Yes, we are all too familiar with Blake Griffin flops (save for petulant Lakers-cum-Clippers fans and other offending defenders). He’s funny in commercials (I genuinely like his KIA spots), he dunks really well, he usually can’t hit a free throw, and Blake Griffin sometimes plays a style of basketball that you would rather referees dishonor than honor. But, stars get calls. Also all too familiar. In this instance, Nene was called for a foul. But will Blake get fined for a flop? Or will the league deem the faux motion acceptable under the threat of assault?
John Wall was waiting to grab a rebound during warmups before Washington’s game versus Orlando, and his face instantly lit up when he recognized Jay-Z’s voice over the loud speakers: ”Aw man, it is Big Pimpin’ Baby.”
Wall continued to sing verses of the Jay-Z hit single as he filed through the layup line, enticing smiles out of his teammates. John Wall was back where he wanted to be, and the mood of the team was noticeably lifted. This was a different scene than that of the Nick Young/JaVale McGee/Andray Blatche era, where jacking around reigned supreme in warm-ups and a level of seriousness never materialized when it mattered. Wall was chatting up Bradley Beal non-stop and the rookie could not contain his laughter. The future franchise core tossed each other alley-oops—Wall struggled converting some dunks on his “jiggly legs.” Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin followed Wall’s lead with impressive slams of their own. Later during warmups, Wall started playing around with Kevin Seraphin on the left wing, shaking the big man with a crossover. Both cracked up. Wall mocked Seraphin’s inability to stay on his feet.
Wall’s engaging personality is often hidden in the button-downed, risk-averse image he presents in media interviews. Spend any time around Wall and you see the happy-go-lucky attitude is real and genuine. He appears to know every elite basketball player and partakes in many pregame pleasantries with opponents. The Orlando game was no different, as he greeted Magic reserve guard Ish Smith at half court—both hail from North Carolina, and likely know each other from the hoop circuit in the Tar Heel state. As the national anthem approached, Wall’s roommate and best friend, Tyrone (Ty) Williams, came over for their pre-game conversation ritual.
Williams grew up with the dynamic point guard in Raleigh and, although not blood related, Wall call’s him his “brother.” Ty attends almost every home game and sits near the floor. Through Wall’s infamous club appearances (which certain bloggers passive aggressively concern troll), trouble and off-the-court drama has never surfaced in any capacity. This might seem trivial and not worthy of praise, but being a young, rich NBA player makes you a target when you are just doing a simple activity like being out socializing with your circle of friends. This can be difficult waters for famous hoopers to navigate in a world full of hanger-ons and distractions. Williams deserves credit for keeping Wall away from any negative publicity or troublesome situations. (If only Arenas and Blatche had similar peeps.)
So it’s halftime of the Wizards-Magic game, and the Wiz Kids are looking good, sort of. They got up 48-34 on Orlando at one point with — you guessed it — Emeka Okafor (11) and Jan Vesely (8) as your leading scorers. The Wizards even pushed their lead to 55-36, prompting one millionaire blogger on the sideline to slap Trevor Ariza on the ass. But then Jameer Nelson dropped 12 points and two assists in the last three minutes of the second quarter, and the Magic closed out the half on a 13-0 run. A one-time 19-point lead was quickly cut down to six for Washington, 59-53.
And then there was the time Orlando’s Ish Smith jumped over John Wall’s head and still blocked his shot. On to the second half…
[Friday night thoughts before John Wall's scheduled Saturday debut.]
Let’s be fair to John Wall. I haven’t seen him in practice. Haven’t seen him on Ted Leonsis’ AlterG “anti-gravity” treadmill from outer space. All the Internets talk about, however, is tubby Johnny Wall. Belly full ‘o junk food, y’all. It … would be … soWizards. Whatever the case, Wall is slated to return to action this evening. You might have heard.
So where does that put us as a team? I use “us” in the most ”It’s in the best interest of all involved if this franchise started winning” way—fans, employees, media, etc. You see, I’m no longer a ‘fan’ fan. No face painting, ra-ra, and all that crap. Never really was.I cover this team, but have been dedicated in my following since 1990. I don’t enjoy watching the Wizards lose, and sometimes I appreciate it when they win (I used to get genuinely excited about the local team coming out on top), but for the most part, I’m now just an interested observer. Yet, there’s this whole blog website that kind of goes beyond mere interest.
It’s ‘New Wizards Eve’ … if you will (again), 11 days into 2013 and 28 losses out of 33 played. At least the Mayans weren’t wizards.
More than ever, media surrounding a professional sports team is a battle waged with pixels. Even winning franchises must deal with damage control, getting out feel-good messages about players, feeding the machine. But for teams like the Wizards, the task is even tougher.
Nothing looks good about this season, and fan frustration with team management is quickly coming to a head. Only one NBA team has accrued more losses over the reign of Ernie Grunfeld in Washington (since 2003, 458 and counting): the Minnesota Timberwolves (462). The T-Wolves, propelled by woulda/coulda/shoulda-been Wizards draft pick Ricky Rubio, beat the Oklahoma City Thunder last night—the team that everyone wants to be like. And the Houston Rockets, who managed to turn their roster over faster and more efficiently than the Wizards, are the surprise story of this NBA season.
Meanwhile, the Wizards are 3-20. Sure, there are a plethora of legitimate excuses—injuries (as always), youth, roster turnover, owner turnover, the list goes on…
And so it’s the thankless, unenviable job of team-fueled media—from television to radio to the owner’s blog—to pump out the positive pixels of puffery surrounding such a dead-in-the-water team. Somebody has to combat the cold, cruel vitriol—sometimes fueled by facts, sometimes fueled by fatigue, sometimes fueled by friggin’, frackin’ emotions in that people just want to be able to enjoy the basketball being played by their hometown professional team.
So the Wizards actually beat the Lakers earlier this year. On March 7, 2012, they pulled out a 106-101 victory in the District, led by Nick Young’s 19 points and a still career-high six assists off the bench. Trevor Booker also muscled his way to 18 points and 17 rebounds that night. And if you recall, the Lakers were up 21 points in the second half. It was Washington’s first victory over the Lake Show since Gilbert Arenas dropped 60 points in his hometown of Los Angeles on December 17, 2006.
In the March win, Roger Mason played the hometown hero by somehow going 4-for-7 from the 3-point line in 12 minutes (all in the second half, three in the fourth quarter). Thus, the Wizards managed to turn a crowd mostly in favor of the Lakers to start into an arena rocking for the comeback Wiz Kids in the end. Afterward, Kobe Bryant was understandably terse with the media, trying his best to “keep it to one-word answers.”
Now Kobe’s Lakers come to Washington with a 9-14 record, somehow with only two fewer losses than the 3-16 Wizards, and having lost to the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night national television. New York put up 41 points in the first quarter, was up 68-49 at halftime, and ultimately won 116-107. Afterward, Kobe had this to say (via TNT):
“Every game for us has a lot of meaning to it, at this point. I don’t think it’s … Maybe if we were rollin’, playing well, it would probably have added significance [playing Knicks], but at this point, I wish we had the Washington Generals on our schedule.”
[John Wall can only watch and wish that he played with Kevin Durant.]
Robert Griffin III is awesome. No getting around that. All of the draft picks that the Redskins traded for him were worth it, and more. Redskins fans are very lucky to even have the a talent like RGIII on their team for years to come. An NBA superstar can make a franchise, but a potentially all-time great NFL quarterback is like nothing else (without getting too far ahead of ourselves).
That said, the Wizards could really, really use an NBA superstar. Kevin Durant is pridefully from the DMV area and just thinking about him in ‘new’ Wizards red (or even sporting the uniform of a more properly-named pro basketball team from the nation’s capital) brings a warm and fuzzy feeling. And even though the quarterback usually gets the girl, if done smartly (note: the Redskins under Dan Snyder have generally been very, very stupid), an NFL team can be built to win and compete for the Super Bowl, with a less-than thrilling QB.
But a guy like Durant, the NBA’s youngest-ever scoring champ and quite possibly one of the top three scorers in the game of basketball over the last two decades (or ever), could be even more of a game-changer for a team like the Wizards than RGIII has been for the Redskins.
So, I posed the question to D.C. sports fans on Twitter (last night before the Redskins beat the Giants and again earlier this morning)… Read more »
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.
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.