Opening Statements: Wizards vs Lakers, Game 16 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Lakers, Game 16

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Updated: December 2, 2015

 

“[John Wall] is not playing well, he’s gotta play better,” David Aldridge said. “He’s not playing well at all. Is he hurt? I don’t know, he says he’s not, I don’t know. But he’s not playing at the level he played at [last year]. He is the leader of that team, they take their cues from him. When he is on his toes and getting deflections and really being active defensively, and playing fast when he has the ball, they are a very very difficult team to beat.

“You can tell when John is engaged, if he starts switching everything—when the point guard has a screen-and-roll and he switches it—he’s not in the game and he’s not playing at his best. When he goes through the screen and stays with the point guard, you know he’s engaged. So he’s gotta get back to playing that way.”

Mr. Aldridge made those astute observations about John Wall during the opening segment of Tuesday’s “Tony Kornheiser Show.” Tony asked what was wrong with the Wizards, and Aldridge mentioned the adjustment to “pace and space,” Kris Humphries’ struggles at the 4, and Bradley Beal’s short absence due to injury. But Aldridge saved his most critical words for what he perceived to be the lack of leadership and consistent play of Wall.

There’s no evidence that Wall heard what Aldridge said, or read harsh words from other journalists and bloggers who questioned his leadership and shot selection during Washington’s four-game losing streak, but Wall’s virtuoso performance in Cleveland Tuesday night proved that Mr. Aldridge was 100 percent correct. Wall outplayed LeBron James and everyone else on the Cavaliers roster, he got his teammates involved (including Marcin “I Need Touches” Gortat), and, unlike the previous game against the Raptors when he was aggressive but inaccurate (6-25 from the field), Wall was in attack mode and on target (14-24 FG). The Wizards won and the sky-is-falling rhetoric which typically comes with extended losing streaks was cast aside … or was it?

Tonight, the Wizards have to face Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.(1) Record-wise, the Lakers are the second-worst team in the NBA at 2-15, but considering their loss to the previously winless Philadelphia 76ers last night, they just might be the NBA’s worst team. The Wizards rarely have an issue with getting worked up to play LeBron and the Cavs, but that same energy and momentum is not as easy to summon when the opposing team is playing as terribly as the Lakers. Besides the aging Bryant, the Lakers have former Wizard Nick Young, who is a threat to score 30 or 40 a night(2); Roy Hibbert, who would love to dazzle his hometown fans; and two promising youngsters in D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. Yes, the Wizards should win on paper, but the Lakers could easily put it all together and pull off the upset, which bring back the negativity and possibly the post-game ire of Gortat.

Despite Wall’s dazzling play on the both ends of the floor against Cleveland, the biggest takeaway from the Wizards victory over the Cavs was coach Randy Wittman’s super-small-ball lineup. Due to injuries and Gortat’s foul trouble, Wittman successfully stumbled ass-backwards into a lineup of Jared Dudley at 5, Otto Porter at 4, Garrett Temple at 3, and the traditional starting backcourt of Wall and Beal. That lineup forced Cavs coach David Blatt to keep Timothy Mozgov and Kevin Love on the bench, and it kept high-paid free agent Tristan Thompson (six points and 11 rebounds) from having a major impact on the game. If the Wizards revisit that quicker-paced lineup against the Lakers, it could have a similar stunting effect on Roy Hibbert and Kobe Bryant, who cannot maintain that pace at the advanced age of 37.

Here to discuss Kobe’s legacy and the Lakers overall is Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold). Darius, who writes for the ESPN TrueHoop blog Forum Blue and Gold, was nice enough to answer five questions in preparation for tonight’s game.


Teams: Wizards vs. Lakers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 10 points.


 

Q #1: David Aldridge wrote this in his weekly Morning Tip Column on Monday:

“It will not damage the development of D’Angelo Russell or Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle to play with Bryant for a year. It will help them, immensely. (As for the losing, you realize it’s in the Lakers’ self-interest to lose a lot this year, right?)”

Do you agree with Aldridge? And is there evidence that Kobe has had positive effect so far?

@forumbluegold: I agree in that being around Kobe, watching him work in practice (when he practices), getting his insights from the bench and in the film room, and generally just having him as a resource who has a lifetime’s worth of basketball knowledge to dispense is a great thing for the young guys. The counter to that is how much, if at all, might having him lead the team in usage rate while not being held accountable in the same way for his shot selection and defense affect them negatively? I don’t know the answer to that question and am not close enough to the team to even guess. I would imagine, though, he’s much more of a positive than a negative.

2) Finish this sentence and expound a little bit: The additions of Roy Hibbert and Lou Williams have enabled the Lakers to ____.

@forumbluegold: Hibbert has been their only passable rim protector on defense and his communication, instincts and general work on that end has been a real positive. The Lakers have a lot of young players who don’t yet know how to play NBA-level defense and veterans who have proven they are not good defenders. I shudder to think what this team would look like defensively if Hibbert weren’t on the team.

As for Williams, he’s had some good nights offensively, but his shooting has not yet come around to the levels I would have anticipated they would be. He also uses a lot of possessions as a pure combo guard who has played more point guard than anyone would have liked to this point. And on a team with other young guards who need the ball (Russell, Jordan Clarkson) and a coach who loves veteran players, his presence has meant either Clarkson or (more often) Russell have not gotten the fourth quarter burn I would like to see them get in too many games this year.

3) It is early, but how would you assess the play of Randle and Russell this season?

@forumbluegold: Both have been up and down in what are essentially rookie seasons for both (as you know, Randle broke his leg in the first game last season and missed the rest of the year). They flash their potential one night and then don’t really find their flow the next. Randle just turned 20 this week and Russell won’t be 20 until February, so this is pretty much expected.

Randle’s game is still rough around the edges, but his talent pops off the screen when he has it going. His handle, open-court ability, strength, quickness, and motor are all plusses. Russell’s game has been more reserved and he’s still finding his way as an NBA-caliber guard in a system and with a roster which doesn’t exactly highlight what he projects to do well. However, every game he seems to make at least one or two passes or plays which show how good he can be and he’s already shown improvement from the summer to the start of the season and then to now. So I remain very high on him as a prospect.

4) I’m a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar fan to the end, so it is difficult for me to hear folks say that Kobe is the best Laker ever. I know you don’t like rankings, but who are the top 3 Lakers in franchise history?

@forumbluegold: There is not really a right answer to this. I will say, though, that when I classify “greatest Laker,” I will typically start with the guys who played their entire career with the franchise first. Kareem is in the argument for the best player of all time, so if anyone wants to say he’s the greatest Laker too, that’s totally legit, but his time with Bucks drops him down a slight notch for me in this discussion.

So, I would lean towards Magic Johnson, Kobe and Jerry West in some order. As an aside, I grew up on the Showtime Lakers and played point guard when I laced them up, so it would be difficult for any player to ever surpass Magic as my favorite player ever. Kobe is right there too, and West—as both a player and an executive—did so much for the franchise, it really is a toss up and mostly about personal preference.

5) I read your excellent mini-tribute to Kobe over at Forum Blue and Gold, but it left me wondering what are your top 3 Kobe Bryant moments?

@forumbluegold: This is hard because there really aren’t any bad answers here. If I said “81,” his pass to Shaq versus the Blazers in the 2000 WCF, and the two ridiculous shots he hit to send to overtime and then win the game (and the Pacific Division) versus Blazers on the final night of the 2004 regular season, that would be totally acceptable and a lot of people would nod in agreement. (If that were someone else’s list, I know I would be nodding.)

For me, though, they are probably his four-game road barrage in the 2001 playoffs against the Kings and Spurs in back to back series where he scored 364845, and 28 points in consecutive games; the 2009 Finals against the Magic when he was simply dominant; and Game 7 in the 2010 Finals against the Celtics where he shot so poorly (6-for-24), but still hit a huge jumper late, grabbed 15 rebounds (more than any Celtic), and had the key assist to Ron Artest (he was still Ron!) for a big 3-pointer which essentially clinched the game. The total joy on his face after that win is something I will never forget as a fan.


2013-lakers-nick-young-kobe-red-eyes-mean-face

  1. That is, if Kobe even plays in back-to-back games after playing 32 minutes in Philly last night.
  2. Ed. Note: Nick Young has scored 30 or more points on 16 occasions over his 538-game career, and three of those 16 instances have been outings of 40 or more points. Young has not accomplished a 30-plus point feat since April 14, 2014 (41 points), so the threat is relative.
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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.