Lost and Found: Ex-Wizards in a Pixel Rabbit Hole | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Lost and Found: Ex-Wizards in a Pixel Rabbit Hole

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Updated: January 30, 2015

As you may have heard, the Washington Wizards are a functional team now, and images of Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, Javale McGee, Nick Young, and the rest of the knuckleheads are quickly shrinking in the rearview mirror. For years, even the casual NBA fan knew to look to the Wizards for a good laugh, but those days are no more.

I’ve never really bought into that whole “you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone” thing, and I know how rare it is to have a D.C.-based team receive national attention for something positive. After all, it was just a few short years ago that players like Darius Songaila and DeShawn Stevenson were starters in the District. 

So in the spirit of William DeVaughn, let’s take a look at where some of those—let’s call them eccentric—former Wizards are today and be thankful for what we got. 

Darius Songaila

[flickr/Keith Allison]

Songaila signed with the Wizards before the 2006-07 season and lasted three full seasons, starting 43 games in that time. He was certainly not the worst Wizard during that stretch, but he also was never exactly an All-Star.

He departed Washington in the infamous Randy Foye/Mike Miller deal right before the 2009 NBA Draft, then played with the Hornets (then of New Orleans) and the 76ers before moving on to Europe: Turkey, Spain, Ukraine, and now he plays in his home country of Lithuania, where, according to “best friend” Antawn Jamison, he’s like the Beatles.

Songaila didn’t have a lot of real highlights as a Wizard, but he did one time score (on the wrong basket) with his shoulder, so that’s got to put him on a pretty short list. 

 

Shoulder Shot Songaila also got ejected from a playoff game—and suspended for the following game—for “punching” LeBron James, which is a story he can tell his grandchildren. It also serves as a tidy segue to our next Wizards gem.

DeShawn Stevenson

[photo via K. Weidie]

[photo via K. Weidie]

Stevenson is perhaps the best representation of the Wizards during the high point of the Arenas/Butler/Jamison Big Three era. He is probably most remembered in D.C. for his unwarranted feud with LeBron, who, as the NBA’s “Jay-Z,” compared Stevenson to Soulja Boy. The spat between James and Stevenson was just like the rivalry that developed between the Cavaliers and the Wizards during those years, in that James and Cavs always won.

Three seasons in a row, from 2006-08, Cleveland knocked Washington out of the playoffs, each time in the first round. To his credit, Stevenson was with the Orlando Magic the first time it happened, and he did get his revenge (kinda) in 2011, when he helped Dallas take down James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. 

But, as noted in the linked article above, Stevenson tucked his tail between his legs and reached out to James to help him get on the Miami Heat, which never happened. He did play a year each with the Nets (then of New Jersey) and the Hawks, but despite his claims that he would play for either the Magic or Pacers this year, he hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2012-13 season.

Mustafa Shakur

[image via K. Weidie]

Shakur is notable for a number of reasons, though unfortunately none of them are for his on-court accomplishments in the NBA. 

First, some quick background. Coming out of high school, Rivals.com ranked him higher than players like Chris Paul and Paul Millsap, not to mention Kris Humphries and former Wizards Trevor Ariza, Cartier Martin, and Dominic McGuire.

He played at Arizona, went undrafted in 2007, then signed with Sacramento, where he played some preseason games. In the time since, he has been a part of—deep breath—the Timberwolves, Hornets, Thunder, and numerous D-League teams, as well as teams in Poland, Spain, Greece, France, Italy, Lebanon, and Lithuania, where he now plays. Of those NBA teams, he only saw regular season action with OKC. I also very well could have missed a team (or nation) or two.

In the middle of that jambalaya, Shakur played 159 minutes in a Wizards jersey in 2011. Now, about THIS jersey; he is probably best remembered for it, which is never a good sign. He made headlines that January for making his NBA debut wearing what looked like his big brother’s knock-off hand-me-down. For what it’s worth, he put up five points, five assists, two rebounds and a pair of blocks in that game, so don’t knock it.

Unfortunately for Shakur, that was the high point of his stay in D.C., and he was gone after the season. He played just 22 games as a Wizard, though sadly, only one in that jersey-nightgown.

While in Italy, he compiled this goofy highlight reel, which is hilarious for many reasons. First, the music choice is just a bit different than the average basketball highlight video. Second, there are only three plays in it, all of which are dunks. Finally, the first dunk ends in him falling violently on his face.

Over in Lithuania, Shakur is having some difficulty figuring out the language, though his food struggles have won me over as a follower on Twitter, so that’s something, I guess.

Yi Jianlian

As the sixth overall pick in 2007, Yi Jianlian had enormous potential. Athletic 7-footers who can knock down an occasional 3-ball are always going to be coveted, and Time Magazine ran a feature before the draft that compared him to fellow imports Yao Ming and Dirk Nowitzki. Not that Time is the go-to resource for basketball scouting or anything, but you’re probably important if there’s a feature on you in it. 

Of course, being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks is usually not a good way to start a career. After initially refusing to play in Milwaukee, he eventually signed and had a decent rookie year before being traded to the Nets. His two seasons in New Jersey were OK at best, but the Nets dumped him on the Wizards in an attempt to clear space for LeBron and whoever else they thought they could get in the 2010 free agent class. 

The Nets whiffed in free agency and the Wizards ended up with a 7-footer who somehow shot just 41.3 percent from two-point range for his career. Jianlian played in 63 games for the Wizards in 2010-11, his only year in the District, and averaged five points and four rebounds a game. Amazingly, his 41.8 percent from the field that year was just shy of his career high (42.1 percent as a rookie). 

He played 30 games with Dallas the following year while also spending time in the D-League. Then, just like that, his NBA career was done and he went back to China, where he still plays. 

But hey, he might have been the happiest player in the NBA, he did manage a few pretty impressive highlights while in the Association, and he made Carmelo Anthony look foolish in international play, which has to be worth something, right?

No, it’s not. It’s worth nothing, because here is Hakim Warrick, best known as Melo’s teammate at Syracuse when the Orange won the National Championship in 2003, destroying his world.

 

Earl Boykins

[Sam Cassell lines up Earl Boykins and some kid.]

What better way to follow up a journeyman 7-footer than with a journeyman who stood just 5-foot-5? Boykins has a special place in my heart, as he represented short people well during his time in the league. 

Not only was he the second shortest NBA player ever and the shortest to score 30 points in an NBA game—with a dislocated finger that he just popped back into place like a boss—he also broke the record for the most points scored in a single overtime period, with 15, back in 2005. He did that before he came to the Wizards, when he was backing up a Mr. Andre Miller in Denver, but that record was broken less than two years later in a game you might remember.

Most of his achievements came before the 2009-10 season, his lone year in Washington, but he still had his moment in the spotlight as a Wizard. For a few brief minutes on a glorious night in December of 2009, Boykins was the MVP. 

After he knocked down a pair of free throws to ice the victory that night, Nick Young referred to him as “a mini mouse.” Not a regular mouse, mind you, which is already pretty small. A mini mouse. When Swaggy P is giving you nicknames, you know you’ve made it.

The Wizards were Boykins’ eighth team, and he would go on to play for two more to join the fabled 10-team club before retiring in 2012.

Post-retirement Boykins finds himself coaching the varsity boys basketball team at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock, Colo., which is an interesting concept. It’s got to be weird to go from playing against LeBron James, as Boykins did in his final NBA game, to coaching pubescent boys who are taller than he is.

Juan Dixon

[via flickr/Keith Allison]

In a lot of ways, Juan Dixon was like the LeBron of D.C. Each grew up about 40 miles outside of the city—though the Akron-Baltimore comparisons probably end there—became a local celebrity, and got drafted by the hometown team. 

However, while this may be a controversial opinion, I would argue that Juan Dixon is no LeBron James.

After leading the Maryland Terrapins to the 2002 NCAA championship with eventual Wizard Steve Blake, he was drafted 17th by Washington in the same draft as a bunch of other current and former Wizards—Drew Gooden (fourth), Nene (seventh), Caron Butler (10th), Roger Mason (30th), Darius Songaila (49th), and Rasual Butler (52nd).

He had his moments of glory as a pro, such as dropping 35 points for the Wiz against the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, but he never got near the level of success he reached under Gary Williams. After starting 23 games in three seasons in D.C., he moved on to the Trail Blazers, Raptors, and Pistons before eventually returning to the Wizards for the 2008-09 season, his last in the NBA.

Dixon never shot worse than 49.9 percent from the field at Maryland but could never develop a reliable jumper and finished his NBA career with just a .413 shooting percentage before taking his talents to Europe. His talents were later banned from Europe after it was discovered they were influenced by steroids.

And as all who can’t do do, he went on to teach. He’s now an assistant with Mark Turgeon’s staff at Maryland, which finds itself in the middle of a strong season (18-4) in the Big Ten.

Look how far we’ve come, guys. The Wizards are still no handsome Cadillac, half a dozen championships, TV antennas in the back. And you may never see them win a ring at all. But remember, brothers and sisters: You can still stand tall.

 

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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.