Extra! Extra! The Washington Wizards are winless no more.
“I told them we just broke through the ice,” Randy Wittman told the press after the game. “I lived in Minnesota for 15, 17 years—that ice was four or five feet deep, but it’s broken through now. This is obviously a good win for us.”
It was a good win. But it’s their only win. The first. A step in the right direction. Had the Wizards lost to the Blazers, they would have been the 10th team in NBA history to have started a season 0-13. “We don’t want to go down in history as one of the worst teams ever,” said Chris Singleton in the winning locker room. The Wiz avoided that peculiar honor … for now.
What did the Portland Trail Blazers have to say about it? Glad you asked.
Before tonight’s game, TAI spoke with Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts about how Nene, who is playing tonight, affects his game plan; about not wanting to be the first to lose to the winless Wizards; and about what positives he does see out of Washington.
Stotts: “They know their record. I think every NBA player has a lot of pride, and everybody in our locker room has a lot of pride. None of them want to be part of the team that gives the Wizards their first win, and, at the base of it, I think that’s what you try to instill or appeal to is their pride, and go out and play as hard as you can.”
TAI also briefly spoke with Wizards point guard Shaun Livingston, who is also a go tonight against Portland, about facing heralded Blazers rookie Damian Lillard.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich did some poetic waxing, to the extent that he can, about Tim Duncan prior to Monday night’s game against the Wizards. Maybe Duncan has some “strange elixir” behind his stellar play, says Popovich. This is Duncan’s 16th NBA season, he’s 36-years old, and he’s putting up a career-high PER (27.3). Pretty amazing.
Maybe Duncan’s enduring tenure could be attributed to new-age techniques.
“I guess it’s not surprising when you look at training techniques these days and how seriously these guys take it. All of us eat better than we did growing up,” said Popovich. “Our parents used to know what we all know now, so these guys are taking advantage of it. What they put in their bodies is really important to them. Contracts are big. They know somebody’s waiting in line, so they better take care of themselves. The training techniques are really advanced, and they go year-round, so it’s not surprising that [NBA players in their mid-to-late 30s] can extend their careers the way that they have.”
This is now the time where we briefly interject with the recent relevancy of Andray Blatche and the tragedy of him never acting like taking care of his body was important, of him never playing like someone was waiting in line.
Randy Wittman will go with a new starting lineup tonight against the San Antonio Spurs, his fourth in 12 games on the season. And that lineup is: A.J. Price, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Kevin Seraphin, and Emeka Okafor. I asked the coach before the game, before the new lineup was announced, if his players understood the coach’s search, or if they are getting frustrated with the process.
“Again, I’m trying. They’ve got to prove to me who’s worthy of that, too. And that’s what I’m trying to find. Right now we’re kind of going a little bit with matchups, too,” said Wittman, mentioning his “banged-up” team, health-wise. He also reiterated his desire for a consistent starting five and a rotation of about four guys off the bench. The search continues…
Before the game, I also asked the hard-to-crack Gregg Popovich about Wittman tinkering, searching for the right lineup combinations, and if the seasoned Spurs championship coach can empathize with that situation.
This Sunday morning brings a couple of videos from Wizards Nation. The first is from long-time fan (and TAI reader) Adam Gerloff. Adam is from the D.C. metro area (Northern Virginia, to be more exact) and has been a fan of the franchise since the late 1980s. He moved to New York in 1997, but still kept close tabs on his hometown team. Until now. The below video came via email this morning from Adam with the subject line: “I dumped the Wizards.” It will bring a smile to your face (not sure what kind of smile, as smiles come in different forms); it will make you sad; it will make you shake your head while sporting that obscurely emotional smile.
I’m not sure I completely believe Adam when he says it’s over—it’s certainly not a path I would take in year 22 of ardently following the Washington pro basketball team (since ’90). But, I wouldn’t dare question the decision that any Wizards fan (or ex-Wizards fan) might make at this point. There’s a lot of scar tissue surrounding this franchise, and telling fans to stay patient just doesn’t seem to work anymore. I’ll probably never stop being a Wizards follower—just can’t quit them. But when I might normally do so otherwise, in diff’rent times, who am I to judge anyone who wants to quit on them now?
This next video takes a rather different direction. With moving pictures from 2012 Wizards training camp at George Mason University—which began a mere 54 days ago—this video is all about fan expectations, which are always built upon hope, internally and or externally influenced. But when injuries become the narrative, as often seems the case with this team, hope becomes diminished by uncertainty. Fans are left baffled, wondering what goes through Ted Leonsis’ mind when considering the track record of Ernie Grunfeld in totality. Fans are left wondering why the team owner preaches patience, since there’s been so much change, in this the third year of the rebuilding project. The construction site is now mired with cost overruns and reconsidered blueprints; but it’s not without promise. If key players don’t succumb to uncertain ailments. If young players are allowed just a little more time to catch up, if they can somehow turn the oodles of on-the-job training into the next step, then their wild inconsistency wouldn’t keep them a grade behind.
Just in case you are one of the many ready to jump ship on the 0-11 Wizards, take a moment to watch and listen to Martell Webster. Unlike years past, this is a team that cares about winning. They aren’t giving up. They don’t think they are bad team. But they are at a total loss for where success is going to come from at this moment. This is a brutal, raw and honest moment. And thank goodness Martell Webster was there to give it the words it needed.
“Just gotta win… Just gotta win.” —Martell Webster
Prior to tonight’s epic Wizards-Bobcats tilt, Randy Wittman had his usual presser with the loyal cadre of Wizards beat reporters and staffers. Most of the presser can be considered business as usual, but Wittman was downright Belichickian when it came to discussing Wizards injuries. Nene’s minutes will “continue” to be monitored, despite the fact that he was basically encased in ice after the Hawks game. Trevor Booker’s knee “gets better” every day, but there is no timetable for his return. Most encouragingly, Wittman has “no idea” when John Wall will be back.
Kevin Seraphin hit what was thought to be a game-winner with over seven seconds left in overtime. Kyle Korver hit the go-ahead 3-pointer (thanks to Trevor Ariza) with over one second left. Earlier, Atlanta’s Al Horford missed four straight free throws, and the Hawks got the ball afterward — both times. And of course, we have the young Wizards running off the court, thinking/hoping/wishing that they got their first win, thanks to a last-second Martell Webster tip attempt after a Seraphin miss. But their celebration was moot. The shot came finger tips after the buzzer.
Wow. I can’t even bring myself to type Flip Saunders’ infamous quote at this point. But we will, in honor of the saddest of the sad, show a GIF of the celebration that didn’t count. One day, Wizards, one day.
Ugly is an understatement. It borders on the surreal, whatever is going on with these 0-9 Washington Wizards. In the last five-plus seasons alone, we’re up to 131 wins, 272 losses, 73 players, four head coaches, two owners, and one team president of basketball operations, Ernie Grunfeld. All the problems seem different, but they add up to one big mess.
This play from Monday’s Pacers game, as described by the Washington Post’s Michael Lee, is quite unique in itself, and captures the essence of this year’s issues:
The struggles of the starters were summed up in one play in the third quarter, when Crawford drove into the lane and flipped an air ball. Okafor jumped to get the putback, but shot an air ball over the rim. Price missed a three-pointer and then Okafor had his shot blocked by Hibbert. Fans started booing.
The Wizards Said WHAT?!
Post-Pacers Game – Nov. 19, 2012
via TAI’s John Converse Townsend
The Worst NBA Offense in a Decade?
One way to measure an NBA offense on a relatively even playing field is by Offensive Rating, which is an estimate of how many points a team scores per 100 possessions. It’s said to be an “estimate” because there’s no concrete, agreed upon method of calculating a possession.* For more, feel free to visit the glossary on Basketball-Reference.com, which has NBA possession data going back to the 1973-74 season.
What say the numbers?
The Wizards average a league-worst 94.3 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com. If you do a search of the BBR database, only eight NBA teams since the 1973-74 season have had an Offensive Rating (OffRtg) below 95. The 2002-03 Denver Nuggets were the last team to do so with an OffRtg of 92.2. Juwan Howard, of all people, led that Nuggets team in scoring with 18.4 points per game; James Posey was second with a 14.1 average, and the Wizards’ own Nene—who was a rookie that season—was the third Nugget, averaging double-figures in scoring at 10.5.
This season’s Wizards also have three players averaging double-figures in points: Jordan Crawford (12.2), Bradley Beal (11.7), and Kevin Seraphin (10.1).