Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Jazz 89 — Washington Gets a Much Needed Win and a Controversial Twin | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Jazz 89 — Washington Gets a Much Needed Win and a Controversial Twin

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Updated: February 19, 2016

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Jazz at Wizards, Regular Season Game 52, Feb. 18, 2016, by Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) from the Verizon Center, D.C.

This was the happiest Randy Wittman has been in ages after a Wizards game. He even let the media finish their questions before answering and gave jovial responses. That’s what a hard-nosed defensive win will do for a hard-nosed defensive coach.

“I was really proud of our guys today,” Wittman said. “We stress coming out and doing some things defensively that was important for us tonight to really try to speed the pace up, and it all stemmed from what we were doing defensively.”

It’s hard to argue with Randy. The Wizards played with the passion and urgency befitting a team that is fighting for its playoff life. It was the kind of effort one would have liked to have seen against Milwaukee, and Charlotte, and Denver, and … but I digress.

Remember all those games in the beginning of the year when the Wizards were turning it over at an alarming, inexcusable rate? That was Utah on Thursday night. Washington hounded the Jazz into 23 turnovers and blocked 10 of their shots.

The Wizards took all those Jazz turnovers and turned them into points, many of the fast-break variety. The Wizards scored 34 fast-break points on 13-for-17 shooting and were throwing so many alley-oops it looked like the All-Star game.

Even when things went wrong, they went right.

Overall, it was a boring game—in a good way. Washington took the lead with five minutes left in the first quarter and never relinquished it. Save for a six minute stretch in the third quarter when Utah cut the Wizards’ 17-point lead down to five, the outcome was never in doubt. Unlike games past, Washington weathered the storm and quickly built the lead back up to double digits.

If there was any issue of concern, it was rebounding—especially on the defensive end.  Utah outrebounded Washington by 12 (48-36) and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds to six for the Wizards. Not surprisingly, Utah destroyed Washington in second chance points (19-6).

Wittman anticipated the rebounding difficulties against Utah’s over-sized frontline of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, and the coach countered with his jumbo package of Marcin Gortat and Nene. The Wizards big men couldn’t quite keep the Jazz big men off the boards, but Nene was able to out-muscle Favors on enough possessions on the offensive end for easy layups to counteract the rebounding disparity.

An Elephant Named Markieff.

As nice as the win was, the team and its fans would be excused if they were preoccupied with another matter on Thursday night. Before Randy Wittman’s pre-game press conference, Wizards PR warned the assembled media that the coach was not allowed to talk about any “potential” trades that may or may not have happened. Comcast SportsNet’s Chris Miller attempted to circumvent the media ban with his opening question: “Coach, are Humphries and Blair available tonight?” Miller’s inquiry was met with a rare chuckle from the coach, perhaps foreshadowing the kinder, gentler man who would greet the media post-game.

Markieff Morris does not appear to be intimidated by anyone.

[Markieff Morris does not appear to be intimidated by anyone.]

Once the trade became official during the game and the gag order was lifted, the newly-acquired Markieff Morris was the topic of everyone’s conversation. The general consensus appears to be:

  1. Markieff is a tough, talented player who will fit in well with Washington’s system as a stretch-4.
  2. If Markieff keeps his head on straight, he will easily outplay his $8 million annual salary.

Of course, there is the seedy issue of why Markieff was so readily available at the trade deadline. Morris’ outbursts in Phoenix are well-publicized because, well, they took place in public. There was the two-game suspension for throwing a towel at head coach Jeff Hornacek and the recent altercation with Archie Goodwin on the bench.

Randy Wittman gave no mind to those concerns in his post-game comments, insisting that the team did its due diligence and even offered a time-honored excuse for Markieff’s millennial ways: “We’ve all done things … Can we handle certain situations better? We’ve all been in those situations, and I think he’d tell you that.”

Marcin Gortat also vouched for his ex-teammate in Phoenix, but it wasn’t until I heard Jared Dudley’s take that I was convinced:

“I had Markieff during his rookie year. He’s a good kid. When I was there, he had no problems. He had one problem, obviously this year when he had the situation where he felt disrespected, felt betrayed. I’m not going to defend him. Some of the stuff he did was unprofessional, but that being said, I guarantee you will have no problems with him here. He is a good friend of mine. I usually hang out with him in the summer time. It’s easy for me to mentor him. He’s a good kid. His mom lives 35-45 minutes away from here. He’s excited about coming here. I’ve already talked to him.”

Dudley appears to know Morris well and if he isn’t concerned, then far be it from me to sound the warning bells.

O Oubre, Oubre, Wherefore Art Thou Oubre?

[AP Photo/Alex Brandon]

[AP Photo/Alex Brandon]

You remember Kelly, right? He’s the Wizards’ promising young rookie who used to (somewhat) be a part of the regular rotation. He has not played much the last 11 games (a combined 45 minutes to be exact). I asked Wittman if there was something he needed to see from Oubre before reinserting him into the rotation. Wittman gave a very Wittman-like answer, essentially saying he’ll play him when he plays him:

“I can’t play 15 guys, come on. This is not about one individual on the team. He didn’t play tonight. He’s got to be ready. His time will come. No, I don’t need to see anything different. I know who Kelly is and what he can do. Tonight was an opportunity that I went with the guys that I went with.”

Kelly took it in stride when I relayed Wittman’s answer to him after the game, but he is not entirely sure what he needs to do to crack the rotation again.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I’m doing what I need to do on a daily basis to get better. I make sure I stay ready. That’s my job to stay ready. Whatever is going on with the rotation is going on.”

Oubre was quick to point out that getting wins is the most important thing, whether he plays or not. He has also received some advice from teammates.

“A lot of guys just say it’s kind of what goes along with being a rookie. You kind of have to wait your turn. But me knowing what I can do and having confidence in myself knowing that I’m ready and I can take on whatever, that’s just where I’m at mentally. Obviously I’m just waiting my turn.”

The impending arrival of Markieff Morris and debut of Alan Anderson will make it even more difficult for Oubre to reach the court, but hopefully we have not already seen the last meaningful minutes of his 2015-16 rookie campaign.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
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.