Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Sun, 23 Oct 2016 02:08:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Jason Smith, Hey Dude — 2016-17 Wizards Player Previews http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/jason-smith-hey-dude-2016-17-wizards-player-previews.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/jason-smith-hey-dude-2016-17-wizards-player-previews.html#comments Sun, 23 Oct 2016 02:08:52 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51383 The 2016-17 NBA season is almost here … and upon last check, they are still going to allow the Washington Wizards to participate. So the TAI crew is firing up the pixel makers and churning out player previews, or rather, “Wizards Player Haters’ Previews” — which is not to say that we are hating on the players or the game, but that this season’s version of the Wizards is ready to hate on all those who stand in their way. Up now: Jason Smith, via yours truly (@Truth_About_It). 


Of course Jason Smith doesn’t have a designated nickname (or two) on Basketball-Reference.com. For the purposes of this post, we’ll just call him “Hey, Dude” until further notice. He very well may be the new Darius Songaila, as well as one of thousands of Jason Smiths across the land, but that would be too much of a ‘standard white guy’ comparison. Analytically, BBR rates Jud Buechler, Corie Blount, Pete Chilcutt, Steve Kuberski, Ryan Bowen, and ex-Washington Bullet Tom Hammonds (in that order) as “most similar” to Smith over the first eight years of a career. So, statistically white, according to four out of six dentists.

Smith is Washington’s new-age stretch 5 option, which he generally played last season in Orlando with Aaron Gordon or Andrew Nicholson, now a Wizard, as his partner at 4. But even with Ian Mahinmi hurt and out until mid- to late-November, Smith is still the third string center after Marcin Gortat and Nicholson. Maybe even the fourth string 4 after Markieff Morris, Nicholson, and Otto Porter. All this just comes with the territory of an NBAer, entering his ninth year in the league for his fifth team, who was signed away from the Magic for three years and $15.675 million by the good ol’ Washington Wizards as the cherry on top of a free agency scramble.

But Smith serves a key purpose this season: he is not Maybyner Rodney Hilario (neither is Nicholson). When asked to diagnose what ailed the Wizards’ big man situation last season at September’s media day, Smith said, “You guys had two rolling bigs in Nene and Gortat. The issue had kind of been Marcin wanted to play with a guy who can pick-and-pop or space out the defense. I think we have that opportunity this year, adding Andrew Nicholson, adding myself; Ian is coming in, we have a great core of bigs.” (And Mahinmi was to be the rim protector that Nene wasn’t.)

Smith only attempted 16 3-pointers last season, making four — he’s 34-for 116 (29.3%) in his career overall. So let’s not necessarily think of this a Kris Humphries situation, per se (1). Humphries shot 2-for-27 from deep over 10 NBA seasons prior to starting 23-for-67 (34.3%) with the Wizards last season. From 16 feet to the 3-point line, Smith shot 47 percent with 65 percent of all his attempts coming from that range. His point guards in Orlando were often Victor Oladipo, or Elfrid Payton, or both at the same time.

“That’s my forte, pick-and-pop is what I do, and I try to make it as beneficial to the team as possible,” said Smith, soldiering on. “Even though I may not get the shot, if I set a good screen for John, or Brad, or Kelly, or Otto—anybody on our team who’s handling the ball—if I can set a good screen on their man and get them open and our team succeeds, I’ve done my job.”

Nene Hilario shot 39 percent from long 2, pick-and-pop / ‘just open there because John Wall sucked in the defense’ range—just 21 percent of his field goal attempts (2). But sometimes it’s about the screen you set, the wall you are—as Smith made sure to highlight. Not that Nene wasn’t a good screen setter, but sometimes with him it was all about the presentation, i.e., bitching to the referees. While Smith is known to be scrappy in the trenches, Nene became more spastic in his old age.

Smith is also kind of a nasty man, but in a good way (non-Donald Trump voice). Meaning, you better check yourself, Blake Griffin:

Still, Nene pulled 75 percent
of the ‘who would you rather have’ vote in a July poll on Twitter. Here’s Smith trying to defend Nene, for what it’s worth:

And would you just look at this?

But it’s not all about Smith versus Nene, who was at one point a high-quality NBA starter who might have been the league’s best passing / screen-defending big man (who also perhaps never lived up to his potential). And lest we forget: importing Nene and exporting JaVale McGee allowed the team of John Wall (and Bradley Beal) to grow up.

It’s partially about Smith just knowing his role while being that dude who leads by basketballing. I asked him how he sees his game is meshing with John Wall’s:

“Trying to stay out of his way. He is super fast. It’s been seen on tape time and time again, you give it to him with four seconds left in the quarter and he can take it the full length of the court and get you a layup.”


Smith wasn’t the glamorous add—and he knows this, that’s not how dudes roll. Even if Smith didn’t roll much this preseason, playing the sixth-fewest minutes (74) of the 18 players on the training camp roster and scoring 20 points on 10-for-30 shooting (0-for-8 from deep) (3). But… Markieff Morris did play about 43 more preseason minutes and got one more rebound than Smith (21-20).

And maybe Smith is just Scott Brooks’ Nick Collison (but with better shooting). Dammit, another cliché white guy comparison. Whatever: we wanted a stretch-5, here’s one. Not terribly shabby (but certainly questionable).

We shall end with a few of the greatest hits in Jason Smith tweeting history.

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Last Preseason Bullet: Wizards vs. Raptors — Strong Final Rehearsal from the Starters http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/last-preseason-bullet-wizards-vs-raptors-strong-final-rehearsal-from-the-starters.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/last-preseason-bullet-wizards-vs-raptors-strong-final-rehearsal-from-the-starters.html#comments Sat, 22 Oct 2016 15:32:28 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51396

Sweet playmaking by #BigPanda Beal to #PolishHammer Gortat. Get those reps. #Wizards https://t.co/uRvYO40v1K

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) October 22, 2016

Finally. The 2016 NBA/Wizards preseason is done. G’bye.

But first, three or so things after a quite encouraging 119-82 win over the Toronto Raptors on a Friday night…


First, the news, submitted after the game (1): the Wizards will enter the season with a roster of 15, taking all three non-guaranteed, undrafted rookies — from this past draft — with them. Miami’s Sheldon McClellan, Texas A&M’s Danuel House, and Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu have made the squad.

Solid charting of the course, by whomever it may be. When Ian Mahinmi went down, gone ‘til November, Johnny O’Bryant became the (my) sexy choice to make the team with his preseason play (better than Ochefu’s). But why pass up a chance to triple-down on not having a first round pick (Markieff Morris trade) and not having a second round pick (Kelly Oubre trade) to say: hey, look at us and rookies, excuse me while I player development and Dougie?


Washington’s Starters looked really good. Pretty, really good. And call me surprised that the five of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat played nearly 137 of 240 available minutes in the very last preseason game. Beforehand, the fact that reports indicated that Wall and Beal’s minutes would be “ramped up” [#WittmanFace voice] in the finale gave me the jitters. But apparently Scott Brooks cares not for #SoWizards. Plus, this was the first time the new coach got to start all the actual starters over the course of the preseason. So with five full days starting tomorrow and leading up to opening day in Atlanta, Brooks put on a little show. The starters played 20:43 together (2) to start the game, at the end of the second quarter, and to start the third—their total plus/minus: +26.

  • Wall continued to show no ill effects from two summer knee surgeries (one of which was less invasive, let’s remember). He even hit a couple 3s, including one of the corner variety, and his passing is as sweet as ever.
  • Beal dribbled and jerked and hesitated and passed (9 assists, 0 turnovers) better than Gilbert Arenas ever did (3) after being criticized for taking too many shots except that Beal shot—team-high 16 FGAs, made 8, 2-5 from deep, 1-1 from the line; 19 points in 28 minutes. Never has the Big Panda looked more smooth and confident. Except for to start the game he was the least of 1-3 positions locked-in on defense and let DeMar DeRozan bamboo his panda, if you will.
  • Porter. Oh, Otto, let me count the ways. He nailed both of his 3-point attempts. Hell, he nailed all seven of his shots. And sort of as suspected, the silliness of speculating hard at the molehill of Kelly Oubre maybe starting over Otto likely did as much to motivate Otto this preseason as it was futile. (Yet, Otto is no mountain.) With Otto, there’s never an ‘is that your bag’ situation—he’s always where he should be. If anyone was ‘most’ locked-in on defense to start the game against the Raptors, it was Porter, generally matched up against DeMarre Carroll.
  • Morris splashed rainbows, grew his beard, flubbed an out of bounds play, and saturated the box score. Plus-37 (team-high), 30 minutes, 19 points, 8-10 FGs, 3-3 3Ps, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 3 fouls—I guess somebody named Pascal Siakam matched up against him to begin or something. Please someone keep him motivated.
  • Gortat, blessed sacrament of the Church of John Wall. The Polish Hammer Machine will keep preaching, perhaps the best he ever has, as long as John Wall keeps tossing those magical wafers into his rock-solid pillow hands for buckets. And as long as Marcin doesn’t have to play next to Nene or Kris Humphries or Jared Dudley.


Seven players saw action off the bench; in order of minutes: Kelly Oubre, Marcus Thornton, Jason Smith, Andrew Nicholson, Trey Burke, Tomas Satoransky, Daniel Ochefu.

Positive to the Negative (in battery charges, not counting the aforementioned undrafted rookies):

  • Oubre is definitely the sixth or seventh man or so, and he really actually looks to have sort of calmed down under the tutelage of Brooks (verbiage mine for emphasis). He’ll definitely still be a wild child on many-an-occasion—Brooks has dealt with Wild Child Bad Hombre Numero Uno Russell Westbrook during his half-life. And maybe Oubre can be the 3&D version of that. Really, think about that.
  • Nicholson (who’s played really well but does not have the defensive pop of Oubre) will fill in nicely as the primary 4 or 5 off the bench. I’m not sure he has any defensive pop whatsoever (aside from an elbow to the guts), but he seems to know positioning and has a can-do attitude when it comes to rebounding and most things—and there’s that whole ‘shades of Sam Perkins‘ thing.
  • Burke is pretty much next in a long line of underwhelming backup point guards to Wall and thus he rounds out Scott Brooks’ top eight. Burke wasn’t terrible this preseason, if you consider 43% from the field and 2-for-14 from 3-point land ‘not terrible’ (Burke took three shots in 14:20 against the Raptors, all 3-pointers, all misses). He did total 23 assists to 7 turnovers and was OK-ish at rebounding this preseason. Burke is no Ramon Sessions but he is younger by about six years. So there is that.
  • Thornton. Someone please explain this guy to me. I mean, I have a personal affection for LSU stuff and remember once-upon-a-blog-life New Orleans Hornets now Pelicans bloggers being quite the fan(s) of “Lil’ Buckets” … but Marcus Thornton is terrible — by NBA standards aligned with expectations, aligned with reality. You see, he’s not terrible, per se, but still, capitalize that ‘T’ because he’s this season’s Jannero Pargo. Oh yea: he’s going to play. Because…
  • Satoransky. Brooks, when asked about Tomas Satoransky’s—“positioning” in the rotation, if you will—by @LedellsPlace, spoke about how hard it is to make a Subway sandwich will all the meats. Oh. My. God.
  • Smith existed, exists, and will exist. His player preview is coming up next, by the way.

Lineups Used vs. Toronto (starters in bold):

  • 7:12 – JW, BB, OP, MM, MG +12
  • 0:38 – JW, BB, KO, MM, AN +3
  • 1:44 – JW, MT, KO, MM, AN +2
  • 6:06 – TB, MT, KO, JS, AN -8
  • 1:28 – JW, BB, KO, JS, MG 0
  • 2:41 – JW, BB, KO, MM, MG +2
  • 13:31 – JW, BB, OP, MM, MG +14
  • 2:34 – TB, BB, OP, MM, MG +2
  • 0:06 – TB, KO, OP, MM, MG 0
  • 1:59 – TB, MT, KO, MM, AN +2
  • 3:35 – TB, MT, KO, JS, AN -1
  • 0:41 – TS, MT, KO, JS, AN -2
  • 5:45 – TS, MT, KO, JS, DO +11

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Opening Statements: Wizards vs. Raptors — The Final Preseason Game http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/opening-statements-wizards-vs-raptors-the-final-preseason-game.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/opening-statements-wizards-vs-raptors-the-final-preseason-game.html#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2016 21:03:26 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51387 dc-over-raptors-logo

Hi there. Welcome to the World of Washington Wizards.

And the latest from that world: the franchise is ranked 93rd out of 122 professional sports franchises, as assessed by ESPN in the annual “Ultimate Standings” list, down 30 spots from last year. Furthermore, Washington is ranked 22nd amongst NBA teams, which doesn’t seem as terrible considering the markets and franchises ranked below the Wizards—Chicago Bulls (23), L.A. Lakers (26), and New York Knicks (29)—but it is still … not … good.

But you know what: Big Whoop. The Washington franchise has long suffered from a lack of respect, generally and almost always self-inflicted. And while the business operations of the team have been more sound under Ted Leonsis’ “double bottom-line”—although, one could certainly question how sound of a business decision it was to invest in an Arena Football League team (the AFL might not even happen now) instead of a D-League team—Leonsis has yet to really move the needle from the Abe Pollin regime. Who’s to say that that John Wall and Bradley Beal era will be any different than Gilbert Arenas / Big 3 era? We really don’t know other than to fall back into our lounge chairs and be encouraged by the fact that Wall and Beal are homegrown.

The season at hand is out of Leonsis’ hands, really. It’s now predominantly on the shoulders of those two franchise and max money players, and also their new coach, Scott Brooks. Now, this season is not as pivotal as doomsday preppers might have you believe—it won’t be completely blown up via a trade of Wall or Beal if things don’t work out (I think), even if one guy at The Ringer think that’s the best way forward—but heads will roll.

Or, as Zach Lowe puts it in his annual NBA tiers list: “Another lottery appearance could cost Ernie Grunfeld his job. He’s not a U.S. Supreme Court justice.” (A ‘LOL’ to the usage of ‘could’.) Lowe, by the way, puts the Wizards in his “Prime Contenders for No. 8 in the East” bucket with Milwaukee and Chicago. Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Indiana, Detroit, Charlotte, and Atlanta are all more upper echelon teams according to Lowe. So, really, there’s no where to go but up, or down—like, way down. Hey, it’s the World of Wizards we know.

And that’s why we are ready for the preseason to end and the NBA’s real season to begin. The Wizards play their seventh and final preseason game tonight in D.C. versus the Raptors. It doesn’t have to be this way (so many preseason games), but apparently the Theodore Unit needs those extra duckets, even with the current big money T.V. deal.

Joining TAI today to talk about his Raptors is Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) of Raptors Republic. Keep reading below for his answers to my questions, and head on over to The North for my answers to his—where I talk about if there’s even such a thing as a Wizards-Raptors rivalry. Enjoy.


1) In the NBA’s annual GM survey, Kyle Lowry ranked 4th in “basketball IQ” with 3.4% of the vote after LeBron (65.5%), Chris Paul (24.1%), and Steph Curry (6.9%). How exactly has Lowry displayed his high basketball IQ to followers of the Raps?

@BlakeMurphyODC: It’s hard to put these kinds of things into words, but a memory stands out to me about Lowry: After a game in the Brooklyn playoff series in 2013-14, I asked him about why he made the (correct) decision he did on a break off of a turnover. He was able to walk me through, in detail, what would have resulted from each potential read. It was similar to how everyone raves about LeBron James’ play recall. That’s just one example, of course, but Lowry does a bunch of other things—tricky changes of speed, smart cuts, sneaky steals and charges drawn—that might stand out to observers, and as I understand it, a lot more that goes sight unseen on the practice court as a leader. I’m not going to argue soft-skill rankings given how hard it is to observe from outside, but I’m confident in calling Lowry a high-IQ player.

2) Similar question to yours: If Toronto is going to maintain its title of second best team in the East, which individual player’s progress is going to be most important?

@BlakeMurphyODC: The popular answer is Norman Powell, who really came into his own late in the year, but the answer might be his competition for wing minutes in Terrence Ross. Everyone’s been down the road with Ross before and bought in only to later feel foolish, but there was a great deal of optimism about his play and attitude around camp before he tweaked his knee. Ross might have a ceiling, but if the team opts not to use Jonas Valanciunas with bench-heavy units to increase his touches, any step Ross can make on the offensive end is a step toward easing the load on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

3) Which little-known Raptor is most primed to have a breakout year?

@BlakeMurphyODC: I don’t think there is one, to be honest. Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl have difficult paths to playing time, Delon Wright is hurt, and the team’s probably going to keep a tight nine- or 10-man rotation. The answer then, I guess, is Lucas Nogueira, who isn’t little-known but is more infamous than famous. He’s played well enough in camp to win the backup center job, and he does some really fun things on the court that will get him on highlight reels (along with his award-winning smile).

4) How do the Raps plan to replace the defensive presence of Bismack Biyombo?

@BlakeMurphyODC: That’s something they’re still figuring out, and it’s going to be an experiment all season long. There’s just nobody with that kind of presence at the rim to take up his minutes, and the options to replace him—Valanciunas, Nogueira, Poeltl, and Jared Sullinger—are varying degrees of less equipped than Biyombo. Head coach Dwane Casey has instead stressed the need for better perimeter defense to decrease the reliance on help at the rim, but guys can only do so much. Valanciunas’ 2014-15 rim protection numbers, Nogueira’s length, and Poeltl’s seemingly quick learning curve leave a bit of room for optimism, but the Raptors are almost surely taking a step back on that end this year, because no schematic tweaks are coming (they had already “Thibodeau’d” the defense last summer to help in this area).

5) What was your approval rating for Dwane Casey prior to the 2015-16 season, and what’s your approval rating for the coach heading into this season (and why)?

@BlakeMurphyODC: I’ve always been more in the pro-Casey camp than most of our readers. I don’t think he’s a schematic mastermind or anything like that, but I think people sometimes lose perspective of the macro and overemphasize the micro in these matters. That is, Casey does big picture things like culture, buy-in, and system well, but those go far less noticed than benign end-of-quarter play-calls. I thought he showed some progress in terms of adjustments in the postseason, too, for what that’s worth. I don’t think he’s a top-tier coach, but I think he’s solid enough that it makes sense to keep rolling with him given where the Raptors are and where they can realistically go.

paul pierce, washington wizards, instagram, game winner, i got game, truth about it, atlanta hawks

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Kelly Oubre, Man of Mystery — 2016-17 Wizards Player Previews http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/kelly-oubre-man-of-mystery-2016-17-wizards-player-previews.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/kelly-oubre-man-of-mystery-2016-17-wizards-player-previews.html#comments Thu, 20 Oct 2016 15:51:20 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51368 The 2016-17 NBA season is almost here … and upon last check, they are still going to allow the Washington Wizards to participate. So the TAI crew is firing up the pixel makers and churning out player previews, or rather, “Wizards Player Haters’ Previews” — which is not to say that we are hating on the players or the game, but that this season’s version of the Wizards is ready to hate on all those who stand in their way. First up: Kelly Oubre, via Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace). 


The human condition is plagued by existential questions: What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose on earth? Does any of this really matter?

This off-season you can add one more to the list: Who, exactly, is Kelly Oubre, Jr.?

Is he the small forward of the future? Is he better than Otto Porter right now? Is he the NBA’s next sex symbol?


We still do not know what Oubre has to offer because he spent (almost) his entire rookie season in Randy Wittman’s doghouse. It’s a cruel, lonely fate that befell Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin before him.

There has been much ado about Oubre’s breakout this preseason, as if Kelly has morphed into a brand new player, but there were already glimpses of his potential last year. During a nine-game stretch beginning in mid-December, Oubre played over 20 minutes in eight games and started five of them. Aside from a tendency to pick up unnecessary fouls, he played pretty well. Most notably, he hit 12 of 22 3-pointers (54.5%). By comparison, he is shooting 5-for-14 (35.7%) from long-range during his supposed breakout preseason.

Kind of makes you wonder where Oubre would be today if he was given a shot last season like his fellow rookie Josh Richardson in Miami. But the past is the past. No need to dwell on the Wittman era.

The important question is what Oubre offers this year’s Wizards. One thing seems certain: Kelly will have a significant spot in the rotation. Scott Brooks raised eyebrows at the start of training camp when he said Otto Porter and Oubre would compete for the starting small forward spot. This was likely just coach-speak, letting his new players know that minutes must be earned under the new regime.

Thing is, Otto has already established himself as a dependable running mate with the starters. The Toronto and Atlanta 2015 playoff series alone should establish Otto as the presumptive starter, let alone his solid play after the All-Star break last season.

Oubre is more of a wildcard. He brings athleticism and aggression on the offensive end that Otto painfully lacks, but he also tends to gamble too much on defense and forces way too many ill-advised shots in traffic.

For readers with the TV viewing habits of a teenage girl, Otto is the Dawson to Oubre’s Pacey. While Joey may prefer the bad boy, NBA coaches usually settle for the safe pick. Expect Porter to be in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future.

So, here’s what to expect from Kelly…

The Good

Assault on the Rim.

Kelly attacks the paint with abandon. Whereas Otto pumps and twists and turns and throws up weak shots at the rim, Oubre tries to run through defenders. While his killer instinct sometimes leads him into triple teams, it also gets him to the free throw line. That is a skill the Wizards sorely lack. Every team needs at least one wing player who prefers to challenge interior defenders rather than settle for jumpers. Porter, Marcus Thornton, Jarell Eddie—even Beal most of the time—prefer to do their damage via jumpers. Oubre is the designated slasher on the team.

Outside shooting.

The sample size is limited, but Oubre appears to be at least a league average 3-point shooter. And he does not lack for confidence. Those two traits alone make him an asset on this Wizards team. John Wall has a knack for turning average shooters into well-paid ones. With Tomas Satoransky, a non-shooter, poised to play substantial minutes at point guard and shooting guard, it is especially important for Oubre to be able to space the floor with the second unit.

Quick Hands and Long Arms.

Oubre has the tools to be an elite defender. In his rookie season, those tools got him into a lot of foul trouble, as he reached for steals instead of staying in front of his man and too often slapped shooter after shooter on the wrist after the ball was released. After a home game against the Sacramento Kings last season, fellow Kansas University alum Ben McLemore said that Oubre just needs time to adjust to the speed and officiating of the NBA game.

He appears to have learned his lesson. Oubre has cut his fouls down to 2.2 per game during the preseason while still swiping 1.8 steals per game. When he is locked in defensively, his 7-foot-2 wingspan can be suffocating. However, he is not always locked in…

The Bad

The Gambler.

Scott Brooks’ quote after Washington’s home preseason opener versus Miami bears repeating:

“He has the length and athleticism and he does gamble at times but he just has to continue focus on being solid. It’s hard to shoot over him, his arms go forever. He has to be able to focus in on that because when he gambles everybody else has to recover for him.”

The last sentence is the key. If there is one thing that will keep Oubre off the court this season it is defensive lapses. With Ian Mahinmi missing the first month of the season, Washington does not have a rim protector on the roster. All those gambles will lead to easy baskets if Oubre guesses wrong.

Tunnel Vision.

For all the talk of Kelly’s improvement, there is one negative trait he has not shaken: straight line drives into the heart of the defense. Oubre has a tendency to put his head down and charge at the rim, regardless of who may be in his path.

Such drives could be excused last season when he had limited time on the court and every possession must have felt like his only chance to take a shot. They could also be excused in this year’s summer league when Oubre was the centerpiece of the offense and had the greenest light imaginable. But Oubre is still putting his head down and getting into trouble once or twice a game this preseason. It’s not a big deal and it’s something that a coach who prides himself on developing young players can easily fix.

The Shorts

Kelly takes his fashion cues from early-’80s Jack Tripper.


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Incremental Improvements — Wizards vs Sixers, Preseason Game 4 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/incremental-improvements-wizards-vs-sixers-preseason-game-4.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/incremental-improvements-wizards-vs-sixers-preseason-game-4.html#comments Fri, 14 Oct 2016 21:07:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51361 TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs. Sixers, Preseason Game 4, October 13, 2016, from the Verizon Center, via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).

In case you missed it on Thursday night—and judging by the sparse Verizon Center crowd and the fact that the Nationals were fighting for their playoff lives, you probably did—the Wizards won their second preseason contest. They defeated the Sixers, 100-79, and their lead hovered around 30 points for much of the second half. John Wall had nine points, nine assists, and three steals in 19 minutes, and Bradley Beal scored 15 of his 22 points in the third quarter.

A win is a win and that is a good thing (even if the win doesn’t count for anything). In reality the preseason is about staying healthy, implementing offensive and defensive schemes, making roster decisions, and improving (incrementally) in preparation for the start of the real season.

About that…

The Wizards’ second and third units have done yeoman’s work on defense and there have been a few strong individual performances, including Otto Porter against Carmelo and Tomas Satoransky’s on-the-ball perimeter defense. But in the first quarters of the first three preseason games, the Wiz starters have been softer than a Casper mattress. In the opening game against the Miami Heat, the starting five of Trey Burke, Beal, Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat allowed the Heat to score 23 points in the first eight minutes. Two nights later in Philadelphia, the Wizards allowed the Sixers to score 30 points on 52 percent shooting. And earlier this week against the New York Knicks, the Wizards “held” the Knicks to just 27 first quarter points, but New York hit five of their nine 3-point shots—all uncontested.

Before Thursday night’s game, Scott Brooks stressed that he was looking for his starters to “get stops and score more in transition” to keep his team from trailing early.

Trey Burke had his share of struggles in two of the first three preseason games he played (he sat out the game against the Knicks with a sprained left foot). The first game he was outplayed by Satoransky and called out by Coach Brooks for his lack of pace in the first half. In game two against Sixers, he did hit a 41-foot half-court shot, but he could not get the Wizards starters into any flow offensively and could not stay in front of Sixers point guards, T.J. McConnell or Sergio Rodriguez. With Satoransky playing like a 10-year veteran and Sheldon McClellan showing that he’s hungry to make this Wizards roster, Trey Burke needed a stronger performance on Thursday to win back the confidence of Coach Brooks.

From the opening tip of last night’s game against the Sixers, it was clear that the Wizards starters had gotten the message. Sixteen seconds into the game, Wall stole the ball from McConnell. A minute after that, Andrew Nicholson (starting for Morris) got a steal of his own.  Neither score led to transition points, but they disrupted the flow of the Sixers offense. A few minutes later, McConnell beat Wall on a drive, but Wall recovered and did this:


Later in the quarter, Porter got in on the steal-the-ball from McConnell parade which, in this case, produced points:

By the end of the first quarter, the Sixers had scored just 16 points (22% shooting) and committed five turnovers. The Wizards parlayed that ineptitude into eight fastbreak points and 45 percent shooting overall. Wall set the tone and his teammates fed off his energy and thwarted the Philadelphia offense—the same offense that scored 30 first quarter points on the Wizards one week earlier.

After the game, Coach Brooks was effusive with is praise: “I thought the defense was where it needed to be. It started with our guards. They were into the basketball and they did not allow anything easy. I thought that was the key to the good start.”

Sixers Coach Brett Brown agreed that his team had been ambushed. “I thought we got jumped with a team that’s here at home,” he said. “I thought they really came in and did a good job of making some shots.”

Burke rebounded, too. He played better, smarter, and with more confidence. Brooks chose Burke and not Satoransky to spell Wall in the first quarter, and he made it his business to get to the basket, which led to four trips to the free throw line. The same scenario played out in the third quarter when Wall went to the bench after four minutes (and a 21-point lead). Burke came in, immediately hit a shot, and then had the good sense to give the ball to the red-hot Beal, who scored 15 points in seven third-quarter minutes.

Burke still has shortcomings as a point guard, particularly when it comes to seeing the entire floor. Part of what makes Wall so unstoppable is not just his ability to get into the lane, but every player—whether it be Beal on the perimeter, Gortat rolling to the basket, or Porter in the corner—is a threat to get the ball. As Burke got into a deeper groove offensively, his tunnel vision left perimeter players standing around. At the end of the first quarter, Burke drove down the center of the lane, was met by Joel Embiid and Sergio Rodriguez, and tried to force a shot. Once he got in the air and realized a shot wasn’t possible, he was forced to throw a bad pass, which Embiid stole. Kelly Oubre was wide open for 3, but Burke didn’t see him. He did the same thing to Oubre and Marcus Thornton in the third quarter. It didn’t affect the outcome of the game, because by then the Wizards led by two dozen points, but it is concerning if the prospective backup point guard can’t find his teammates. At one point, even Gortat had to pull him aside and talk to him about moving the ball.

Here’s what Burke had to say after the game:

“Coach told me to be aggressive and play my game and I think that’s what this team needs when I come out with that second unit. … I tried to get in that paint more to see what I had. I think I was way more comfortable this game and I’m excited about the next one in Kentucky.”


  • Otto Porter bruised his ribs late in the second quarter and is listed as day-to-day.
  • Before the game Coach Brooks made a point of saying everyone was healthy and ready to play—including Markieff Morris. By the end of shootaround, Morris was dressed but listed as a no-go. After the game Coach Brooks said, “‘Kieff has been playing with a sore foot, and going into this game we anticipated him to play, and he came tonight and it was sore, so we wanted to be real safe with him and decided to sit him out.”
  • Andrew Nicholson started in Morris’s place and had 11 points (3-for-5 from 3-point range), and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes. Coach Brooks was impressed and mildly amused at Nicholson’s 3-point prowess: “He’s intriguing. He has a unique game. First of all he’s a great teammate and the guys really enjoy watching him play and how he plays … he’s a man of a thousand moves. I think he shot nine times and five were 3s—that might a little much but he was filling in and he was wide open so he’s gotta take those shots.”
  • After the game ended, the entire Wizards team (minus Bradley Beal, who left early), and media had their eyes glued to the locker room television screens, watching Max Scherzer and the Nationals.
  • Joel Embiid (11 points, 12 rebounds, 13 minutes) did his best to lockdown John Wall:

The last word?

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Sixers vs. Wizards: If a Game Is Played at the Verizon Center But No One Attends… http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/sixers-vs-wizards-if-a-game-is-played-at-the-verizon-center-but-no-one-attends.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/sixers-vs-wizards-if-a-game-is-played-at-the-verizon-center-but-no-one-attends.html#comments Fri, 14 Oct 2016 13:44:09 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51349 TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Sixers, Preseason Game 4, October 13, 2016, from the Verizon Center, via Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace).

If you ever wondered what games are like at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, wonder no more. The Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards brought the disjointed, frenetic pace of Vegas to the Verizon Center.

This game had everything summer league offers: enticing rookies (Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Tomas Satoransky), an overenthusiastic fan base chanting “MVP” for a guy who has never played an NBA game, a bunch of ugly turnovers and extended minutes from guys you have never heard of.

Neither team scored a point until a Marcin Gortat free throw with 9:11 remaining in the first quarter. Take a look at this riveting action:


Washington eventually opened up a 10-point first quarter lead and never looked back. The Sixers kept it respectable heading into halftime but the game was essentially over after the Wizards began the third quarter on a 32-11 run to open up a 76-43 lead.

With Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers getting underway at about the same time the Wizards blew open the game, it is fair to wonder whether anyone other than the announced attendance of 10,242 souls even watched the game. It is also fair to wonder whether the actual attendance came anywhere near the announced crowd.

Just like the games in Vegas, it’s not about who wins and who loses. So let’s abandon the pretense of a traditional recap and focus on what we learned over the 48 minutes.

John Wall is Back.

Just ask Jerami Grant.

And Grant’s father.

Wall blew by Sergio Rodriguez and showed no hesitation on his way to the basket. Wall looked a little shaky in his debut versus the New York Knicks on Monday, but he showed no rust against the Sixers. It’s a great sign for a guy who was not even a lock to play in any preseason games as recent as a month ago.

Andrew Nicholson is the Slowest Gunslinger in the East.

Washington has a long and storied history with the lead-footed players (Jared Dudley, Drew Gooden, Andre Miller and Paul Pierce come to mind) and Andrew Nicholson may be the slowest of them all. John Wall summed him up perfectly:

He’s smooth – old school. That’s what we call him, ‘old school.’ Every time, he gets the ball in the post, he scores every time unless you double team him. He knows how to make the right play. He works on his three, he can pump fake, he has one of the best pump fakes in the league. He doesn’t move fast, have nothing flashy, if you see him come to a park, he’s probably the last person you pick, but then you’d turn around and he’d give you thirty. Just having him on the team is great.

Marcus Thornton Shoots Like There’s No Tomorrow.

If you put a gun to Thornton’s head and told him you would pull the trigger unless he shoots every time he touches the ball, his game would not change much.

Scott Brooks said before the game he would give Thornton around 20 minutes in his first preseason action. He ended up logging 17 minutes off the bench and parlayed that into 1-for-7 shooting with four turnovers. Thornton managed to record a plus/minus of -11 in a game the Wizards won by 21 points. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if Thornton was an “in case of emergency” 15th man, like Drew Gooden in recent years. But Thornton is being counted on as the best back-court shooter on the bench.

Trey Burke Heard the Whispers.

Washington’s presumptive backup point guard must have read all the positive pixels about Tomas Satoransky. Burke was shot out of a cannon and played his best game in a Wizards’ uniform. He only dished one assist but he played well off the ball and created some nice scoring chances off the dribble. Washington has very little outside shooting on the bench (see above) so there is an opportunity for Burke to carve out a microwave role with the second unit.

Bradley Beal Progressing Nicely.

The headline will be Beal’s 22 points in 24 minutes on 8-14 FG (5-6 3PT), but another promising development is Beal’s improved ball-handling.  He played point guard on several possessions and his handle is markedly tighter than last year. Beal and Satoransky are both capable of running point, which significantly lessens the burden on Wall to facilitate the offense.

Party on Wayne.

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Fact Check: Otto Porter at Stretch 4 (or Low-Power Forward) http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/fact-check-otto-porter-at-stretch-4-or-low-power-forward.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/fact-check-otto-porter-at-stretch-4-or-low-power-forward.html#comments Thu, 13 Oct 2016 19:52:56 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51345 201310-otto-porter-wingspan-in-brazil

I mean, jeez, how much do we really want to stretch Otto “Slenderman” Porter? Isn’t he already gangly enough?

OHHHH… stretch “four”—when some basketball media savants are only comfortable with using a numeral to denote a position, ‘cause Otto does not put the power in “Power Forward,” that’s for sure. And it’s OK!

Now Scott Brooks has paid the ‘Stretch 4 Otto’ movement some lip service. And before anyone does anymore tap dancing on Randy Wittman’s grave—per CSN Mid-Atlantic, the Wizards “played Otto Porter at power forward out of necessity and it produced good results”—let’s also take a look at some numbers (1).

First, yes, some necessity was involved—19 different players suited up for Washington last year! (2) But stretch Otto is hardly a Brooksian revelation.

According to the imperfect data of 82games.com, total minutes at “PF” for the Wizards last season were distributed as follows:

  1. Otto Porter – 32%
  2. Jared Dudley – 19%
  3. Markieff Morris – 17%
  4. Kelly Oubre – 10%
  5. Kris Humphries – 8%
  6. Drew Gooden – 5%
  7. Nene – 2%
  8. Bradley Beal – 1%
  9. Garrett Temple – <1%
  10. Jarell Eddie – <1%
  11. J.J. Hickson – <1%
  12. DeJuan Blair – <1%
  13. Marcus Thornton – <1%

No time at PF: John Wall, Alan Anderson, Ryan Hollins, Ramon Sessions, Gary Neal, and Marcin Gortat.

So you see, Otto P. actually consumed the most minutes, by necessity or not, at 4 for Washington last season. (There were also trades and stuff which affected this in addition to injury.) And the results were indeed good, a net plus-2.3 points per 48 minutes.

Only Morris was better (+3.8). The rest of them schlubs went like this: Dudley (+0.7), Oubre (-1.9), Nene (-5.6), Humphries (-8.6), Gooden (-14.4), and the others aren’t worth noting.

‘As TAI reported…’ in the opening statements before the Knicks game, Otto P. was really only used at the “4” (next to Oubre) for two minutes and five seconds versus Philadelphia (and not at all versus Miami). Of course, I’m not sure who you are calling the “4” in this arrangement, Porter or Oubre.

So let’s take a look at the lineups, in succession, that Brooks used versus the Knicks on Monday (Porter is bolded for dramatic effect; plus-minus and court time included):

  • 7:20, -10: Wall, Beal, Porter, Smith, Gortat
  • 0:10, 0: Wall, Beal, Porter, Smith, Mahinmi
  • 0:55, +4: Wall, Eddie, Porter, Smith, Mahinmi
  • 1:05, +4: Saty, Eddie, Oubre, Smith, Mahinmi
  • 4:41, -2: Saty, Eddie, Oubre, O’Bryant, Mahinmi
  • 1:12, -2: Saty, Beal, Oubre, O’Bryant, Mahinmi
  • 0:21, 0: Wall, Beal, Oubre, O’Bryant, Mahinmi
  • 1:49, +4: Wall, Beal, Oubre, O’Bryant, Gortat
  • 3:30, +6: Wall, Beal, Porter, O’Bryant, Gortat
  • 1:32, +6: Wall, Beal, Porter, Smith, Gortat
  • 1:22, -1: Saty, Beal, Porter, Smith, Gortat
  • 0:03, -2: Saty, Beal, Porter, O’Bryant, Gortat
  • 5:43, -5: Saty, Beal, Porter, Smith, Mahinmi
  • 3:41, -3: Saty, Beal, Porter, Nicholson, Smith
  • 2:36, -4: Ware, Oubre, Porter, O’Bryant, Nicholson
  • 12:00, +3: Ware, Oubre, House, O’Bryant, Nicholson

Not once was Porter used at the 4, leaving us at the same 2:05 over 106 preseason minutes to date (3). Now, as coaches will always remind you, some of this is predicated on matchups. The Knicks used to try to peg Carmelo Anthony as a “stretch-4” but with Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-3 stretch-4, Carmelo has moved back to 3, and with Porter the more primed, if you will (not using “capable”), Wizard to guard Anthony, he’ll see more time at 3 versus a team like the Knicks. And, as I wrote in this bulleted run-down, Porter at least looks more capable, strength-wise, to make things tougher on Melo—even if Anthony is still probably the best, most diverse scorer in today’s NBA (4).

More Porter at the 4?

Sure. There’s lots of season to go (it hasn’t even started), but the fact-checking so far doesn’t necessarily indicate that things will be any different than last year, particularly since the Wizards are thin at backcourt and wing depth while heavy up front. Somebody—one of this summer’s moneyed free agents—will have to sit or get injured for Porter’s minutes at 4 to increase significantly (Noted: Markieff Morris will likely sit out his second straight preseason game this evening with a sore left foot.) And if Porter doesn’t get any minutes at the 4 when Morris doesn’t play, perhaps such an arrangement isn’t a priority for Brooks.

The final and ultimate consideration, currently, is this is all under the thumbprint of a new coach. So if Brooks says, about Porter, “he’s going to have to learn how to play some four and using his length and his quickness guarding bigger fours,” then it at least conveys a willingness that things, and usage, might change.

Now go off into the fleeting daylight, young friends.

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NOBODY ASKED ME (but Wizards) — Media Partners, Beal’s Disrespect & Preseason Basketball http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/nobody-asked-me-but-wizards-media-partners-beals-disrespect-preseason-basketball.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/nobody-asked-me-but-wizards-media-partners-beals-disrespect-preseason-basketball.html#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2016 14:19:04 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51341 OK, so cribbing off the great David Aldridge, no one asked me about these things … but that’s kind of what a blog is for. (Partially.) So here are three unsolicited takes:


#1) The New Deal.

We knew it was happening—that Ted Leonsis smartly formed his own media network years ago for a few reasons. Primarily: he “owns” the franchise (Wizards and Capitals, etc.), and he should not be beholden, in this day and age, to an entity he’s not vested that also happens to own the rights to broadcast his team events. So he slowly built out the Monumental Network, which was going to serve some kind of utility regardless (to broadcast WNBA, Arena Football, and D-League games, as it turns out), as leverage against Comcast.

Comcast Mid-Atlantic, realizing that being sort of a by-proxy shill for the Redskins (Larry Michael) would not alone hold it up, gave some of their company—equity in it—to Leonsis/Monumental in exchange for continuing to be able to do the same exact work in broadcasting the Wizards and Capitals (until 2030 or whenever). Dan Steinberg has the full, necessary rundown on The Washington Post’s website (that is, if you have not already used up your free articles for this month).

It’s like if a new (equity) partner joined a new law firm but said: OK, you guys do the work and I’ll pick out the suits.

Fine, it’s not exactly like that—far from it. But make no mistake: this was an extremely smart move by Leonsis. The more passive money he can/will make off his team(s), the better his investments in said team(s) will be (theoretically, to a degree–Randy Wittman was cheap is what I’m getting at).

Nobody asked me but you should keep two things in mind:

  1. When someone has an equity stake in something they, have a say and/or can influence what happens within that certain something. Natural instinct. Now, no one is saying that Leonsis is a ‘Dan Snyder’ here, referencing Steinberg’s “could raise the same questions about objectivity that have been directed at the Daniel Snyder-controlled ESPN 980,” but Leonsis has also been an angel investor in SB Nation, holding a tight relationship with its father, Jim Bankoff. Conversations happen. And I cannot think that referees and umpires are always totally objective, either.
  2. With partnerships comes special access. Look, the lines are already grey between journalism and entertainment. (Full Disclosure: I wrote about this very subject for SB Nation once upon a time.) You’ll see, for example, that the voices of Wizards radio and television partners (Glenn Consor, Dave Johnson, Steve Buckhantz, Phil Chenier) have access to Wizards training camp that Candace Buckner of The Post, for example, does not. But it’s clear that those biased voices, some of whom also take flights with the team on road trips, are more part of the entertainment package than entities expected to view the team with a critical eye. It’s the buddy system and it’s OK, but that doesn’t always serve the consumer. Again, we’re talking about sports, here, not the FDA product recall report. And again, I’m saying this is far from ever becoming a “Dave McKenna Deadspin article called “How Dan Snyder Bought Off The D.C. Media” thing, but it does remind me of when local television stations were given preferential treatment by the Redskins for being “media partners”—WJLA had to report from the parking lot during one training camp.

With new media, there must come new checks and balances (not sure it’s working with this Donald Trump thing that America has cooking and all, but you get it). Are we seeing—painfully and incrementally over time—external checks and balances change the Dan Snyder we knew (or at least make him slightly more self-aware)? I’m bashful about admitting it, but maybe. And is Ted Leonsis nearly the antithesis of Snyder? More so than not (which isn’t hard to do).

Ultimately, in this particular instance, hairs can naturally, or forcibly, be split. Broadcast rights are different than journalism. Comcast just happens to do both.

Bradley Beal Face

#2) Disrespect.

So, speaking of, there was an article on the CSN Midatlantic website on Tuesday titled, “WIZARDS’ BRADLEY BEAL SEES BEING DEFENDED BY BIGS ON PERIMETER AS ‘DISRESPECT’”—in all caps; some fonts convert to that style automatically but for this particular website’s CMS, you also have to do it manually, apparently.

Bradley Beal looked great on Monday night, by the way. Always good to remember: he’s the one Wizard who can really win you games. Like: just taking a win from the other team with murderous jump shots.

The pertinent excerpt from the article via CSN’s J. Michael:

In Monday’s 90-88 loss to the New York Knicks, Beal had 17 points but it was how he scored that causes optimism going into his fifth season. He had the 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis and the 6-11 Guillermo Hernangomez defending him on switches, spread the floor and blew by them to the basket. When he had the undersized Brandon Jennings defending him on the inbounds play, he posted him up to receive the entry pass in the paint and attacked him there.

“I have to view it as disrespect,” Beal said of having bigs attempting to guard him at the arc. “I have to take advantage of it if I want to be an elite guard. … A few times I over-dribbled when I could’ve taken a shot.”

This is silly because:

  1. Beal’s talented but what respect, exactly, has he earned at this point? Like, do we have to do a “levels-of-respect” blog post? It might start: Tier 1: Jordan, Kobe, LeBron, other one-namers and champions; Tier 2: Barkley, Stockton, Malone, Ewing, guys who never won it all; Next Tier: everyone else, especially those who start talking about disrespect in the preseason. The same exercise could easily be done with regular NBA starters from the past five years and Beal wouldn’t place in the top 30.
  2. Maybe the switching was part of New York’s plan, maybe it was just bad preseason defense—either way, is it really worth [extreme Bradley Beal voice] the claim of the lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T?
  3. It’s also not unusual for a team to give an opposing star player different looks on defense. And sometimes, if that star player’s team offense is running well, the defense will be forced to further change those looks. Opportunity or disrespect? Well, if Beal needs to create the illusion of the latter to be more aggressive regarding the former, then maybe it all means something.



#3) Preseason Basketball.

So the good sir Mr. Rashad Mobley, the senior, chopped-up Wizards preseason game 3 versus the Knicks. But I have thoughts too! Bullets:

  • Some early Bradley Beal action featured that two-man game with Gortat where Gortat just stands with the ball while Beal tries to lose and juke his man off the ball. Thought that was a relic of #WittmanBall, huh? And, well, sure, it uses up precious shot clock time … but Beal is the team’s best scorer, maybe it’s necessary in the half court, it tires out the defender, and maybe Beal likes it. So, Beal With It is what I’m trying to say.
  • Otto Porter seemed to actually hold his ground better against Carmelo Anthony than in the past. But don’t get me wrong: Melo still got the position he wanted a couple times and drew some fouls. But Otto also made Carmelo work on defense, was killing that side/back-step jumper, and he made all-defensive team worthy plays.
  • There seemed to be a ton of moving screens called on the Wizards—Ian Mahinmi picked up two and Johnny O’Bryant and Gortat each picked up one. Preseason, I guess.
  • I’ve gotten on Marcin Gortat about his defense—he was ranked 16th amongst centers in Defensive Real-Plus Minus last season; so, about average—but always gotta keep in mind that he has the tools to be better than that (even great): he runs the floor well and he’s capable of moving his feet well, like when Wall lost his defender early in the second quarter and Gortat quickly stepped in to contain the dribble.
  • Tomas Satoransky continues to show a great feel for how to operate in the open court, always keeping his head up and knowing when to slow things down versus push the ball. He’s quite calculated. Hopefully John Wall will work with him a ton on that elbow jumper—Saty needs reps, too. The Knicks in unison sagged into the paint off screening action late in the first quarter, giving the Czech Republican (sic) all the room in the world. He clanked it. But Satoransky did this Euro-step thing that was pretty sweet.
  • Defense: it looked the best it has this preseason because of a few apparent, and simple, things: the Wizards did a much better job at recovering in rotating after playing help defense, and you could audibly hear most all guys communicating over television, not just one or two.

And that’s all you didn’t ask for.

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Bullets on Wizards: John Wall is Back — Preseason Game 3 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/bullets-on-wizards-john-wall-is-back-preseason-game-3.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/bullets-on-wizards-john-wall-is-back-preseason-game-3.html#comments Tue, 11 Oct 2016 18:46:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51333 https://twitter.com/WashWizards/status/785630250956840960

A few hours before the start of Monday night’s game, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post tweeted that John Wall was going to be making his preseason debut against the New York Knicks. Shortly after that, it was revealed that the Wizards would take the cautionary route by asking Wall to play no more than 16 minutes. Considering Wall would be limited, Markieff Morris and Trey Burke would sit out, and the Knicks would be without both Derrick Rose (court, or “not with team,” per the box score) and Joakim Noah (hamstring), this should have been a relatively meaningless Monday preseason game.

Wrong, wrong.

John Wall’s 1st Quarter.

Wall’s play began about as uneven as you’d expect from a player who had not seen action during the preseason, but it was not totally his fault. He was short on his few jumpers, he turned the ball over, and he was unable to post-up the smaller Brandon Jennings—an offensive strategy Coach Brooks has indicated he wants Wall to utilize more. Conversely, Wall still demonstrated enough quickness to get into the lane and create open shots for Jason Smith and Otto Porter, but they fell into the missed assist category. Marcin Gortat was, however, there to follow with a put-back basket both times. Wall finally scored via a 16-footer with 4:17 left in the first quarter, and then he promptly took a seat on the bench.

John Wall’s 2nd Quarter.

Wall checked in for Tomas Satoransky with 8:37 left in the second quarter and the Wizards trailing by six points. When he left the game (for good) at the 1:25 mark, Washington led by 11 points. Wall had just six points and three assists during that span, but the pace and energy he played with clearly rubbed off on his teammates—especially Porter and Bradley Beal.

Wall got to his spots on the floor at will, and once there, he’d find Beal open for midrange jumper or 3-point shot, Gortat cutting to the basket, or he’d score himself on a layup (one came courtesy of an illegal screen by Gortat). On one particularly pretty drive, Wall got into the paint, looked off the defense, and found Kelly Oubre alone in the corner for a 3-point attempt. Oubre missed but it didn’t nullify the fact that Wall seemed to be back.

Injury-wise, Wall showed no effects from his two knee surgeries, he just looked winded at times in the second quarter. He also fell down once after a hard drive but popped right back up. Oh, and this happened while Wall was celebrating a Casper Ware basket (Wall was fine after the game, though):

Here’s what we learned in Wall’s absence (a two-game sample size): Satoransky is a legitimate backup point guard candidate, Trey Burke plays with Eric Maynor-levels of ineffectiveness, and Sheldon McClellan might able to run the point in 5-to-10-minute intervals. We also learned that Beal, Gortat, and Porter can play well in flashes without Wall, but the offense won’t be as fluid, nor is the pace as quick.

It’s good to have him back.

About Those Wings.

  • Otto Porter was his usual steady, reliable self on offense, and he did his best Oubre impression on defense by keeping his arms and hands active. After a Wizards turnover, Porter sprinted down court and stripped Courtney Lee of the ball, save it from going out of bounds, and then he passed the ball up-court to start a Wizards fastbreak. There were other instances when Porter got his hands on the ball or he forced the Knicks to make a difficult pass. He still struggled guarding Carmelo Anthony in the post at times, but he’s not in the minority in that department and it was better than Porter had done in the past.
  • Kelly Oubre continues to play more minutes and score more points than Porter, but he still seems like the riskier choice for the starting small forward position. Oubre is better at penetrating the lane and drawing fouls, and against the Knicks he showed that he could be a presence on the boards (7 rebounds, 5 offensive) but he had six turnovers caused by rushing or just making bad decisions. Barring injury or a collapse from Otto, Oubre seems destined for the second unit this year—which is still better than the fleeting minutes Coach Wittman gave him last year.

The Battle of the New Acquisitions.

  • Jason Smith started for the injured Markieff Morris, and he managed to do his best Kris Humphries impression. He did not shoot well (2-of-8), was consistently out of place on defense, and could not seem to keep up with Kristaps Porzingis all night. At one point, Knicks announcer Clyde Frazier said about Smith, “How do you lose a guy (on defense) who’s 7-foot-3?” Smith will eventually find his shooting stroke and make his mark that way, but given that Scott Brooks is all about the defense, he may find himself on the short end of the rotation stick
  • Johnny O’Bryant did not shut down Porzingis (who can?), but he stripped him on two occasions and played physical with him despite giving up six inches in height. O’Bryant also showed a bit of his offensive game by scoring 10 points (two via this Kobe-like fadeaway), and he tied for the game-high in rebounds with seven.
  • Andrew Nicholson showed his full repertoire as well. He demonstrated good weak-side help defense and blocked a shot in the lane, he brought the ball up the floor when the Knicks were overplaying Casper Ware, and he showed more of old man game via an impressive jump hook. He’s not flashy and it takes him a bit to get set in the post, but Nicholson is effective.

Casper Ware vs. Brandon Jennings.

Poor Casper Ware. He waited two games and nearly three quarters to get some run and a chance to make this Wizards roster, and so 90 seconds into his Wizards debut there was Brandon Jennings: in his face after a made layup. Ten seconds after that, Ware returned the favor by getting in Jennings’ face after a unnecessary foul by Jennings, and a double technical was called. Comcast SportsNet’s Chris Miller indicated that their beef dates back to the Drew League, which is entirely possibly since Ware put on an absolute clinic there this past summer. Still, it was odd that Jennings would pick on Ware in this setting.

Ware showed the ability to get to the basket, and he was feisty on defense, but he also picked up a team-high five fouls in just 14 minutes. Sheldon McClellan still seems likely to make the roster over Ware right now.


The Wizards starters continue to raise concern about defensive ability in the first quarter—a constant regardless of who is in the lineup. The Knicks made five of nine 3-pointers in the first period, and many of them were unchallenged by Wizards players.

It is preseason and the Wizards real starting lineup has yet to play, but bad starts in three consecutive games is a bit alarming, considering that Brooks continues to harp on defense.

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Opening Statements: Wizards at Knicks, Preseason Game 3 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/opening-statements-wizards-at-knicks-preseason-game-3.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/opening-statements-wizards-at-knicks-preseason-game-3.html#comments Mon, 10 Oct 2016 17:30:06 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51328 Washington Wizards vs New York Knicks - Nov. 30, 2012

The Wizards travel to the big city—your city, not my city, shoe city, New York City—on Monday to face the Knickerbockers in their third attempt at a preseason game (1). Washington is coming off a—preseason double overtime—win last Thursday in Philadelphia. And yes, there was plenty of Twitter hand-wringing about the fact that overtime exists in the preseason. Speaking for my banging 140-character shots which mocked that very fact (watching from the comfort of my apartment), most of it was empathy for those who had to be on-hand covering the game, i.e., not me. Otherwise, it was kind of fun! The two Dans (Danuel House and Daniel Ochefu (2) got plenty of run, and what could be a budding second unit 1-2-3 combo (Satoransky, McClellan, and Oubre) got a valuable 17 minutes-plus of crunchtime action.

And the thing is, there’s still so much to learn about this team. The preseason opener was a blowout (11-point loss, 61-44 halftime deficit), and the last few games could feature only (mostly) reserves. It was nice to see a test, meaningless as it may have been, and even against the Sixers. Also of note, per the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, John Wall will make his preseason debut tonight in New York—because of course, the kid (young adult) loves him some Big Apple (3).

Scott Brooks is no doubt throwing different lineup noodles against the wall because it’s preseason and he can. But, you know me, lineup data grills my cheese. So let’s take a look at Brooks’ references over 105 total preseason minutes so far (two regulations plus two overtimes to see what’s sticking (4)).

The (Current) Starters

  • Trey Burke, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat.
  • This crew played 17:28 together in Philly to the tune of minus-9.
  • They played 7:26 of first half action vs. Miami, also minus-9 (Jarell Eddie started for Beal in the second half).
  • Needless to say, minus-18 over nearly 25 minutes (so far) is putting a lot on John Wall’s shoulders.

The Reserves

  • Tomas Satoransky, Sheldon McClellan, Kelly Oubre, Jason Smith, and Ian Mahinmi was Brooks’ reserve unit of choice against the Sixers (8:28, plus-7)
  • Satoransky, McClellan, Oubre, Danuel House, and Daniel Ochefu closed out regulation and both overtimes in Philly (17:18, plus-5)
  • A three-guard lineup featuring Satoransky, Beal, and McClellan got nearly six minutes of run vs. Miami (+3) but otherwise either Porter or Oubre were always the 3 that game; no three-guard lineups were used in Philadelphia.

Combos: 4-5 (& sometimes the 3)

  • Over two games Brooks has generally used two bigs in a five-man unit (Mahinmi missed the first game due to a tight back; he played in the second game while Andrew Nicholson sat out).
  • The main takeaway: a tandem of Morris and Gortat is very much a work in progress, and in theory much better than Humphries and Gortat but you can’t tell by the poor results so far:
    • Morris + Gortat: 39:02, -26 (19:11, -7 vs. PHI; 19:52, -19 vs. MIA)
    • Morris + Mahinmi: 2:41, 0 (vs. PHI)
    • Morris + Nicholson: 3:10, -7 (vs. PHI)
    • Morris + Smith: 3:05, -2 (vs. MIA)
    • Smith + Gortat: 4:03, +2 (vs. PHI)
    • Smith + Mahinmi: 9:20, +5 (vs. PHI)
    • Smith + Nicholson: 6:41, +2 (vs. MIA)
    • Smith + Ochefu: 3:22, -1 (vs. PHI)
    • Nicholson + O’Bryant: 11:08, +11 (vs. MIA)
  • For a very brief spurt versus the Sixers, Brooks used Porter and Oubre as his 3-4 combo with Gortat at 5 (2:05, plus-2).
  • Otherwise, Oubre and House have been the go-to, small-ball 3-4 combo with Ochefu at 5 for 20:23 over two games to the tune of plus-9.

The Backcourt 1-2

  • Options have been limited with Wall and Marcus Thornton out due to injury, leaving Brooks with a four-player rotation of Burke, Beal, Satoransky, and McClellan. (Casper Ware has gotten no love.)
  • Burke and Beal have paired for nearly 26 minutes over two games and are minus-14.
  • Satoransky and Beal have shared the court for just over 13 minutes at even-zero.
  • Burke and Satoransky have played 15:20 together at plus-4.
  • Satoransky and McClellan have been exclusive backcourt partners for just over 39 minutes (+8), but both also were part of that aforementioned three-guard lineup.

Overall, given the roster makeup, the lineup combinations Brooks has tried to date are certainly no surprise. Wizards fans would probably like to see Porter and Oubre on the court together for more than two minutes, and that pairing could be in the works as the preseason progresses. Once a full-strength Wall is available as the head of the defensive snake, it will be easier to see what the Wizards’ defensive ceiling is, even if the greatest defensive drop-off from starters to reserves will be in the backcourt. The larger developing concern is that while Washington finally has a respectable rim protector in Mahinmi, the rest of the frontcourt, as individual and team defenders, leaves a shit-ton to be desired.

Joining TAI to answer a few questions about the Knicks is the internet’s Robert Silverman. He’s Brooklyn, NY-based, writes for a whole slew of quality outlets, and can be followed on Twitter here: @BobSaietta. Let’s chat, family…

1) What most makes you feel warm-and-fuzzy about the Knicks heading into this season?

It’s Kristaps. It’s always been Kristaps. He is the alpha and the omega. Who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. Trying to temper expectations is an exercise in futility, but even after two preseason games, it’s hard not to see another couple of shiny new parts that have been added to this burgeoning colossus. Namely, he’s noticeably stronger, and more capable of holding his defensive position and less hesitant about launching his sopping wet jumper. No matter what Knicks-ian ugliness (eventually) emerges, Kristaps is gonna Kristaps. Now if you’ll excuse me, Kristaps and I are gonna be BFF’s and hang out and have fun and you’re not invited unless you ask real nice.

2) What most makes your stomach churn?

The ongoing Derrick Rose trial. We have no idea what actually transpired that night and regardless of the verdict, we may never know. Her lawyers are running the Smear The Accuser playbook to a T, and I’m not sure how I’ll be able to stomach rooting for him. Sports, specifically fandom, has a way of making your, my, or anyone’s revulsion go away, or at least fade into background noise, but it shouldn’t.

3) Which Knick would be best, and who would be the worst, at catching butterflies (and why)?

I’m going to say Mo “The Forest Moon Of” Ndour. His preferred nickname is evidently “Nature Boy,” which is pretty nifty, but come on. It’s no Forest Moon. That said, it seems to indicate he’s spent many an our in deep meditation while swarms of Monarchs swirl about his person, inimically drawn to him, before he unleashes his bouncy, quick twitch athleticism to snatch as many as he could get his hands on,

The worst is Sasha Vujacic because he’s Sasha Vujacic.


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Order of Importance: Ranking the Washington Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/order-of-importance-ranking-the-washington-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/order-of-importance-ranking-the-washington-wizards.html#comments Sun, 09 Oct 2016 01:48:42 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51270 2016-otto-porter-markieff-morris-wizards-media-day

Those who follow the Wizards (and those who don’t) are well aware that this upcoming season could go in a number of wild and unanticipated directions. It’s your birthday: you could get a surprise party featuring all the greatest hits, or people might totally forget (1).

But who, exactly, is the most important Wizard—who’s the water, the bread, or the milk? Or, how would the top 12 players rank in order of importance? The question is obviously silly (2), and the answer might not be as easy as you think—importance is subjective! So to solve the riddle wrapped inside of an enigma wrapped inside of a riddle wrapped inside of who cares, we crowd-sourced 11 TAI staffers to do just that: rank this season’s Washington Wizards in order of importance, 1-to-12.

And now the results (3), starting with No. 12 (cumulative score noted in parentheses):

#12) Marcus Thornton (23)

I actually ranked Marcus Thornton at No. 7, because, if the “Bradley Beal, All-Star” thing doesn’t pan out, Thornton might be the most important, and the most reliable, back court player off the bench, which obviously doesn’t bode well for the Wizards. —Bartosz Bielecki


#11) Jason Smith (26)

I ranked Smith dead last (12th), if anything because it seems appropriate for a veteran of eight NBA seasons and four teams who’s expected to be the dirty-work enforcer who can also pick-and-pop/hit 3-pointers to pull up the anchor. If Smith is in games, it will usually mean that someone else is hurt or in foul trouble and/or they need Smith to commit hard fouls, or because Washington need a late-game 3-pointer (or several), and Smith can do that while also rebound. So, yeah. —Kyle Weidie

#10) Andrew Nicholson (35)

Maybe Andrew Nicholson should be lower on this list. He is the best 3-point shooting front court player on a team that desperately needs one. —Adam Rubin


#9) Trey Burke (45)

Trey Burke (ranked 11th on my list) really has a lot to prove in terms of how valuable he may be to this team, but he is also the mostly likely candidate to jump way up this list, if for some reason John Wall is not 100 percent to start the season (4). —Troy Haliburton


#8) Tomas Satoransky (53)

Satoransky is a bit of a wild card and maybe also should be lower on this list. In theory, Washington should not be depending too much on contributions from a guy who has never played in the NBA. But Tomas is competing for both backup PG and SG, and his competition is less than inspiring (Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton). If Burke and Thornton play the same way they did last year, Satoransky will be called on to contribute right away. Washington has a checkered history with backup point guards and the position takes on added importance this year with John Wall’s health in question. Burke drops to the bottom third of this list because he can be easily replaced. If he doesn’t work out, Grunfeld has shown an ability and willingness to cycle through the backup PG rolodex when needed. —Adam Rubin

I ranked Tomas at No. 7 because I really believe he will surprise a lot of people this year, especially since he can play multiple positions. I actually had that Wave Papi kid ranked at No. 8. Lots of people like his game—me too—but don’t forget he’s just 20. I’m sure his time will come soon. —Lukas Kuba


#7) Ian Mahinmi (63)

Without seeing Satoransky, Mahinmi, Nicholson, Burke, and Smith play as Wizards under Brooks’ scheme, it’s difficult to assign them importance. But Mahinmi was the major investment and has the most defined role (rim protector), so he tops my list of the new quintet. —Conor Dirks

washington wizards, truth about it, kelly oubre

#6 ) Kelly Oubre (75)

Perhaps the most surprising pick I found myself making was Kelly Oubre as the fourth most important player. In #Wizards world, Oubre is a potential superstar in the making, which has perhaps led to less hand-wringing after losing out on Kevin Durant. Oubre demonstrated enough defensive chops last year to avoid the label of Nick Young 2.0, but his growth is essential to any sort of forward momentum for the ‘Zards. —Sean Fagan

Oubre is ranked sixth on my list. That may seem rather high for a player who was tattooed to the bench last season, but it takes a village for Ernie Grunfeld to construct a viable small forward rotation. After Porter, the only other SF in training camp is Danuel House. So, either Otto or Oubre must evolve into a legitimate starting small forward. —Adam Rubin

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day

#5) Markieff Morris (89)

I had Morris ranked fourth. He is the most versatile big man on the roster and will have to play huge minutes this season since Washington’s prized offseason acquisition (Mahinmi) cannot play alongside Gortat. There is a big drop off from Markieff to Andrew Nicholson or Jason Smith. Nicholson and Smith serve a purpose, but they are not difference makers. —Adam Rubin

The toughest call, for me, was between Kieff Morris and Otto Porter. All five starters (the 5-man lineup from spring) fell into the first five spots. If they don’t show up and show out, this team is f*cked anyway. The key guy for me (at No. 4) is Morris. I’ve never really rated Porter, but Morris has been talking about launching extra 3s and people seem to expect him to channel his athleticism into some sort of defensive shield in the front court. I’m not sure I buy either happening, but Morris at his best is better than anything Porter can come up with—pretty sure about that. —John Converse Townsend

I ranked Morris the third-most important Wizard on my list. After Wall and Beal, Morris might have the most talent on the roster. Oubre and Gortat are probably more so or just as talented but we generally know what to expect from Gortat and Oubre is still very young. Morris, however, doesn’t have many excuses: he just turned 27, he has five NBA seasons (and three college seasons) under his belt, and he finds himself in D.C. with a great opportunity to reset his career with a great pass-first point guard after things fell apart in Phoenix. The 2013-14 season was a banner year for Morris (18.4 PER, tied for 45th in the NBA), and if he can return to that form he could certainly be considered the third wheel after Wall and Beal. But it’s a big “if”—several within the Wizards organization, players and coaches, are already looking toward Morris to be a leader. What remains to be seen if he can do that by on-court example when, in the past, he’s been known to take himself out of plays on defense and jack up ill-advised long two-point jumpers. —Kyle Weidie


#3 & #4) Otto Porter / Marcin Gortat (99, tied)

Otto is third. Not because he is the third best player, but because the team is razor thin at small forward and he is the presumed starter. This team needs someone to step up on the wing and Otto is the best option. —Adam Rubin

Otto would come third because the team did not address the small forward position this summer, which is an indicator to how much the expect/need from him. —Troy Haliburton

The development of Porter, especially on defense, should be the more important issue for the Wizards, rather than the ability of Gortat to sustain his level of performance, so I’ve ranked Otto at No. 3 this year and Gortat at No. 4. —Bartosz Bielecki


#2) Bradley Beal (124)

“Most important” is a loaded description. If by “most important” you mean “If this player is healthy and exceeds performance expectations…,” Bradley Beal is the easy pick for No. 1 for me. If he plays 75-plus games and averages 18 points per game, the Wizards could very well reach 48 wins. If he has another 60-game season, the Wiz could easily miss the playoffs. —Bryan Frantz

This season lives or dies on whether Bradley Beal was worth all the money just shelled out for him or whether he fades under an avalanche of nasty looks from John Wall and the failure to raise his game. Without Beal showing some sort of growth, the Wizards are a 10-seed at best and have a higher basement than they do a ceiling. —Sean Fagan

Ranking Beal as the second most important Wizard when he’s never been the second best Wizard is a product of the necessity of Beal becoming a true sidekick to Wall. More than anything other than a Wall injury, Beal failing to take the next step for another season diminishes Washington’s chance of being anything more than a first-round away team in the playoffs. —Conor Dirks

#1) John Wall (127)

If “most important” means “If this player gets seriously injured the entire season is down the drain,” that player is obviously John Wall. Wall can carry a Beal-less team to 40-45 wins, depending on the play of his supporting cast. I’m not sure a Wall-less team with Beal as the primary playmaker and Trey Burke or Tomas Satoransky running point can win 40 games. That team might not even win 35 games. —Bryan Frantz

Everything with this team starts with Wall (except for the list of highest paid players). Beal is second. Sure, the team has shown it can tread water without Beal, but if Washington wants to be anything more than a middling .500 team, both Wall and Beal must play at an all-star level. —Adam Rubin


Final Comments:

  • There are tiers more than there are rankings. If healthy, Beal and Wall are in the first tier and are of equal importance because they will carry the team. Morris and Gortat are in the second tier because they would carry the team if Beal and Wall are injured. Oubre and Porter are in the third tier, because one needs to step up with the starters and the other needs to be a major bench contributor. In the fourth tier are Satoransky and Burke—one of them will have to step and either backup Wall or be an interim starter. Realistically, both players will be asked to contribute. To be perfectly frank, I don’t expect consistent impactful minutes from the remaining four players. —Rashad Mobley
  • If Wall or Beal go down for a long stretch of time, this team is lottery-bound again. Porter and Morris are keys for the Wizards to overachieve. Mahinmi has to anchor the defense and Gortat’s movement to the hoop is still an effective offensive weapon. Burke has to be able to run the second unit as the backup point guard. Oubre is still too raw and Satoranksy has to show ability to defend or make a jumper in the NBA. —Adam McGinnis
  • Bottom line: This season hinges on the Wizards developing their young talent—something they have proven pathologically unable to do in the past. Maybe Scott Brooks changes that but I for one wouldn’t place my money on that outcome. —Sean Fagan

Voting Notes:

  • Wall received the most first place votes (7) and Beal (4) received the rest. Beal received six second place votes to Wall’s three; each player received one “third-most important” vote, which was balanced out by Gortat receiving two second place votes.
  • Trey Burke had the widest range of any player, receiving one vote for fifth-most important Wizard, one vote for 12th-most important, and the rest of the votes spread out with the concentration mostly in the eighth and ninth spots.
  • After Burke, Satoransky and Morris had the widest range of placement with Tomas receiving one vote for fifth and one vote for 11th, and Markieff receiving two votes for third and one vote for other (all others falling in between).
  • Porter received the most votes (6) for third-most important Wizard; and he didn’t slip past sixth in the rankings (2 votes).
  • Oubre and Mahinmi each tied for most votes for sixth-most important (4) but that was the highest Mahinmi was ranked; Oubre received two votes for fourth and two votes for fifth.


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Bullets on Wizards: 2 OTs, 1 Victory, Lots of Uncertainty — Preseason Game 2 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/bullets-on-wizards-2-ots-1-victory-lots-of-uncertainty-preseason-game-2.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/bullets-on-wizards-2-ots-1-victory-lots-of-uncertainty-preseason-game-2.html#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2016 18:00:54 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51314

If this thing goes to double overtime………

— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 7, 2016

On a night when the other sports viewing options were a Cardinals vs. 49ers NFL football game, a Cleveland vs. Boston MLB playoff game, and a Donald Trump Town Hall, the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers went to not one but two overtimes—in an NBA preseason game.  The Wizards were ultimately victorious, 125-119, and Scott Brooks earned his first “win” as head coach in Washington.

Contrary to the first preseason game when there were more negatives than positives, there were a few more bright spots to be gleaned from the victory in Philly. However, some troublesome trends seem to be developing as well.

The rundown: On the first day of training camp, Brooks made it clear that shoring up the defense was first on his to-do list. The Wizards focused on positioning, closeouts, and fully utilizing their unique mix of both length and size. Their first opportunity to put this defensive philosophy to the test did not go so well, as the Wizards gave up 61 points in the first half against the Heat (they played slightly better in the second half).

Now, in the first quarter of Thursday night’s game against the less talented Sixers, the Wizards gave up 30 points (on 52% shooting), thanks to the lack of the very principles Brooks tried to establish in training camp. When T.J. McConnell would blow by Trey Burke and get into the paint, no other Wizards player was there to rotate and provide assistance. When Robert Covington or Dario Saric had open perimeter shots, the closeouts were two steps slow. Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi played stellar individual defense on Joel Embiid, not letting him establish position in the paint, but even that was more a function of Embiid’s lack of experience and decisiveness.

In the fourth quarter and two overtime periods, the Wizards lineup of  Tomas Satoransky, Sheldon McClellan (more on him later), Kelly Oubre, Danuel House and Daniel Ochefu did step up the defensive intensity, which bodes well for the Wizards bench. But for the starters to lay two consecutive first-quarter defensive eggs has to be disappointing to Coach Brooks—with or without the presence of John Wall.

Let’s bullet, shall we?

  • Marcin Gortat, who has to be missing Wall’s ability to make his paint life easier, played better against the Sixers than he did in Miami. He did not look as overmatched defensively or athletically against Joel Embiid as he did against Hassan Whiteside, and he seemed to up to the challenge of slowing the rookie. On offense, Gortat was at his best when he rolled toward the basket and used his quickness to maneuver past Embiid and the other Sixers big men. When he opted for the more traditional post-up moves, Gortat did not look as fluid but, again, it was difficult to ascertain whether that was preseason rust or the Embiid effect.
  • Bradley Beal, who also has to be missing his usual backcourt mate, shot just 25 percent and was unable to get into any sort of offensive rhythm. He shot 3-of-10 in the first half and scored just nine points, and he was scoreless in eight minutes in the third quarter. Coach Brooks increased his minutes limit to 23 without incident, and at times, Beal was Wall-ian in his ability to push coast-to-coast and find open teammates in the corner. Beal also demonstrated his defensive versatility when Philly’s set switches caused him to be matched up against Dario Saric and Jerami Grant on successive possessions in the third quarter. When Saric had him in the post, Beal bodied him and forced Saric to give up the ball. And while Beal tried the same tactic against the bigger, stronger Grant, and got beat for a dunk, his willingness to defend bigger men was encouraging to see.

Porter vs. Oubre.

  • Scott Brooks has said this will be a healthy competition and, through two games, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre are consistent in who they are. Oubre (game-high 24 points) gambles on defense, tries to drive through two, even three, defenders, and sometimes leaves his feet without a plan. But in the first quarter, when no other Wizard had any offensive game, it was Oubre who scored 10 points (including consecutive 3-pointers) in seven minutes to bring the Wizards within striking distance. During the second overtime, Oubre had a steal, an assist, and a layup in the first 30 seconds to give the Wizards a bit of breathing room, and later he hit a runner off the glass to seal the game with 1:26 left. At times he played like he was in a rush, but in the second half—particularly in the fourth quarter and overtime periods when Oubre knew he was going to be on the floor—he settled down and played more confidently. For now, he should continue to come off the bench because…
  • Otto Porter played a quiet yet efficient game in his 27 minutes of play. He didn’t have a flashy steal, and he didn’t make it to the free throw line, but he was reliable. On two different occasions he maneuvered his way into the paint to score from offensive rebounds—he had six total rebounds to go along with eight points. More importantly, he let the game come to him, rather than forcing the issue.
  • [Ed. Note: Oubre also pulled a “JaVale McGee” when, at the end of regulation with the Wizards up one point—with the ball and less than 20 seconds on the game clock—Oubre recklessly dribbled up the court, lost the ball, and then immediately committed a foul. Watch it here.]

Satoransky vs. Burke.


  • Where the Porter vs. Oubre battle is one of personal preference, fit, even style versus substance, the Satoranksy vs. Burke “battle” is much simple: Tomas Satoranksy plays like a veteran guard, while Trey Burke still plays like an unexperienced rookie. Burke would push the ball up the court, pass to Beal, Porter, or Morris, and then get lost on the floor without guiding the offense or moving them into their sets. Satoranky pushed the ball up the court, directed traffic, utilized his options off the pick-and-roll, and looked to dump the ball off to the big men, whether it was Gortat rolling to the basket or Daniel Ochefu looking for the alley-oop. On defense, Burke had problems staying in front of McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez and he was frequently out of position—although he did pick up the intensity in the third quarter, when he was presumably still riding the emotional wave from the half-court shot he sunk before halftime. Satoransky used his height and length to distract McConnell and Rodriguez, and if he found himself on a bigger man via a switch, he more than held his own. Assuming John Wall does not play against the Knicks on Monday, Satoransky has earned the right to start, and perhaps lead the Wizards to a faster start on both ends of the floor.
  • Sheldon McClellan is not as big as Satoransky, and he did not get a chance to run with the starters like Burke, but he was far and away the MVP of the game. He scored 20 points in 32 minutes, he got to the free throw line a game-high 11 times, and he boldly tried to win the game during regulation (he was hit on a shot but a foul was not called). He played with energy when he was asked to run the point, but he was just as comfortable playing the two-guard off of Satoransky. Just as Satoransky maybe deserves to start (instead of Burke), McClellan deserves a shot at running the reserves.


  • John Wall does not know who Truth About It is:

  • Danuel House was perhaps the front runner to make the Wizards roster after summer league, but last night his shooting touch betrayed him. He shot just 1-for-6 from the field (1-for-4 from the 3-point line) and he looked out of control for most of the game. With McClellan’s emergence, he may not be a sure-shot to make the roster.
  • Ian Mahinmi saw his first preseason action; he played 12 minutes and managed to manhandle Embiid on defense, dunk on Embiid, and also pick up three fouls in two minutes.

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Bullets on Wizards: Downed by the Heat in Preseason Game 1 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/bullets-on-wizards-downed-by-the-heat-in-preseason-game-1.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/bullets-on-wizards-downed-by-the-heat-in-preseason-game-1.html#comments Wed, 05 Oct 2016 15:07:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51283 20161004-scott-brooks

The Washington Wizards lost to the Miami Heat, 95-106, in their first preseason game on Tuesday night in D.C. Overall, there were more concerns than high points, but training camp did not start but a week ago which means that conjecture season is over and we have some real, live basketball to watch and analyze. Keep reading for bullets on this first trial run.

  • On the very first play of the game Justise Winslow threw a lob pass inside to Hassan Whiteside for a dunk. Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat seemed the most out of place, but the whole village was confused. The team has been drilling home defense in training camp, and you gotta know that’s exactly the No. 1 play Miami wants to run, and yet the kids got beat anyway. The Wizards just got home from the maternity ward, so it’s perfectly OK if Scott Brooks didn’t pass on his first attempt to elevate the kids in the village. And so the defense was a mess and Miami scored 34 of 61 first half points in the paint (17-25 FGs). The Wizards scored 18 of 44 first half points in the paint (9-16 FGs). Things got cleaned up in the second half with the Wizards ‘winning’ it 51-45—Miami scored 20 in the paint (10-16 FGs) to Washington’s 22 (11-19 FGs)—but the Heat are the team with a much more established core, coaching staff, and flow, despite losing Wade and (likely) Bosh in the offseason. Still, there are some major concerns developing on defense: Ian Mahinmi is really the only above average defender amongst the bigs (Marcin Gortat is near average); Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre don’t seem to be true stoppers; and Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton are very below average defenders.
  • On the other hand, Washington also scored on its first possession of the preseason: a Markieff Morris 3-pointer, assist by Trey Burke. Morris looked comfortable doing it and he didn’t hesitate—coaching. Brooks also looked to exploit a Morris-Luke Babbitt matchup early, and it worked. He scored an efficient 11 points on seven shots (2-3 on 3s) in the first quarter. Morris didn’t score after the first quarter (missed two shots) but did pick up three assists. One time he fired a pass inside to Gortat, who wasn’t looking but going for the rebound, thinking Morris was going to jack the shot. The next time Gortat was ready and found an easy bucket at the rim. Morris did have a few telltale moments when he lost attention on defense. So, he was pretty much the Markieff everyone knows yet hopes will improve.
  • Speaking of Marcin Gortat, he was definitely rusty. Even though 10 points on 5-for-12 shooting with six rebounds “ain’t bad” [Gortat voice], it was clear when he dinked a couple hook shots short that he’s still working his summer-time-by-the-pool legs off. There was one point—good gravy—when Gortat was the trailer down the court on the break and Burke, having penetrated but not showing the skills to score or create that corner shot like John Wall (it’s not easy but it’s beautiful), Burke tossed it back to Gortat. And Gortat tossed up some goofy-looking runner from free throw line range that got stiff-armed by Whiteside.
  • Tomas Satoransky: the one everyone’s been waiting for, or just now hearing about via pretty dunks in training camp. He played a clean game; he looked like he belonged from the moment he was subbed in for Burke at the 2:30 mark of the first quarter. Satoransky, running point, dropped six dimes in his game-high 31:26 of action—and start the Satoransky Missed Assist Tracker (Andrew Nicholson blew a dunk). He displayed strong instincts in the open court, always keeping his eyes up and in all directions, and found teammates on nice bounce passes more than a few times. Satoransky, who also saw time at the 2 and in three-guard lineups, was composed when pressured by Miami’s guards and wings, really hit the defensive boards (team high 5), and he recovered well when defending around screens. He didn’t really find his offense (2-6 FGs, 8 points, 4-4 FTs), instead looking for teammates early but later at least attacking in a variety of ways—a spinning runner in the lane that missed, a post-up versus Wayne Ellington that ended in a pass out, and a 3-point attempt that didn’t pass muster.
  • After one preseason game Kelly Oubre was already back-tracking (like many others outside the locker room who have jumped on the Satoransky bandwagon), saying: “He has an attitude that not a lot of foreign players have. I take what I said back earlier, a couple interviews earlier when I said he was a little soft, but definitely not. He plays with a chip on his shoulder.”
  • Kelly Oubre looked as much a Jackson Pollock as a Salvador Dali—sometimes carelessly over-dribbling and a scattered attack, sometimes taking a beeline toward the hoop and bringing the imagination in aggressive directions. Brooks didn’t play him until halfway through the second quarter and there was at least one time where Oubre looked disinterested on the bench as observers on Twitter started to wonder why he was nailed to it. Like the team defense in general, Oubre got more comfortable in the second half finishing with a team-high 16 points (5-10 FGs, 2-2 3Ps, 4-7 FTs). Just two fouls to three steals over 25 minutes is certainly a sign of progress, even if it doesn’t seem like Oubre is capable of being an NBA starter quite yet.
  • “If he’s solid, he has the length, it’s hard to shoot over him. I mean, his arms go forever,” said Scott Brooks after the game about Oubre. “He has to be able to focus in on that, because when he gambles, everyone else has to recover for him.” And let’s add this: Dion Waiters had some Dion Waiters moments versus Kelly Oubre.
  • Bradley Beal looked very comfortable, especially massaging that elbow jumper and gaining plenty of space in the process—a different type of space than John Wall gets. He saw 15:40 of court time (the amount Brooks said he’d play him) and scored 12 points on nine shots (1-1 on 3s). The head coach on Beal after the game: “I thought Bradley did a good job of really manipulating screens and finding guys and looking for his shot also. And he’s worked on that all summer, so that’s another bright spot.”
  • Trey Burke started for a resting John Wall. There were times where Burke created space in the lane with the ball, and there were times where Burke didn’t appear to be as quick as he should be. He tallied five assists and didn’t turn the ball over once, but you can tell he’s still trying to figure out which teammate will be where, when, and how they like the ball. Perhaps more concerning was Burke’s contribution to porous defense in the early going. He also shot 2-for-7 through three quarters before going 3-for-6 from the field in the fourth (1-4 on 3s that final period, 1-5 on the game). “He played better in the second half,” said Brooks of Burke after the game. “I don’t think he played with good pace in the first half, and that’s something we will talk about at practice tomorrow.”


  • Ian Mahinmi was a late scratch because his back tightened up on him, partially due to him nursing a knee injury, according to Brooks after the game. Mahinmi could often be seen standing near the bench for long intervals during the game and stoppages in play.
  • Marcus Thornton didn’t play because of a banged-up thumb on his shooting hand but did get some shots up pre-game.
  • Otto Porter looked solid but didn’t play much (17 minutes) and perhaps wasn’t wholly noticeable during that time. Still think he’s the starter this season.
  • All the Wizards players locked arms together during the national anthem as a sign of unity during these troubling times, something other teams like the Raptors have done a few times this preseason.
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Wizards vs. Heat — The Unboxing of Tomas Satoransky http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/wizards-vs-heat-the-unboxing-of-tomas-satoransky.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/wizards-vs-heat-the-unboxing-of-tomas-satoransky.html#comments Wed, 05 Oct 2016 13:31:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51287 20161004-tomas-satoransky

I went to the Verizon Center on Tuesday night for one reason, and one reason only: to see Tomas Satoransky. This was a moment four years in the making. After suffering through year of unfulfilled Euro-stash promises (I’m looking at you, Vladimir Veremeenko and Juan Carlos Navarro), Washington finally put its prized second round pick on display.

Tomas did not disappoint. He played 31 minutes and scored eight points with five rebounds, six assists, and two turnovers. But it was not the stats that impressed. It was all the little things that do not show up in the box score.

Satoransky showed great awareness off the ball. He caught his defender sleeping and cut back door for an easy basket and would have done so a couple more times if his teammates had not completely missed his timely dives to the hoop.

Satoransky’s court awareness is especially important because there are limited point guard minutes available behind John Wall. As a shooting guard without reliable 3-point range, Satoransky will have to create space on offense through constant movement and exploiting unbalanced defenses.

When Tomas did have the ball in his hands, he showed he is ready to be an NBA point guard on Day One. He handled full-court pressure with ease and pushed the ball up court at every opportunity. He used his height to see over the defense and make tough passes in the lane, and he ran the pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat like a veteran.

Tomas’ athleticism, which previously ignited #WizardsTwitter with a couple training camp dunks, was also on display against the Heat. Late in the second quarter, Trey Burke was leading a fast break and Satoransky snuck behind the defense and pointed to the sky for an alley-oop—à la Javale McGee—but Burke’s pass was just a little too late to complete the highlight.

Tomas was no slouch on defense, either. Satoransky commented after the game that he needs to get used to the speed of NBA point guards, but he was able to keep the Heat’s smaller guards in front of him and contest shots with his length. Aside from an unfortunate Dion Waiters drive and dunk, Tomas was solid on defense.

Perhaps most impressive was his overall aggression. Satoransky said after the game that he was a little nervous for his debut but it did not show on the court. Tomas bodied up bigger Heat players and crashed the defense boards. Scott Brooks said after the game, “He’s played a lot of professional basketball overseas and has played a lot of big games, big tournaments, and he knows how to play. The thing I love about him, he plays hard. You will never say ‘Tomas didn’t play with great effort tonight.’ He played hard. He plays hard every night, and he knows how to play.”

In the interest of being somewhat fair and balanced, Tomas’s debut was not perfect. He shot 2-for-6 and missed his only 3-pointer. While that is an admittedly small sample size, Tomas’ shooting percentages are a legitimate question mark given that he will be playing alongside John Wall, who is at his best running the floor and setting teammates up for wide open 3-pointers. However, given Satoransky’s height and athleticism, he could play some small forward alongside Wall and Beal.

Andrew Nicholson.

I mean this in the nicest way possible: Nicholson looks like he is playing in slow motion. He runs like that 60-year-old guy at the gym with the head band and goggles. I don’t know why anyone would bite on his pump fake, but the Heat players did so repeatedly. I think I am going to like Nicholson in the same way I liked Andre Miller and Shaun Livingston before him. He has a tiny bit of Antawn Jamison in him with his unorthodox release points and distaste for passing out of the post.

Kelly Oubre.

Oubre must have had déjà vu in the first quarter when he watched Jason Smith, Sheldon McClellan, Tomas Satoransky, and Andrew Nicholson all enter the game before him. It was like Randy Wittman never left. Kelly did not get off the bench until six minutes remaining in the second quarter.

The game was a mixed bag for Oubre. He played 25 minutes, shot 5-for-10, and led the team in scoring with 16 points and zero turnovers. He also avoided foul trouble and showed extremely quick hands with three steals.

But he also had a couple out-of-control drives that were reminiscent of the forced shots (while teammates could only watch) that got him banished to Wittman’s doghouse in his rookie year.

Brooks said after the game that Oubre has become much more solid defensively but still has to improve in that area: “He has the length and athleticism and he does gamble at times but he just has to continue focus on being solid. It’s hard to shoot over him, his arms go forever. He has to be able to focus in on that because when he gambles everybody else has to recover for him.”

For his part, Oubre graded his performance as a C.

Otto Porter.

Despite all the training camp talk of a position battle, Otto is light years ahead of Oubre and will most certainly begin the season as the starting small forward. Otto played limited minutes (16) but was his typical self—active moving without the ball, hitting an open 3-pointer, and getting overpowered on defense. I will give him a pass for the first game since he played almost all of his minutes in the first quarter, when the entire team was a sieve on defense, giving up 35 points on 65.2 percent shooting. Obviously Otto takes some of that blame, but it is unclear how much.

Sheldon McClellan.

McClellan was fine, I guess. He played 15 minutes and looked quick, but he only shot twice. With Marcus Thornton already banged up and Satoransky slated for some point guard duties, there theoretically should be a roster spot for an athletic shooting guard. It remains to be seen whether McClellan fits the bill, but the fact that he was the first guard off the bench means Brooks at least thinks there’s a chance.


Just in case you were nervous about John Wall, he can still throw down left-handed dunks.

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Into the Great Unknown: Wizards Bench Loaded With Question Marks http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/into-the-great-unknown-wizards-bench-loaded-with-question-marks.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/into-the-great-unknown-wizards-bench-loaded-with-question-marks.html#comments Mon, 03 Oct 2016 17:51:27 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51259 2016-wizards-bench-question-marks

Every Wizards-related headline this summer has been the same:
“Washington struck out on big-name free agents, bolstered depth instead.”

The refrain is repeated so often it is taken as gospel. But is it even true?

In the literal sense, yes. It is true Washington spent all of its cap space—painstakingly accumulated over three years—on bench players. But the implied conclusion, that Washington’s bench is now solidified, does not necessarily follow.

Washington added plenty of depth to its front court with Ian Mahinmi, Jason Smith, and Andrew Nicholson joining incumbent big men Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. That’s a whole lot of serviceable power forwards and centers.

However, there are three other positions on a basketball team. This is where Washington enters uncharted territory. With the exception of Marcus Thornton, every single point guard, shooting guard, and small forward on the bench is being asked to perform a role they have never successfully done before—and in Thornton’s case, it’s a role he has not successfully performed in several years.

Let’s start with small forward. Otto Porter had a nice second half last season and is expected to grow into a real-life NBA starting small forward in 2016-17. But what about the 15-20 minutes Otto is on the bench every night? What if he gets injured?

As far as I can tell, the only other small forwards on the roster are Kelly Oubre, Danuel House, and Jarell Eddie. None of them have ever played meaningful minutes in the NBA.

I like Oubre. I think he has good defensive instincts and could one day develop into a valuable small forward. However, is he ready to play legitimate minutes on a playoff team? Jared Dudley and Garrett Temple made similar comments about Oubre at this year’s Las Vegas Summer League; essentially, he needs to get his head on straight.

This begs the very serious question: Is there any team in the league with less proven depth at the 3 than the Wizards?

Moving on to shooting guard—a position where depth is of utmost importance since Bradley Beal only started 35 and 59 games in each of last two seasons. In this vital slot on the depth chart, Washington has Marcus Thornton and Tomas Satoransky. That’s it. Garrett Temple is not walking through that door.

This is a potentially crater-size hole in Washington’s roster. At one point in his career, Thornton could be trusted for 25 solid minutes every night. But he has since morphed into a high volume streak shooter who gets hot once every five games and drives you crazy the other four.

Thornton is perfectly suitable as a veteran at the end of the bench, like Rasual Butler and Roger Mason, Jr. before him, but things get a lot dicier when he is the only veteran back-court player on the entire roster. There is a reason Thornton has played on six different teams over the last three seasons.

Satoransky is a wild card. I am excited for his debut and think his size and athleticism will match well with Wall in the backcourt. I think he will earn significant minutes right away and will split time at point guard and shooting guard. However, any guess on how well and how quickly he will adjust to the NBA is just that: a guess. If they are being honest, Washington’s front office cannot feel entirely comfortable with Marcus Thornton and a wild card as the only backups behind the historically brittle Bradley Beal.

Which then brings us to point guard. Finding a long-term solution at backup point guard has proven to be Ernie Grunfeld’s white whale. The list is too long and too depressing to repeat—a year and half of Ramon Sessions was the best the Wizards have done to date. The position takes on added importance this year given that John Wall had off-season surgery on both knees and his availability for training camp and the start of the season is uncertain.

Enter Trey Burke. After Session’s departure for Charlotte, Grunfeld snagged Burke off of Utah’s trash heap for a highly protected second-round draft pick. Burke brings everything that Yi Jianlin did to D.C.: lottery pick pedigree, disappointing first three years in the league, and a prior team that practically gave him away. In fact, when Utah desperately needed a point guard last season, they traded for Shelvin Mack (yes, that Shelvin Mack) rather than give Burke a shot.

Could Burke become a competent backup point guard in Washington? Sure. But it would be the first time he has done so in his NBA career. And that’s the entire point of this exercise. Washington spent all of its enormous cap space on its bench, yet failed to acquire any back court players—save for Marcus Thornton—who have ever been even a competent role player in the NBA.

Unlike years past, guard and wing depth is not a luxury for this team, it’s a necessity. The starters at PG, SG and SF are currently-injured John Wall, perpetually-injured Bradley Beal, and toothpick impersonator Otto Porter.

The hope is that Oubre will develop into a 3-and-D monster, Satoransky will erase the painful memories of Jan Vesely, and Burke will resurrect his career in new surroundings. But it would be nice to enter the season with a little less hope and a little more certainty.

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Wizards Starting Battle: Otto Porter vs. Kelly Oubre http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/wizards-starting-battle-otto-porter-vs-kelly-oubre.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/10/wizards-starting-battle-otto-porter-vs-kelly-oubre.html#comments Sat, 01 Oct 2016 14:13:18 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51251 2016-kelly-oubre-vs-otto-porter

Scott Brooks has publicly conveyed that the starting small forward spot for the Washington Wizards is open to competition (1). And by sensible accounts, it’s a two-horse race between Otto Porter, the incumbent but barely, and Kelly Oubre, NBA sophomore-to-be.

This is a good decision, particularly for optics, but also for each individual player. At the close of preseason business, Porter will be the best option. Not because he’s quote-unquote “earned” it by putting in time under Randy Wittman. Not because Porter has come a long way (he has, but not far enough) since a meek, deer-in-truck-headlights rookie year where he managed to travel the first time he ever touched a ball in an official NBA game. And not because starting Oubre would be a bad idea—it could even be best for him as an individual and, at some point, the team.

But it boils down in a cauldron to this: Otto is a lower-maintenance mesh with the starting unit, and Otto is (currently) a better 3-point shooter. Porter’s percentage from deep has improved from 19 percent as a rookie to 33.7 percent to 36.7 percent last season (2). But not to say that Oubre can’t significantly improve from the 31.6 percent (3) he shot as a rookie—much better than Porter’s rookie rate. And generally, the mechanics of Oubre’s shot have looked better than Porter’s. Worth noting that Porter shot 36.8 percent from deep when he was open (defender within 4-6 feet) or wide open (closest defender beyond six feet), while Oubre shot 31.9 percent from those ranges (4). Who knows how much any of Oubre’s inconsistency from 3-point land had to do with rookie jitters and playing in many garbage situations.

Also in Oubre’s favor, he’s the more tenacious rebounder, particularly the defensive end (5). But Porter is the better passer and more crafty, selective when it comes to deflections and stealing the ball from opponents. Porter is also the safe option at this juncture, averaging a combined 5.0 turnovers plus fouls per 100 possessions last season to Oubre’s combined number of 9.8.

Not that these Wizards need a “safer” option. They need to be bold. They need to be disruptive. The need to have some nuts, some moxie, some gusto—intangibles that probably sway the eye test in Oubre’s favor. But this helps us unpack that first part above: low-maintenance Otto. If a starting lineup featuring talent in John Wall, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat needs a firebrand like Oubre to make them tick then they may already be defeated (melodramatic as that may seem).

It feels cliché to write but a revamped Wizards bench needs a hungry Oubre in its cache. And a starting lineup looking to define itself needs a guy like Otto who knows when to cut and when to stay out of the way, and who can more reliably hit the open shots which will be a product of playing with Wall and Beal. The two are fairly close in defensive capability (6), so being a knock-down, floor-spreading jump shooter could be more important, but it might come down to if Porter can be a better on-ball defender and if Oubre can just defend without fouling.

Slightly bigger picture: the open competition is a great move. It signals that Brooks is as close as possible to starting fresh with his players; it signals a good ol’ thump to Otto’s chest, Paul Pierce style; it signals to Oubre that well-channeled hunger means an increased chance to shine (and that he should keep at it if he doesn’t win the job). And if Oubre does win the job, it’s a signal that the Wizards might have more depth to the season’s painting than most might anticipate.

The Wizards starting five will be determined in a court of basketball this early autumn, but at least for this pre-trial hearing, this writer, with a dash of skepticism, is on #TeamOtto.

What say you?

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Pixel-and-Roll Podcast: Ralph the Voice and House of Guards Tension http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/pixel-and-roll-podcast-ralph-the-voice-and-house-of-guards-tension.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/pixel-and-roll-podcast-ralph-the-voice-and-house-of-guards-tension.html#comments Fri, 30 Sep 2016 16:09:44 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51235 Ralph Wesley, PA Announcer, Wizards, Adam McGinnis, The Pixel-And-Roll Show, Pixel and Roll Show, Podcast

In 2010, the Washington Wizards needed a new in-game public address announcer and opened the position for tryouts. The team received over 220 applicants and 16 potential candidates were invited to tryout at the Verizon Center. The pool was then narrowed down to five finalists and Ralph Wesley prevailed. TAI’s Kyle Weidie and ex-BulletsForever.com honcho Mike Prada both covered the event; their write ups are still worthwhile reads.

Wesely has since settled nicely into the role as the Wizards P.A. guy. As the D.C. native enters his seventh season behind the mic, parallelling John Wall’s career, it felt appropriate to get his take on the Washington organization. During our lengthy podcast conversation, we discussed a grange of topics, including: his professional career path, game day preparations and in-game production, catch phrases, the disappointing 2015-16 campaign, the awesomeness of John Wall, fans wanting free Chick-fil-a in 4th quarters, announcing the Kiss Cam, a funny story about Kevin Garnett, why he doesn’t work Friday night games, and keys to the upcoming Wizards season.

You should enjoy Wesley’s unique perspective; listen below or click here.


In the dog days of late August
, NBA content creators were desperate to generate clicks. Free agency news was nil, the Olympics had concluded, and training camps had yet to begin. Then stories about a rift between John Wall and Bradley Beal surfaced—mostly due to quotes from Wall himself—teeing up various outlets with fodder for pageviews and clickbait. TAI’s Rashad Mobley joined me on the podcast to discuss the alleged tension between Washington’s starting backcourt. We evaluated the avalanche of national media hot-takes and assessed whether this was something Wizards fans should really worry about. We also generally chatted about Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Scott Brooks. Listen below (or click here)…


#1) TAI will take part in the upcoming Wizards Xtra Fancast at the District Chophouse on Monday, Oct. 3 from 7-9 pm. All are invited; check out the flier below or the Facebook page here.


#2) The Pixel-and-Roll Show has a sponsor in Sneekis. They are an small online business that sells some sweet D.C. basketball tees and other DMV sports-related apparel. You can receive 10% off your order by using the discount pixelandroll at checkout. Buy some gear and assist with our independent coverage of the Wizards, and subscribe to one of the audio show feeds below. Thanks for your support!



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Fading Drew Gooden, a 2015-16 Washington Wizards Look-Back http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/fading-drew-gooden-a-2015-16-washington-wizards-look-back.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/fading-drew-gooden-a-2015-16-washington-wizards-look-back.html#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 17:22:14 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51219 As we look forward to the 2016-17 Washington Wizards season, nothing wrong with looking back at the life and times of the past. And now we shall fade Drew Gooden…


Drew Gooden was part of the eight-man Washington Wizards playoff rotation back in 2015. Read that twice if you need to. Then Ernie Grunfeld brought him back to play another season at age 34 for $3.3 million. Because Gooden could rebound and play stretch-4 (12-26, 46.2% on 3-pointers in the ’15 postseason); because he was a familiar leading voice in the locker room; maybe to keep favor with his agent; and perhaps just for the hell of it. It wasn’t the worst decision in the world. What is these days?

Then the Wizards shuttled Kris Humphries into the starting 4 spot in the fall of 2015 (he saw five total minutes in the aforementioned 2015 playoffs), and that experiment did not exactly work out. Humphries was traded in February as part of the Markieff Morris deal. Later, several within the organization, particularly the departed Randy Wittman, would partially blame the season’s ills on short-term contracts like Gooden’s. But it wasn’t really Gooden’s fault—maybe he simply represented the uninspiring churn of team management. So many maybes.

By early November of the 2015-16 season, Gooden was being inserted for a defensively inept Humphries on seemingly random occasions to start the second half of games. Then there were times—desperate times—when Randy Wittman paired Gooden and DeJuan Blair, the banana and mayonnaise sandwich of 4-5 combos. You may think that’s disgusting but it’s a big world.

Gooden ended up appearing in 30 games (305 minutes) last season and missed chunks of time from late November to late December, and from early March to early April. He played two minutes and 26 seconds in game 82 for the Wizards to (likely) close out his 14-year NBA career. Gooden’s best game last season (according to Game Score via Basketball-Reference.com), came on Jan. 11 when he helped fill-in for absentees Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries (due to injury) and with Nene, Blair, and Gooden himself nursing ailments. He scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench, missing all four 3-point attempts in the process.

That 114-100 win over the Bulls in Chicago creeped the Wizards up to a 17-19 record, and they would go on to win their next two games (four in a row total) to pull to .500 before losing to the Celtics—a tough one—and toiling through the rest of the season. Just like Uncle Drew, Drizzle, Lego Man Gooden. The Wizards waived him and his non-guaranteed payments for 2016-17 in July, and the internet-skuttlebutt floated that teams like the Raptors, Lakers, and of course Doc Rivers’ Clippers could be, supposedly, interested.

A big part of the Drew Gooden Experience in Washington was him getting traded to the Wizards in Feb. 2010 as part of a three-team deal that landed Antawn Jamison in Cleveland. Gooden refused to play for the Wizards, was released, and then signed with Milwaukee. He later returned to D.C. on a 10-day contract in Feb. 2014 (1). He was just hanging out in Maryland with his girlfriend and doing yoga when he got a second chance to be a member of the Wiz, becoming a big hit with the cheese guys at the Rockville Whole Foods in the process.

Also part of the process: a bromance with Aaron Rodgers, a flirtation with playing for Finland at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, or the general connection that Gooden has to Washington Wizards basketball lore.

So here’s to Drew Gooden and his range of goofy, yet emotion-filled moments. Let’s close this by celebrating with a few below from this past season. Cheers.

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A 5-Point Guide to Washington Wizards Media Day and Training Camp http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/a-5-point-guide-to-washington-wizards-media-day-and-training-camp.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/09/a-5-point-guide-to-washington-wizards-media-day-and-training-camp.html#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:49:29 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51221 2016-john-wall-bradley-beal-wizards-media-day

The Washington Wizards once again kicked off training camp, and their 2016-17 season, on Monday by dedicating a day to media. Damn, Daniel, the NBA season is back at it again—already. Here’s a five-point guide of what you need to know…

#1) Expectations and Mottos

Bradley Beal said he was aiming for 50 wins; check that, he wants to win a championship. Of course he does. (Everyone should, he’d reinforce.)

“I don’t want to talk about all the playoffs and stuff,” said John Wall, when asked about the playoffs. “All I want to do is go out there and play.” This was right after Wall called this season’s team “the most complete team we’ve had” and just before topping off his outlook cupcake with that one special word: health—as in health being the key to life, the pursuit of happiness, freedom, and all that good stuff. (My words, not Wall’s.)

When new head coach Scott Brooks was asked to define his team, specifically the offense, versus the “pace-and-space,” and before that “grind-it-out,” of yesteryear, he asserted: “I don’t believe in catch phrases and naming things to dress it up.”

Later, Brooks would relay the phrase “new normals” when asked about his general philosophy and how even returning Wizards players would be getting a fresh start: “We want to create new normals everyday.”

Brooks didn’t care much to acknowledge the debut of ESPN.com’s “power rankings” that pegged his Wizards as the 19th-best team in the NBA. All things considered, no where to go but up, or down.

I think the fans and anyone left who cares have ‘expectations fatigue’—in other words, let’s see how training camp and the preseason goes, first.

#2) “Health!!!”

Always a painfully magical word ‘round these parts.

John Wall had procedures on both knees this summer and, considering his history, the organization from the top-down is in no rush to get him back on the court. “I’m in no rush,” were Wall’s own words. And while he’s currently cleared to play one-on-one and three-on-three, which involves contact, Brooks could not say whether Wall would play in any games this preseason. The Wizards are fully aware that they might be forging on under the conditions of a new coach, several new faces, a revamped bench, a lack of a playoff berth last season, and no Wall to start this season. A test in the beginning could be good for the big picture, but a bad start could also shake the confidence in a core that returns its top six players. (Also, a bad start could screw the Wizards, real hard. After the All-Star Break, they have seven back-to-backs sets and play 17 of 27 games on the road).

Wall was asked if he’d be on a minutes restriction. He smiled and lowly, almost uncomfortably, said, “I don’t know,” twice.

And if you must know, when he was not rehabbing this summer, Wall said he worked on the following parts of his game: 3-point shooting, getting shots off the dribble, jumping off both legs instead of one, better body control, and getting better at posting up on offense (credit to Sam Cassell).

Otherwise, no other current injuries, nagging or otherwise, for the Wizards. Even Bradley Beal feels great merely by not having to rehab an injury or have his action restricted this summer—even if he did opt out from Team USA pre-Olympics participation to get his body right. Brooks said that as of the moment, there were no minutes restrictions on Beal, but indicated that the team would use various technical measures in place to monitor the health of all players, conveying that managing game minutes was just a small piece of the pie. Worth noting that last January Beal claimed that he’d “probably” be under a minutes restriction for the rest of his career.

#3) New Coach / Old Coach

Scott Brooks used the term “two-way team” more than once in his opening statements. In contrast, Randy Wittman rarely cared to acknowledge offense as an equal. Not to say Brooks doesn’t see defense as a primary target, asserting that he wants his Wizards to be a, “defensive team that can score, not a scoring team that can play defense.”

And while most players, especially Marcin Gortat, did not want to dwell on the departed Randy Wittman, there was very much a ‘ding-dong, the witch is dead’ feel to large portions of the day.

And maybe Gortat put it most accurately with a semi-challenge to his new coach:

“At the end of the day, we got to win basketball games, so basketball games will say if this is the right coach for our team.”

But ultimately, Gortat conceded that Brooks is the chief and the players are his puppies, and that it’s on the players to earn the trust of the new leader.

#4) The Case of John Wall vs Bradley Beal

You might have heard something or another to do with John Wall and Bradley Beal this summer. And to think it all started because of something—let’s call it a challenge—volunteered from John Wall via an interview with Chris Miller that aired over television on August 23rd. A more full quote from Wall via CSNWashington:

“I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. … We got to be able to put that to the side. If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go right … as long as you come to each other and talk. If I starting arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball.

“Now that you have your money you got to go out there and improve your game. I want you to be an All-Star just as much as I’m an All-Star.”

Wall issued the same “getting paid brings expectations” challenge on July 1 via Twitter, moments after Beal agreed to a $128 million contract with the Wizards.

And the banter seemed fine at the time…

But in the Jerry Springer era of humanity, magnifying conflict is the route—and Wall’s use of “dislike” was the fuel to drive down it. And henceforth went efforts in crisis management; Wall’s noodles against the wall, if you will, might not have been intended to evoke so much reaction, but it seems that his message the whole time was true. The media day highlights:

  • “It’s great,” deadpanned Beal followed by an awkward pause when asked to describe his relationship with John Wall.
  • “We talked about it, we’re both two grown men,” Wall said.
  • “I didn’t take what he said as a backlash or him taking a shot at me.” —Beal
  • “We all knew Brad was going to get paid a certain contract, and he deserved it.” —Wall

And of course both players spoke of being competitors at media day. And of course Wall reinforced his “you got paid, now you got to put up” challenge to Beal.

Ultimately, Scott Brooks probably put it best: “If you have a team that bickers constantly, you don’t have a good team. And if you have a team that never has disagreements, you don’t have a good team.”

#5) Everything New & 3 Burning Questions

There’s a new coach, only eight of the 18 players on the training camp roster saw action last season (and three were in-season additions in Jarell Eddie, Markieff Morris, and Marcus Thornton), and according to Gortat, there’s a whole lot of other new shit around.

Three Training Camp Roster Questions That Will Burn A Hole In Your Soul:

  1. Starting positions 1, 2, 4, and 5 are all but set. The biggest roster question going into the season is the 3 spot being up for grabs, or “earned,” according to head honcho Brooks. Will it be incumbent Otto Porter, the upstart Kelly Oubre, or even a darkhorse candidate?
  2. Center minutes are up for grabs, too. Gortat has averaged 30.9 minutes per game as the starting center over his three seasons with the Wizards. After re-upping Beal, Ian Mahinmi was the prime, attainable target of Wizards free agency—the former Pacer averaged 25.6 minutes per game as a starter last season and is now the Wizards’ third highest-paid player. Gortat said on media day that he hopes to play alongside Mahinmi but that he’s “99 percent sure” that won’t be the case. With 48 minutes available at the 5 spot and maybe even some small ball/“death” lineups in Scott Brooks’ repertoire, how will this play out? Marcin Gortat, as one would expect, had plenty to say about the matter, which can be viewed here and here on Twitter.
  3. The backup point guard battle. With Wall set to potentially miss the entire preseason, the lanes will be open for his deputy-to-be to make an impression. Will it be Trey Burke or Tomas Satoransky or “other”? Gortat claimed that Burke and “Saty” will have a nice lil’ battle for backup point, but most signs point to the more experienced (NBA-wise) Burke having the edge.

To be determined… all of it.




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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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