Key Legislature: Wizards 101 vs Thunder 125 — So Is Durant Coming To DC Or…? | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 101 vs Thunder 125 — So Is Durant Coming To DC Or…?

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Updated: November 11, 2015

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Celtics, Regular Season, Game 7, Nov. 10, 2015, by Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202).

Do remember when everybody was all “Aw man, Kevin Durant is totally going to leave the Thunder to come play with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter in D.C, and we’re going to the ‘ship, y’all!”? Those were fun, blissfully ignorant times.

After a drubbing such as the one witnessed by a sellout Verizon Center crowd and a national NBATV audience Tuesday night, it’s not just difficult to see the Seat Pleasant native come to the Wizards in the offseason—it’s almost tough to even see the reasoning. Sure, he knows Russell Westbrook and/or Serge Ibaka could leave a year later, when they’re set to become free agents in the summer of 2017—that’s one thing. And yes, the current miserable state of affairs in the watered-down Eastern Conference pretty much guarantees at least moderate success for any team with a legitimate star.

But how much is a hometown worth?

D.C. is great. I love D.C. I was born and raised here, and I have lived roughly three-quarters of my life here. But if I were a star like Kevin Durant, I don’t know if D.C. would even be something I’d consider after Tuesday night. The Wizards/Randy Wittman/the fans were not just bad, they were woefully unappealing—hardly of the caliber to seduce a top-flight star in or around his prime. Especially when said star is coming from a place dubbed “Loud City” that boasts a raucous fan base (Kobe Bryant called it the “best crowd in the league” in 2013) that absolutely adores its team.

 

Ignore, for a moment, the fact that Washington fans are already so desperate in their attempts to lure Durant that they adhere to his commands (he comes, fans cheer; he says don’t cheer, so they boo, cheerfully). Ignore, for a moment, that Tuesday night’s crowd, which essentially showed up to recruit another player, might very well end up being the biggest of the season, no matter how good or bad Washington is. Ignore, for a moment, that the absolute loudest the stadium got at any moment of the evening was when the crowd won free chicken sandwiches (1) midway through the fourth quarter, when the home team was down by 28 and droves of fans had already drifted up the aisles and out into the cold November rain.

Just consider the basketball reasons. The Wizards were without Bradley Beal (shoulder soreness) and Nene (back spasms), and those are notable absences. But Beal has also missed more than one in every five regular season games over his career (55 games total). Nene has missed 11 more games than Beal in that time, having played just 187 out of 253 regular season games since the start of the 2012-13 season.

Marcin Gortat is a virtual lock to be in D.C. for another few years, because he’s signed until 2019 (when he’ll be 35). Gortat had a miserable game against Durant and the Thunder, managing just three total rebounds in more than 27 minutes. Six Thunder players had more rebounds than the 6-foot-11 Gortat did, and two others had three apiece. To complicate matters, Randy Wittman then torched his center, and all of his “supposed big men,” after the game, not-so-subtly calling the Polish Machine out in front of a room full of recording devices and video capturing machines.

Not a great look in terms of organizational cohesiveness.

Wittman explained before the game his plan was to match the Thunder’s size by playing big, adding Washington wouldn’t have to worry about a stretch-4 or stretch-5 from OKC stopping at the 3-point line in transition. Well, you see, there’s this Serge Ibaka fellow. He made 77 3-pointers at a .376 clip last season. Those numbers would have been good for fourth on the Wizards in 3-point shooting, behind Paul Pierce, Bradley Beal, and Rasual Butler, and just ahead of Wall. So while Washington’s bigs helped form a defensive wall against basket attacks in the open court, Ibaka faded to the corners where he had free reign to bomb (he went 3-for-3 on corner 3s).

And what about Wittman giving up on Kris Humphries partway through the first half? The coach was asked before the game if he was still experimenting with second-unit lineups at this point in the season, to which he responded: “Not really. We’ve gone pretty standard.” Humphries was the first starter taken out in the first quarter, replaced by Drew Gooden, despite grabbing three rebounds in just more than six minutes on the court. The other starters combined for one rebound in the period. Humphries played just 3:29 in the second quarter, then enjoyed almost the entirety of the third quarter (save for about 90 seconds) seated comfortably on the bench.

Well, since the topic came up organically, let’s talk about that third period for a moment. Durant didn’t start the second half, or play in it at all, because he tweaked his hamstring and also his team was winning by 18, which probably made the decision for Billy Donovan a little easier. With the 2013-14 MVP on the bench, the contest seemed a bit more even, though OKC already had that 18-point advantage. Washington was missing its second-best player in Beal, but now the Thunder were missing (at this point, arguably) their best player. The contest was down to the Wizards’ best and third-best players against the Thunder’s second- and third-best players.

Instead of the Wizards showcasing their raw talent simply in need of a final piece—ideally in the form of a lanky forward from a nearby county—before it can reach its ultimate, glorious stage, they were thoroughly outplayed by Westbrook and the Thunder, who shot off to a 14-6 run to open the second half and never trailed by less than 19 the rest of the way. Westbrook (who triple-doubled early in the third) and Ibaka combined for 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting and 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, six rebounds, and five assists in the quarter. Wall and Porter combined for two points on 0-for-3 shooting, three rebounds, one assist, and a steal.

But hey, Westbrook turned it over four times in the period and Wall didn’t turn it over even once! Actually, this was another problem: the Wizards seemed so concerned about ball security, having averaged nearly five turnovers per quarter this season, that they couldn’t find a rhythm on offense and settled for awkward jumpers. The result was a season-low eight turnovers, a season-low .392 field-goal percentage, and more contested field goal attempts (51) than uncontested (46).

After the game, I posed the question to Wall: How did you feel about the team’s shot selection?

Wall scoffed. “Look at the scoreboard, we didn’t play well,” he said.

Alright then.

 


  1. The free chicken opportunity is regularly the loudest the stadium gets, in any game.
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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.