#DCrising? 5 TAIers Give #HotWizardsTakes via NBA Playoffs 5-on-5
#1. Now that the Wizards are up 2-0 in the series, on the scale of 1-to-10, where is your ‘chill’?
1 being chill like Ariza “Doing him” on hookah smoke and 10 being one of the callers dialing into 106.7 talking Conference Finals.
Sean Fagan: 5. I sit calmly between a patented Nene smirk and well away from the look of sheer, abject terror that Otto Porter exhibits every time he steps on the court. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet and start making plans to “beat the Heat.” The Wizards, if they don’t crap the bed, would still likely have to overcome a rugged Pacers team or a terrifying Hawks teams that likes to rain down 3s. Both represent significant problems and the Wizards are nowhere near battle-tested enough to look past anyone.
Adam McGinnis: I am at level 9. There is no chill left for me in these playoffs. I am strapped up and ready to stomp out these Bulls. Only 14 more wins needed to bring
home the Larry O’Brien trophy and have a championship parade in the streets of D.C. OK, I kid, or do I?!?! But seriously, with a sweep of the Bulls and a smashing of the hobbled Pacers or Hawks, these types of title discussions will become more reality than manufactured radio segment fodder. TURN IT UP.
Arish Narayen: I’m at a 7. Per offshore odds, the Wizards are -440 to win the series vs. the Bulls (~81.4%), but are only favored by 2.5 points on Friday night. The Bulls will probably take a game on the road through sheer force of will, but Washington should close this thing out with a favorable draw going forward.
John Converse Townsend: I’m chillin’ like Moët champagne: fine and vintage. Fine because the Wizards stole two games from the 4-seed Bulls in Chicago and vintage because it feels like 2005 again (where the Wiz won, 4-2). A bubbly 6.
Kyle Weidie: It might be fair to align my chill level with Washington’s current number of playoff wins. Yes, it takes 16 for a championship, but if these Wiz Kids get to 10, the un-chill wave would max out and maintain that high (or low?) … I think I’ve confused myself. Otherwise, it’s fair to be a 2 right now. I don’t completely aim to be the killjoy I purport to be on Twitter, but we’re also talking about Game 2 of Round 1. The idea is for the Wizards, in this playoffs or the next (or the next), to spread out the excitement of merely making the playoffs and convert that into accomplishment. At least that’s the hope.
#2. Randy Wittman has been much-maligned during this season, if you will. But at what level should #RespectWitt be at right now?
1 being that you would hire George Karl before Game 3, 10 being that you would give Wittman a five-year extension tomorrow.
Fagan: 4. This is less a value judgement on Wittman and more on the emperor who sits behind the throne, Ernie Grunfeld. To bring Wittman back is to also bring back Ernie and that thought both terrifies me and keeps me up at night gnawing the sheets. It is terrible that Wittman’s fate rests with Grunfeld because he has demonstrated enough coaching chops to be retained, but I would rather have a new coach and new GM rather than be subjected to X years worth of panic moves.
McGinnis: In back-to-back games, the Bulls have crumbled in the crucial moments and Washington has stepped up with the winning plays. The coaching staff deserves credit for finishing the season strong and beginning the postseason on a high mark. The critics of Randy’s last-minute play calling or subbing patterns have been muted and, possibly, this is a by-product of winning. I am at a 7 with Randy. He is not as bad as detractors make him out to be, but I still have large doubts as to whether he is creative enough to lead this team to
the second round (and beyond) on a consistent basis.
Narayen: #RespectWitt is at a 6 right now. He gave Gortat the hook during crunch time in Game 2 in favor of Trevor Booker, which was the right decision. Wittman has drawn up some solid plays out of timeouts (e.g. Beal with 17 seconds left in OT), and the shorter playoff rotation means less opportunity for questionable decisions.
Townsend: George Karl is more games above .500* than all but five coaches in NBA history (Phil, Gregg, Pat, Red, and Jerry). Still, I wouldn’t hire him as head coach … not yet. I respect what Randy Wittman has done this season—calling him “a bad-team coach” probably doesn’t do the man justice—but it’d be a big mistake to think he’s the only guy who could have led these Wizards to 44 wins in a droll Eastern Conference. The Wizards must do their due diligence this offseason before making a coaching decision. 4.
*Wittman is 69 games under .500.
Weidie: Let’s not extend the old bird just yet, but I have been one of the few in Wittman’s corner—in addition to John Wall and Nene, who gave Randy their thumbs-up endorsement to Ted Leonsis before he was signed to his current contract (two-years, 2012-2014). Many have critiqued Wittman’s offense and rotations, which I find hard to do because, A) We don’t know how much freedom his players are given to make their own decisions in the offense and how much they take advantage of such—it is a players’ league, after all; and
B) No one really knows what’s going on in practice and behind closed doors otherwise—who’s putting in work, doing what they need to do. My main critique of Wittman during the regular season was his inability to keep his players consistently motivated. Through two playoff games, that has essentially been squashed—the Wiz Kids are focused like 1080p. And thus, #RespectWitt is at a 7.
#3. Is this series more about the Bulls being exposed as frauds (via punditry) or the Wizards being exposed as a more well-rounded team than people thought?
Fagan: The narrative is still about the Bulls even as many begin to realize the Wizards were not as bad as they thought they were prior to the playoffs. Without Rose and with a decent amount of cap room, the postseason eulogies have already begun to be written about where the Bulls go from here. Empires falling makes for better source material than the rise of new ones, so I expect the narrative to continue to play out in the same fashion.
McGinnis: I documented all these pundits for a reason, because I wanted to show the current mood of the media and hold them accountable if they were proven wrong. I have no quibbles forever with picking the Bulls over the Wizards, but the arguments against Washington were bad. This series shows the Wizards have put a full team around Wall.
Narayen: The latter. The Bulls are a known quantity: a painful-to-watch offensive team that will beat the crap out of you on the other end. No one knew what to expect from the Wizards, as Nene sat for a month and a half near the end of the season. Fortunately, Nene is regaining his form at precisely the right time.
Townsend: The NBA makes the claim that all minutes are created equal, but that’s simply not true. Clutch rules everything around me (C.R.E.A.M.) and the last two minutes of regulation play and the entire duration of overtime periods get preferential treatment—just ask replay officials.
The regular season Bulls, who were 8th in clutch-time plus/minus (+1.2) and 11th in NetRtg (+7.4), have struggled when it matters most in the postseason. They rank 15th out of 16 teams with a plus/minus of minus-7 and have a NetRtg of minus-57.1. In the last four minutes of regulation in Games 1 and 2 (eight minutes), they were out-scored 19-7. The regular season Wizards were 25th in clutch-time plus/minus (-43) and 22nd in NetRtg (-8.6). After two close playoff games, in a wild role reversal, they’re first in clutch-time plus/minus (+14) and second in NetRtg.
Still surprised the Wizards are up 2-0?
Weidie: I would not label Chicago as frauds—team basketball and a defense better than most got them here. But, if it were not for the weak Eastern Conference featuring several scorch-the-earth rebuilding projects, the Bulls are a solid/scary 6- or 7-seed, not a 4-seed. Thus, they are playing above their pay grade (especially without a former MVP who is getting paid 17.6 million this season), and their offense is being exposed as less-than-capable on the playoff stage. Defense wins championships but you must be able to manufacture points to win the 16 games it takes. The Wizards? Yes, they are a surreptitiously well-rounded team, which makes one wonder: Why weren’t they better during the regular season? Well, Eric #MaynorTime and maldeveloped youth will do that to you. I image it’d be a different regular season story with Andre Miller and Drew Gooden around for the full slate.
#4. Tim Legler evidently claims that the Wizards don’t have any weaknesses. We all know that ain’t true. (FREE THROWS!) But against these Bulls, where do the weaknesses, aside from free throws, lie ?
Fagan: Even if the Wizards have managed to outrebound the Bulls, I still see their lack of depth off the bench in terms of bigs to be a huge weakness, for both this series and going forward. Trevor Booker’s performances are going to be vital, which is a ton of pressure to put on a tweener off the bench. Aside from that, no other true weaknesses stand out, though
it will most likely going to bite them on the tuchus at one point or the other.
McGinnis: Keeping Taj Gibson out of the lane and from causing trouble. The Wiz have done a much better job down the stretch on limiting the Bulls from second-chance shots, but Chicago out-scored Washington 44-22 in points in the paint in Game 2. The Bulls’ best offense at times is Noah tipping in their garbage attempts. Washington’s frontcourt, especially back-up bigs in Booker and Gooden, has to do a better job of stopping that.
Narayen: The Bulls bench unit over the Wizards bench unit. I thought this would be more of a mismatch, but with Tom Thibodeau essentially being forced to play Taj Gibson and D.J. Augustin as starters, this advantage is mitigated. Thanks, Carlos Boozer, I’ll miss hearing you yell “And-1!” after every shot.
Townsend: Washington’s biggest weakness is still the offensive OS. Despite their impressive clutch-time production through two games, they’re relying on that 15-19-foot jump shot more than any other team. The Wiz are attempting 20.5 long 2s per game, four more than they attempted in the regular season, despite shooting 4.3 percent worse from that range (34.1%). And, among playoff teams, they’re last in shot attempts in the paint per game (5). Prayers have been answered so far, but I wouldn’t take comfort in that.
Weidie: The Wizards are surprisingly well-rounded, in particular when compared to contemporaries. Not many teams can feature side-by-side bigs like Nene and Gortat who can extend the offense with their jumpers and consistently keep open spacing for Wizards perimeter players. Booker and Gooden have also proven to be threats from a similar range, and Al Harrington brings the option to stretch the court even further with the 3-point shot—the Wizards could even nicely match up against smaller lineups by
playing Ariza at the 4. But alas, the greatest weakness also provides the greatest hope: the youth of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Washington has experienced offensive lulls this season when either of the guards try to do too much on the perimeter, whether it be over-dribbling or settling for contested, midrange shots. In the playoffs, however, this has been a different story—Wall has been more composed and Beal has really stepped up his off-ball movement, which helps overall offensive flow. If Wall and Beal continue to act like vets, they don’t have to be world-beaters to get to round two (or even the Conference Finals), they just have to be solid. And they have to hit their damn free throws (the whole team).
#5. Predict how you think the rest of this series will play out.
Fagan: Wizards in six. The Wizards will drop the next two, sending everyone into a panic and allowing the talking heads pull a 180 and screech about how the Wizards were “who they thought they were.” The Wizards will then calmly take Games 5 and 6 in less than dramatic fashion because that’s how the Wizards do. Not a lot of high drama, just results.
McGinnis: I spent Wednesday morning looking up videos on how to castrate a bull. This should tip my hand as to where my predictions lie. The Wizards will put Chicago away this weekend. Coach Tom Thibodeau will switch from flappy to angry bird. And all the Matadors Sweep Bulls puns will be glorious.
Narayen: As much as I love Charles Barkley, I don’t agree that this series will be a sweep. The Bulls will steal one this weekend, but will lose shortly thereafter. Wizards in five.
Townsend: Wizards in five. Wittman & Co. aren’t tidy enough to sweep ’em.
Weidie: I’m sticking with my original ‘Wizards in six’ prediction. Washington will come out rocking and win Game 3 but then will appear complacent during Sunday’s Game 4 with a 1 p.m start time. and will even drop Game 5 in Chicago, scaring the bejesus out of #WizardsTwitter. But in Game 6 back in Washington, Nene will be #NeneHands and Trevor Ariza will be #Chilliza, i.e., the Wiz Vets will carry the team into the second round.
BONUS: True or False: Chicago Deep-Dish, Fat Pie Pizza Ain’t Shit
Fagan: C’mon it’s pretty damn delicious. Also Chicago is cold. How else you gonna stay warm?
Narayen: True. Man wasn’t meant to eat phonebook-sized pizza.
Townsend: False. Chicago deep-dish pizza is, in fact, shit.
Weidie: Pizza is meant to be held, not dug into with utensils. #Truth.