Washington Twitches Briefly to Life after Unofficial Death — Wizards vs Nets, DC Council 78 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Washington Twitches Briefly to Life after Unofficial Death — Wizards vs Nets, DC Council 78

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Updated: April 7, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Nets, Game 78, April 6, 2016, from Verizon Center, via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks). 

That Games Was…An Epilogue

The Wizards gave up before the game started. Somewhere in the Wizards organization, someone decided that they weren’t going to let John Wall run his knee into the ground in pursuit of a no-longer attainable goal. It makes sense, and it’s the scalding, still roiling espresso of reality. This Wizards season is over. Maybe it never started.

Maybe it’s best if you think about this team as one in stasis, cryogenically frozen in time as a scrappy fifth seed that caught fire at the right time and would have beaten Atlanta in six games had John Wall not broken his hand. Maybe next year they pick up where that team left off.

But then again, that same promising team played 78 games this year. That team replaced Paul Pierce with the combination of Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson. And while Dudley started for most of the season (39 of 76 appearances), Anderson was the prince-in-waiting, the player who should have started while Dudley came off the bench. Except he probably shouldn’t have gotten past Washington’s medical staff last summer. He didn’t play in Wednesday night’s game against Brooklyn, his former team. And has only played in nine games all year. It’s a part of the larger Wizards story, but this is a team interrupted. And this is a season, for both Washington and Anderson, that died on the vine.

Then the Wizards implemented a new system that they never fully understood, and may not have fully embraced beyond making their old system go faster, faster, faster, disassembling comfort for the sake of speed alone. Then two of the necessary cogs for that shiny, speedy new machine sat on the shelf as the rest of the team ran lap after lap without relief.

So let’s clarify. The Wizards didn’t give up on this particular game versus the Nets. Bradley Beal started hot and looked oddly liberated, sporting a tight shape-up under his now trademarked thick (red) headband. Marcin Gortat soldiered on for another double-double. Markieff Morris got a cockback dunk blocked and an inbound pass stolen. Nene muscled through one of his final games. Ramon Sessions: carpe diem! They won. But the season ended some time ago, this team will be unrecognizable come July, and any playoff daydream is better left in a thought bubble from last week, when it was easier to take it day-by-day. The Wizards officially gave up on the season prior to the game against the Nets, and that’s OK. (Or, you know, they figured if they can’t beat the Nets without Wall, then who gives a fuck about the playoffs? Nuance!)

M.V.P.

Bradley Beal handled the ball more, found his spots naturally, turned the ball over just once, and looked plain better than he has in all but a few games this season. But don’t get it twisted: Beal did not stand in for John Wall, nor did he blossom as an independent solo star. Beal’s usage rate was still below D.C.’s point guard du jour, Ramon Sessions, and even Markieff Morris. In fact, Beal’s USG% last night of 20.7 percent was tied for his 12th-lowest of the season. And don’t talk to me about touches, because the young gun only had 54 touches to Garrett Temple’s 63.

So what was so different about Beal’s game? Well, Beal looked healthy (healthy enough to play extended minutes in a late-season blowout), he ran the floor for catch-and-shoot attempts and cuts to the rim alike. He looked comfortable putting the ball in the hoop, finding clear angles to the basket that he often tries to force, or ignores altogether. On one drive, Beal absorbed two Nets bodies driving to the left side of the basket, shielded the ball, and was still able to keep his right arm extended enough to finish, even as the rest of him fell to the side.

Part of this is that Brooklyn’s lineup, especially without Lopez, can’t defend the rim for shit. The Wizards destroyed the Nets in the paint, 68-46, and Beal was 7-for-7 at the rim. Look at this shot chart, people of Earth.

Life on Mars.

Life on Mars.

But this section wouldn’t be complete without recognizing Ramon Sessions’ incredible spot start, putting up a very John Wall-like 18 points and 13 assists (10 in the first half when the Nets were keeping it close). Sessions’ one turnover was also a welcome surprise.

L.V.P.

Markieff Morris, who is a good player involved in a desperation trade that could still work out long-term but could also blow up in Washington’s face and hasn’t provided any truly substantial return as of yet, had a pretty bad game. He might have a pretty good career with the Wizards, but I’m not convinced at this point. It’s too bad that he didn’t propel the team to the 8th seed in the 2015-16 NBA Playoffs. Because that’s why they gave up the first round pick for him, right?

Against the Nets, Markieff cocked back for a dunk, which provided the Nets with additional time to address that dunk, which was all of a sudden presented for blocking instead of being placed neatly in the hoop. Morris also inbounded the ball without the requisite care (a pattern at this point) and had it stolen rather easily. Morris also shot 4-for-13, missed all six of his shots outside of the paint, and could be seen by local paparazzo hanging his head after a few of his turnovers.

But Morris does bring an inscrutability, an element of toughness, that the Wizards need. For better or worse, he’s part of the lore, and how he plays next year is going to be a big part of the sequel to this disappointing season.

X-Factor

The Nets were missing Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez, who have both been shut down for the rest of a season that’s even more misery-laden and useless than the Wizards’ season. The Nets also waived Joe Johnson earlier this year (he then signed with Miami), and lost Jarrett Jack to injury in the season’s opening months. Am I missing something? In any event, Brooklyn was without its best players, played dudes like Bojan Bogdanovic, Shane Larkin, Donald Sloan, Sean Kilpatrick (who is good!), and Wayne Ellington heavy minutes. There may not be a worse team in the league, and that includes the newly-deceased Philadelphia Processes (2013-2016, R.I.P. Sam Hinkie).

Thomas Robinson, a D.C. native, kept Brooklyn in this game. Robinson, you’ll remember, is a player that the Wizards considered with the third overall pick in 2012, when they instead picked Bradley Beal after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went off the board at No.2 to Charlotte. Robinson was instead drafted by Sacramento, traded several times, and eventually waived before signing with Brooklyn.

Robinson threw down a vicious third-quarter dunk over Gortat, took advantage of Washington’s still lackadaisical mimicry of rebound positioning, and made the game seem like one taking place between two NBA teams for the better part of three quarters. Before it wasn’t.

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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.