The Wizards doubled their win total for the season this week. What’s stopping them from tripling their previous count of one? Why, the Denver Nuggets of course. Tonight’s game will be the only meeting between the Wizards (2-12) and the Nuggets (10-5), the Western Conference foe hoping to remain unbeaten on a five-game road trip. Who’s down for a little 3-on-3? Today, our very own Sam Permutt and John Converse Townsend are joined by Jeremy Wagner of the ESPN TrueHoop Network blog Roundball Mining Co.
#1) The ball comes out of the net, and the big man outlets the ball to the point guard to lead the fast break. Do you want that point guard to be 6 ’4″ John Wall who is athletic and fast, but occasionally out of control or Ty Lawson who is allegedly 5’11″, just as fast, not quite as athletic but seemingly more controlled when he leads the break?
Did you watch the Wizards play the Nuggets in Denver on Friday night? Didn’t think so. Well, if you didn’t sit through the loss, you’re in luck, because below is a recap of words, moving pictures and still pictures.
10:30 - JaVale McGee chases down a long loose-ball rebound, the Wizards were scattered in their transition defense after a wide-open Denver missed shot. Upon securing the ball, McGee really has only one Nugget in front of him, Kenyon Martin. You don’t mind the breaking attempt so much — one man to beat, open court, why not? The manner is the other side. McGee contorted his body, tried to twist around Martin and made life more difficult than it should have been, as opposed to if he’d just gone strong to the rim. Martin intimidation or self preservation, after McGee missed, he loafed a bit which immediately prompted Sam Cassell to jump off the Wizards bench and yell, “GET BACK!” with a wave of his arm. Denver scored on the other end. 4-2 Nuggets.
9:52 – Nene plants himself under the rim as Danilo Gallinari misses a layup, gets the offensive board and gets fouled on the floor. It’s evident that the Wizards need to have people on the court who can clear space. Yi and McGe don’t do that.
9:07 - You can quickly tell that the high altitude is getting to McGee — him expending a lot of extra, unnecessary energy at times doesn’t help. Combined with his asthma, you got to feel for his situation. He fouls Gallinari who makes one of two free-throws. 6-4 Denver.
I didn’t catch Friday night’s Wizards-Nuggets game live, but I did DVR it, so I was able to watch the game at my own pace the next afternoon. While I was watching, my wife happened to walk in, and without even looking at the television she asked me, “So how much are they getting killed by this time?”. I sheepishly answered that they were being “killed” by 24 points, and she just shook her head and left.
That pretty much sums up how it feels to watch and then write about the Wizards these days. There are instances like this past Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers when the Wizards’ young players seem to put it all together and play competitively, and then there are other nights when flashes of individual brilliance are overtaken by yet another defeat.
Friday night’s 114-94 loss to the Nuggets was no different. The Wizards dug themselves in a hole with some cold first quarter shooting, they fought hard to close the gap, but in the end, the Nuggets were too experienced and deep for the Wizards. But if you’re looking for positives, rookie forward Trevor Booker put on a clinic on both ends of the floor during the third quarter. He demonstrated that, even when some veterans get healthy and back on the floor, he needs to still play substantial minutes.
The names Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups have been in the minds of Denver Nuggets fans, beat writers and casual observers all season long and with good reason. Carmelo has been Denver’s franchise player for eight years now, and he has made it known that he wants to take his talents elsewhere — allegedly to the New York Knicks, but Chicago, New Jersey and Denver are “allegedly” under consideration as well. If he does leave, whether via trade or free-agency, the Nuggets figure to be in rebuilding mode, which will also affect Billups. Chauncey is 34-years old, he’s won a championship, and although he’s not the same “Mr. Big Shot” as he was during his title run with the Detroit Pistons, he is still an effective player (15.9 points and 5.3 assists per game). He’s earned the right to be on a contending team, not one in transition — and without Carmelo, or someone of value in return, that’s exactly what the Nuggets would become.
So when Denver visited the Verizon Center to take on the Washington Wizards Tuesday night, I was curious to see how Carmelo and Billups would perform under the weight of all the alleged trades and transition. Carmelo had 23 points and seven rebounds, Billups had 15 points and six assists, and both players were integral to the Nuggets’ 120-109 victory. However, I came away from the game with the names of their two teammates in my mind instead: Ty Lawson and Al Harrington.
Lawson had 17 points and two assists, and did most of his damage in the second quarter when the Nuggets stretched their lead to 12 points (although it got as high as 17 at one point in the period). The point guard had seven points in the second, and he kept both John Wall and Mustafa Shakur completely off-balance with his ability to change speeds, get to the basket, and knock down the open shot.
Harrington was a non-factor for three quarters, but he came alive in the fourth quarter when he hit five of the six three-pointers he attempted. He finished with 21 points, and he did so despite being heckled the entire game by courtside Wizards fans who insisted on calling him Othella, instead of Al (Kyle Weidie detailed this exchange in a great post).
It didn’t seem like a winning night for the Washington Wizards as they prepared to face the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. The movement of the team during warm-ups, the faces of the players, you could tell it was their fourth game in five nights. They weren’t exactly physically weary or mentally downtrodden in appearance, but the air of the team reflected the atmosphere in the Verizon Center, dead … like that oddly quiet elevator ride. Even Baltimore’s Carmelo Anthony being in town barely drew a response from fans, most electing to give him the Prokhorov treatment.
Toss out the box score from the game. The final was 120-109 Denver, but I could convince you otherwise. Washington led 56-46 in points in the paint, 32-8 in fastbreak points, they shot 51.2-percent from the field and made 23 of 27 free-throws. The Wizards were only out-rebounded by three (39-36), all in the defensive boards category, had the same amount of assists as Denver (23), and two less turnovers (15-13). Washington blocked nine shots, which may have contributed to the Nuggets’ 13-2 lead in second chance points, because both teams pulled seven offensive rebounds. Andray Blatche’s first quarter shot chart even looked like this:
Too bad after going 6-8 from the field in the first period, Blatche went 2-6 over the rest of the game (9-9 in free-throws on evening, though, for 25 total points).
Also note: Don’t make fun of Al Harrington for wearing K-Mart brand “Protege” shoes any more … it seems that he’s ditched those for Nikes. Now keep reading…
If you’re local to the DMV area, you’ll remember Othella Harrington. He left the South from Mississippi in 1992 to be the next ‘big’ big for John Thompson in D.C., in line with Ewing, Mutombo and Mourning. But while Othella had a productive four-year career with the Georgetown Hoyas, and a tenured NBA career (709 games over 12 seasons and five teams), a famed basketball big man he was not.
Al Harrington entered the league out of a New Jersey high school in 1999 and has appeared in over 830 NBA games spanning 13 seasons. Different Harringtons to most, a bullet point on the mental cheer sheets of a couple courtside hecklers aided by libations on a Tuesday night at the Verizon Center. As you can gather (and as the title of the post gives away), the most oft-shouted quip by said hecklers was to call Al ‘Othella’ — they really David Letterman’d it, over and over. And over.
Al took exception as soon as that magical zinger was found by the heckler’s inner heckler early in the game. He retorted, “I’m not Othella, you dummy!” to the degree where you wondered if he really thought that they really thought he was Othella.
[Editor's Note:Rashad Mobley has reported on the Wizards with media credentials since the 2008-09 season for Hoops Addict. He occasionally contributes to Truth About It.net, providing excellent analysis and a different perspective from his up-close coverage of the team.]
Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith ended the third quarter, by missing consecutive 24-foot jumpers, and his numbers going into the fourth were anything but impressive. He had made one of his six shots, and he only had four points, as his team held a slim lead over the Washington Wizards.
Things certainly did not get any better when the fourth quarter initially started, because Smith picked up an offensive foul trying to run through Nick Young, and then a technical foul for a delay of game violation. Still, Nuggets coach George Karl never removed him from the game, and despite some momentary frustration, Smith stayed composed.
Ok, it was just one game … two games counting the win against Minnesota. With a 107-97 win over the Denver Nuggets, the Wizards have won two games in a row for just the sixth time all year (three has yet to be accomplished). Is it a reason to think this team just might do something crazy and sneak into the playoffs? Absolutely not. Is it a reason to get excited? A resounding yes.
Energy, effort, hustle and hunger were the themes tossed around the Verizon Center Friday night, the obvious reason why Wizards fans, even those who came to see Baltimore’s Carmelo Anthony, stood up and cheered for a brand of basketball that’s rarely been seen this season, if at all.
“I told guys at shoot-around, ‘We gotta play like a pack of mad dogs,’ and that’s how we played tonight,” said Flip Saunders after the game. The new guys, Josh Howard, Al Thornton and James Singleton set the example and led the way. “Thornton at 6’7″ can play like 6’10″ rebounding-wise, and Josh can play bigger, and of course Singleton. Those are energy guys,” the coach continued.
Thornton can score too, netting 17 of his 21 points in the second half. He arrived in D.C. at 2 am on Friday, and wasn’t able to participate in that morning’s shoot-around, but dug deep and found a way to play some damn good defense against Anthony. “Once Carmelo gets in a groove and gets in jab steps going, he’s very hard to guard. So, I just tried to get in him and frustrate him a little bit and make him take off-balanced shots,” Thornton said. Melo had 23 points in the game, but only five in the second half and zero in the fourth quarter. He shot 1-10 in the second half.
This is Eduardo Alonso Nájera Pérez, a Mexican victim. Probably not of the swine flu, but definitely a victim of capitalist America’s NBA luxury tax, which is designed in a rather socialist manner to penalize those who spend more money.
Many have wondered where Denver would be if they still had Marcus Camby, who was sold to the Clippers for a 2nd round pick. But watching the energy, hustle, and scrapiness of the Nuggets, led by the Birdman Anderson, it’s easy to see how a big like Nájera might fit better than the frail Camby.
Nuggets coach George Karl hated to see the Big Mexican sign a 4-year $12 million contract with the Nets this past summer, but Kiki had an edict from cost-cutting owner Stan Kroenke (even though anyone might question giving that much to a 32-year old). Still, Kroenke and his wife, a Wal-Mart heir, are both on the Forbes billionaires list (Kroenke is ranked 205 and worth a meager $3 billion).
All you really need to know about the Wizards’ loss to the Nuggets on Friday.
One moment, Andray Blatche is going to the basket aggressively. Blatche, a wiry big man who relies too much on his guard skills, thinks he can comfortably slide by the smaller man and float up a scoop shot.
But then comes the feathered wing of a flying Birdman.
NOPE! Kids don’t go hard anymore, they’re too cool for school. Birdman Chris Anderson is retro like that.