[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 67, Washington Wizards at Phoenix Suns; contributors: Conor Dirks and Kyle Weidie via television broadcast.]
Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 67th game of the season against the Suns in Phoenix are TAI’s Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) and guest Ryan Weisert (@Spectavius), who contributes to the ESPN True Hoop Blog Valley of the Suns.
Wizards Starters (23-43):
John Wall, Garrett Temple, Martell Webster, Nene, Jason Collins (Okafor has the flu!)
[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 65, Washington Wizards vs Phoenix Suns; contributors: Kyle Weidie and Adam Rubin from the Verizon Center.]
The Washington Wizards wrap up their Detroit-plus-four-Western-Conference-teams road trip in Phoenix tonight. Having a 2-2 record against the Pistons, Blazers, Clippers and Jazz thus far is a nice accomplishment for this team. Losses in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City were far from abject, but each did display the same ills that have plagued the Wizards all season. Against a 13-19 Suns squad coming off a tough win over the Lakers in Phoenix on Sunday, the 7-24 Wizards have a fair chance to prove progression. The Suns are favored by six points. Today’s 3-on-3 features Michael Schwartz (@ValleyoftheSuns) of the ESPN TrueHoop Network blog Valley of the Suns, along with TAI’s Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis) and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It). Three questions, three answers… Leggo.
#1) Is Steve Nash not asking for a trade actually a very smart move, in that he’s not hurting his value by mere words, and the Suns will ultimately deal him before the deadline? Or will he really play out his contract and then leave Phoenix (or stay)? Where does he go in either case?
ADAM McGINNIS: The Suns should trade Nash from a basketball personnel standpoint, but ownership appears set on retaining him for remainder of season. If teams are low-balling for Nash’s services, there is an argument for letting him play his contract out. Fans will come to see Nash play his last games in Phoenix and that financial gain could be worth more than taking on salary or a few second round draft picks. Even though the Free Steve Nash movement has sprouted up online, Nash has taken the classy route of not creating drama with trade demands. My prediction is he plays out his contract and then signs with a title contender like Bulls, Heat, Thunder or Lakers.
MICHAEL SCHWARTZ: Steve Nash not asking for a trade has nothing to do with leverage, he’s just legitimately a loyal guy who wants to try to build something in Phoenix even if it seems crazy to the rest of the world (and some Suns fans). I’ve always felt that if the Suns were well out of the playoff race in March that he might change his tune, but there are many complicating factors such as the fact that his contract is not extendable so he’d be a two-month rental, his age, and the lack of teams that need a starting point guard. If I had to put money on it I’d say he’s going to play out his contract and potentially even re-sign, with the presence of his kids in Phoenix and the Suns’ vaunted training staff no small issues. If he does go, Portland would be my guess since they’ve been after him for years, desperately need a point guard and have the kind of assets that could make a deal work.
From the Wizards’ perspective, you’ll hear sentiment such as, “We just turned into our old selves in the third quarter,” courtesy of Andray Blatche in the quote mix video above. He also said that too many players were trying to put things on their own shoulders and that there were no Kobe Bryants or Dwyane Wades in the locker room.
Regarding the offense, Rashard Lewis said in the first quarter the Wizards moved the ball side to side, but later in the game, they often utilized only half of the baseline to halfcourt plane.
John Wall cited lack of heart and fight … hero ball.
Nick Young said that they have to find ways to get people open, saying Grant Hill was talking to him during the game, telling him that the Suns were reading every play the Wizards called.
The last game was played in Milwaukee, and this one was played in the friendly confines of the Verizon Center. The Bucks were missing three starters, and the Suns had a healthy roster at their disposal. The Wizards are a putrid 0-20 on the road, and they went into last night’s contest with 12-8 home record–including four straight wins at home. You get the point here, there were plenty of differences between last night’s game against Phoenix and Wednesday night’s game against Milwaukee. Still, it played out exactly the same.
In both games, the Wizards played flawless first quarter basketball, only to see their hard work come unraveled in each quarter after that, leading to a double digit loss.
The Wizards shot 53-percent in the first quarter, and they were mainly led by Nick Young (11 points) and Andray Blatche (10 points). John Wall did not do much damage scoring-wise (two points), but he managed to dish out a whopping nine assists, before he was subbed out for Kirk Hinrich with 3:49 left in the period.
[As it turns out, Hakim Warrick's monster jam on Yi Jianlian at the end of the first half was a sign for things to come for Washington in the second half.]
There was a battle for momentum toward the end of the second quarter during Sunday night’s Wizards-Suns game. Steve Nash had just penetrated the lane (as he did with ease all night), and dished off to Hakim Warrick (again, as he did all night) for a thunderous slam, and there were just four seconds left on the clock. John Wall then took the ball, ran down the court and launched a shot from just inside the three-point line.
After Wall’s attempt went in off the glass just before the buzzer, Channing Frye looked in disbelief and then ran towards the locker room. Wall briefly looked at the crowd, tapped his chest twice, and then he too ran off the court. His shot had cut the Suns lead to three points, and momentum seemed to be firmly on the Wizards’ side.
In the first 90 seconds or so of the third quarter, it seemed like the Wizards were up to matching the Suns’ intensity. Jason Richardson and Channing Frye both scored off passes from Nash, but the Wizards countered with scores of their own courtesy of two free throws from Wall and a dunk from Alonzo Gee. At that point, the Wizards were still within three points.
But then the Steve Nash show really started to kick into full gear. The Wizards could not keep pace and things began to get out of hand. Nash was either scoring or dishing on every basket, and each of Phoenix’s other four starters (Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Richardson and even Earl-freaking-Barron) scored within the first six minutes.
[Steve Nash lures John Wall with a back dribble, then changes pace to attack the open lane while keeping the ball away from JaVale McGee with two hands before sliding in for a layup.]
This Wizards team is hard to dissect, and I don’t mean “take apart,” as Steve Nash did on Sunday evening on his way to captaining his Suns to a 125-108 victory.
The Wizards are hard to dissect in the sense of separating individual parts to determine why the team continues to lose in the worst of ways (and win by the skin of their teeth). Anything and everything could go wrong on a given night.
On offense, in general, the team wastes too many possessions with bad shots. Pretty simple to conclude that they could use a lot more discipline in this regard. On defense, it comes down to focus and will, something several Wizards have major issues with. When you combine the overall effect that has on the team with the stylings of the two-time MVP in Nash, you have a recipe for the Suns to have their way with the Wizards.
Flip Saunders and I may have different perceptions of the Wizards. And for good reason, we are different people. He’s a professional, experienced coach. He sees countless things I don’t see when observing his team. But I’m stubborn in my opinion that derives from the things I see. Agree to disagree if you will. For instance, let’s look at the quote below from Michael Lee’s story in Monday’s Washington Post:
Despite their 1-3 record, the Wizards (8-17) still believe they made progress on the trip, with Coach Flip Saunders and several of his players commenting on how the team could’ve easily won two more games if a few more breaks had gone their way.
The Wizards have recently patted themselves on the back for not quitting and being in close contests. “Breaks” … sure, Michael Lee’s words, but the franchise has conveyed the ‘if only a couple of plays’ argument, as if some fate has intervened.
I’m under the impression that if the Wizards wanted it a little bit more, especially on defense, if they had just a bit more focus, determination, hustle, you know, all of those intangible sports clichés, then they could have notched a couple more wins.