so let’s move on.
Over/under 19.5 technical fouls for DeMarcus Cousins this season?
Over. As I write this he already has 12, and we’ve got 32 games to go. That being said, officials are still quick to T up DeMarcus based on reputation. He’s far from a role model, but he’s been much improved this season with his on-court demeanor.
Philosophical Question! with @gwiss:
Muhammad Ali said “I never thought of losing, but now that it’ s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life. “
Success in private, failure in full sight: what is the right way to lose?
@gwiss: The Kings have an attitude this season, and it’s fun as hell for Kings fans. I don’t know that there’s a right way to lose, but DeMarcus takes every loss personally. As the team’s leader, it’s rubbing off on the rest of the league. Is it petty and immature? Perhaps, but it’s still better than apathy.
[Ed. note: This answer immediately brought back memories of soul-crushingly apathetic attitudes towards playing by JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche. You take immaturity (which fades) over apathy (which is a very bad sign in a young player) every time. – C.Dirks]
Q #4: What’s in a word?
@ConorDDirks: When Randy Wittman said the Wizards are “not a good team,” his boldness was not unanimously well-received. Trevor Ariza didn’t agree with Coach Wittman’s assessment, while John Wall, always the diplomat (seriously, who coached this guy on talking to the press?), said “I agree with Coach. It’s on us to execute the scheme.”
There isn’t a team in the NBA more confused about what they are than the Washington Wizards. The fluctuations on and around .500, treading water with Eastern Conference phalanxes like the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks, both without their best players…beating Miami, Oklahoma City, Portland, Golden State…the only identity the Wizards have is that of their own fickleness. In practice, that fickle nature plays out like a see-saw with two equally overweight children creating kinetic stasis.
The banality of the conversation surrounding .500: are they over? are they under? What actually matters is whether they, like Randy Wittman has observed, can develop into a team that plays consistently.
After the loss to Cleveland, Martell Webster had this to say to the Washington Post’s Michael Lee: “Sick and tired of losing to these teams. At some point enough is enough.”
“These teams.” But what are the Wizards, if not one of “these teams” that win some, lose some, and fail to truly distinguish themselves with an elusive “run,” which is what Wittman really wants for his team. Can a team with a losing record be “good”? Maybe, relatively, maybe. And certainly, this Wizards team is more entertaining than any team in the last four years. Expectations, though, have a way of changing the way a loss is perceived. Sixers fans actively root for them, Kings fans don’t mind them, and Wizards fans…they’re trying hard to expect them, but probably shouldn’t. Not quite yet.