Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Sat, 10 Sep 2016 02:08:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Wizards Exec on Satoransky: ‘We want him to be a rotation player’ http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/wizards-exec-on-satoransky-we-want-him-to-be-a-rotation-player.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/wizards-exec-on-satoransky-we-want-him-to-be-a-rotation-player.html#comments Sat, 10 Sep 2016 02:08:55 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51178 satoransky-tomas-2016-summer

Washington Wizards executives not named Ernie Grunfeld are generally not made available to the media; nor are assistant coaches. Different teams have different rules, and of course exceptions can always be made.

Tommy Sheppard is Washington’s senior vice president of basketball operations. He’s essentially “1B” to Grunfeld’s “1A.” Earlier this summer, when visiting Europe to conduct scouting and various other efforts in basketball relations, Sheppard spoke with the Czech Republic Basketball Federation about Wizard-to-be, Tomas Satoransky. Portions of the Q&A were posted on sport.idnes.cz and that has been transcribed below by TAI’s Czech correspondent, Lukas Kuba.

Sheppard on what’s hardest for him as Wizards VP of basketball operations:

“Definitely losses, like in any business. And in the NBA it’s especially hard. The big challenge for us is to keep our players healthy, because the team is only good if the players are as healthy as they can be. Last season, we had issues with it, but I believe that we have moved forward again.”

Sheppard on his relationship with European hoops:

“I’m a big fan of European basketball. I first came to Europe in the early 1990s. I’ve got a lot of friends who have played in the NBA here. I collaborated with the Lithuanian national team, where I befriended guys like Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis. [Then] I worked with [Czechs] George Zidek, Jan Vesely, and now with Tomas Satoransky. Euro basketball excites me—after all, several Europeans are among the best NBA players, for example Pau Gasol or Dirk Nowitzki.”

On why the Wizards picked Satoransky in the 2012 NBA Draft (32nd overall, second pick of the second round):

“When we drafted Tomas, we felt that he’d become a terrific NBA player. He’s unique, pretty athletic, and very versatile. He’s a point guard but he can play the 2 and 3 positions as well. But the most important thing is his basketball IQ, he’s just very smart and a good leader. Nevertheless, we are patient. We wanted him to come to play for us earlier, but we left it up to him to decide to come over to the NBA when he felt ready. In the upcoming season, we want him to play, not sit on the bench or play in the D-League.”

On how much Satoransky has improved in the four years since the 2012 Draft:

“[Not coming over immediately] helped him significantly. He’s improved his shooting, gained muscle and confidence. It happened not only because he played in the Spanish ACB League, but also because he plays a major role on the [Czech] national team. He helped the Czech Republic to the best rank (7th at EuroBasket 2015) in the country’s history.

“It’s important that he’s played in big and difficult games, both at  FIBA events and for FC Barcelona. For us it was important to watch him play great in those games. I’ve been to Barcelona [to watch him play] several times and I’ll miss going there. We have to find another player in Barcelona, it’s just a beautiful city.”

On Washington’s expectations for Tomas:

“I can’t tell you right now. First he has got to get used to the NBA. There’s a different speed [compared to the other leagues], the competition is much more physical, but I believe he’s going to handle it. We want him to be a rotation player. With him, we can play a different style of ball. Tomas will be able to play with both John [Wall] and Bradley [Beal] on the floor—actually, he can play with anyone. He’s great in the pick-and-roll and in making good decisions with the ball. There’s no doubt in my mind that he can defend point guards and shooting guards, too.”

On if Satoransky can play alongside both Wall and Beal:

“Of course. They can all play together, and we don’t have to say who’s a point guard. We’ll play small ball with three guards who are going to rebound the ball and run fast down the court. We think Tomas is an excellent fit for us and this style of basketball.”

On how difficult the transition to the NBA will be for Tomas:

“First thing, he’ll have to adapt. There’s lots of traveling in the NBA, lots of games played. In his first year he’ll find out how to take care of himself and his body, how to handle all the difficulties, how to adjust his sleep patterns, what’s best for him to eat, etc. But Tomas is experienced enough. He’s been playing professionally since the age of 16. So I’m not worried about him at all in this regard. He’s going to be an NBA rookie, but he’s a seasoned pro.”

On if he thinks the Wizards fans are going to like Satoransky and his game:

“Of course. They will love him. D.C. is one of the best basketball cities in the USA, there’s a good high school environment, pro environment, and a number of great players come from D.C. The Wizards fans appreciate when players work hard, when they can pass the ball and play smart—like Tomas does. Thanks to this, he’s probably going to be popular among fans.”

On what’s Satoransky like compared to his fellow countryman and former Wizard, Jan Vesely:

“They are absolutely different. What they have in common is that both of them are Czechs. [But] they are different people and different types of ball players. Jan was amazing, and I still think he’s an NBA player—if he wants to return to the league someday, the NBA door is open for him.”

On if his knowledge of Czech basketball is better now thanks to Vesely and Satoransky:

“Yes, I think so. I had an opportunity to spend a lot of time watching the national team at the recent EuroBasket tournaments in Slovenia and France. I think the youth program is on the way up. I hope that Tomas inspires young kids to play basketball. It’s a great sport. Tomas is a proof that when you got talent, you can get to the NBA from anywhere.”

On what does he think about Satoransky’s work with teenage kids at his Tomas Satoransky Basketball Camp in Prague:

“It’s amazing and it’s a must-see experience. I remember Tomas at Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, when he was 16 years old. Now I see him here teaching 16-year-olds the game himself and I feel old. As a young boy he looked up to the great players and now these kids are watching him. It’s amazing that they can see him in action on the court and work with him. Tomas has got a very responsible approach to it.”

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I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight: Must’ve Been a Lineup of Death http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/washington-wizards-death-lineup.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/washington-wizards-death-lineup.html#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2016 16:33:21 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51196 wizards-death-lineup

Death lineups were all #NBATwitter could talk about at times last season. But Randy Wittman rarely employed “death” in lineup form during his tenure with the Wizards. And perhaps that was the death of him—inflexibility, that is, which is contrary to the hallmark of versatile death lineups.

The Golden State Warriors made famous a killer five-man unit of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, Harrison Barnes (now Kevin Durant), and Draymond Green. All good passers, with positions 3-thru-5 capable of playing inside and out, and two out-of-this-world shooters—and of course this concept would not succeed without a unique player like Green.

Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer recently wrote about Golden State’s general matchup superiority, plus five up-and-coming teams that “have what it takes to find success out of the Warriors model.” Those teams: the Pistons, Magic, Jazz, Celtics, and Timberwolves (1).

How we got here is fairly elementary. Effective lineups in today’s game demand an increased premium on 3-point shooting atop the long-entrenched presence of athletic big men who can spread the floor but do all the other dirty defensive work required (Rasheed Wallace is long gone and Kevin Garnett is almost there). This Golden State scheme is just another chapter in the book. Yesterday’s stretch-4 is today’s stretch-5.

You have to go far down the list of top Wizards lineups from 2015-16 to find one that did not include at least one of the following “bigs”: Marcin Gortat, Nene, Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, Ryan Hollins, Drew Gooden, or J.J. Hickson—yes, all these guys played for the Wizards last season. None of these big men, mind you, can shoot the 3-pointer well enough to force any opposing coach to change defensive tactics, nor were they even capable of guarding ball screens by switching.

So here’s the extent of Wittman’s creativity, if you will (2):

  • John Wall, Ramon Sessions, Gary Neal, Otto Porter, and Jared Dudley saw 16 total minutes of action together over four games—Wittman’s 46th-most-used lineup. They were minus-1 in plus/minus.
  • Wall, Bradley Beal, Neal, Porter, and Dudley saw 13 minutes together to the tune of plus-16.
  • Wall, Beal, Garrett Temple, Porter, and Dudley were minus-3 over 12 minutes.
  • Wall, Sessions, Beal, Neal, and Dudley: 10 minutes on the season and an even-0 in plus/minus.

We could dive deeper into small-sized sample theaters, but let’s not. Also: Jared Dudley is no Draymond Green, but he always meant well. And, to be fair to Wittman, last season’s roster construction didn’t really allow (or convince) the coach to get wild hairs and play nearly super-small lineups. Or, the context offered by Tjarks: “The trick to small ball is playing guys who aren’t all that small.”

The current thinking in Wizards Land: Otto Porter has a 7’1.5″ wingspan and Kelly Oubre has a 7’2″ wingspan (3). The Wizards will need 2013’s third overall draft pick, Porter, more than ever. Oubre, a sophomore-to-be, isn’t completely ready, but the Wizards may not be able to afford bringing him on slowly any longer. He’s got potential on defense, anyway.

Furthermore: Washington acquired Markieff Morris on February 18 and he really became the only near-death lineup option at the 5 spot.

Morris is strong, he’s nimble on his feet, and the Wizards at least encouraged him to shoot 3s in an offense driven by John Wall. The caveats: Morris’ wingspan isn’t otherworldly (like Green’s—6’10.75″ for Morris, 7’1.25″ for Draymond), and there are times when Morris’ defensive attentiveness and willingness don’t align. What can a new environment, or occasionally used scheme, do to ignite his career?

Morris only saw around 10 minutes at the 5 for Wittman’s Wizards, per rough calculations, and that was divided between 11 different five-man units. Seven of those lineups included Wall, and three of those lineups included both Wall and Beal.

Just one lineup with Morris at 5 included both Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre as the 3-4 combo. The guards were Ramon Sessions and Marcus Thornton over that single minute of action.

Where we’ve arrived is Washington’s most capable lineup of death being Wall, Beal, Porter, Oubre, and Morris, obviously. Wonder what Scott Brooks thinks.

During his last season coaching in Oklahoma City, Brooks’ top 13 most-used lineups each included big man pairings between Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter, Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins, and Mitch McGary. A squad of Reggie Jackson, Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, Kevin Durant, and Perkins played 43 minutes together (over 8 games) to the tune of plus-6. The next small-ball lineup featuring players you’d actually want on the court played 23 minutes of action (same crew as above except with Jeremy Lamb instead of Waiters).

The general summer analysis is true: after failing to even secure a meeting with Durant and losing out to the Celtics for Plan B, Al Horford, Washington’s big splash this offseason was an overdue move: getting a new coach (4).

The theme that’s developed with the hire:

  1. Brooks will better facilitate (young) player development, and
  2. The new coach is likely much more amenable to lineup experimentation.

He won’t be coaching for his job like Wittman. That could pair nicely with whispers so far that Brooks is more “militaristic,” than his predecessor, which probably just means regimented. Plus the roster is also set up to better facilitate such.

One could envision floor-spreaders Andrew Nicholson or Jason Smith playing the 5 in a death unit (individual evaluations of pick-and-roll defense notwithstanding—I mean, that Jason Smith signing, don’t you want to just die?). In his Ringer article, Tjarks even takes some liberties in touting that Orlando could field a “death” lineup with Serge Ibaka at the 4 and Bismack Biyombo at the 5. This doesn’t actually differ much from the Wizards playing Marcin Gortat or Ian Mahinmi at the 5 next to an Oubre-Porter 3-4, or even Morris at 4.

The key to all this is, as Tjarks said, not playing so small. In other words, having “bigs” who can guard down and won’t create a severe defensive mismatch on a switch. Washington has the personnel in place with a very capable defensive lineup of Wall, Beal, Porter, Oubre, and Morris.

The butter is when each player is capable of being a 3-point threat. Last season’s percentages from deep: Beal (38.7%), Porter (36.7%), Wall (35.1%), Oubre (31.6%), and Morris (31.6%)—a ton of room for improvement, especially when it comes to the best shooter, Beal, who should be cracking the 40 percent mark.

Upward and onward go the Wizards, and until there is evidence, this is nothing but fodder—or embalming fluid, depending on your outlook. At least the infrastructure provides more promise than it does the proverbial nail in the coffin.

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Summer of Satoransky Pt. 2: Coming to America; Impressions of John Wall http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/summer-of-satoransky-pt-2-coming-to-america-impressions-of-john-wall.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/summer-of-satoransky-pt-2-coming-to-america-impressions-of-john-wall.html#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 16:05:36 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51172 2016-czech-radio-tomas-satoransky

As part of his end-of-summer Czech media tour (read part 1 here), Tomas Satoransky recently appeared on Czech Radio’s “Radiojournal” show. You can read more about the appearance in Czech on Facebook and watch on YouTube, or you can check out the highlights below via TAI’s Czech correspondent, Lukas Kuba.

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Satoransky has a plenty of game and a pile of potential (he will turn 25 at the end of October). But he’s still got a long way to go before he looks like a polished pro. And he drove that point home with a story during the radio show.

He was in London, just 16 years old and about to play in his first game for the Czech men’s senior national basketball team. And in the brand new O2 Arena—it was a showdown between Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng and his Great Britain team versus the Czech Republic.

Satoransky was really looking forward to the game, and finally, in the second quarter, he got his chance to play. He came off the bench, shed his warm-ups, and suddenly, the English crowd of 12,000 began to buzz. Wow, he said to himself, I didn’t know they know me here! As it turned out: nope, they did not know about this Czech kid with unkempt hair. Tomas got ready with such a mix of excitement and anxiety, he put on his Czech jersey in reverse—with SATORANSKY across the chest.

Of course, he didn’t notice it at all, and his Czech teammates didn’t tell him, either. You know, rookie hazing. So Tomas got on the court and, in a moment, almost everyone in the arena started to point their fingers on him. What the hell? Great Britain’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu then came to him and told him about the uniform snafu. Meanwhile, Saty’s teammates on the bench were laughing their heads off. For the next five minutes of game time, all teenage Satoransky could think about was: Damn, what an idiot I am.

There were more short stories like that, but perhaps the two most interesting bits relate to his contract. He has a “for the love of the game” clause in his Wizards contract (standard for most NBA contacts), which allows him to play ball anywhere during the offseason. Satoransky says he couldn’t do that while he was playing in Europe and that he would like to play in an offseason pickup game in New York City at least once. However, Saty can’t engage in non-basketball activities that may cause a risk to his health, like riding a motorbike or skiing. He is not into motorbikes, but when he was young he liked to ski, but says he hasn’t skied for 13 years.

Extra Bytes.

  • When he’s home in Czech Republic, he gets mistakenly identified as Spaniard or foreigner because of his darker skin complexion (compared to the average Czech) and dark brown eyes.
  • Satoransky hates to lose; in fact, he’s insufferable after losses in big-time games—sometimes he can’t sleep for days after.
  • His choice of sneakers: adidas, size 13.
  • Satoransky took part in the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program this summer.
  • He also attended the Wizards’ players-only minicamp in Los Angeles organized by John Wall, and said that his teammates were willing to help him with anything—”Everybody was very cool and real nice to me.”
  • Satoransky watched NBA games growing up. The league is one of the reasons why he started playing basketball: “It’s just a great show. I had lots of role models in the NBA, and now to get an opportunity to play against them, it’s incredible.”
  • He always looks to finish with a dunk: “I’ll try to entertain the crowd,” he says.
  • Saty claims he is always a guy who would rather pass the ball than shoot.
  • He likes the fact that there are ball boys in the NBA; now he can work out/shoot around at any time while they rebound and pass the ball back.
  • Considers the NBA fines “huge” and will think twice before reacting or mouthing off to a referee’s call

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Before the Labor Day weekend in the U.S., Satoransky also spoke with sport.aktualne.cz; highlights and quotes below.

  • Satoransky will fly to the District this Friday to prepare for the season: “I’m a bit tired, but at the same time I’m excited that I’m an NBA player. I already can’t wait to start playing there.”
  • Regular season games he’s looking forward most: versus the Knicks and his buddy Kristaps Porzingis, and versus LeBron’s Cavs.
  • Satoransky enjoyed the Rookie Transition Program but also says: “It was pretty crazy. We were stuck at the hotel for three days.”
  • He was 17 when he really started to believe that he had a chance to play in the NBA.
  • Tomas: “My athleticism was a bit of a rarity in Europe, but it’s probably average for the NBA level. I have to deal with it and find an aspect of my game which will be exceptional [even] in the NBA. So, I’m basically starting from zero [again].”
  • Out of his Wizards teammates, John Wall has made the greatest impression on Satoransky so far. Tomas says Wall immediately took him under his wing during the mini camp. “John was really nice and I was surprised what a leader he is. He exudes leadership on and off the floor, too. [During his six NBA seasons] he grew to be a leader. He began helping me from the very start. [My teammates] know that [a rookie NBA season] is not easy for an European. The goal is to be successful as a team so I felt support from all of them, and especially from John.”
  • Overall, Satoransky praised the behavior of his new teammates. They don’t have any starry mannerisms, he says. “They’re all totally cool. Of course, they ride different cars [than Europeans], but when you talk to them they are cool, and I felt they don’t act superior.”
  • Saty also says that Kelly Oubre really impressed him on the court.

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Summer of Satoransky Pt. 1: Last Days in Europe; Shooting Coach Talks Jumper http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/summer-of-satoransky-pt-1-last-days-in-europe-shooting-coach-talks-jumper.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/summer-of-satoransky-pt-1-last-days-in-europe-shooting-coach-talks-jumper.html#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2016 19:39:24 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51170 satoransky-tomas-2016-summer

Tomas Satoransky met with Czech media at the end of August for the first time since officially signing with the Washington Wizards in late-July. This happened in Prague, where Satoransky hosted a hoops camp for talented teenage kids from Czech Republic and Slovakia.

What follows are his most interesting answers, as translated by TAI’s Czech correspondent, Lukas Kuba.

On choosing jersey No. 31:

“I chose 31 because I think Jarell Eddie already wears No. 8 (Satoransky’s jersey number with Czech national team) and Marcin Gortat has No. 13 (his jersey number with FC Barcelona), so I just put No. 3 in front of No. 1.

“I like my new Wizards jersey a lot. I was excited when I first saw it, because not only it is a great honor to wear it, but I really like the way the Wizards jerseys look, too. I’m looking forward to wearing them in NBA games.”

On Wizards Senior VP of Basketball Operations Tommy Sheppard visiting his basketball camp:

“Tommy Sheppard brought me several Wizards jerseys with my number on them to the camp. It’s very valuable that the Wizards organization supports its players in such ways like this. Throughout the summer I was in contact with Tommy, and during my first three weeks in America (as a Wizards player), we discussed various organizational matters together. And this weekend we went to dinner together in Prague. Everywhere I am, I extol the virtues of our capital, so Tommy enjoyed his stay from this perspective.”

On his plans for the last days of the NBA offseason:

“Before I leave to Washington, I’m going to be working out individually for nine days here in Prague [Ed. note: alongside German shooting/development coach Stefan Weissenbock.], and then I plan to work out and practice for three weeks in D.C. After that begins the official training camp with the Wizards—basically a week of the toughest practices of the season.”

On having respect playing against NBA stars:

“Yes, there is [respect], but it must not be exaggerated, because in that case you’re automatically defeated, you’re defeated in advance. If you don’t have self-confidence, you won’t succeed in the NBA.”

On how many minutes per game he’d be satisfied with in his rookie season:

“I have to reckon with the fact that I’m a rookie coming from Europe. Adapting to a different game and different style of basketball will take some time, but I hope that I’m going to be helpful to my team as quickly as possible. [By the way] the coaches already told me what to expect, and they also said they would use me at different positions, not just as a point guard.”

On Q&A session with campers:

“The kids asked me various questions, and the best one was which NBA player I’m afraid to guard. I answered that it’s going to be difficult defending Steph Curry, I don’t want to end up on the wrong side of his highlights.

“The first one was how satisfied I am with my contract [Ed. note: Saty signed a three-year contract worth $9 million.]. They just fired off that question without hesitation. I told them they must understand the fact that there’s taxation and other things. I found out immediately why they play basketball (laughs).

“[The campers exhibited] lots of enthusiasm for the NBA, and I hope that in the future we (the Czech Republic) will have two NBA players [Ed. note: Saty was probably alluding to his buddy Jan Vesely, who signed a new contract with Fenerbahce Istanbul this summer has an opt-out option for the NBA after each season.].”

On talking with former and current NBAers about what to expect in the NBA:

“I got lots of information from them, from Honza (Vesely), of course. For instance, I talked with him about prices of apartments in D.C. and other organizational matters. I’d rather not get duped by somebody. I also talked with Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks, who’s a great friend of mine, since we played together in Seville.”

And Coach Weissenbock on Satoransky’s jump shot:

“His shooting is still kinda average. Before it was even below average. Tomas has learned to hit shots when he’s open. That’s very important. You can’t progress as a player without it. A whole ‘nother level awaits him in the NBA. He has to accelerate his shooting mechanics in order to get the shot off before a defender can block it. However, he must not lose the stability and accuracy of his shot. Together, we have to find something that’s going to help him.”

Video of Satoransky’s session with the Czech media can be found below; images from his camp and summer workouts can be accessed via this Facebook link. Read “Summer of Satoransky Part 2″ here.

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John Wall Delivers Back-to-School Block Party to D.C. http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/john-wall-delivers-back-to-school-block-party-to-d-c.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/john-wall-delivers-back-to-school-block-party-to-d-c.html#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 14:19:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51130 adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

On a sweltering Saturday afternoon in D.C., families gathered for a back-to-school event hosted by the John Wall Family Foundation at Malcolm X Elementary School in Southeast. This was the third year Wall’s charity provided backpacks and school supplies to kids.

There was a DJ, free Chick-fil-A, basketball games, corn hole, Connect Four, face painting, and balloons. Informational booths were set up by 106.7 The Fan, the D.C. Public Library, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, Washington Animal Rescue League, Department of Health, Give Back Collaborative, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The Washington Wizards organization had a presence as well.

When Wall arrived, he immediately went to around to personally greet each volunteer. The three-time All-Star later addressed the crowd.

“I want thank all the parents for bringing your kids here. As part of John Wall Family Foundation, I am excited to be at Malcolm X Elementary to give back to the community. Like a lot of people before, we are not forced to do this. I do this because I want to. I love being involved with the families and being involved with the kids. The most important thing is for them to get their education. I know all you parents are preaching that to them, because without education, you can’t do nothing in life. You might not make it to be a professional athlete, but you might be a doctor or a teacher.

“I want to thank y’all for coming here. I am very excited to give them some school supplies or a book bag to get their day started when school starts. So let’s have some fun.”

Students lined up, accepted their school stuff, and got a picture taken with Wall. Some of the funniest moments came when a little kid would cry or run away from the photo opp. They hilariously had little regard for Washington’s star point guard.

Children also received prizes like a Wall bobblehead and basketball cards. John’s mom, Frances Pulley, ran one of the stations.

Wall took time to banter with parents, play games with youngsters, sign every autograph request, pose for selfies, and actually tied a mom in a pop-shot hoops game. She proceeded to talk smack to Wall; he laughed and gave her a double high-five.

The event was well-organized and attended, and the involvement of so many city and corporate partners was impressive. The District could always use some orchestrated positivity.

I asked Wall about his original philanthropic vision upon entering the league and how things have actually played out.

“It has been great. Everybody asked me why I started so late. I didn’t want to start something early and not have it be the way that I want it to be or be perfect. I think a lot of people get put in situations, try to start stuff early without having a plan or a vision. I wanted to plan mine out,” Wall said. “My John Wall Family Foundation and my John Wall team came together with this idea. Each year we are going to keep enhancing it. Adding new things to this block party.”

Other speakers included Zara Berry-Young, Malcolm X Elementary’s principal, and John Davis, chief of schools for DCPS. Berry-Young gave glowing remarks of her new favorite player: “Who are we going to be cheering for? John Wall, that is right. We are going to to be cheering for you. We got your back. Thank you so much.”

Earlier this summer, Wall was the recipient of the NBA’s seasonlong NBA Cares Community Assist Award; these type of  efforts are why that honor was well-deserved.

Notes.

  • HEALTH: Wall’s recovery from knee surgery is on schedule but he wouldn’t commit to a specific timetable on when he’ll be ready for the season—he will likely miss a few games. Wall did confirm to me that he is running and jumping, but just not going one-on-one or participating in basketball activities. He is filming a documentary about his rehab and recently teased a preview on Instagram.
  • TEAM-BUILDING: Wall organized a team workout for this week in Los Angeles. All the Wizards players have confirmed that they will attend, except for Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who are in Europe.
  • OLYMPICS: I asked John if he was envious of Team USA in Brazil, because he had been a part of their program and likely would have been selected on the squad if it weren’t for surgery. “I always think about it. But like I said, God always has a plan. Hopefully I can be there in 2020, but if not, so be it. As long as our country comes back with a gold medal, that’s all that matters to me,” he said.
  • PRACTICE FACILITY: Malcolm X Elementary is located very close to where the Wizards new practice facility will be built (this event was hosted at various Boys & Girls Clubs in the past). Wall mentioned the proximity as one of the reasons he selected this school, so he could develop personal relationships in the local community. The arena, already $10 million more expensive than originally planned, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018 and builders were recently named. John’s comment subtly assumed that he would be around for the opening, since he will be a free agent in the summer of 2018. Design drawings are scheduled to be released in September.
  • SHOE DEAL: When contract extension negotiations broke down between Wall and adidas, he ended up wearing different brands for the remainder of the season instead of his signature adidas shoes. The Modell’s Sporting Goods store in D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood had an adidas sign of Wall up in their store all season, when he was actually rocking Nikes in games. (I broke this bizarre situation down with Slam Magazine’s Abe Schwadron on a Pixel-and-Roll podcast in January). This issue with adidas played a factor in Wall changing agent representation from Dan Fegan to Rich Paul. A source close to John told me in early June that securing a shoe deal was one of his main goals of this summer. It’s long been rumored that Wall would sign with Jordan Brand. With the calendar almost turning to September and Wall still being a sneaker free agent, I quizzed him if there was an update looming. “Naw, not yet, just waiting for the Olympics to get over.”
  • BACK-TO-SCHOOL: Growing up, Wall said he didn’t have a favorite backpack but that he remembers using the same one until 7th grade. When he arrived at the event, DJ Grizzly played “Teach Me How to Dougie.” Considering all the unfair grief Wall received from a certain sports radio host for dancing once during pre-game introductions, and how John’s on- and off-court behavior has made him a fool, I grinned at the song selection.

Pictures.

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

John Wall with the staff of Malcolm X Elementary

 

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

Video.

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Unpacking the 2016-17 Wizards Schedule — Hitting the Road and Staying Fresh http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/unpacking-the-2015-16-wizards-schedule-hitting-the-road-and-staying-fresh.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/unpacking-the-2015-16-wizards-schedule-hitting-the-road-and-staying-fresh.html#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 03:34:29 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51117 79-80-bullets-media-guide-cover

The NBA schedule was released last Thursday and once again this season the Washington Wizards were allowed to participate.

TAI’s Adam Rubin provided his second annual Wizards ‘games to watch’ column (1), which reminds me that I need to buy him a calendar to actually circle. I’m also here to try to get back into the habit of writing (2).

A team press release was issued, touting home cooking, weekends, national television exposure, and back-to-backs. In the sixth sentence, as if giving a subtle nod to the days of Susan O’Malley, fans of frontrunners and popular large-market teams were given a cheat sheet on how to plan their fall/winter/spring:

The schedule also features two visits from the Cavaliers (Nov. 11 and Feb. 6), two home matchups with the Knicks (Nov. 17 and Jan. 31) and Chicago Bulls (Jan. 10 and Mar. 17) and visits from the Golden State Warriors (Feb. 28), Los Angeles Clippers (Dec. 18) and the Los Angeles Lakers (Feb. 2).

An amendment to the team release, in this the age of big data, was a statistical breakdown on the slate of 82 (PDF via the Wizards here). It was quite fascinating. Then again, what do we do with all these numbers?

In case it matters, three things:

#1) The Wizards are plus-2 in the “Games Fresh” column: games (13 total) when they didn’t play the night before but the opponent did, versus the opposite, i.e., “Games Tired” (11 total).

And any little thing helps: Washington, in 2015-16, shot 1.1 percent better on one day rest over no days, and 1.8 percent better on two days rest over one day. Records: 7-13 on 0 days rest; 22-22 on 1 day rest; 7-5 on 2 days rest.

#2) Other schedule analytics noted in the team email help limit excuse-making, or just simply convey that everyone’s pretty much in the same boat. Washington has 16 back-to-back sets this season (below the league average of 16.3), and that’s down from last season’s 19 back-to-backs (when the league average was 17.8).

The Wizards have to make a time zone change on only one back-to-back set (league average is 5.5), and one set involves no travel (Clippers-Lakers).

There is also a “Distance Traveled vs. Conference” data point: 38,782 miles for the Wizards, much closer to the league minimum of 37,209 versus the maximum of 49,408. Does Ted Leonsis see those savings in gas, or are folks missing out on credit card reward miles?

#3) In one sense, a kind early schedule chock-full of home games (10 of 14 in D.C. after playing the first two on the road) will be good for a team still desperate to find constancy and develop a better level of chemistry—both player-player and player(s)-new coach.

In another sense, this magnifies the urgency to get out and win early. We know John Wall is a soldier, but we still don’t know what bearing two summer knee surgeries will have on his ability to start strong. Or how Bradley Beal will attempt to act as a max player; whether Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris can be a solid defensive combination; and if Otto Porter’s balls have dropped any further.

Bonus: Wanna Get Away Games…

I always look at the calendar to see which Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday away games are within Bolt Bus, or close flight into a hub, or a reasonable drive away … in actual places one might want to go (don’t push it, Indiana, Detroit, Boston … Milwaukee?).

Here’s my list (flight info generally via Google flights, Amtrak, Southwest, etc.—don’t quote me on any of it):

@ Orlando on Saturday, Nov. 5 — $199 will currently buy you a nonstop, in on Saturday, out on Monday flight with United… from Dulles. Ooorr… you could fly Spirit Air from BWI to Orlando through Dallas-Ft. Worth. The robots and their flight logistics. No thanks.

@ Chicago on Saturday, Nov. 12 — You can catch our friend Spirit Air (probably best that you don’t) in early Saturday morning and out on Sunday for a cool $117 roundtrip … but otherwise, from other carriers, expect to pay at least $250 in airfare for a weekend in Chicago.

@ Brooklyn on Monday, Dec. 5 — Bolt Bus typically only sells tickets 4-to-6 weeks out, so be economical about it and don’t even think about splurging on Amtrak.

@ Miami on Monday, Dec. 12 — With a case of the Mundays, why not take a few days off from work? It’ll benefit you in price. Flying into Miami on Sunday and out on Tuesday (via DCA) will run you $217 to $240 with American Airlines.

@ Atlanta on Friday, Jan. 27 — You could really tolerate Spirit Air from BWI to Atlanta, in on Friday afternoon out on Saturday, for $71 bucks. Otherwise, Delta in the $153-$173 range could do the trick.

@ New Orleans on Sunday, Jan. 29 — I’m always a sucker for New Orleans, even in late-January, so it’s included even if not on the East Coast. Out of BWI on Southwest, $360 will get you there and back nonstop for the weekend (flying in on Saturday the 28th). There and back out of DCA nonstop could run you $285.

@ Philadelphia on Friday, Feb. 24 — Bolt Bus goes to Philly, too, as does the train. They actually might be exciting to watch this season (a tear just rolled down Sam Hinke’s cheek).

@ Charlotte on Saturday, Mar. 18 — Is it worth it to fly to Charlotte? The eternal questions probably not answered by airline flights are in the range of $240-$340 (more than $330 on Southwest out of DCA, $240 out of BWI at this juncture). Worth the six-hour drive from D.C.? Not sure that’s a question worth asking, either. A train looks to be about $70 one-way.

@ Cleveland on Saturday, Mar. 25 — NEVER! (But really, my wife’s grandma lives in Cleveland, was happy for LeBron, etc., and I just have to live with that.)

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Here’s the Thing About the Wizards’ Offseason: It Could Have Been Worse http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/heres-the-thing-about-the-wizards-offseason-it-could-have-been-worse.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/heres-the-thing-about-the-wizards-offseason-it-could-have-been-worse.html#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 18:57:25 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51061 ernie-grunfeld-ted-leonsis-hard-cap

Consider this: The worst deal the Wizards made this offseason was probably signing Jason Smith to a three-year, $16 million deal (1). That’s generally indicative of a fine summer, especially when the following things also happened:

  • Chandler Parsons and Harrison Barnes each signed a four-year, $94 million deal.
  • Evan Turner signed a four-year, $70 million deal.
  • Timofey Mozgov signed a four-year, $64 million deal.
  • Matthew Dellavedova signed a four-year, $38 million deal.
  • Boban Marjanovic (!) signed a three-year, $21 million deal.

And never-been an All-Star Mike Conley, somehow simultaneously overrated and underrated, signed the richest contract in the history of the sport.

Thanks to the extended wealth redistribution that was July 2016, the notion that the worst contract Washington doled out (2) was worth less than $20 million in total money should be comforting. Of course, it was never about the money with Smith’s deal as much as it was about priorities. The criticism of Ernie Grunfeld and Co. for spending much of the remaining cap room on a fifth big man instead of a quality wing, especially when the starting 2 is a virtual lock to miss 15 games, remains warranted. But what’s done is done.

The vitriol spewed by the local masses was always due more to the players the Wizards didn’t sign as opposed to the ones they did, and Grunfeld’s history of free-agent acquisitions did little to quell the umbrage. There was a homegrown gentleman who didn’t show up to the party, and a big fella from down south who waved hello and goodbye as he traveled north, but that was about as close as Washington got to adding a major asset. And that’s a downer. This summer was billed as the summer—the Wizards punted past summer to plan for this summer—but it ended up playing out much like last summer; the players are different and the contracts are heftier, but what it boiled down to (3) was the Wizards basically remaining stagnant while swapping out role players. This is a viable strategy for teams such as the Warriors and Cavs, who have the necessary stars aligned but could use some tweaking further down the depth chart. It is not a viable strategy for a team such as the Wizards—or roughly 25 other NBA teams—who need to improve their core before they can spend a summer slightly upgrading their bench.

This Wizards core, while still growing and in theory developing, has proven over several years that it isn’t good enough to contend—and contending for a championship should absolutely, unequivocally, always be the end goal. As good as John Wall can be and as good as a healthy Bradley Beal might one day be, a team with Otto Porter as its No. 3 isn’t going to compete for a title. That’s not meant to be a shot at Porter, I like him more than many do, but Klay Thompson or Kevin Love he is not.

The pervasive thought among Wizards’ decision-makers is that Wall, Beal, Porter, Kelly Oubre, and, to a lesser extent, Markieff Morris, will continue to improve, and that group will soon be strong enough to at least threaten contender status in the East. It’s a fair assumption that at least one or two of those five will improve marginally, and it’s not unrealistic to think any of them could take a considerable leap forward under a new coach, especially one with a reputation for getting the most out of young players. If that happens, Washington is an upper-level playoff team in the East, if nothing else. And while nothing screams ambition like consecutive seasons of 45 wins and second-round exits, all a young team with untapped potential, such as the Wizards, needs is a single player breaking out (4), and suddenly a Finals berth (and subsequent humiliation) is within reach. After all, most figured the Trail Blazers for a lottery team last year, but C.J. McCollum exploded for 20.8 points per game in his first season as a starter, proving to be a perfect backcourt partner for Damian Lillard, and they snagged the No. 5 seed in the West.

Nobody should convince themselves that such a thing will happen in Washington, but crazier things have happened. Did you hear about the Cavaliers winning three straight against the Warriors?

Anyway, if we operate under the assumption that the core will evolve into its next form—I cannot stress enough that this should not be the assumption or a viable “plan,” but for the sake of this exercise, let’s do so—here are some things to like about three of the new Wiz Kids, and reasons to think the second unit should actually be markedly better than it has been in recent years.

Ian Mahinmi

Rim Protection
Mahinmi’s biggest contribution will simply be his presence. The Wizards haven’t had much in terms of backup centers in recent years, and they’ve had even less in terms of rim protection behind Marcin Gortat. Mahinmi is listed at 6-foot-11, 250 pounds. Last season, he held opponents 4.4 percent below their season average field-goal percentage from within six feet of the basket. As a part-time player in 2014-15, he held opponents to 5.9 percent below their average from that range. His area of effectiveness does not extend much further than that six-foot range, but he did hold opponents 2.0 percent below their average on shots within 10 feet of the basket last season (5.2 percent below in 2014-15). He’s an above-average defender inside of 10 feet, which is generally where you want your backup center to live.

Perimeter Rebounding
Mahinmi is remarkably adept at hauling in long misses. Of his 507 total rebounds last year, 172 of them were on 3-point attempts, a rate of 33.9 percent. For comparison: 30.7 percent of Andrew Bogut’s rebounds were on 3-point attempts, and that’s playing with the trigger-happy Warriors. Roy Hibbert, as the starting center for the Pacers in 2014-15, grabbed 20.9 percent of his boards on 3s; and Andre Drummond, who led the league in rebounding last year, snagged 3-point rebounds 27.0 percent of the time. Mahinmi racked up 45 offensive rebounds on 3-pointers last year, about 8.8 percent of his total rebounds for the season; Bogut had 30 offensive rebounds on 3-pointers, about 6.1 percent of his total rebounds. When he backed up Hibbert two years ago, Mahinmi’s percentage of 3-point rebounds was down to 27.0 percent, but that’s still a fairly significant number.

It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing that Mahinnmi gets so many of his boards on 3-pointers, it’s just kind of a thing. But it’s a thing that’s good to know, and once you know it, you can utilize it. Much of his time on the court will likely be spent with Trey Burke (more on his 3-point shooting in a moment), Marcus Thornton, and Kelly Oubre. That’s a trio that should launch 200-plus triples this season, and it won’t hurt having a big man who excels at hauling in missed outside shots.

Shot Diversity
If somebody says “Ian Mahinmi” in a word association exercise, you’re probably not going to blurt out “diverse offensive repertoire,” but he’s got some moves. As he transitioned from bench player to starter, he learned to flow with the offense and rely on his teammates to find him open looks instead of trying to create his own. In 2014-15, 39.3 percent of his fields goals were unassisted and he shot .552 from the field; last season, those numbers were 24.2 percent and .589, respectively. With his role in the offense being so different last season, his shot variety spiked. Two years ago, he basically had five shots, per NBA.com: tip shot (32 FGA), dunk (33), hook shot (36), jump shot (58), and layup (61). Last year, he dramatically cut down on his standard jump shot rate (5), considerably increased his layup rate (224 FGA), added a finger roll (17-for-19 after not attempting a single one the year before), and turned his hook shot (6) into a weapon (shot .554 on a whopping 83 attempts).

The upshot of that added variety? Mahinmi shot .590 within nine feet of the basket in 2014-15, and .638 from less than five feet. Last season, those numbers were .633 and .670, respectively. In addition, 75.7 percent of his shots last year came from within five feet of the basket, a noted increase on the 71.7 percent of the 2014-15 season. In short, Mahinmi is shooting better shots and he’s figured out different, effective ways to get them off.

Trey Burke

Shot Creation
With Trey Burke, the best way to evaluate his fit is to measure him against his predecessor. We don’t know how Tomas Satoransky will transition to the NBA game, and we don’t quite know how he’ll be used in the Wizards’ scheme, nor do we really know much about what the Wizards’ scheme under Scott Brooks will be. Nonetheless, the biggest contribution Ramon Sessions made to the Wizards in his 110 games in Washington was his shot creation off the bench. As far as backup point guards go, he was very good at putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket, and he was even better at drawing fouls. Trey Burke is arguably a better shot creator, albeit in a completely different style. Nearly half the shots Sessions took last season (49.2 percent) came after three or more dribbles, compared to Burke’s 43.9 percent. Dig a little deeper and you see Sessions took shots on zero dribbles at the same rate (27.9 percent) he took shots after 3-6 dribbles, and he took 21.3 percent of his shots after seven dribbles. That doesn’t say much for the team’s ball movement when Sessions was running the show.

Speaking of Sessions running the show, this is where things get murky. Last season, 48.6 percent of Sessions’ baskets were assisted, and 50.7 percent of his layups were assisted. Compare that to Burke: Only 40.1 percent of his baskets were assisted, and just 16.7 percent of his layups were assisted. That’s not a single-season outlier, either; the year before, 49.1 percent of Sessions’ layups were assisted while 19.2 percent of Burke’s were. That could mean one of two things: Either Burke is really good at creating his own shot and he likes to do so, or he plays a lot of iso ball and looks for his shot instead of trying to get his teammates involved. Realistically, it’s a combination of both. But you didn’t watch Wizards games last year and think to yourself, “Man, the ball really zips around the court in a Spursian manner when Sessions is steering the ship.” You won’t think that with Burke in charge of the second unit this year. Both players like to create their own offense, but Sessions will generally hold the ball longer than Burke will, for better or worse. In this case, “different” has a positive connotation.

Pick-and-Roll Proficiency
Of the 65 players with at least 250 possessions in which they were the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll last season, Burke was 23rd in scoring efficiency, scoring on 40.9 percent of such plays. That’s not overly impressive, but consider that he was sandwiched directly between Reggie Jackson (41.3 percent) and Damian Lillard (40.9 percent), and ahead of players such as Russell Westbrook (40.6%), Kevin Durant (40.5%), Kyle Lowry (40.2%), Gordon Hayward (39.8%), Paul George (39.2%), and Bradley Beal (37.3%). Oh. And, um, John Wall (35.4%). For what it’s worth, Sessions (44.3%) was seventh on that list, barely edging out one Wardell Curry.

Shot Variety
Nobody around D.C. is reminiscing over the days of Wittman Ball—John Wall dribbles around for a few seconds, makes a meaningless pass to Marcin Gortat, who remains stationary for a few seconds while waiting for Bradley Beal to circuitously utilize an off-ball screen, Beal takes the ball from Gortat, dribbles for a few more seconds, then launches a contested long 2-pointer. The flavor of the month in the NBA is versatility, and players who can serve a variety of purposes are all the rage. Burke is not an overtly fluid player, but he is certainly comfortable shooting from anywhere on the court, and he’s not shy about taking shots where he can find them. This is not always a good feature, and in fact it’s often a bad one, but it’s a dramatic change from Sessions, who almost exclusively sought layups from the right side.

Burke’s shot chart looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.

Burke Shot Chart

Sessions’ shot chart looks like the work of a pointillist who’s had one drink too many.

Sessions Shot Chart


Perimeter Shooting

Burke took more than twice as many corner 3s as Sessions did last year (58 to 28), but the majority of the former Michigan star’s triples came from above the break. Per NBA.com, Burke attempted 192 above-the-break 3s last season, making 67 of them, while Sessions went 24-for-82 on such shots. On a related note, Burke is not only a better catch-and-shoot offensive threat than Sessions is, but by far a more willing one. The most common shot for Burke a year ago was a 3-pointer on zero dribbles, a shot that represented 29.8 percent of all his field-goal attempts, or 3.0 per game (7).

Burke shooting breakdown

This incredible volume of 3-pointers is almost—almost—single-handedly responsible for Burke’s dreadful field-goal percentage (.384) throughout his pro career. Generally speaking, a high-volume catch-and-shoot 3-point-shooter does not make an ideal point guard, and Trey Burke is not an ideal point guard. Nonetheless, there are two reasons to be optimistic. First, Burke’s ratio of 3-pointers to 2-pointers was at its highest rate of any of his three seasons last year, with 40.4 percent of his shots coming from beyond the arc, but his field-goal percentage of .413 was also a career high. It was either a sign of progress or a high-water mark that will be followed by low tide. Second, the Wizards don’t need an ideal point guard to back up Wall as much as they need a guy who can keep things moving, help the bench unit remain active, and maybe get hot enough to provide a spark a few times a month. Burke is far from perfect, but he can fill the role he was brought to Washington to fill.

Perimeter Defense
Burke is by no means a lockdown defender, but he’s also no slouch on the perimeter. He held opponents 1.5 percent below their season average on shots 15 feet or more from the basket last season, and though he allowed opponents to shoot 10.4 percent better on shots within 10 feet, Mahinmi should help him in that area. For comparison, opponents shot exactly their season average from 15 or more feet against Sessions, and 12.4 percent better on shots within 10 feet.

Andrew Nicholson

Wingspan
Before he was drafted, Andrew Nicholson’s wingspan was measured at 7 feet, 4 inches. For comparison, fellow 2012 draftee and notoriously lanky man Anthony Davis, nearly a full inch taller than Nicholson, had a wingspan of 7 feet, 5.5 inches. Nicholson’s not in the top echelon of length, but he’s damn close. He uses those long arms to his advantage all over the court. For example, opponents shot 9.2 percent below their season average on 3-pointers against him last season, and they shot 0.8 percent below their average on shots within six feet of the hoop, despite the fact that he only checks in at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds.

On the other side of the ball, his shots almost never get blocked. This is a complete list of frontcourt players (8) who played at least 800 minutes last season and attempted at least 300 field goals, and had fewer than 10 of their shots blocked: Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Wesley Johnson, Meyers Leonard, and Nicholson. Of that group, Nicholson attempted 114 3-pointers, typically the hardest shots to block; each of the other four attempted at least double that. He had just eight of his 310 total field-goal attempts (2.5%) blocked last season. Compare that to hilariously long Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 62 of his 1,013 shots (6.1%) blocked last year, or outside shooter Ryan Anderson, who had 41 of his 929 shots (4.4%) blocked, or elite shooting big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 37 of his 1,045 shots (3.5%) blocked, or traditional big man Ian Mahinmi, who had 41 of his 448 shots (9.1%) blocked, or the aforementioned lankball Anthony Davis, who had 54 of his 1,136 shots (4.7%) blocked.

Of Nicholson’s 310 shots, 154 of them came from 10 or more feet out. Not one of those attempts was blocked. This is due mostly to two things: a high release point and a deadly shot fake. The long arms help him with that shot fake, as the ball gets so high in the air before he brings it back in. Watch him torment Hassan Whiteside with that fake back in March.

Offensive Versatility
There really isn’t a whole lot Nicholson can’t do on offense, but what he has done has come in small sample sizes (9), and he probably won’t get an opportunity to show off much this season while coming off the bench. Nonetheless, he has a jumper that, while hardly a thing of beauty, is improving to a point where it has to be respected; he went 42-for-116 (.362) from 20 or more feet last season after going 24-for-67 (.358) the year before. Each season, he has gotten a larger percentage of his points from 3-pointers than the season prior:

  • 2012-13: 0.0%
  • 2013-14: 19.3%
  • 2014-15: 20.1%
  • 2015-16: 32.0%

He’s also learning how to create his own shot. The empirical evidence: Just 22.9 percent of his shots were unassisted in 2014-15, but 46.6 percent of his shots were unassisted last season. Now, go back to that video above. Watch how sometimes after a screen, Nicholson hits the pick-and-pop jumper, but other times he employs the shot fake, puts the ball on the floor, and drives to the basket. There’s your anecdotal evidence. Earlier in his career, he would frequently pass out of similar situations instead of driving past his airborne defender, seemingly reluctant more for psychological reasons than a lack of skill—he did average 17.1 points per game over four years at St. Bonaventure. Two seasons ago, he attempted just four shots NBA.com classified as “driving” shots. Last season, he attempted 18.

Much like Mahinmi, Nicholson is becoming adept at the hook game. In his final season in Orlando, the lanky forward went 43-for-91 (.473) on hook shots, including 12-for-22 (.545) on turnarounds. That’s a notable increase on his 17-for-42 (.405) the season prior, which included just a 1-for-4 (.250) showing on turnarounds. Hook shots represented 29.3 percent of his total field-goal attempts last year compared to 22.1 percent two years ago. This isn’t to say he should be reliant on his hook shot prowess—Kareem he is not—but he’s got a pretty strong hook game, it’s nearly impossible to block (just one block in 91 attempts last year), and the more moves he can effectively utilize, the more useful and dangerous he can be with the ball in his hands.

He Stays In The Game
Just a quick note here. Through four seasons, Nicholson has averaged 3.9 personal fouls per 36 minutes. However, last season he averaged just 3.0 PF/36 and the season before he averaged 3.7 PF/36. Nene has exactly one season in his career in which he averaged fewer than 3.7 PF/36 (2011-12), and last year he averaged 5.1 PF/36. DeJuan Blair, though used sparingly, basically came in the game exclusively to foul opposing players last season, averaging 8.8 PF/36. Markieff Morris averaged 4.0 PF/36 over his 27 games in Washington, which is also in line with his career average, and Drew Gooden averaged 4.7 PF/36 over his 30 games. It’s not a huge deal if the backup 4 gets into foul trouble on occasion, but you also his foul count always in the back of your mind in case you need him for extended minutes on a given night, and that’s a situation the Wizards often dealt with last season.

An Old Friend…
Just gonna leave this here, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com. No, it does not help my overall point at all.

Vesely


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The 2016-17 Wizards Schedule Is Out — Here’s What You Need To Know http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/the-2016-17-wizards-schedule-is-out-heres-what-you-need-to-know.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/the-2016-17-wizards-schedule-is-out-heres-what-you-need-to-know.html#comments Thu, 11 Aug 2016 23:39:30 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51079 Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Durant is not walking through that door. Al Horford is not walking through that door. Hell, Allen Crabbe isn’t even walking through that door. The off-season did not turn out as many hoped, but the NBA calendar marches on. Today, with the release of the 2016-17 NBA schedule, the basketball gods signaled that it is time to look to the future. Here are the highlights of Ian Mahinmi’s inaugural season in D.C.:

Mark Your Calendars…

Thursday, October 27, @ Atlanta Hawks. Washington opens the season on the road for the 14th time in 16 seasons.

Wednesday, November 2, vs. Toronto Raptors. After two games on the road, Washington plays in D.C. against the Raptors to start a stretch of 10 out of 14 home games.

Monday, November 7, vs. Houston Rockets. Feeling nostalgic for Nene already? You won’t have to wait long to see the Brazilian big man.

Wednesday November 9, vs. Boston Celtics. The Wizards and Celtics battled this off-season for the services of Al Horford (Boston won), and the first match-up between these two teams should be extra heated after Celtics reporter Jay King reported that Jae Crowder disparaged the Wizards during his pitch to Horford: “We beat them four times this year. You don’t want to go there.”

Marcin Gortat took notice.

Friday November, 11, vs. Cleveland Cavaliers. The first marquee game of the season versus the defending NBA champs. The Cavs do not return to Verizon Center until Monday, February 6.

Friday, January 6, vs. Minnesota Timberwolves. Last season’s home game versus Minnesota was one of the most entertaining—and ultimately disappointing—games of the season. Washington blew late leads in regulation and overtime and eventually lost a close battle in double-overtime. Relive the highlights below. The Timberwolves will be even more exciting this coming season with No. 3 draft pick Kris Dunn added to their talented core.

Monday, January 16, vs. Portland Trail Blazers. Washington plays its familiar MLK Day matinee against Damien Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and the new-look Blazers. The back-court match-up should be fun to watch.

February 13, vs. Oklahoma City Thunder. Witness the destruction that is Russell Westbrook.

Tuesday, February 28, vs. Golden State Warriors. The Warriors’ lone trip to the Verizon Center was already going to be the most sought after home game of the season, but ticket prices will be even higher after Kevin Durant made his surprise exodus to the Bay Area.

Third Time’s a Charm.

Every season there are four Eastern conference teams that Washington only plays three times. This year the teams are:

  • Detroit Pistons (2 away, 1 home)
  • Philadelphia 76ers (2 away, 1 home)
  • Toronto Raptors (2 home, 1 away)
  • Cleveland Cavs (2 home, 1 away)

In the grand scheme of things, Washington gets a slight scheduling advantage with just two road games against two of the top teams in the Eastern conference.

Home, Sweet Home.

After starting the season with two road games, Washington plays 10 of 14 games at home. For most teams, this would be a good thing. But the Wizards have had difficulty establishing a home court advantage in years past and the team will likely still be adjusting to new coach Scott Brooks’ schemes in November.

On the bright side, Washington gets even more home cooking in December. After a three-game road trip at Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Brooklyn, the Wizards play nine of 13 games at home. Washington better hope it squirrels away at least a few wins during this early stretch because all those home games in November and December will come back to bite them in the final 20-odd games of the season…

Time to Pay the Piper.

Washington finishes the season with a brutal stretch of 15 out of 21 games on the road (including 8 of the last 10). Even worse, those final 10 opponents are almost all heavy hitters, including @ Cleveland, @ Clippers, @ Utah, @ Golden State, vs. Charlotte, vs. Miami, @ Detroit, and @ Miami. The one saving grace is that playoff teams often rest players during the final couple weeks of the season, so some of those match-ups could end up being far less imposing.

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Vegas is Not Aaron White’s Kind of Town http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/vegas-is-not-aaron-whites-kind-of-town.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/vegas-is-not-aaron-whites-kind-of-town.html#comments Sat, 16 Jul 2016 20:42:28 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51047 20160710_152503-1

Aaron White loosens up before Washington’s July 10 game versus Atlanta. (Photo – A. Rubin)

The consensus among Washington Wizard’s observers at summer league is that Aaron White is not ready to make the leap from Europe to the NBA. He is often tentative, passing up open shots, and is a split second too late redirecting the ball on the perimeter and making entry passes. White just seems to be thinking too much on the court. However, there is reason to believe we have not seen the best version of Aaron White in Vegas.

After Washington’s third summer league game against Brooklyn, White spoke candidly about his performance thus far and—reading between the not-so-subtle lines—it is apparent he is not a fan of summer league:

“It’s just a weird setting, to be honest, for all players. Especially when you are trying to play the right way, trying to move the ball. So, I’m just trying to do what coaches tell me to do and play hard and do the little things.

“It’s an AAU almost type of game, it’s just a little bit difficult to get used to. Especially with a lot of guys coming from college where it’s very organized, coming from Europe where it’s very team-oriented. So many different players that never played together.”

White understands he has not made the best impression in Vegas but he also believes he can play better:

“This is summer league, this is important, but this isn’t the end all. This isn’t the best indication of what kind of player I am, in my opinion. I’m trying to do things within the system and play my game. Some people might watch and be like, ‘I thought he was this type of player or that type of player.’ It’s just the games go a certain way and I’m trying to play my game and play the right way.”

White is correct. Summer league is a glorified pick-up tournament and it is difficult for a system player to stand out. If you are waiting for a teammate to make the right cut or run a set play, you will often look passive and lost when the play does not materialize.

But that does not mean White can’t do a better job showcasing his talent. Take Danuel House, for example. House went undrafted out of Texas A&M and has only averaged 19.3 minutes in the Wizards’ first four games, but he has turned heads with his aggressive defense and shooting stroke. After sparking Washington’s big comeback win over Atlanta on Friday with 15 points in 16 minutes, head coach Sidney Lowe declared “He can play in this league.” (Washington later gave House a partially guaranteed two-year contract.)

For White, the key is staying aggressive. He knows that is the only variable he can control in Vegas:

“As long as I assert myself and I’m aggressive, I think the rest will take care of itself. It’s those games like [the first game] against Atlanta when I wasn’t aggressive that’s when I really get pissed at myself. Assert yourself into the game and make some plays.”

White takes the floor in Washington's wild win over Brooklyn on July 12. (Photo - A. Rubin)

White takes the floor in Washington’s wild win over Brooklyn on July 12. (Photo – A. Rubin)

As White matter-of-factly concludes, “Some guys are good summer league players, some guys aren’t.” Success in Vegas, as guys like Anthony Randolph, Glen Rice, Jr. and P.J. Hairston can attest, does not necessarily equate to success in the NBA. The difficult part is identifying which players’ skills will translate on the big stage. It is possible that the very things that make White a poor summer league player will actually benefit him in a more structured setting. But the pressure is on White to convince the front office of that possibility—and time is running out.

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Summer League Day 5 — Crazy Kelly, Clutch Eddie, Trevor Booker, and a Bullets Cameo http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/summer-league-day-5-crazy-kelly-clutch-eddie-trevor-booker-and-a-bullets-cameo.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/summer-league-day-5-crazy-kelly-clutch-eddie-trevor-booker-and-a-bullets-cameo.html#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 21:43:41 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51037 20160712_170544-1

John Wall and Garrett Temple talk during Washington’s game versus Brooklyn. (Photo – A.Rubin)

Washington’s summer league game against Brooklyn was a reunion of sorts for the 2013-14 Wizards: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Garrett Temple, and Trevor Booker were all sitting courtside. There were even rumors at the start of free agency that Washington was interested in re-acquiring Booker before he signed with the Nets.

I spoke with Trevor during the game and he confirmed the Wizards were on a short list of suitors, but he did not seem enthusiastic about a potential reunion. When asked if he would have returned to Washington under the right circumstances, Booker paused, flashed a wide smile, and said, “I am happy to be in Brooklyn.”

As for the game, it was about as exciting a finish as you can get in summer league action with Jarell Eddie hitting a game-winning layup with 0.1 seconds remaining. Rashad Mobley has the game recap and I have some behind-the-scenes highlights from inside Cox Pavilion below.

You May be Right, Kelly May be Crazy

Kelly Oubre is always talking on the court, but he raised his intensity to a new level against Brooklyn. It started with some trash talk to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and continued towards any Nets player who crossed his path. Oubre chirped at the refs as well, prompting one exasperated zebra to admonish: “That’s enough.”

Oubre’s antics reached comical heights when he knocked Brooklyn’s 6-foot-10 center Egidijus Mockevicius to the floor and extended his hand to help the big man up before quickly pulling it away at the last second á la a “too slow” fake out. One of Mockevicius’ teammates did not take too kindly to Oubre’s gesture and brushed Kelly aside while helping up the big man.

Kelly insisted after the game that his snub was not intentional: “I didn’t mean to do that because I thought he was on my team. I thought it was one of my big guys that got knocked down. I saw him and said, ‘I’m sorry.’ His teammate kind of came over and checked me. It is what it is.”

Even John Wall and Bradley Beal, who were sitting courtside during Washington’s furious fourth-quarter comeback, questioned Oubre’s sanity. After Oubre let out a guttural scream imploring his teammates to continue their rally, Beal started laughing and looked over at Wall, who pointed his finger at his head and circled it a few times as if to say, “This kid is crazy.”

Coach Sidney Lowe said after the game he has no problem with Oubre’s running commentary on the court, so I expect it will continue throughout the summer league tournament:

“Whatever floats their boat. If that’s what he needs to do to keep himself going or communicate with his teammates, I would never tell a guy stop talking. As long as the guy that’s talking is out there doing what he’s talking about—you can’t talk it if you are not going to walk it. But he plays hard so he’s able to talk to his teammates and try to push them along.”

The Next Dennis Rodman?

Kelly Oubre was asked a strange question after the game that began with the (possibly made up) premise that Dennis Rodman told the reporter that if anyone was going to be the next sex symbol in the NBA, it would be Kelly.

Oubre assured the reporter that basketball is his main priority, but allowed that “If it happens, it happens. I’ll take it on with full responsibility.”

Eddie Expanding his Repertoire

Jarell Eddie said after the game he would like to show that he is more than a spot-up shooter:

“I am trying to work on as many things as possible in the off-season—finishing around the rim, and on the defensive end, pressuring guys and keeping guys in front of me. So, it’s a whole bunch of things that I am trying to be better at.”

Whereas Eddie struggled with ball-handling and passing at times during the first two games, his hard work paid off against Brooklyn. Eddie had a nice driving finish in the lane and came off a curl for a midrange jump shot on at least one possession. He followed Oubre’s lead and stepped up his defense in the final minutes, culminating with his game-ending steal and layup with 0.1 seconds remaining. This was exactly the type of effort Eddie needs to secure a roster spot and wrestle precious minutes away from the veteran Marcus Thornton.

Bullets Throwback

Fans arriving early to the Wizards-Nets game were greeted with a strange sight on the scoreboard: the “Bullets” were listed as the visiting team. I assumed it was a throwback game but no team representatives I spoke to were aware of any promotion.

Alas, the scoreboard was corrected a few minutes later. We may never know the origin of the scoreboard faux paus, but we’ll always have those five minutes in Las Vegas when the franchise was restored to its rightful namesake.

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An unfortunate end to the Bullets era in Las Vegas. (Photo – A.Rubin)

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REAX: Wizards Summer League Game 3 — Eddie Stole The Ball! Eddie Stole The Ball! http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-3-eddie-stole-the-ball-eddie-stole-the-ball.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-3-eddie-stole-the-ball-eddie-stole-the-ball.html#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 17:37:16 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51015 Kelly Oubre hit a 3-pointer to give the Wizards their first lead since the first quarter. But the 74-73 lead didn’t last long: the Wizards again trailed 18 seconds later when Brooklyn Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead hit a 10-footer. But then Washington got the lead right back when Oubre found Danuel House for yet another 3-point basket.

Up 77-75 with 5:51 left in the game, the summer Wiz Kids proceed to play careless basketball while the Nets went on a 9-2 run. The Wizards regrouped and over the last 1:55 of the game they got contributions from all five players on the floor. The result: the team’s second win of the Vegas Summer League, 87-85.

How did all go down? Let’s delve shall we?

Thumbs Up.

Jarell Eddie scored 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting during Sunday night’s loss to Atlanta Hawk, showing that he—not just Kelly Oubre—could lead this Summer League version of the Wizards. Last night, Eddie shot 7-for-12 and scored 16 points—eight of which came in the first half of play. He hit just two 3-point shots, he missed three free throws early in the game, but he continued to demonstrate his offensive versatility. On two different possessions, he drew a Nets defender in close by feigning an outside shot, then drove to the basket for a strong layup. But Eddie, here, is not getting this ceremonial thumbs up for his offensive exploits.

With 4.9 seconds left in the game, after Micheal Eric and D.J. Cooper forced Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to the right side of the floor (as they were instructed to by John Wall and his courtside entourage), Eddie poked the ball away, ran the length of the court, and made the game-winning layup while under heavy pursuit from the Nets’ Josh Magette.

Eddie was relatively unimpressive during his stint on the Wizards roster at the end of the 2015-2016 regular season, and he needed a strong showing in Vegas to justify a return trip to the roster in the fall. Following up a 19-point effort with 16 points, along with a game-winning deflection and basket, is one hell of a start.

Danuel House displayed a trait in tonight’s game which will serve him well should he make the regular season roster—and that is the ability to heat up rather quickly. The Wizards trailed by 10 points with 2:49 left in the third quarter, and between turnovers and cold shooting, the Nets were pulling away. Then House hit two 3-pointers in a 35-second span (he tried a third 30 seconds after he made the second, via a ridiculous pull-up heat check, but it didn’t fall) to quickly cut the Nets’ lead to five points. In the fourth quarter, aside from the aforementioned 3-pointer (assisted by Oubre) which gave the Wizards a two-point lead, Eddie also slammed home a defiant one-handed dunk that caused former Wizards and newly acquired Brooklyn Net Trevor Booker to stop his interview with the ESPN announcers to say, “Wow!”

Oh, and Coach Lowe may have jinxed his pick-and-roll defense:

Thumbs Down.

D.J. Cooper struggled to run the Wizards’ offensive effectively in the first five minutes of the game, and that lack of control played a big part in an early five-point deficit. To make matters worse for the starting guard, Sterling Gibbs checked into the game after Cooper committed a foul and a turnover and immediately helped the Wizards go on a 12-0 run. Cooper did not fare that much better at the start of the third quarter, when he played five minutes without registering a single stat: no points, rebounds, assists, steals, fouls drawn, or anything else. As the ESPN announcers astutely observed, there is a backup point guard job to be won in D.C., but Cooper is not exactly distinguishing himself as “the guy.”

They say that winning is the best the deodorant, and last night, the Wizards last-second win did a masterful job of masking the stench of the team’s 13 turnovers—nine of them coming in the first half. During one particularly putrid stretch in the second quarter, the Wizards turned the ball over three consecutive times, which deprived them of any offensive momentum (and points). Yes, they won the game, but Coach Sidney Lowe could not have been happy with the turnovers and the lack of consistency in the point guard department.

Midrange.

Coach Sidney Lowe wants Kelly Oubre to play hard, and smart, during this summer league experience, given his expectations as the go-to guy. Oubre did not have the best of shooting nights (5-13 from the field, including 2-8 from the 3-point line), but he more than offset that by playing hard on defense. He took a charge in transition, played smothering perimeter defense, and added a steal and a blocked shot.

Unfortunately, Oubre did not always play intelligently, committing seven fouls in 29 minutes of play. And most of the fouls were reminiscent of the ones that were called on him during the regular season—he was either out of position on defense and jumped or reached to make up for it, or he was frustrated by a call that did not go his way and was uber physical with the Nets on offense.

His shooting will come, as will his ability to consistently finish around the basket, but both Coach Lowe and Scott Brooks (via an ESPN interview) have stressed that he play smart basketball first, and that was lacking at times versus Brooklyn.

Trending.

Aaron White may not have felt entirely comfortable with how he played against the Nets, or during summer league basketball overall, but none of that reservation showed on the court.

He started off the game with a 3-pointer, and followed that up with pinpoint interior pass to Micheal Eric, who hit one of his two free throws. He did blow one easy, open fast-break opportunity when he dropped the ball and was denied the chance to convert a layup. But with 14.9 seconds left in the game, when the Wizards offense looked disjointed and it appeared as if they wouldn’t even get a shot off in time, White took D.J. Cooper’s pass (catching it despite it being thrown slightly behind him), regrouped in the air, and converted a layup. That alone may not be enough to earn him a roster spot, and he’ll have to pick it up in the scoring department, but if nothing else, he showed Coach Lowe that he belongs on the floor in crunch time.

Baby steps, right?

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From Wizard to King: Garrett Temple Talks Free Agency and His Former Team http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/from-wizard-to-king-garrett-temple-talks-free-agency-and-his-former-team.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/from-wizard-to-king-garrett-temple-talks-free-agency-and-his-former-team.html#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 03:10:41 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51022 20140405-garrett-temple-game-program

Former Washington Wizard and all-around good guy Garrett Temple stopped by Washington’s third summer league game, versus Brooklyn, to check out ex-teammates Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Jarell Eddie—and catch up with fellow spectators John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Temple, who recently signed an eye-popping three-year $24 million deal with the Sacramento Kings, was all smiles when I spoke with him at halftime about the free agency process and where he thinks the Wizards are headed in 2016-17.

Adam Rubin: Congratulations on the contract.

Garrett Temple: “Appreciate it.”

How crazy was it becoming a free agent this summer?

“Yeah, I mean, we knew the salaries were going to go up, but I don’t think anybody really knew when you see the money how much it is. It was a blessing to be a free agent at this time. It was the right time to be a free agent, I can tell you that.”

How did you feel when you saw that Mozgov contract the first day? Did you call your agent?

“Nah, I didn’t call my agent. I was surprised, but not really. Timofey played great the year before in the playoffs and the finals. It’s just injuries didn’t allow him to get on the court as much. So, he has talent. A lot of this is ‘what have you done for me lately?’ league, so a lot of people were surprised, but he is a talented player.”

How many teams were you looking at in free agency?

“I was looking at two to three teams, really, three or four teams when it really came down to it.”

Did they get into a bidding war?

“I don’t know. You’d have to ask my agent about all that. He just came to me with the numbers and we decided.”

Did you hear from any of your teammates after the news broke?

“Oh, definitely. John was probably the first guy that sent me a text message. Brad FaceTimed me. Jared Dudley, Drew Gooden, Ramon Sessions, a lot of guys have really reached out and told me they proud of me, they are happy for me. That’s the type of situation I was in, in Washington. Especially being there with Bradley and John for so long, four years, we built something more than teammates—you know, friendships. They were the first ones to reach out. I reached out to Brad the night he got his deal done, FaceTimed him, definitely a mutual respect, and we are going to be friends the rest of our lives.”

What do you think about Washington going forward? You were a veteran presence, a good locker room guy—do you think that is something they need to replace?

“I think they have been able to replace it with some vets they’ve signed. Jason Smith is a real good veteran. At the end of the day, John is going into his seventh season. He’s a veteran now. You have veterans on the team. You don’t need to necessarily replace them now. You have veterans. [Wall] just so happens to be one of the best point guards in the league and, obviously, Brad going into his fifth year now, they are not young anymore. They might be young by age, but they are not young anymore, so I don’t think they have a veteran void anymore.”

Washington had a lot of inconsistency the last few years. Do they need more leadership out of Wall and Beal or were there coaching issues? What things have to change for them to take it to the next level?

“It’s hard to win in the NBA, man. I can’t point to it being a leadership void or what not. I will say when Paul [Pierce] was there he really helped our team in terms of being a vocal leader, but who knows what happened last year? We just didn’t play as well as we should have. It happens in the NBA. It’s hard to win in this league. I wish them the best of luck. I think they are going to have a better team this year and, like I said with John and Brad getting another year of experience and them being there for the long haul, it’s going to help them get even more wins.”

Do you think Otto and Oubre are ready to step up and be the main wings?

“I think Otto is definitely ready. Especially from what I’ve seen of how he stepped up last year. I think Kelly definitely has the ability to do it eventually. Brad is a wing so the main wings are going to be probably Brad Beal and Otto Porter. Kelly is definitely capable and will be a starting wing in this league one day. It’s up to him to see how long it’s going to take but I don’t see it taking long at all.”

Where do you think you fit in with the Kings?

“I think my veteran leadership, my ability to be versatile, play one, two, three positions. I thought coach Joerger is a guy that enjoys versatility and defensive mindset. So I think all of those things are things that I can really bring to a team that is ready and on the brink of changing a culture over there.”

20130204-garrett-temple-post-game-portrait

[circa 2013]

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Dispatch From Vegas: Jared Dudley Offers Post-Mortem on Underwhelming Season http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/dispatch-from-vegas-jared-dudley-offers-post-mortem-on-underwhelming-season.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/dispatch-from-vegas-jared-dudley-offers-post-mortem-on-underwhelming-season.html#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 22:24:22 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51001 (Photo - Defpen.com)

(Photo: Defpen.com)

Jared Dudley only spent one season with the Washington Wizards but he quickly established himself as the most open, accessible and analytical interview on the team. Dudley, who is now a member of the Phoenix Suns after signing a three-year, $30 million dollar contract, is in Las Vegas to watch his new teammates and he graciously agreed to spend some time dissecting what went wrong in Washington.

You said several times that the players were not always on the same page during the season and were not able to step up when they needed to make a playoff push. Coming to a team that made the second round two years in a row, how surprised were you to step in to the team and see that’s where they were?

A lot of it for us was injuries and not being able to get a flow. That was a huge thing. You think about it, we were 41-41 and Bradley Beal missed over 20 games. Any time the second best player on your team does it’s a struggle. And then for us it was rhythm and flow. We would win five, lose five. Win two, lose two. So inconsistency of buying in and us playing the type of basketball you had to. We weren’t consistent enough. I don’t think they got hit with the injury bug in years past and, as for the playoffs, you got to be a little lucky in this league to be healthy at that time and at the same time we had a chance though.

Is that something a new coach can fix? How much is on the players and how much is on the coach?

In basketball it’s on everybody. Coaching, front office, players, everyone has a part of it. Any time you bring a new regime in that can jolt a team. Coach Wittman did a good job for us. He took the team to the playoffs. For us it was the inconsistency. They’ll have a new team there. Kieff [Markieff Morris] coming over, we were trying to figure him out early on in the first 20 games doing a mid-season trade so I think they will be more comfortable at the start of the new year.

Did having nine players on expiring deals have any effect on the team chemistry?

Nah, I did not think so, because I was like that [an expiring contract]. Temple, you had a lot of team guys so I didn’t think that. At the same time, we had guys playing more minutes than they expected early on. Temple started I think 25 games at one point. Myself coming in playing earlier than I thought coming off back injury. So overall I don’t think expiring had a big deal. We lost a lot of bad games early on that you can’t get back—Lakers at home—certain games that you got to be able to win. We didn’t play well at home, basically.

dudley otto

(Photo – Getty Images – Mike McGinnis)

The Wizards are relying on Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter on the wing. They didn’t sign anyone else in free agency. Do you think those two guys are ready to step up and be the two main options?

Oh, definitely. Otto had a great second half of the year. I expect Otto to come in and have the best year of his career. I think the biggest thing for him is to take a step defensively. Kelly showed when he could play he’s as good as any rookie at that 3 spot. I think for him it’s just a mental game. He has to just keep working on his stuff. He has all the tools and he has the will, he wants to, so now mentally can he lock in and let the game slow down.

Do you think John Wall and Bradley Beal are ready to step up and lead the team?

For sure. I think they now know they need each other. They both complement each other well. They both have to stay healthy. Obviously, John has done his surgeries, and Brad, his health is a key for them. And I think defensively when those guys play at a high level defensively, offense always comes easy to those guys.

Did you consider coming back? I don’t think there was an offer because you took the Phoenix deal but did you think you were coming back when the season ended?

Yeah, I definitely did. It is a great city. Great organization. I love Ernie [Grunfeld] and Tommy [Sheppard]. Trainers helped me out. I’ve been on five or six different teams. Training staff was really good. I was surprised that Eric Waters got left off. I would have come back. They had other options early on and by that time I was off the board real fast. Maybe if I wasn’t they would have offered something, but I think we both were a good marriage for what it was that one year coming in. They needed me and I needed them.

Did they reach out to you in the beginning of free agency?

Yes.

Did they let you know they wanted to make an offer and ask if you could hold off for a little?

Well, that’s just my agent talking to them. They did call me first night—“Hey Jared, you know how this free agency works.” They are in a win-now mode and they are looking for a big star like Al Horford, Kevin Durant, as they should, so I understood that.

Were you surprised Horford was deciding between Boston and Washington?

No, I wasn’t because Washington is ready and he would fit in perfectly. I think to him it was about the financial and fit. Boston, the way they play fits him perfect and Atlanta he’s had success there.

Dudley is all smiles returning to Phoenix.

Dudley is all smiles returning to Phoenix.

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John Wall Talks Shop at Summer League http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/john-wall-talks-shop-at-summer-league.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/john-wall-talks-shop-at-summer-league.html#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 14:19:58 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50953 John Wall, NBA TV, Washington Wizards, Truth About It, Adam McGinnis

During the third quarter of Washington’s summer league loss to Atlanta, John Wall was interviewed by the NBA TV crew covering the game. The All-Star guard was analytical, funny, and candid on a variety of topics. Below is a transcript of his conversation with Steve Smith and Kevin Calabro.

On his current status:

“I am feeling great, I had surgery this summer, on Cinco de Mayo. I have been rehabbing, trying to prepare myself to play 82 games this season.”

On Scott Brooks: 

“He wants us to be a defensive-minded team, get back to where we were two years ago—a team that moves the ball and shares the ball on the offensive end.”

On the disappointing 2015-16 season and communicating expectations: 

“That is the toughest part. When you go (to the postseason) two years in a row, getting into the second round—we feel like we had an opportunity to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals (in 2015), then to a year where we dealt with a lot more injuries and not making the playoffs. That’s something you don’t want to do.

“I told all the guys, I don’t care about individual accolades. I care about making the playoffs, giving it a run. You never know what can happen. Injuries can happen. You can just have a hot run. You seen what happened with the Cavs, they were down 3-1 to Golden State. Those guys found a rhythm and won it. Something that I want my team to do is try to get better. I think we added some great pieces. I still think we need one more piece and hopefully we can get it. If not, we gotta go out there and do it with the pieces that we have.”

On the missing piece:

“In the Eastern Conference, you gotta have three or four 3 men (wings). You gotta be able to defend LeBron. I know you are not going to be able to stop him—just need a lot of different bodies, try to wear him down, get him in foul trouble, and have multiple guys that can guard him. That’s what you really need to go against him and compete.”

On communicating with Bradley Beal after signing his max contract:

“The funny thing was, last year, he was complaining about not getting it. I said, ‘Be patient. If you wait, you will end up getting more money.’ And he got more money.”

On Garret Temple’s new contract with the Kings:

“One guy that I am happy for is Garrett Temple. A guy that played seven years, and has been on a lot of 10-day contracts. Never had an opportunity to make more than $5 million, which is a lot, but only making that in seven years, then to sign a deal where he makes $8 million a year? I am very excited for him. One of the most professional guys that I have seen as a teammate, on and off the court.”

On what he likes from Kelly Oubre in the Summer League:

“Him being aggressive. I told him, ‘What else you going to do besides knock down open 3s?’ He might not get a lot of shots, but defend at a high clip, don’t gamble too much defensively, and be able to knock down shots. One thing that I want him to be able to do more now is when he gets steals or rebounds to attack, push the ball, and don’t always look to me or Brad. You got to be able to create for yourself sometimes. That is something in this Summer League that he can improve on.”

On what Wall is working on to improve his game: 

“Still my jump shot, still improving my jump shot. Posting up more. Whenever I am able to knock down those shots, it’s tough for teams to guard me, and it opens up so much more for my teammates. If it goes to nights that I am struggling, I have a bad night, then I am capable to do other things to help my team win, since I am not solely an offensive-minded player. That is one thing that I bring to the game of basketball.”

On his post game:

“At times when I did it, I found that we got good shots. We kept stats and we scored off 80-to-85 percent of the times that I did it. One guy to model it from is Russell (Westbrook). He does it so much and it puts so much pressure on your team. He makes plays and reads, figures it out. I think with our team, we added people that can finish around the basket—Gortat, Mahinmi, and those guys—makes it a lot easier. Then having knock-down shooters, hard to guard those guys.”

After Oubre missed a quick contested 3 in transition, Wall groaned at the bad shot, then said:

“In that situation, with a guy closing out like that, attack baseline. Whenever you get baseline, you put teams in a tough situation on defense. If you have a guy like Otto Porter who knows how to cut in the slot, (you can) get them easy layups.”

On Otto Porter’s maturation:

“Just being confident. At the beginning of the season, he lost confidence. He said that he was mentally and physically tired. I’m like, you are only 20 games in. You work this hard in the summer to get to a starting spot, you got to take advantage of it. I think one thing, he really has to get stronger. Early in the season, we played Lebron, KD, and Carmelo in a week’s span, it wore him down. Just imagine what I got to do on a nightly basis at the point guard position in the NBA. They got a lot of young, talented guards coming in this year.”

On Kevin Durant choosing to play for Golden State:

“It is a lot of different than the old school era, like Steve (NBA TV analyst Steve Smith) and those guys played in. They stayed on one team and got it done.

“That is what the new NBA is now. Guys want to get rings and get themselves a better chance. He made a decision that makes him happy. I think a lot of people don’t respect that. You love the game and play it to be happy, not to be sad or frustrated. If he is happy and comfortable in that situation, then you have to respect that. LeBron did the same thing to make him happy and figure things out. Maybe he can figure out how to win championships on another level, then go back to wherever he want to go. I think it is great for the game of basketball. It is going to be exciting to see those guys mesh together.”

On Washington facing the a new-look Eastern Conference:

“I think if we would have had Markieff Morris a lot earlier in the season, that is what we needed. A lot times we had to double-team 4s and swipe the post, but now we have a guy that can go back at the 4 man and guard those guys one-on-one. That is a big accolade. I think adding guys like Mahinmi that can protect the rim and block shots for us is going to be key.”

On free agent movement:

“As for Dwight (Howard), that helps the Hawks in spacing the floor and having (Paul) Millsap in there, but it kind of hurts with the ball movement with Al (Horford), but I think Boston got better. A lot of teams got better. Chicago got better—Jimmy Butler’s team, D-Wade coming in, Robin Lopez, and Rondo to run the team, one of the best point guards in the league with a basketball IQ. New York got good, too. They added a lot of pieces—Courtney Lee, Derrick (Rose), Brandon (Jennings), Melo, and Joakim (Noah). The East is going to be exciting this year. If you don’t get off to a good start, you might not make the playoffs.”

On training and rehab:

“Funny part is that I have my uncle here from North Carolina and a guy working out with me … the process of seeing what the NBA is all about. He told me that he thought all we do is wake up and play basketball. Listen, you spend hours stretching, 20 minutes in the cold tub, massages. He has been complaining. He works out, but it is a different work out. I told him that we just don’t get up and have fun. We got a lot of freedom, but we got a lot of work that we got to put into this. I think a lot of people appreciate it when they see the hard work behind [the scenes] in films and the documentaries. If you don’t see those, then they think we just come out here and play games.”

On developing self-discipline:

“I think going to college and not going to (college in) your hometown, you have to become a man. Away from home, that helps instill it into you. Be the man you want to be. I feel like if I would have went to school in North Carolina, then gone to the NBA, then I would have never knew how to be a man on my own. I would have called my mom, gone down the street to get things done. I had to go eight hours (to visit Raleigh from Lexington to see his mom), I wasn’t going to drive that.

“A lot of my free time I like to spend with my nieces and doing things in the community.”

John Wall, NBA TV, Washington Wizards, Truth About It, Adam McGinnis

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Summer League Day 3 — In Which the Wiz Kids Get Lost in Transition (Defense) http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-day-3-in-which-the-kids-get-lost-in-transition-defense.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-day-3-in-which-the-kids-get-lost-in-transition-defense.html#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 13:44:12 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50968 The Washington Wizards played the first game of Day 3 against the Atlanta Hawks in the Cox Pavilion, the smaller gym at UNLV. The crowds were noticeably smaller than the previous day, because the Lakers were not on the schedule. It was so quiet for most of the game you could hear the refs explaining calls to the players.

Bermuda Triangle

A funny thing happened during the first three quarters of Washington’s summer league game versus Atlanta. The Wizards somehow accomplished the rare feat of not sending any players to the offensive glass while simultaneously failing to get back on defense. It is a mystery what exactly the other four Washington players were doing after each Wizards’ shot.

Head coach Sidney Lowe called a quick timeout after one particularly egregious bit of miscommunication—when Jarell Eddie and Aaron Smith both picked up the ball handler on a 2-on-2 fast break, leading to an uncontested dunk.

Washington played more disciplined in the fourth quarter and made a valiant comeback, but Atlanta’s ball movement was too much to overcome. The Hawks shot 27 3-pointers—most of them uncontested—and hit 14.

Part of the problem is Lowe’s liberal use of his bench. Lowe played a 10-man rotation, which was probably a couple too many. The biggest issue was in the middle where Lowe was kind enough to give Kaleb Tarczewski 15 minutes. It was a nice gesture, but it cost the Wizards dearly. Tarczewksi was minus-13 while the much more effective Micheal Eric was plus-5.

Kelly Oubre Likes to Talk

Oubre had another solid game versus the Hawks and spent quite a bit of time talking to his opponents. He also leads the summer league in yelling “Let’s matchup on D” before every free throw. Apparently no one was listening. Oubre likes to play to the crowd and punctuated several possessions with dance moves. At one point he was called for kicking the ball and after half-heartedly arguing with the ref, he turned and shimmied to the crowd.

Pleasant Surprise in the Paint

Micheal Eric turned in another strong performance versus Atlanta’s big men. The drop off between him and Tarczewski is Grand Canyon-esque. There is no spot on the roster for the 28-year-old center, and it is questionable whether he deserves one, but he is the perfect big man for summer league—active, good hands around the rim and aggressive in the paint.

John Wall Sighting

Wall was not available to talk to the media but he did give a brief interview during the NBA TV broadcast.

Reinforcement for the Backcourt

Nate Wolters joined the Wizards summer league team for their second game, and he led the Wizards comeback before taking himself out of the game with a twisted ankle late in the third quarter. Wolters returned to the game and will hopefully carve out a bigger role in the offense, although Lowe will likely continue to use an expanded rotation.

Pam McGee Award for Embarrassing Mother

During the Toronto Raptors-Minnesota Timberwolves game, 20-year-old Bruno Caboclo’s mom put on a display that puts Pam McGee’s antics to shame, according to sources. Mrs. Caboclo sat directly behind the Raptors bench and yelled such things as, “That’s my baby!” throughout the game at embarrassingly loud decibel levels.

Beating a Dead Horse

After two summer league games this season, and a handful the year before, the verdict appears in for Aaron White. He is just not an NBA-caliber player. White may get another shot next summer but he will not be making the Wizards roster in the fall.

Former Bullets/Wizards Seen in Vegas

Calvin Booth and Brendan Haywood were spotted exiting Nobu after a late dinner at the Hard Rock. Topics of conversation over sushi likely included their time as front-court mates on the 2005-06 and 2006-07 Wizards.

Fan favorite Darvin Ham, who was just named assistant coach for the Atlanta, was in attendance for the Hawks-Wizards game.

Jared Jeffries, who hit two big 3-pointers and made a game-clinching steal in the memorable Game 6 win over the Bulls in the 2005 playoffs, is in Vegas.

Las Vegas resident Tracy Murray is a familiar face once again at Thomas & Mack Center.

Retirement Looks Good on You

Joey Crawford seems a lot more relaxed during retirement than when he was carrying a whistle during his storied career.

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(Photo – A. Rubin)

 

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REAX: Wizards Summer League Game 2 — Death by 3-Pointer http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-2-death-by-3-pointer.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-2-death-by-3-pointer.html#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 03:33:30 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50947 The Wizards were dropped by Atlanta, 88-80, on Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas. The Hawks jumped out to a 29-18 lead after the first quarter, and it looked like the game would be a blowout after they took a 39-21 lead about three minutes into the second quarter. Washington, then, better channeled some defensive aggression and outscored Atlanta 44-27 to pull within one point heading into the fourth quarter. But the poor Wizards 3-point defense that defined the afternoon reared its head and allowed two Hawks wide-open 3s in the last three minutes to seal the deal.

Keep reading for the run-down.

2016-wizards-summer-league-game-2

Thumbs Up.

Micheal Eric may have started slowly like the rest of his Wizards teammates, but by the final buzzer his impact was felt in a major way—20 points on 10 shots with eight rebounds in 24 minutes, besting his 13-point and five-rebound effort on Saturday. Part of Eric’s early struggles could be chalked up to having to check the gargantuan, 7-foot-3 Edy Tavares. Once he got a better sense of how to position his body, Eric was a force, leading the charge on the boards late in the second quarter that helped swing momentum in Washington’s direction. Eric also displayed nice hands in the second half, catching and finishing a pick-and-roll bounce pass from Nate Wolters, and later showing good footwork while tightroping the baseline for a hoop. Eric’s play in Vegas, so far, makes you wonder: Why did the Wizards commit to signing Daniel Ochefu so early? (Ochefu had the day off in favor of Kaleb Tarczewski.) One potential factor: Eric is a well-aged 28 years old, while Ochefu is 22.

Jarell Eddie got the nets wet on Sunday after a 3-for-8 shooting performance on Saturday, scoring 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting (3-6 on 3-pointers, 4-4 on free throws) versus Atlanta. Eddie added four rebounds but also four turnovers. He spaced the floor nicely, showed an ability to attack off the dribble late in the game (instead of just being a spot-up shooter), and didn’t get beat on defense too badly, at least to my recollection. And those two areas specifically—ball handling and defense—are where he must show improvement this summer if he expects the Wizards to honor his non-guaranteed contract come fall.

Thumbs Down.

Hate to plop Aaron White in the negative review section for two days in a row, but as they say: it is what it is. White epitomized Washington’s early struggles with transition defense when he let Atlanta’s Brandon Ashley leak out for an easy bucket. White’s one bucket (in just two attempts) was nicely set up by Wolters late in the game—he caught the ball beyond the arc and as the defense ran toward him, he calmly dribbled into a long 2. Soon after, White caught the ball in a similar situation and the lane opened up for a drive. He made the right decision to attack but got the ball stripped (thankfully, Michael Eric recovered the loose rock and made the bucket, and-1). It’s clear that White needs to get stronger—with the ball and overall—but he’s also failing to do the simple things and is looking like a dud because of it.

Bummer: Washington’s 3-point defense. Atlanta shot a scorching 14-for-27 from deep (51.9%)—Lamar Patterson went 4-for-7, Kevin Pangos went 3-for-4, and Bryce Cotton went 3-for-4. The Hawks moved the ball like their real NBA counterpart and the Wizards were frequently left in recover mode.

After the game, Washington coach Sidney Lowe touched upon the issue:

“We were sinking in too much from the top, is what happened. They ran the action, we were sinking in from the top, and they were swinging it to that slot guy—he was making the shot—as opposed to the bottom man coming in and taking that bump so we could stay high. That’s something we have to work on and talk about.”

Midrange.

We’ll plunk Wave Papi Oubre in the midrange section, even though he was more efficient on offense than Saturday, scoring 21 points on 15 shots. The difference was going 1-for-5 on 3-pointers instead of 2-for-10 yesterday; Oubre once again put up a 6-for-7 line on free throws. Regarding the 3-for-15 shooting from deep so far this summer, Oubre said after the game that it feels like last year, meaning that he’ll once again call his trainer Drew Hanlen for a late-night shooting session. Oubre gets put in the midrange because he was so inconsistent in picking his spots. He would hit a floater or pick up a nice assist, but then struggle to recover to his man, or even appear to forget. He would run to help contest the shot of someone else’s open man, but then another time he would get caught leaking out in no man’s land as Atlanta got an offensive board. And a couple times Oubre simply got beat off the dribble when—one would think—his short shorts would facilitate a good, low defensive position.

Oubre and Atlanta’s Isaia Cordinier, from France, not only battled in hair styles (Cordinier had a high-fade blonde bush-looking doo), but also had several run-ins on the court. Cordinier, just 19 years old and taken 44th in the second round by Atlanta, didn’t put up an impressive stat line but drove a ton and his one make, a 3-pointer, had an arching trajectory that Dirk Nowitzki would admire.

Trending.

Nate Wolters, veteran of 79 NBA games (two seasons) and two teams (Milwaukee and New Orleans) since being taken in the second round of the 2013 draft, joined the Wizards late on Sunday after playing for the Indiana Pacers at the Orlando summer league. Leading up to the matchup versus Atlanta, he got a crash course in what the coaching staff wanted him to do and didn’t really miss a beat. He was more impressive than his stat line of four points (2-6 FGs) and singles in each of the assist, rebound, and turnover columns in supplementing D.J. Cooper, who once again started at point for Washington. Wolters used his body and hesitation dribbles to create space and passing lanes and he balanced trying to set up offensive action with attempting that respectable floater of his. Wolters was playing so well that Sidney Lowe decided to go with him down the fourth-quarter stretch, but the Wizards, as was the case all day, could not defend the 3-point line.

 

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Live from Las Vegas: NBA Summer League Day 2 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/live-from-las-vegas-nba-summer-league-day-2.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/live-from-las-vegas-nba-summer-league-day-2.html#comments Sun, 10 Jul 2016 19:14:26 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50929 The 2016 Las Vegas Summer League was in full swing on Saturday with its first full slate of games. There was a great game, some great performances, and this guy…

On to the highlights…

Game of the Summer.

As soon as the summer league schedule was announced, one game was circled on everyone’s calendar: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Ben Simmons vs. Brandon Ingram. Plus, the rest of both team’s rosters are stocked with NBA-talent (D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jr., Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes, T.J. McConnell, and Nik Stauskas). It could be argued that the Sixers’ summer league team could compete with its regular season counterpart.

Unfortunately for Wizards fans who wanted good seats to watch Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Jarell Eddie’s debut versus Utah, the Lakers-Sixers showcase was scheduled as the next game. Summer league seating is all general admission and Lakers fans arrived in droves during the Wizards game (and even before it) to secure prime locations. It was nearly impossible to find seats within the first 20 rows. By the end of the Wizards game, the entire lower bowl was filled and they were forced to open the upper deck to accommodate the crowds. The VIP seats were packed with NBA coaches and front office staff from opposing teams and even real-life celebrity Jamie Foxx was in attendance. Rumor has it Damian Lillard was turned away from a front row seat.

Upper deck is open for the Lakers game. (Photo - A. Rubin)

[Upper deck is open for the Lakers game. Photo – A. Rubin]

One more thing about “summer league” Lakers fans… Over the last few years there has been a seismic shift in the make-up of Vegas crowds. Sacramento Kings used to have the most vocal fan base, but they have been surpassed by the Lakers—and it is not even close. As the “regular season” Lakers squad has gotten progressively worse, its “summer league” squad has become infinitely more interesting. Such is the cycle of life in the NBA. It’s a little sad to see a once-proud franchise’s fan base reduced to chanting, “Lar-ry, Lar-ry, Lar-ry” whenever Larry Nance, Jr. is spotted walking around the arena, but such is the state of things in the post-Kobe world.

The game did not disappoint. Before we get to the exciting ending, Jerami Grant provided the highlight of summer league thus far with a vicious dunk over 7-foot-1 Ivica Zubac that stunned the crowd.

The game went down to the wire with D’Angelo Russell and T.J. McConnell hitting back-to-back-to-back last-second shots. After Russell pulled up for a long 2 to tie the game in the final moments, McConnell hit a wild driving floater over two Lakers defenders that bounced off the backboard and rim several times before dropping through the net with 1.8 seconds remaining. With Luke Walton sitting courtside, Brandon Ingram inbounded the ball to Russell beyond the 3-point arc and he fired a smooth jumper that touched nothing but net, sending hysterical Lakers fans onto the concourse celebrating like it was the NBA Finals.

Ben Simmons is For Real. And He’s Spectacular.

It is not entirely clear why there was ever a debate between Ingram and Simmons for the first overall pick. Simmons is better and it’s not even close. He might be one of the top point guards in the NBA on Day 1. His vision is incredible and he has LeBron-like accuracy with his passes. I cannot really assess his jumper because he did not attempt any, but he was able to bully his way to the rim when needed.

The only negative was that Simmons was sometimes careless with his passes (seven turnovers) and he got stripped  a couple time by Larry Nance, Jr. (much to the delight of the pro-Lakers crowd). Defenders will definitely play off Simmons on the perimeter, like they did against John Wall early in his career, but Simmons has the skill and vision to make them pay even if his jumper takes some time to progress.

Groundhog Day.

In what has become an annual summer league tradition, Joel Embiid made an appearance in street clothes prior to Philadelphia’s game. Trust the process.

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Terp in Vegas.

Jake Layman (Portland) made his summer league against third overall pick Dragan Bender and the Phoenix Suns. First things first: this happened.

Aside from that dunk, which ranks right up there with Jerami Grant’s poster, Layman’s game was nondescript. His offensive role was exactly what you would expect. Layman spent large stretches of the game standing in the corner waiting for a catch-and-shoot 3. Unfortunately, he missed all five of his 3-point attempts.

Former Terp Jake Layman pictured in his natural habitat - Along in the corner waiting for a pass. (Photo -A. Rubin)

[Former Terp Jake Layman pictured in his natural habitat: alone in the corner waiting for a pass.
Photo -A. Rubin]

Layman held his own on defense. He matched up with Bender for most of the game and he did a pretty good job keeping him off the glass. Speaking of Dragan…

Mystery Man From Croatia.

Bender was one of the biggest mysteries heading into summer league, and even after watching him play for 30 minutes he remains a bit of an unknown. He’s big, but he does not have the imposing length of Kristaps Porzingis. He’s mobile, chasing wings around picks, but he will not be able to stay in front of the quicker forwards. He stretches the floor with long-range shooting, but he missed every 3-pointer he attempted (1-7 3Ps), until he banked one in off the glass in the fourth quarter with a smile and shrug while his teammates celebrated.

Bender is comfortable putting the ball on the floor and is a willing passer, but it will take a bigger sample size to get a feel for where he may fit in the NBA.

Wizards Debut.

For a recap of Washington’s first summer league game, check out Conor Dirks’ rundown. I’ll only add one observation: Aaron White is the new Vladimir Veremeenko, meaning a second round pick that is never coming to the NBA.

Days of Future Past.

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Wave Papi into the Summer: Kelly Oubre Jr. Opens in Vegas http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/wave-papi-into-the-summer-kelly-oubre-jr-opens-in-vegas.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/wave-papi-into-the-summer-kelly-oubre-jr-opens-in-vegas.html#comments Sun, 10 Jul 2016 18:11:38 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50933 2016-summer-league-kelly-oubre-game-1

If you’re familiar with his persona, you know Kelly Oubre is a confident kiddo. Moving around several times when young, he was forced to hit the reset button on environment, friends, himself—his ever-ready swagger is just part of him being comfortable in his own skin. But his rookie season understandably had its ups-and-downs, mostly downs.

Before the 2016 All-Star break, Oubre saw action in 43 games (513 minutes), and even started nine games due to various injuries to teammates. But post-break, as Washington’s season (and Randy Wittman’s NBA head coaching career) passed the brink and started its downslide, Oubre received less opportunity, just 159 minutes over 20 games. During the late-season struggle, he started uncontrollably sobbing in his locker immediately after a tough outing while the media was interviewing teammates. It wasn’t worth publicly relaying at the time, and who knows if it actually had anything to do with basketball, but the struggle was real.

What’s seemingly emerged on the other side is a more confident and in-control Oubre. And living in the world that we do (1), he’s documented that journey on social media—self-imposed nickname: Wave Papi; location: The Trenches; hashtag: #Shhh. The fun of growing up.

Assistant coach Sidney Lowe (who’s leading the summer edition Wizards), is new to the program, but Oubre’s willingness to lead was among his initial observations coming out of pre-summer league mini-camp back in Washington.

“I’ve seen Kelly try to employ some leadership with this group, which is different for a young guy,” said Lowe. “He’s doing a great job of directing guys, communicating to guys, whether it’s on the floor or in the locker room.”

A Vine issued by the team’s official social media account prior to Saturday’s summer league debut provides evidence of Oubre’s conversion. And all throughout the game, Oubre’s leading emotion could be felt—screaming into the air (and toward the Utah bench) after a thunderous dunk by a teammate that Oubre helped produce; leading the distracting yells from the Wizards bench as a Jazz player attempted a corner 3-pointer in close proximity; holding a pose to affirm that he’s a threat after hitting a trey ball over the 7-foot-3 Tibor Pleiss.

Worth mentioning that Oubre is the youngest player on the roster by about two years. He’s not so much leading younger guys but rather commanding respect from older ones.

“Just trying to have fun, trying to make sure everybody knows the positions they need to be at, trying to help guys,” exclaimed Oubre when asked about his vocality afterward. “Trying more so to be a floor general. I don’t have John Wall out here with me to do so, so I kind of got to take over his role right now. But I’m loving it. I’m trying to practice it, trying to be a better leader.”

Oubre started his 2016 summer debut slow (1-5 on shots in the first quarter), later fessin’ up to the all-too-human jitters. But even through that, he never stopped. The signature to his game surfaced on the very first play when he anticipated a passing lane and stole the ball. And while Oubre must continue to hone judgment on when to jump passing lanes, or when to force an attack (plowing into the direction of two or more defenders usually isn’t ideal), the constant aggression he plays with is something coaches wish they could teach. As teammates appeared to be gassed at various junctures of enduring play, Oubre always seemed to propel himself at the same raging speed.

He finished with a team-high 29 minutes and 20 points on (an unideal) 19 shot attempts (2-10 on 3s), but Oubre got to the free throw line seven times, converting six. He added eight rebounds (three offensive), an assist, four steals, and three turnovers to his stat line.

After the game Oubre tried to explain “Wave Papi” (his name on Twitter; his handle is @kellyoubrejr) and how that relates to his mode on-court versus off.

“He’s just a guy … it’s myself, first and foremost. I don’t have any alter egos. That’s myself, I’m Wave Papi. He’s just a cool, calm and collective guy. I play basketball, you know, but when I step on that court I’m a rager. Off the court, I’m alls in, but when I’m on the court I’m a rager, so that’s who Wave Papi is.”

And on his almost always used hashtag of choice, #Shhh: “I don’t talk about it, man, I do it. I lead by example, I don’t lead by words.”

Wave Papi into the Summer.

EXTRAS.

Oubre on his mentors:

“First and foremost, my dad, God, they’re the biggest mentors of my life. But, you know, my teammates—John (Wall), Brad (Beal), Alan Anderson, Drew Gooden—they are great guys who stay in my ear and make sure that I’m doing the right things, and making sure that I’m focused, and working, and being a professional athlete. That’s big coming from guys who have been there.”

On what he would be doing if not playing basketball:

“Fashion designer, graphic designer, computer nerd, video game expert, probably something along those lines. I’d probably be working with you guys (media), I don’t know. But I’m a basketball player first and foremost, so that’s what I do.”

 

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REAX: Wizards Summer League Game 1 — Kelly Oubre Rides the Vegas Wave http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-1-kelly-oubre-rides-the-vegas-wave.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/reax-wizards-summer-league-game-1-kelly-oubre-rides-the-vegas-wave.html#comments Sun, 10 Jul 2016 02:25:39 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50923
[Photo credit: CSN's esteemed Benjamin Standig, via mobile telephone]

[Photo credit: CSN’s esteemed Benjamin Standig, via mobile telephone]

After a few humble, scoreless minutes, the Wizards arrived at their Las Vegas Summer League debut. And less than an hour of game time later, they took their final swing in this summer sledgehammer of a performance, putting Trey Lyles’ Jazz to bed in an 88-73 Washington win. The Wizards don’t have very many, if any, regular season roster players outside of Oubre on their Summer League team, but the group they have in Vegas played incredibly hard, beating a bigger, stronger Utah team on the glass and forcing 20 Jazz turnovers. Washington pulled away in the second half, out-scoring Utah 29-14 in the third quarter while unfamiliar names like Danuel House and Micheal Eric muted the Jazz’s efforts on the floor and the glass. Ride with me.

Thumbs Up

Kelly Oubre, Jr.
28 mins | 20 pts | 6-19 FGs, 2-10 3Ps, 6-7 FTs | 8 rebs (3 off) | 1 ast | 4 stl | 3 TOs

Oubre, starting in an interchangeable 2/3 position alongside 2016’s Gary Neal replacement Jarrell Eddie, started off with classic millennial anxiety, blazing his own trail with quick shots and setting his own priorities on defense by letting a few Utah players get the step on him before he looked up from his Game Boy Color. Meanwhile, Utah sophomore Trey Lyles got off to a hot start. Not content to let Lyles be the evening’s only star, Oubre strapped his boogie board’s velcro strap around his wrist and rode out against the current. It wasn’t always easy going, and Oubre’s insistence on making an impact even when disadvantaged led to a lack of efficiency that may scare some off of what was really an impressive performance.

What paced Oubre’s rocky shooting display was a heartening commitment to getting to the line, and making good on the opportunities once there. He started the game by intercepting a bad Utah pass and missing a 3-pointer, but ended the game by tracking down an offensive rebound and beating a Jazz player who didn’t anticipate Oubre’s hustle. And Oubre’s defense got better over the course of the game, ignoring the pain of fatigue and clamping down with the help of Washington’s bigs around the rim. Oubre can do everything, but he can’t do anything at an elite, or even high, level yet. A similar Summer League start for Oubre compared with last year, when he also scored 20 points in his first-ever game. Except this time around the kid doesn’t have Otto Porter to bat in front of him. No matter. The tide’s coming in for Wave Papi, who rolled his shorts halfway up his thighs for a reason he’s probably communicated in the language of young people on his web apps.

Thumbs Down

  • Aaron White, last year’s second round draft pick, hit the first basket of the game, a straight on 3-point shot that had the game’s announcers cooing about his stretchiness. And White looks the part, with a quick step that he used to get a booming second-half dunk during a Jazz defensive breakdown. But White also turned the ball over three times and struggled to defend without fouling. In one instance, he managed to tip the ball away, only to miss a chance at the steal and over-committed trying to get the turnover. The ball made its way back up the court and the Jazz scored quickly.
  • Tibor Pleiss, Utah’s 7-foot 3 pick-and-pop center got destroyed by Washington’s bigs, grabbing one rebound in 24 minutes and failing to make much of an impact on the game at all outside of his impressive stature.

Midrange

  • Jarrell Eddie’s numbers weren’t impressive, what with the 0-for-3 performance from behind the line (supposedly his raison d’être with the Wizards) but he was a really nice complement to Oubre and played off his teammates’ strengths with aplomb. While Oubre still struggles to feed passes to players who are in a position to score and often rises up for awkward leaning shots, Eddie played a controlled, calm game that befitted someone who practiced with the big boys last year. (Also, congratulations to Jarrell on his engagement last week!)
  • Danuel House and Micheal Eric both made me scramble for the computer, saying “Who is this guy?” Is that an effective way of describing their contributions? Probably not. Here’s what they did:
    • Eric made a run for Oubre and caught Oubre’s only assist of the night on a nice dunk, then came back down the floor, got a defensive rebound, passed the ball up, watched another Wizard miss a shot, rebounded the ball, and put it back up for a nice second-chance layup.
    • In the last four minutes of the third quarter, Wizards swingman Danuel House hit a 3-pointer, assisted new D.C. signee Daniel Ochefu for his first Wizards points, rebounded a clanged Kelly Oubre Jr. 3-pointer, missed a dunk, made a dunk, and assisted a Sterling Gibbs 3-pointer. In other words, he was Summer League incarnate. Unexpectedly fun to watch and most likely not long for our eyes.

Trending

  • Trey Lyles was by far the most polished player on the floor, and dominated the first frame of the game, opening up the floor with his 3-point shot and beasting when he had to do so. This follows an impressive rookie year in which he shot 38 percent from the 3-point line as the modern stretch 4. He’s got work to do, particularly in making the most of his possessions that don’t end in a long ball, but the future is bright. If you’re wondering: Lyles was drafted 12th overall, a difficult region of the draft that the Wizards braintrust has traded out of in two of the last three summers.
  • The Wizards play tomorrow at 4 p.m. Eastern vs. the Summer Hawks of Atlanta.

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Cheat Sheet: Wizards to Watch at 2016 NBA Summer League http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/cheat-sheet-wizards-to-watch-at-2016-nba-summer-league.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/cheat-sheet-wizards-to-watch-at-2016-nba-summer-league.html#comments Sat, 09 Jul 2016 16:02:27 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50911 The 2016 edition of Wizards summer leaguers make their debut at 6:30 p.m. ET (3:3o p.m. PT) today in Las Vegas versus the Utah Jazz. They will play again on Sunday and Tuesday before tournament play starts (all teams are guaranteed five games). Enjoy the fun basketball (that will nonetheless probably devolve quickly into a scourge on the game) while it lasts—the 2017 summer league could be cancelled because of a lockout/work-stoppage just like in 2011 (when poor boy Jan Vesely never got a chance to debut his skills). Keep reading for a few names to watch on Washington’s squad.

john-wall-summer-league-graphic

Kelly Oubre

Spider Kelly Oubre firmly holds the keys to the Wizards summer league bus, and is generally the only one people care about on the “least entertaining” team in Vegas (at least according to one writer). And that’s OK. Oubre has just about everything to prove. A promising start to his rookie campaign ended on a downslope—some combination of inattention to his development from the previous coaching regime to, when he did get glimpses of opportunity, anxiously pissing the bed in understandable manners. The smell of his rookie season in his nostrils is probably a little sour. Oubre also probably wants to show out for the locals, since he spent one season at Findlay Prep in nearby Henderson, NV. Expect Oubre to live at the free throw line in Vegas, but more telling of his progress will be displays of ball-handling, attempts to limit turnovers, and rebounding prowess. Wizards summer league coach Sidney Lowe says that they want to get Oubre handling the ball more in the pick-and-roll. Sin City provides the perfect opportunity—the mistakes that happen here generally stay here. Also, Oubre calls himself the “Wave Papi,” but you don’t necessarily have to.

Twitter: @KELLYOUBREJR


Aaron White

Aaron White is the second Wizards draft pick on this team, taken 49th overall in 2015. White was an American draft-and-stash, who, after four years at the University of Iowa, was sent to hone his game over in Germany—not exactly a top league in the world but good enough. White, at 6-foot-9, is generally seen as a stretch-4 with “sneaky” athleticism—because all redheaded white guys are kind of sneaky, I guess. He shot 25-for-69 (36.2%) from 3 in Germany last season after shooting 61-for-217 (28.1%) from 3 over his college career (21-59, 35.6% in his senior season). From recently observing him at Wizards SummerFest, I expect that White needs to gain some more strength before the NBA really considers him, but I also imagine that he’ll be moving on to a better pro league than Germany next season. Also: White shot 0-for-9 on 3-pointers and just 8-for-26 from the field over 105 minutes (6 games) at the 2015 summer league. Lot’s of room for improvement, especially if he gives the Wizards coaches what they want: more aggressiveness.

Twitter: @Aaron_White30

https://twitter.com/WashWizards/status/750831722267303937


Daniel Ochefu

The Wizards really like Daniel Ochefu, an undrafted 6-foot-11 big man out of Villanova, and it’s not that much of a secret. Because, yep, on Thursday they just signed him to a three-year minimum deal ($50K guaranteed)—this is sort of what forward-thinking franchises do in searching for the next gem. What’s also not a secret is that, in addition to Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris, the Wizards have seemingly made big men a free agent priority—see: Ian Manhimi, Andrew Nicholson, and Jason Smith. Plus, there are faint expectations that Otto Porter or Kelly Oubre can play up to the 4-spot in small lineups; we will see how Scott Brooks handles that. In any case, one once thought that opportunity was rife for the Wizards summers to earn an actual roster spot; perhaps not so much the case now. Still, though, Damn Daniel will get plenty of opportunity to show-out in Nevada.

Twitter: @DanielOchefu23


Sheldon McClellan

Sheldon McClellan is a sweet-shooting guard out of the University of Miami. Standing at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, some NBA teams apparently wanted to take him in the second round this year and stash him overseas. But that’s not the route McClellan wanted to take and instead found himself signing a partially guaranteed contract with the Wizards on draft night with hopes of earning an NBA roster spot with his summer league play. He started his college career at Texas, where he played 68 games, averaged 48 percent on 2-pointers and 29.1 percent on 3-pointers. But he and Texas coach Rick Barnes did not see eye-to-eye and McClellan moved on to Miami where in two seasons (73 games) he upped his shooting percentages to 56.4 percent from 2 and 38.1 percent from 3 (40.6% during his senior year). McClellan is athletic but some aren’t sure if he possesses NBA-level athleticism. If he can show in Vegas that he knows how to use his body to create space and get quality looks then some team will surely be looking back.

Twitter: Doesn’t really have an account, unless you count this.


Jarell Eddie

Jarell Eddie is technically on the Wizards’ salary cap books for next season at the non-guaranteed amount of around $980K. This is generally because he was signed by the Wizards in late-December (as a replacement for the injured and waived Martell Webster) and hung around the team for the rest of the season, appearing in 26 games. Eddie had the distinction of hitting his first four NBA 3-point attempts, which were key in a day-after-Christmas win over the lowly Brooklyn Nets. Who am I kidding? That game didn’t matter. Nevertheless, Eddie missed his fifth and final attempt with the game in hand and 25 seconds left. Still, 4-for-5! He wound up shooting just under 32 percent on 3s with the Wizards. Chalk it up to gunning during garbage opportunity in a wasted season; we’ve all been there. But, Eddie’s shooting stroke is tooth-rot sweet, and if anyone on this summer league team not named Kelly Oubre is threatening to secure a roster spot, it’s probably him.

Twitter: @J_Ed31

Bonus: Eddie proposed to his fiancee on July 4th; she accepted.

https://twitter.com/J_Ed31/status/750148860421476353


Tywain McKee

The guy with the ‘old man game’ always stands out. That was Tywain McKee at the Wizards SummerFest this past Wednesday. My mans was born all the way back in 1986, so he’s basically the Andre Miller of Summer League. McKee, a 6-foot-2 point guard, was born in Philly and has played in France, Germany, Russia, Israel, Belarus, and Australia. I don’t exactly remember him playing a few games at the 2009 Vegas Summer League with the Wizards—eons ago before John Wall entered the league—but the name does ring a bell. Looks like McKee will be a ‘veteran’ point option to get the kids in line, something Washington’s 2015 summer team severely lacked due to various last-minute circumstances. McKee played locally at Coppin State where he achieved fifth-year senior status and left the school its all-time leader in points.

Twitter: Like Andre Miller, it doesn’t seem to be happening … but you can read this good feature piece on McKee via the Baltimore Sun from March 2009.


Kaleb Tarczewski

Kaleb Tarczewski was apparently ranked the No. 4 prospect overall by ESPN.com in 2012 when he came out of high school. He then spent four-years at the University of Arizona before being signed by the Wizards as an undrafted free agent on draft night 2016. The seven-footer’s wingspan barely matches his height (not ideal), he didn’t attempt a 3-pointer over 135 games in college (OK), and is apparently one of those big men who sets good screens and does things by the book. Fittingly, Tarczewski grew up in a New Hampshire log cabin that was built by hand by his mom, a construction worker.

Twitter: @tkalebckn (not very active)

Bonus: Here’s a fun Vine of Tarczewski getting dog-cussed by his college coach, Sean Miller:


Shawn Dawson

Shawn Dawson has already been dubbed by others as one of the more intriguing members of Washington’s summer squad. His father, Joe, is from the States and played college basketball at Southern Mississippi. Joe went on to have a decorated international career, including playing in Israel (for over 20 years), where he met and married a local and had Shawn, who was born, raised, and has since played in the Israeli basketball system. Dawson has been on the radar of those scouting basketball over there for a couple seasons. In 2015, he was named a Top 5 European prospect by SheridanHoops.com, and earlier that year, BasketballInsiders.com called him an “athletic freak who has erupted over the last two seasons.” Earlier in his development, the 6-foot-6 Dawson was pigeonholed into being a more of a post player, but as he got older he turned into an athletic slasher (who really needs to work on his 3-point shot). This past season, he led his team, Rishon Le-Zion, to its first league national championship with an upset of Israeli powerhouse, Maccabi Tel Aviv, in the semi-finals. Amongst these Wizards summers, after Kelly Oubre, Dawson is probably most likely to yam on someone (i.e., posterize).

Twitter: @ShawnDawson8


 

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