Opening Statements: Wizards vs Suns, Game 17 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Suns, Game 17

Updated: December 4, 2015

Wizards at Suns

You know what I’d do? Start Kris Humphries at 5.

Now, this might be elementary with Nene day-to-Nene (true story: the Wizards should be extra cautious with him) and Marcin Gortat slated to miss a couple games while tending to his mother in Poland. Ryan Hollins, signed about 100 hours ago, and DeJuan Blair, already demoted in favor of Hollins, are the only other options save for a tiny-ball lineup with Jared Dudley at 5—only to be used in spurts.

Start Kris Humphries, once hailed as Washington’s best rebounder, at the centered 5 spot. Start him next to Dudley, Otto Porter, Bradley Beal, and John Wall.

Call it match-up based if you want. The Phoenix Suns are coming into town and they generally start of compact backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight with a court-spreading lineup featuring 6-foot-6 P.J. Tucker, 6-foot-10 Markieff Morris, and the 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler. Sure, Humphries holding down the middle defensively (or even trying to jump with Chander / keep him off the boards) is a scary proposition. ‘Who else gon’ shoot?’ as Jordan Crawford something-or-another once said.

Of course, Chandler has missed three consecutive contests with a hamstring injury and is questionable versus the Wizards. Maryland’s Alex Len has been starting in his place. Still a tough matchup for Humphries, but more manageable. Humphries would certainly pull any opposing 5 or “center” away from the basket, which would only further open up lanes for Wall and Beal, encouraging them even more to take advantage of a sometimes neglected type of attack for the Wizards.

Against Cleveland (and covered in TAI’s DC Council), Humphries saw six of his 28 total minutes on the season at the 5 (10% of all his court minutes). He did not play the 5 versus the Lakers. Washington was getting handled on the boards so badly, how could he? Seven of his 11 minutes versus L.A. came next to Hollins (even-zero) and four next to Gortat (+10).

Before that Lakers game, I asked Randy Wittman about getting Humphries used to playing more 5 with Nene nursing a calf. The previous narrative was Humphries not fully being acclimated to the 5. The Wizards, however, were well aware that Humphries played 32 percent of Boston’s minutes at 5 in 2013-14 prior to bringing him aboard. Wittman’s answer, in any case, was short and sweet:

“We’re trying, we’re trying. Last night that’s what he basically played, so yea, we’re looking at that.”

Against the Suns, the coach probably won’t have much of a choice and will need to do something instead of just look at something.

UPDATE: Or not. Per the Post’s Jorge Castillo, Humphries missed shoot-around this morning with an ankle injury and will miss tonight’s game. CSN’s J. Michael reports that Hollins expects to start for Gortat.


  • Markieff Morris bruised his knee in Brooklyn on Tuesday and missed a matchup against his twin brother, Marcus, in Detroit on Wednesday. He’s considered questionable for Friday. In his place against the Pistons, Jon Leuer started. Phoenix’s Morris has attempted 4.8 3-pointers per 100 possessions this season at 28.6 percent (his shooting overall on the season has been a disappointment for Suns fans). Leuer attempts 5.6 3s per 100 and is making 47.4 percent of them. For reference, Kris Humphries is attempting 7.6 3-pointers per 100 possessions and is sinking 36.4 percent. The moral of the story is that the Suns, absent Chandler and Morris, might be thin in the frontcourt but quite possibly more of a threat. Then again, these days, any team in any situation is a threat to the Wizards.
  • The Wizards have lost three games in a row versus the Suns, two coming in D.C. Out of the last 16 meetings, the Wizards have won just three (with a 10-game losing streak from Jan. 2007 to Feb. 2012). In fact, the Suns have owned the Wizards since the 1988-89 season with just 13 Washington wins coming over 51 games, including a 17-game Suns winning streak from Dec. 1988 to Dec. 1996. The then-Bullets broke that losing streak in Jan. 1997 with 64 combined points from Rod Strickland, Juwan Howard, and Chris Webber. When the Wizards broke that 10-game losing streak in Mar. 2013, Martell Webster led the team with 34 points (7-for-10 on 3s). Oh, the times.

Last Season’s Meetings.

#1) Suns 104-92, in D.C., Dec. 21, 2014 — Wrote yours truly:

Washington jumped out to a 6-0 (or, 8-2) lead early against Phoenix with aggressive ball pressure that’s become a hallmark to start games. Even the bigs were out pressuring other bigs at the 3-point line, trying to force turnovers. But the Wizards soon found out that they could not simply trap strong guards like Eric Bledsoe off screens, not if Markieff Morris was hitting shots, which he did over the course of the night—17 points, 7-for-14 on field goal attempts. Marcin Gortat was another issue. For the second straight game, he and Kris Humphries looked ill-equipped as a combo. Gortat also missed a bunny at the basket, could not secure a lob pass, and got out-worked overall—often he just can’t hold any sort of position when he has the ball and his back to the basket. Neither Humphries nor Gortat played in the fourth quarter when the Wizards trotted out a small lineup or John Wall, Bradley Beal, Rasual Butler, Pierce, and … Kevin Seraphin.

#2) Suns 106-98, in Phoenix, Jan. 28, 2015 — Wrote TAI’s John Converse Townsend:

For all the improbable heroics, and the unexpected third-quarter barrage from 3-point land, the Wizards never got within four points of the Suns after the first quarter, when they let the lead slip away. Perhaps more accurately, the Suns dictated the pace of play as they so often do and ran circles around the Wizards—with and without the ball—scrambling Wittman’s defense like so many eggs at classic diners in the Sonoran Desert.

The Suns took what the Wizards defense gave them—3-pointers—attempting 29 and making 11. The Wizards, quite frankly, were lucky that Tucker, Dragic, Thomas, and the rest of the gang didn’t make more. They were free and clear on the other side of the Efficiency state line all night long.

Joining TAI for a quick Q&A today is Troy Tauscher (@tt_sports), co-editor of Fansided blog Valley of the Suns. Let’s not delay…

Teams: Wizards vs. Suns
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Suns fav’d by 1 point.

#1) How satisfied are you with the progression of the franchise, factoring in the swing-and-barely-miss at LaMarcus Aldridge this past summer?

@tt_sports: Well, I was much more pleased with the progression of the franchise until they lost, like, six out of the last seven games. I think the Aldridge pursuit was a good sign that the Suns have the sales pitch to land big-name free agents. The team is still very young and has some noticeable flaws, but I am more optimistic about the franchise than others. I think there are wrinkles but the team is in a better place than the current record suggests.

#2) Which Sun has been a pleasant surprise so far this season? Who has been the most disappointing?

@tt_sportsI think Devin Booker has to be the most pleasant surprise. He’s younger than me and already can score effectively at the pro level. He’s smart on the floor for a rookie and does not make many mistakes. Bledsoe is the runner up for most surprising, but I did expect improvement from him. Most disappointing is definitely Markieff Morris. He’s totally unreliable, and I don’t think it’s because he’s disengaged. I think it’s just a matter of him not hitting bad shots like he used to. Phoenix needs him because he’s their only other offensive force in the starting unit.

#3) Phoenix’s court-spreading lineups are certainly working better than the Wizards’ foray into this ‘new NBA’ so far.

Bledsoe, Knight, Morris, Tucker, and Chandler lead the team in minutes (174) with a NetRtg of plus-5.7.

The second most-used lineup replaces Chandler with Len and is plus-1.7 in NetRtg over 51 minutes.

What are the keys to success, and what are the concerns with other lineups?

@tt_sportsThe key has really become playing better in crunch time and with team defense. Everyone in those lineups but Morris is a solid defender. Yet they still struggle to close out games. I think the Leuer-Teletovic combo as a small ball route is interesting, but I have to delve into both the film and numbers to see how it works. There’s no lineup that I think is terrible, but there are instances where I feel like someone who should be on the floor for that situation isn’t, or vice versa.

Bonus: For the Maryland Terps fans in the DMV area, give us the latest download on Alex Len.

@tt_sportsLen is a very slight disappointment just because his offensive game hasn’t grown. He’s still an unpolished post player, and he likes his jumper a bit too much. That said, he is phenomenal in the pick-and-roll and has made incremental defensive progress. I think he needs another year or two to really approach his peak, but he’s done well. I just think he’s being used incorrectly in the offense.

To End: John Wall.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.