Let’s not fawn over the new Wizard who’s a good quote. (And we mostly mean ‘basketball’ good quote, not so much ‘poop-in-shoe’ story good quote.)
And let’s be cool before we dub Martell Webster as a “sleeper.” I don’t want guys on the basketball team that I watch sleeping. (But yea, I’ve previously said that Webster could be a steal of a sign by the one and only Ernest Grunfeld.)
Sure, it’s great that Webster followed up an 18-point performance (6-for-12 FGs in 25 minutes) against the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday with a 12 point, 10 rebound showing in 27 minutes off the bench against the New York Knicks on Thursday. It’s the preseason, folks.
But whatever the case, just take some time and watch Webster talk in the video above.
You heard right, John Wall is the longest tenured Washington Wizard. He was drafted first overall in 2010; Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker were taken in the same draft, but acquired via trade. Wall’s 4,992 NBA minutes are also twice the number logged by JaVale McGee, the Wizard with the second most minutes played over the last two seasons. Yep, 32 players aside from Wall have donned a Wizards uniform in the 148 team games over the 26-plus months since the “Game Changer” was introduced to the District on a red carpet. By the beginning of the 2012-13 season, the total number of Wall’s teammates in Washington will have climbed to 37, at least.
All those boarding on and off the USS Wizards had memorable moments good or bad (or infamous). Mike Bibby played the least amount of minutes over the last two seasons, but did score a single basket for the Wiz, and Truth About It.net was there to capture his thought-provoking reaction. Mustafa Shakur saw 159 minutes of action, 24th most, and got a whole DC Sports Bog post dedicated to his jersey malfunction. Othyus Jeffers, 314 minutes, 21st most, is still remembered and missed by faithful followers of the team.
Hamady N’diaye played 83 total minutes, 28th most, and was also drafted in 2010 (56th overall), but spent much more time on the Verizon Center practice gym than he did under the lights of the main court. N’diaye, known as “H,” is still highly regarded by Wizards team executives. “Look at the meat hook!,” exclaimed one with endearment as N’diaye threw up a sweeping hook shot at the 2012 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas as a member of the Charlotte Bobcats; it missed.
What “H” is most remembered for is his positive attitude, his resilience during challenging life experiences, and his smile. Someone has to contrast the parade of bad characters who have hogged the attention of Wizards fans over recent seasons. What makes N’diaye’s story stick is that he comes from Senegal (discovered via the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program); that he had to deal with escaping a questionable prep school basketball experience in the U.S.; and that he prevailed against the odds, graduated from Rutgers as the Big East Defensive POY, and got drafted by the NBA.
USA Basketball rolled into the nation’s capital this past weekend, taking part in a variety of World Basketball Festival events throughout the city. It all culminates with the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams facing off tonight at the Verizon Center against their counterparts from Brazil in a friendly exhibition. The men’s team held a “Hoops for Troops” practice on Saturday afternoon at D.C. Armory in front of 3,000 fans, many of them members of the armed forces. The team ran through 5-on-0 full court offensive sets, defensive drills, and had an intra-squad scrimmage. The special gathering had a “midnight madness” feel with a sprinkle of Wizards home game flavor. And, lest we forget, these are the best basketball players in the world going hard at each other; it was truly special to witness. (Additional coverage of this experience will be available in forthcoming posts.)
On Sunday, the men’s team held a practice at the Smith Center (George Washington University’s basketball arena), and it was briefly open to the media. The preparations are part of the USA Basketball tour that started in Las Vegas with this stop in D.C., along with appearances in Manchester, England and Barcelona, Spain, before ultimately arriving in London to defend their 2008 Olympic gold.
Criticism of Andray Blatche has been unabashed, perhaps filled with too much vitriol at times, and I’m including myself in this pack, obviously. That being said, it’s human nature to feel sorry for the guy, sometimes.
One of the first things I realized upon starting to cover the Wizards with media credentials prior to the 2009-10 season was that Blatche — the way he carried himself, interacted with the media, his general goofiness with teammates in the locker room — is not a bad guy. Certainly no one would confuse himself with notorious a-holes like Rasheed Wallace or Bonzi Wells. But in most senses, Blatche the basketball player — the guy who has trouble staying focused on the little things, rebounding with toughness, not emitting laziness, playing with heart — has justifiably brought all the criticism upon Blatche the person.
He suffers, personally, yet he still hosts parties and invites more critique. Awareness of public perception, much less ideals of being a good, lead-by-example teammate on the floor, are lost upon Blatche in major ways. We are approaching “it is what it is” purgatory with Andray, in that he’ll never fully realize even mere fractions of his talent.
“It is unclear whether the team will decide to move Andray Blatche, who despite the tough season is a very talented player. However, having talent isn’t enough,” wrote Blatche’s former teammate Etan Thomas in a special piece for ESPN.com today; the Poet was encouraging Wizards fans to have hope.
ShareBullets: A Q&A with Kemba Walker and some links…
Before Monday’s Wizards-Bobcats game, I headed to the Charlotte locker room while it was open to the media. Tumbleweeds. The Cats’ beat reporter from the Charlotte Observer wasn’t even sent to cover the game. Go figure. In any case, upon my entry into the threshold, some eyes turned toward me, and then quickly looked away. I could’ve sworn that Kemba Walker immediately looked at me, deadpanned, and said, “No.” Can’t blame the Bobcats players. Not. At. All. But, Kemba did end up speaking with me — perfectly willing and perfectly nice about it, he was. So here that goes…
KYLE WEIDIE: Going from winning a championship at UConn to being on the worst team in the NBA, who is giving the best advice on how to deal with the drastic environment change and what are they saying?
KEMBA WALKER: “Nobody really, just the people that’s around me on an everyday basis, like my coaching staff, Rod Higgins, just everyone who’s just been around … my teammates, just doing a great job of keeping me positive and making sure that, regardless of the losses, that I’m still getting better.”
Do you tell yourself anything… anything extra to get motivated to play? Read more »
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the Washington Redskins trading for the number two pick in this year’s NFL draft (Robert Griffin, III) have been competing for time at the water cooler over the past couple of weeks in D.C. Before the Indiana Pacers game last week, I first asked several Washington Wizards players how their brackets were doing, here are some of their responses:
“I don’t wanna talk about my bracket. It is awful right now.”
ShareBullets… a run-down of commentary on recent Wizards subjects, and links…
Kobe on the Rebuild in Washington.
The below video is a bit old… it’s from the Los Angeles Lakers locker room after they lost to the Wizards in D.C. on March 7 (The Lakers said WHAT?); Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher speak in the video, sort of. Kobe tries his best to keep his answers to one word (he’s even asked by if his post-game media session in Washington is the most “Belichick” he’s ever been), Gasol says the loss was “embarrassing,” and Fisher, playing in his final loss as a Laker, says, “I’ve been around long enough to realize that you can’t allow yourself to be defined by the changing opinions of the critics or media personal that cover our game.”
The most pertinent question for Wizards fans, however, is when Kobe’s asked what needs to happen in Washington to get the franchise to the point of respectability. “Got to make the right decisions,” said Kobe plainly. “You got to make the right decisions from a management standpoint, the players you bring in here. That’s all it is, just making the right choices.” With calls for Ernie Grunfeld’s job reaching the generic sports column platform of the Washington Post, you have to wonder how the current team president’s track record of decision-making has been evaluated by current team ownership.
Nick Young passing (a career-high six assists), Kevin Seraphin putting in disciplined big man work (a career-high 14 points, a tied career-high of nine rebounds), Trevor Booker becoming an unmasked monster (a career-high 17 rebounds, eight offensive), and the big hero, Roger “How U” Mason catching fire (4-for-7 on 3-pointers, 3-for-6 in the fourth quarter)… Just what got into these Washington Wizards on Wednesday night in their 106-101 come-from-behind victory over the Los Angeles Lakers?
The perfect union of normally fractured Wizards efforts came together as one against the super powers of the Lakers, aided by Kobe Bryant jacking shots (which you can read about in a piece by yours truly on ESPN Daily Dime). Kobe went 1-for-1o in the fourth quarter, 3-for-18 in the second half, after scoring 20 first half points (14 during a blazing first quarter start in front of what seemed to be Lakers jerseys out-numbering Wizards jerseys 10-to-1 in the Verizon Center). Any John Wall? Presumed by me to be the Wizards’ only advantage, and chance, going into the game? He finished with a mere four points on 1-for-8 shooting with nine assists and five turnovers. Instead, the Wizards got 55 points off their bench. So whatever it was, after being down 20 points with about six minutes left in the third quarter, they’ll take it.
Randy Wittman after the game: “Hopefully this can go a long way for us in terms of that mentality of staying in the game, playing as hard as you can. You never know in an NBA game what’s going to happen, doesn’t matter who you’re playing.”
A turning point for a young team? A brief glimpse of unfulfilled potential? A rare alignment of stars allowing Washington to beat stars? Only time will reveal these answers… as it always does. The Wizards said WHAT? Exactly.
The hawk-eyed Sherlock Holmes once said, “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” While I can appreciate that bit of wisdom, the Wizards’ spit-roasting at the hands of the Golden State Warriors was no Boscombe Valley Mystery. The Wizards simply weren’t prepared to play — a truth so plain that even Mr. Lestrade wouldn’t miss it.
Precisely when the game was lost, however, is up for debate. I would point to the 12-2 run the Warriors made to end the first quarter, capped off by Monta Ellis’ 36-foot 3-pointer that ripped through the net at the buzzer. That 3-ball gave the Dubs a 41-24 lead, one they would never come close to surrendering.
But Randy Wittman, Flip Saunders’ stand-in, revealed that the game had been all but decided before tip off. In fact, his Wizards may have lost it in the locker room hours before the game.
“It was a vibe that I got from my team that didn’t sit well with me before we even hit the court tonight,” Wittman said in a postgame presser. “We didn’t look like we were ready to play, and that’s my job to have my team prepared to play.
Wizards wins are starting to feel like buying a $5 lottery scratch ticket and winning a dollar back.Hey, a dollar! I won! Yea, but I invested five. No, this feeling doesn’t involve tanking for lottery balls, as getting upset with wins that hurt chances doesn’t matter to me. Although, not relishing in the loss doesn’t necessarily mean my apathy toward the Wizards winning has nothing to do with the fact that it might help. Essentially, I want winning when it matters. This season, it doesn’t. That said, close losses due to low-IQ basketball plays or blowouts due to the absence of hustle are disturbances. Emotion is involved.
Then comes the difference between me having a rooting interest in the Washington pro basketball franchise, versus covering the team, versus the players and personnel who are stopping through at this point in time. Beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-98 on Saturday night was good for them, especially the players. Locker rooms after losses can be fractured, and it goes past what the media sees. Some of us have been apart of this on various levels. Winning unites in more unspoken words than a picture. Good-natured locker room scenes provide much needed boosts to morale, on top of being a reward for the hard basketball work.
The Washington Wizards since the All-Star break, now with one win and two losses, have put on more consistent displays of good basketball, especially the sharing part. The 26 assists against Cleveland is tied for the second most this season (21.7 assist average in the last three games, up from 17.7 before the break). Shooters are finding open shots, percentages are up (eFG% in last three games at 0.502, was 0.456 pre-All-Star break). Plus, partially thanks to Roger Mason and Mo Evans, they are making more 3-pointers — 27 team 3-pointers (12 from Mason and Evans) in the past three games represents 15.3-percent of the season’s total. The Wizards still show bad habits, drop packs of cigarettes on the floor as Randy Wittman says, and are still susceptible to being “fragile,” as Flip Saunders used to say.
Where they will go with the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, at San Antonio Spurs and at Dallas Mavericks as the next five games on the schedule (followed by four more games of a six-game road trip), we will see. But at least on this Saturday night, the pendulum of locker room moods, personality, and clowning swung to the home side of the Verizon Center. The Wiz Kids felt a little better about themselves, and that’s a good thing. They needed it. Six game losing streaks get old. But the suits, they can always be new, just as long as they don’t smell like cigarette smoke.