Opening Statements: Wizards vs Knicks, Game 35 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Knicks, Game 35

Updated: January 7, 2015

Washington Wizards vs New York Knicks - Nov. 30, 2012

Before Washington embarked on its just-concluded five-game road trip, all the talk was about how the brutal stretch of Western Conference opponents would reveal Washington’s true place in the NBA’s hierarchy.

Washington opened the trip with an impressive win over Houston, followed by a blowout loss in Dallas and two hard fought losses in Oklahoma City and San Antonio before salvaging a 2-3 record with a relatively easy victory in New Orleans.

So, what did we learn? According to the Washington Post‘s Thomas Boswell, we learned that Washington is closer to a 48 or 49 win team “than the 60-or-more that seemed conceivable just two weeks ago when they were off to a 19-6 start.” But is that really news? Did anyone—other than the straw man Boswell found hiding under Michael Wilbon’s old desk—really think Washington would win 60 games?

Before the season, Vegas set Washington’s over/under win total at 49.5. Today, that is exactly where Washington is projected to finish. To borrow a phrase from Dennis Green, the Wizards are who we thought they were.

As Boswell points out, Washington is a deep, talented team with a strong defense and a flawed offense. They shoot too many midrange jumpers and too few 3-pointers. But everyone already knew that—except for maybe the coach. And therein lies the challenge for Washington over the remainder of the season. It really does not matter how many wins Washington ends up with. If Wittman does not adjust his offensive philosophy, Washington is headed for a first- or second-round exit come May.

But enough with dire post-season prognostications, tonight marks the return of Eastern Conference opponents to the Verizon Center. The New York Knicks are a mess right now. They have the worst record in the league, just completed a salary dump trade, and will be without Carmelo Anthony.

When Washington last faced New York on Christmas Day, the lasting image from the game was Quincy Acy’s hard foul on Johh Wall followed by Wall’s retaliatory shove. With Samuel Dalembert’s release, Acy is expected to see a boost in minutes, so there should be no shortage of opportunities for sparks to fly again at the Phone Booth.

The fact that the faint possibility of Acy-Wall II is the most intriguing storyline of this game actually says a lot about the current state of the Wizards. Washington has finally risen to the level of a franchise that expects to take care of business on its home court against the dregs of the league.

For more on the Knicks season and expectations for tonight’s game, TAI reached out to Dion Black of ESPN TrueHoop’s

Teams: Wizards vs Knicks
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN+
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 14.5 points.

Q #1: Gut reaction on the big trade. Also, with what drink does one properly celebrate (or mourn) the departure of J.R. Smith?

Dion Black: Well, when the early rumors included the Knicks getting Reggie Jackson and a first round pick, I was blown away. When I heard the Knicks were getting Dion Waiters I was afraid. When it ended up being Lance Thomas, a second round pick, and some cap space I settled into “meh.”

J.R’s game was part sweet, part bitter, with an unexpected kick, so I think a Manhattan is appropriate.

Q #2:  Assuming that this is a signal of such (how can one not?), but are you finally relieved that, at least for this season, the cycle is broken—no longer are the Knicks still “trying to be good” but are rather trying to be bad?

Dion Black: They are bad, but I’m not sure they are trying to be bad. I’d say the Knicks are no longer fighting the difficult rebuilding process, which often requires you be bad enough to get a top draft pick. The Knicks have been unintentionally bad many times over the last decade and a half, and the practice over that period was to sacrifice future draft picks or cap space to bring in a Steve Francis type (Dion Waiters would be the current example). This was easy for management to do in the old days since they had traded away draft picks and had no incentive to just be bad that year. The 2014-2015 team is different because it owns its pick this year.

I am very pleased that the team has moved away from the cycle you described. The Knicks are moving players that have no shot to be part of the rebuild, developing young, inexpensive players, and not taking back bad contracts.

Q #3: Putting on your GM hat (and, by the way, what kind of hat would you speculate that Phil Jackson is wearing right now), which current Knicks would you keep for the future and who would you like to see them go after during free agency this summer (with all that loot)?

Dion Black: Obviously Phil is wearing a construction hat (insert falling bricks joke of your choice).

As GM, I’d keep the young players who can develop and fill a roster spot cheaply. Cleanthony Early, Cole Aldrich (who could be a nice reserve if he’d get in top shape), Shane Larkin (not sure why they declined his option), Tim Hardaway Jr., and Pablo Prigioni would all return.

Stoudemire, Jason Smith, Quincy Acy, Andrea Bargnani all have to go. Seriously they all have to go.

Carmelo Anthony and José Calderón are likely going to stay but if the right deals came along, I would move them for rebuilding assets.

As for the 2015 free agents, I’m not crazy about this group. Gasol is a good get. Ditto LaMarcus Aldridge and Goran Dragic. But if you can’t hit a home run, I’d add a few inexpensive and efficient players. I’ve always liked Lou Williams and Paul Millsap. DeAndre Jordan could be a nice get as well. It really all comes down to whether Jackson plans to build around Carmelo—if so, you need folks who can score efficiently and play defense. If all else fails, just bring back Jeremy Lin.

Q #4: Should Carmelo shut it down for the season? And what type of impact might that have on team culture?

Dion Black: I’m not quite sure what the issue with his knee is, but there is nothing to be gained from playing him this season. I honeslty think he is getting in the way of the development of the younger players when he is on the floor. Melo holds the ball and isn’t all that amazing at making great passes at the elbow or on those baseline drives, so the rest of the team is sort of just watching him work (which is a beautiful thing to watch when he is on). However, the long-term needs of the team merit more playing time for the best young assets. And I think the team needs to move away from a culture of “Melo can bail us out.” I think shutting him down is the right move for a team with the worst record in the NBA.

With Shumpert and Smith dealt, management and the coaching staff have made a clear statement about allowing Tim Hardaway to show what he can do. Hardaway needs to learn how to contribute and lead on both ends of the floor. Early is Carmelo’s understudy and we need to see if he is up to the task. When Melo plays, he logs a ton of minutes and that really eats into Early’s playing time.


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Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.