Change is All The Rage: Wizards Defeat Pistons | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Change is All The Rage: Wizards Defeat Pistons

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Updated: January 20, 2018

Following Washington’s destruction at the hands of the Charlotte Hornets, 133-109, Scott Brooks pronounced that things would have to be “fixed” for the Wizards to reclaim their standing as an Eastern conference contender, or at least as a team that does not embarrassingly rollover and play dead against the dregs of the division.

While I’m certain that Brooks’s pronouncement came with the requisite locker room rant and subsequent soul searching amongst his players, I prefer to imagine a different scenario for Brooks: one that had him wearily trudge back to his lonely hotel room in Charlotte and in desperation apply Marie Kondo’s organizational method to his listless team.

For those of you not familiar with Marie Kondo, she is an “organizational expert” by way of Japan. Her method for keeping your abode tidy is to take every item in your house, hold it your hands and ask yourself the question, “Does this spark joy?” If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you wish it best in its future endeavours and send it on its way.

So let us imagine Scott Brooks in the early morning light of his Ramada Inn, taking out the playcalls (and players) that had led his team astray and went full Kondo on them.

Markieff Morris ISOs—“This does not spark joy, I will let it go.”

John Wall 3-point shots early in the shot clock—“This does not spark joy, I will definitely let it go.”

Tim Frazier—“I wore this outfit for about two weeks. Everyone laughed at me. Definite toss.”

And there, finally, in the back of his closet, coated in about two inches of dust, Brooks found the item for which he had been searching. Hesitantly, he brushed the dust off the rusty carapace, held the form of Otto Porter, Jr. at arm’s length for about five minutes and concentrated hard. He asked himself a question that he already knew the answer to, but the the words still need to be spoken.

Does Otto Porter bring me joy?

(Pause)

(Pause)

(Pause)

“Why yes, I have to admit, it does.”

There are quite a few narratives that one could tease out from the the 45-point third quarter outburst that the Wizards unleashed upon the Pistons on Friday night. You could point to John Wall’s words–he said that the only difference between the moribund first and second quarters and the explosion in the third was that the Wizards were making shots. You could point to the continuing evolution of Kelly Oubre, Jr., who scored a career-high 26 points and is going from “cult favorite” to a player that might need to start.

But the real solution, as fellow scribe Conor Dirks alluded to in his scathing piece on the Wizards loss to the Hornets, was how the Wizards had to find a way to utilize Porter and his cutting skills—or, if unwilling, cut their losses and trade him for a piece that made sense to the team. It was Porter who was paramount in bringing the Wizards back from an early 10-point hole, recording 11 first-half points and as well as one of the few Wizards registering a pulse on the boards, pulling down two offensive rebounds and setting the tone through hard cuts and screens. At the same time, Morris had already managed to shoot 1-for-8 from the field and Wall had gone 0-for-5, only the second time this season he has gone scoreless in the first half.

The third quarter was where Porter’s work was rewarded. Detroit had to actually account for Porter on offense, leaving open driving lanes for Wall and denying the Pistons the ability to quickly double Beal behind the arc. Porter’s hard cuts also reinvigorated the passing of Marcin Gortat, who when receiving the ball in the paint, now had several touch pass options to look to, rather the simply looking to kick it back to the top of the key.

This is not to say that Porter is the panacea for all the Wizards’ concerns. They are still plagued with a fundamental lack of urgency on the defensive end (as best witnessed by an Ish Smith shot in the first quarter in which Wall and Mahinmi stood next to Smith while watching the ball go up) and a vexing tic of letting the ball stop in either Wall or Beal’s hands.

It would reinforce the case to say that the Wizards win more often when Porter’s usage jumps, but this is not the “truth.” In games where Porter has shot more than 10 times the Wizards are 16-11, a good number, but not one that makes the case that Porter should be handed the sole keys as the third option (especially not when Oubre, Jr. is in the midst of his own leap). And it still unclear whether Porter’s usage is determined by his own self-actualization to demand the ball, or Wall and Beal’s decision making on whether to get him involved.

And yet, you return to last night’s third quarter, in which the Wizards moved the ball with the alacrity that was often on display during the 2016-17 season. You saw a glimpse of a smile from Gortat as he realized he had the Detroit defense pinned like butterflies, open options surrounding him. You witnessed Wall, who after the aforementioned 0-for-5 effort from the field, erupted for ten third-quarter points, lanes and angles suddenly now open to the still young savant.

The Wizards, as currently constructed, still do not “spark joy.” The whimsy of last year has long since passed and the fake thuggishness has been revealed as just that — fake.  Both Ernie Grunfeld and Scott Brooks seem unwilling to hold the less productive members of their roster in their hands and consider whether any amount of pleasure is sparked, even if but for a moment. But for at least one quarter on a Friday night in Detroit, the Wizards remembered who they thought they were … and played accordingly.

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Sean Fagan
Reporter / Writer/Gadfly at TAI
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Sean has contributed to TAI since the the dawn of Jan Vesely and has been on the Wizards beat since 2008. His work has been featured on ESPN, Yahoo and SI.com. He still believes that Mike Miller never got a fair shot.