Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Tue, 03 May 2016 19:50:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Gortat on Coaching Changes, Summer Plans, and Finding Love for Basketball — Dispatches from Poland http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/05/gortat-on-coaching-changes-summer-plans-and-finding-love-for-basketball-dispatches-from-poland.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/05/gortat-on-coaching-changes-summer-plans-and-finding-love-for-basketball-dispatches-from-poland.html#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 19:50:44 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50786 randy-wittman-marcin-gortat-poland-2014

Marcin Gortat recently sat down with Rafał Tymiński of the Polish outlet Przegląd Sportowy to talk about coaching changes with the Wizards, his summer plans, and attempts to rest and rekindle his love for basketball. Below is a translation of the interview via TAI’s Polish Correspondent, Bartosz Bielecki.

Rafał Tymiński: What’s the first thing that came to mind when you heard that Scott Brooks would be the new head coach of the Wizards?

Marcin Gortat: That it’s the best possible option for us. Brooks had a long playoff run before, he helped Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant develop a lot. He’ll surely have an idea of how to make the best of John Wall and Bradley Beal, who, on the Wizards’ roster, will be the counterparts of the Oklahoma City’s duo, in my opinion. For me, that would mean assuming the role that Kendrick Perkins had with the Thunder. But I don’t think Brooks will only copy his strategies from his previous team. He has to have some [new] ideas already. I’m convinced he will tend to keep a tight rein on everything, more than our last coach, Randy Wittman. Sometimes it’s probably going to get rough, some of us might be kept on a short leash.

Tymiński: Is it true that John Wall didn’t show up for one of the last practices under Wittman?

Gortat: That’s bullshit. Only one thing happened: he was late for one of our practices because of an honest mistake. Somebody tried to make a big deal out of it. I even read somewhere that John had arrived after practice and cursed everybody out. Nothing like that happened.

Tymiński: What did the break up with Wittman look like?

Gortat: After the last game, Wittman thanked us for the game. He said we made some mistakes that we have to avoid next season. It all sounded as if we were supposed to see each other after the summer and continue to work together. I don’t think the coach could have acted in a different way, however. We were surprised, though, that the news about him getting fired broke as soon as around midnight of the same day we played our last game. It means that the front office had their mind set on firing Wittman for a while.

Tymiński: Do you regret that it ended like it did?

Gortat: Keeping in mind all the time we worked together, I can certainly talk about Wittman as of one of the coaches that helped me develop. It’s with him that I started in two consecutive playoffs. We had some success that was supposed to be followed with some more success, but it didn’t materialize.

Tymiński: How will you remember your relationship with Wittman?

Gortat: We had a good relationship. In a way, he was very understanding. I could go and talk to him about anything that bothered me in life. Wittman is a sociable man. This season, we weren’t able to fulfill our playoff expectations, so the front office decided something needed to be changed. I think positively about our relationship.

Tymiński: It is said that Brooks was hired by the Wizards to lure Kevin Durant.

Gortat: I already said once that playing alongside Kevin Durant would be a magical experience for me. I would be willing to play till I’m 40 if we could play on one team, just to play longer with him. I’m not sure, though, if connecting the hiring of Brooks to the signing of Durant is the right evaluation of reality. I heard some opinions that it was Durant who was the reason behind Oklahoma’s firing of Brooks, as he came to a conclusion that the possibilities of cooperation with the coach have expired, and that the team would be able to make the next step with a different coach. I can’t say if it’s 100 percent true, though.

Tymiński: Did you watch the first round of the playoffs?

Gortat: There are too many games in the first round. If I wanted to watch it all, I think I’d have to sit in front of the TV all the time. And I prefer to lay on a beach chair, near the pool. I was only checking the scores and the most important news.

Tymiński: Seriously?

Gortat: My muscles are so sore, I don’t feel like getting up. The best I can do is reach for the phone to pick it up when somebody is trying hard to call me. But seriously, on one hand, I feel like the years of playing basketball have made their mark on me, and without a training regime, some body parts just hurt. On the other hand, all the little injuries are slowly letting go. It’s not old age yet, but I feel tired of basketball. Not in a physical sense, but I need to distance myself from it for a bit. Recently, I’ve been talking and thinking too much about basketball, and I was over-sensitive about everything. I hope that a rest from basketball will make me love the game again.

Tymiński: OK, so let’s put basketball aside. What do you do in your free time after the season?

Gortat: People laugh that I want to become a handyman. Because I walk around the house, check if there’s something to be fixed, painted … a nail that needs to be hammered or a hole that needs to be drilled to hang something. I realized that taking care of the house, making some little fixes, make me genuinely happy. It’s not as much of an effort as at practice, but you still have to grab that drill and get up on the ladder. I was joking about that beach chair … right now I’m working on the floors with the Wizards and MG13 Foundation logos in my garages.

Tymiński: And that’s it?

Gortat: The house is by the lake, so I hop on a jet ski. I’ll buy a speedboat soon. I’m also catching up with movies and TV series. Especially the TV series, because I watched a lot of movies during the season. You easily get bored if you fly 60 times a season.

Tymiński: Are  you a fan of “Game of Thrones”?

Gortat: Of course. Soon I will have watched all the episodes. I also watch “Spartacus,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Vikings.” Don’t think that I only sit in front of the TV, though, because even from that beach chair of mine I can finalize stuff related to my summer camps in Poland. This summer we will begin in June—on the 17th in Torun, 18th in Rumia, 20th in Łódź, and on the 25th and 26th in Cracow, where the celebrity game will take place. This year we also want to bring in children on wheelchairs. We have the support of the Polish national team for wheelchair basketball. They want to show the kids the skills of the best. Our wheelchair players are some of the best in the world, they’re really impressive. Two key players play in the Turkish league in Galatasaray Istanbul. Their player-coach, Marcin Balcerowski, is a great guy, and his 16-year-old son plays in Spain now. He’s almost my height and keeps growing. He might end up in the NBA one day.

Tymiński: Who are you going to bring to Poland?

Gortat: This year, it’s going to be Garrett Temple, who had a very good season and will likely sign a solid contract this year. As usual, we will also be joined by Coach David Adkins. Yeah, the same guy who coached Kevin Durant in high school. There’s going to be one more coach selected by NBA Europe. I count on my friends Adam Waczynski and Przemek Karnowski. Both were bothered by injuries this year, so it might be difficult for them to practice with the kids, but even their presence is an attraction for the kids. I would love to invite Joanna Jędrzejczyk (UFC champion) to the celebrity game. She’s extremely inspiring. You’d think our champion is slight and delicate, but she could hit you pretty hard. I will also bring a huge bag of gadgets that I was being asked for all year. There will be T-shirts, sneakers, wristbands … I hope I won’t have to pay custom duty for that.


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But What About Scott Brooks’ Analytics? And the Children, Of Course http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/but-what-about-scott-brooks-analytics-and-the-children-of-course.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/but-what-about-scott-brooks-analytics-and-the-children-of-course.html#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 17:17:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50772 20160427-Leonsis-Brooks-Grunfeld

So, we don’t know what we don’t know about Scott Brooks and analytics. (“No one knows nothing,” so goes one of Ted Leonsis’ favorite sayings.) We know that he’s not Randy Wittman. We also know, as Brooks relayed in his introductory presser as head coach of the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, that he attended the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last month. That’s different.

What we also know is that analytics are a driver—one of them—of team owner Leonsis. The role of basketball math in Ernie Grunfeld’s eye is unclear, but he’s used consultants back to his Milwaukee days, a few of his top current advisors are analytically-minded, and then there’s the bare bones fact that you can’t be around for as long as Grunfeld has without adapting. Just a little bit.

So Scott Brooks is different when it comes to numbers, and we’ll check some of the quotes soon. But exactly how much those numbers will affect his decision-making may never really be a known entity. They probably do, and increasingly so, but coaches always like to go with their gut, sometimes.

We’ll conclude this intro with this brief history, even though this writer did not get to ask the coach about specific history in 2012 on this day:

The 2011-12 Brooks-led OKC Thunder’s heavily favored a lineup of Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins. They geeked up 20 percent of all Thunder minutes that season and were 6.5 points better than the other guys per 100 regular season possessions (1).

Over all 20 playoffs games that summer, the crew finished minus-5.2 over 27 percent of all minutes (2). Were the Thunder missing Harden as a third scorer (allowing Ibaka and Perkins to man the paint versus Miami), or did an over-reliance on Perkins versus a Miami team that generally played either Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem at 5 surrounded by wings in LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, and Shane Battier doom Scott Brooks over that five-game NBA Finals?

The same starting lineup OKC used all season and playoffs consumed 24 percent of Brooks’ minutes in the NBA Finals and finished minus-17.6 per 100 possessions (3). Granted, not many lineups outside of ones featuring Westbrook, Durant, Derek Fisher, Nick Collison, and Harden or Sefolosha fared well that series; Miami was just too good.

Now, Scott Brooks is in Washington under a completely different set of circumstances. On to the quote machine!

Brooks on the “million-dollar question,” as phrased by the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo: “Analytics.”

“I never really focused on other teams and what they do, analytically, but I’ve always believed in them. I love it. I think it gives me the opportunity to improve as a coach, and I was fortunate enough that my high school coach was also our math teacher, and he believed in numbers. He taught me at a young age how important it was to make a layups. I was 4-foot-11 as a freshman in high school, and he taught me about how to make layups over bigger guys and the angle of entry, and all the other important components. Then when my senior year in college the 3-point line came, he was the first to call me and say, ‘Hey, all you have to do is shoot 33 percent (from 3) and it’s like shooting 50 percent (from 2). It’s always been in my DNA and I love it.

“I went to the MIT Sloan conference last month and the thing that I was so impressed by—and even they made fun of each other, they called it “Jocks vs. Geeks”—but the one thing, and I didn’t know this, they are a lot smarter than me, but they all share the same passion that I have with basketball. They love the game. And I always felt, it’s not a division, it’s a group. And you will never hear me say ‘those guys,’ because we’re all in it together and I think it’s important.

“And being around their group (Wizards ownership and front office) yesterday, I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn going forward. I wanted to stay in these little virtual reality goggles that they had me in. I went through a playbook and it was really like cool stuff that I’ve never seen before. And they had it last season. And the things that Ted believes in, that Ernie believes in, I’m here to learn. I want to get better. I want to get do what’s best for our group of guys. So, to make a long answer shorter, I love it (analytics). I think it’s going to continue to develop and you just have to figure out what’s best for each player.

“One thing I do know is that you can never replace the metrics with the person, and it’s about people, it’s about players but the numbers can enhance and help them improve as players.”

Brooks on what from Sloan stood out to him:

“They had some software programs that were dissecting pick-and-roll play that was really like cool stuff, and my son’s 19-years-old and is constantly telling me this. Because he’s like all—his age group, text savvy—and he always tells me, ‘Dad, you’re not ready for this next-level thinking.’ And he reminds me of my age constantly, and my daughter’s the same way.

“At the conference it was a lot of great things that they are establishing and going to implement going into the future. But I loved my time there, and I told them I hope I don’t have to go back because it’s during the basketball season, I want to be busy, year in and year out during that time, but I loved my time spending two or three days there.”

Brooks on Leonsis and ‘The Internet':

And of course Leonsis himself could not escape without mentioning “stats” and the “blogosphere” amongst this smorgasbord of verbal pixels and content during his interview scrum after the more public press conference announcing Brooks as his new coach.

Leonsis on #NBALife:

“In the NBA, every play you’ve got to get right. I mean everything is scrutinized. We’ve been planning over a five-year arc on building around young players and then having cap space so that we could add to the team. But they are free agents. And I underline free. Players can play wherever they want, and they’ve earned that right. So it’s up to us, especially in ownership, to create an environment, to create a destination, to have a situation where players want to come and play. And a big part of that is how you treat your people, how you treat all of the players. Because word gets around the league, ‘Is this a place that people want to come and play? How good is the city? How good is the fanbase? How good are the schools? How good is the shopping?’ All of that plays into the mix, and then it comes out to, ‘Can I win here?’ And free agents and their agents—they are just as stat-driven as our blogosphere is, they are just as stat-driven as the teams are—so they will look to see what foundational pieces are there and can they envision themselves and how would they fit here.”


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Brooks is Here — Wizards Seek Redemption with New Head Coach http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/scott-brooks-head-coach-washington-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/scott-brooks-head-coach-washington-wizards.html#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 22:09:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50765 The Washington Wizards have hired Scott Brooks, the 24th coach in franchise history—22nd if you only count the Baltimore/Washington years, which the current regime tends to do. Nonetheless, the 50-year-old now finds himself at the helm of his second professional basketball franchise. And if Brooks somehow gets to 52 or more wins with the Wizards (1), he’ll pass Flip Saunders for 11th place on the franchise’s all-time wins list.

Sound promising? In any case, a panel of TAIers is here to help gauge the temperature of this new hire; bathe yourself in the pixels.

Kyle Weidie [@Truth_About_It]

I haven’t read all the literature on Scott Brooks. Maybe the internet has established an authoritative opinion for me already. Maybe reaction to the unknown is merely a game of roulette. Maybe the Wizards could have done better.

No, Brooks is not an up-and-coming first-timer like the 48-year-old Kenny Atkinson, just hired by the rebuilding Brooklyn Nets. Nor is Brooks the fresh-faced 38-year-old Ime Udoka, an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs since 2012. But does this by default make the 50-year-old Brooks, who previously spent his seven years as an NBA head coach with one franchise (2), an uninspiring retread?

The Washington Wizards don’t think so, to the point where they made Brooks, already expected to be a top veteran coach target (along with Tom Thibodeau, already hired by Minnesota) for several teams this summer, their unabashed No. 1 target. Don’t be fooled, the Wizards had other unexplored options on their radar—contingency plans, if you will—but they didn’t want to stray too far from Brooks. They wanted to ensure Brooks, the man, that he was their target. This was a recruitment as much as it was a hiring—due diligence was less of a factor. Houston wanted Brooks according to reports, and Minnesota made an offer according to a league source (before relenting coaching and< front office power to Thibodeau).

The Wizards have also been in recruitment mode for a certain prodigal son as far back as late-2013, likely even further. And they are under no concrete assumptions that hiring Brooks brings them closer to signing Kevin Durant, along with Washington’s 2014 hire of David Adkins, Durant’s high school coach, from the bench of the University of Maryland’s women’s basketball team to lead Wizards player development. But it certainly doesn’t push Durant further away. And if you are a team—with lined-up and planned cap space and your top six players returning—and you’re going to recruit the NBA’s top free agent this summer who happens to be from the area, you better go all-in and make the destination as comfortable and familiar as possible. In fact, this might be the most familiar situation in the history of NBA free agent courting. Whether familiar is something that appeals to Durant isn’t clear, but if it were, the Wizards have the preemptive monopoly.

Let’s take a small step back for mankind but a giant step back in the history of the franchise. The team, mostly under the Pollin regime, was long been criticized for not going after top free agents or coaching candidates (nor did the franchise really set itself up to be a destination for such). More recently, many, myself included, have wondered if Ted Leonsis has been saving costs on a cheap coach (Randy Wittman) or even if ownership priorities have been misaligned with investment first in a new practice facility and an arena football team instead of securing a D-League franchise to enhance player development. In signing Brooks to a fully guaranteed $35 million over five years, per reports, the Wizards are ponying up while—believe it or not—avoiding a bidding war over Brooks with other teams. In other words: the Wizards didn’t want to send out feelers for all their potential prom dates only to get rejected by all by not showing a true commitment to a few. Whether you agree with this tactic or not, it’s a tactic.

I fully remember Scott Brooks as an NBA player (3) 1993-94 Houston Rockets. He was a shooter and one of those random guys who would somehow show up in threes in your pack of basketball cards and you’d be like: huh? The closest player comparison to Brooks’ NBA career according to Basketball-Reference.com’s Similarity Score: Randy Foye (4). Makes for nice fodder but barely an indicator of coaching prowess.

Brooks, after cutting his coaching teeth in what was then known as the ABA for two seasons (2000-02), served as an NBA assistant for four seasons and a fraction of one more. One of those was Kevin Durant’s rookie season (5), and in the next, head coach P.J. Carlesimo was fired after a 1-12 start. Brooks took over and the Oklahoma City Thunder went 22-47 (Russell Westbrook’s rookie season). The next season (James Harden’s rookie year) Brooks and the Thunder went 50-32 — good enough for 8th in the West! They lost in the first round by a spunky four games to two (one-point loss in Game 6) to the eventual champion and one-seeded L.A. Lakers. The Thunder with 55 wins made it to the conference finals the next season, 2010-11, chopping down Denver and Memphis en route to losing to eventual champ Dallas, 4-1. In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, OKC finished with the third-best winning percentage in the NBA and took down the Mavs, Lakers, and Spurs before succumbing to the Miami Heat, 4-1, in the NBA Finals. The Thunder then lost in the conference semi-finals and conference finals in each of the next two seasons behind 60 and 59 wins, respectively. Then Oklahoma City missed the 2014-15 playoffs behind 15 missed games from Westbrook and 55 missed games from Durant, and Brooks was relieved of his duties. The fateful combination was injuries, luck of the draw in the West, and perhaps as much as anything, an inability to take the Thunder to the next level.

Brooks, NBA coach of the year in 2010, arrives in Washington with questions, for sure. And some of them are familiar questions. Is he innovative enough on offense? Does he rely on veterans too much? Do the rotations operate on gut feel? Can he get the Wizards to 50 wins and beyond? Is he championship caliber? (6) Near-future answers are vague and depend on how much one actually weighs the influence of an NBA coach. A good or great coach can be the difference-maker, mind you, but this is also a player’s league.

Durant is the franchise’s unspoken but totally public priority. But whether he comes to D.C. or not (I personally believe Durant will re-up with OKC for a couple years with an opt-out clause after one season), the Wizards, in attempting to bounce a single stone off multiple birds, are focusing on two areas that just about any Wizards follower would admit needed more, and better, attention: player development and being a good manager.

Wittman cared for his players, even his young players, but there was often an imbalance and disconnect between learning by watching and learning by doing. Brooks has a clear-cut track record in this area, not only with a drop-in-the-bucket like Durant, but with inexperienced college players who required a lot of refinement at the NBA level (Westbrook and Harden), along with those such as Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson who really blossomed out of nowhere. NBA insider David Aldridge has relayed that Brooks is a “big believer in the potential of Otto Porter”—this should be music to the ears of all curators of the “Free so-and-so young player” movements. The second component may have been the No. 1 pitfall of Wittman.

“He (Wittman) would tell them to figure it out,” relayed the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo in an article about what went wrong in Washington this season. Wizards players, according to Castillo, had asked their coach to settle an on-court dispute about pick-and-roll coverage. Instead of providing structure like a good manager would, Wittman’s old school sensibilities took over—you’re grown men, figure it out. That’s not exactly how good organizations work. In hiring Brooks, team insiders are counting not only on Brooks’ proven ability to hold all players on the roster accountable (another issue that various Wizards had with Wittman as it applied to John Wall and Nene), but also Brooks’ ability to communicate throughout the organization. Wittman left a lot to be desired in this area—it wasn’t just his communication skills with the media.

Could the Wizards have done better in their new head coach hire? Hard to tell. Could they have performed more due diligence and still landed on the same candidate? Probably. Would that have risked losing their predetermined top candidate? Perhaps. Could they have done worse? Certainly. Look back on the last few years if you need a reminder. Whatever the unknown case may be in Brooks’ potential for success, the Wizards set their sights high and did not waver, swiftly kicking off the most important offseason in years. After finally cutting ties fully with the Saunders/Wittman regime, it’s hard to knock the franchise for taking this first shaky step with as much confidence as they can.

Rashad Mobley [@Rashad20]

Clearly Scott Brooks has some coaching chops, because he led a talented Oklahoma City Thunder team to the NBA Finals—something that Randy Wittman, Flip Saunders, Ed Tapscott and Eddie Jordan never did with the Wizards. Yes, he arguably had three of today’s 10 best NBA players on his roster in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but it still takes a special coach to guide that talent properly. Brooks only made it to the Finals once, however, due to injuries, Harden’s trade to Houston, and his inability to figure out how to creatively use Durant and Westbrook in offensive schemes. One could argue that he’s thought long and hard about that since he was fired and is primed to fix that flaw in Washington.

There have been tweets, articles, and comments from NBA insiders on television that basically compliment Brooks on his ability to develop young talent. Chris Mannix of Yahoo!’s The Vertical wrote, “Brooks will simplify the offense, will get everyone to play hard and will amplify his team’s strengths while relentlessly hammering out its weaknesses.” If Brooks can make even the conference finals, he will have surpassed his predecessors.

What is problematic about this hire is the lack of due diligence by Ernie there’s-always-one-year-left-on-my-contract Grunfeld and his front office. Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Hornacek, Sam Cassell, and even Lionel Hollins were also available to be interviewed, but they were not. In the past two weeks on the Tony Kornheiser Show, NBA insiders from David Aldridge and Brian Windhorst have both indicated—based on their sources and conversations that they’ve had off the record—that Durant is not coming to D.C. But from the outside looking in, it appears as if the Wizards are still angling for him by having tunnel vision on his former coach. If Durant comes to D.C. all will be forgiven, but if he does not, Grunfeld will surely have his defense of Brooks ready. He’ll comment on his sharp young mind, how his scrappiness as an NBA player has translated to him being a successful coach and most importantly his win-loss record.

Why not interview other coaches—particularly defensive coaches like Jeff Van Gundy or Thibodeau—who would shore up Washington’s defensive deficiencies? Wall is in entering his seventh season, and he’s not young anymore (as Randy Wittman alluded to in his exit interview). Bradley Beal is in a pivotal contract summer and the Wizards only have five players currently locked in deals, which means personnel issues and coaching will be scrutinized beyond belief. Don’t those circumstances warrant a thorough search, rather than a biased, telegraphed hire?

Brooks could be the savior. He could have the healthy team Wittman didn’t have this season, or he could flat out bomb—but that’s the case with all coaches. It is just baffling that there were no checks and balances in place. But that’s #SoWizards, right?

Adam McGinnis [@AdamMcGinnis]

The positive pixels angle of this hire is apparent on the surface. Washington immediately sought after a high-profile, experienced coach and paid top dollar to secure their target. Scott Brooks is who they wanted and they used the necessary resources to get the deal done. We should commend the organization for this approach on an important basketball leadership position. Brooks has a background as a scrappy NBA player, paid his dues as an assistant, has a winning record as a coach, has won the highest honor in the profession outside of a championship, and helped develop an exciting group of young players in Oklahoma City and get them to the NBA finals. His credentials are legitimate and he chose to come to D.C. over other attractive options. He is well-liked by Thunder media types. Oh, and Brooks has a close personal relationship with one Kevin Durant as well.

However—and you knew this was coming—the decision is unfortunately not made in a rosy vacuum. The necessary context is that the much maligned and (perhaps) lame-duck Team President Ernie Grunfeld is still at the helm making this call. When Randy Wittman was jettisoned last week, Grunfeld had a predictable, meandering and defensive press conference full of platitudes that produced little confidence in a salty fanbase looking for real talk answers as to why this team appears rudderless in the aftermath of missing the post-season. Similar to Flip Saunders in 2009, the Wizards interviewed no other candidates, and the process of not exploring several options is difficult for many to understand. The problematic situation is especially toxic since majority of Wizards followers want anyone but Grunfeld in charge. To throw more fuel on the fire: critiques of Brooks are similar to the most familiar critiques of Wittman.

Majority shareholder of the Monumental Sports Wizards ownership group, Ted Leonsis, has gone basically silent and won’t level with his customers. Leonsis recently seems more involved in promoting a new Arena Football League venture than being transparent on the franchise’s basketball plan. Since Leonsis has checked out of the media narrative game, us blogger gadfly types have to begrudgingly explain to a pissed off fanbase that the three-year plan is actually still intact. Bringing the services of Kevin Wayne Durant back to the community that he loves more than anywhere else on the planet remains the goal. If hiring K.D.’s old NBA coach gets the Wiz brass closer to their goal, then so be it. Because if #KD2DC becomes a reality, the amount of laudatory praise heaped on everyone involved will be greater than Wizards No. 35 jerseys sold. All our criticism will be moot.

Regardless of whether Wanda Pratt and Tony Durant are sitting courtside this November, Brooks will now be on the sideline for 2016-17. I gave Wittman a fair shake of an evaluation at 4-and-28 and am willing to do the same for Brooks.

Welcome to D.C. Go, Anteaters!

Bryan Frantz [@BFrantz202]

In a word: Uninspired. In two more: Painfully unambitious. I don’t mind the hire, I hate the contract. To me, it reeks of a Team President trying to add a few more years to his tenure by tying himself to another coach for an extended period of time, and there’s a slight odor of “Maybe Kevin Durant will still come.” (On a side note, do we really know if Durant even wants to play for Brooks again?) If the Wizards want to move on from the Ernie Grunfeld era in a year, they’ll be forced to hire a GM who wants to work with Scott Brooks—Brooks isn’t known as a troublemaker, but an incoming GM would no doubt prefer to hire his own coach (7).

I expect John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Co. to improve, but I especially expect Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre to develop considerably. Brooks has a strong track record of taking young, high-upside players and getting the most out of them. He does not have a strong track record of maximizing production from an incredible wealth of talent, but that’s not an issue right now for two reasons: first, the Wizards don’t have an incredible wealth of talent; second, there is the chance that he’s improved as a coach and/or has better luck with a different group of players. Russell Westbrook is undeniably more talented than any player on the Wizards roster, but I’m willing to bet Bradley Beal is an easier personality for a (relatively) young coach to work with.

Ultimately, it feels like this is Ernie and Ted Leonsis saying: We’re totally fine winning 50 or fewer games every year. I’d love 50 wins in a season, but I’d also rather not waste the Wall/Beal/Porter/Oubre prime years hoping to compete to lose to LeBron James in the conference finals.


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Key Legislature: Wizards 120 at Nets 111 — Elusive .500 Record So Close, So Far Away http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-81-wizards-120-at-nets-111-elusive-500-record-so-close-so-far-away.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-81-wizards-120-at-nets-111-elusive-500-record-so-close-so-far-away.html#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 06:07:28 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50751 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Nets Regular Season Game 81, April 11, 2016, by John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend).

I was THIS close to buying tickets to Monday night’s game in Brooklyn. How close? Real close. But the matchup was making it hard for me (1).

There’s no use spending good money on a bad product, a truism many of you readers, who probably paid to see the Wizards this season, can understand. And so, I watched this professional basketball exhibition game on my couch like the rest of the world (read: the few fans of either team left).

Proof? Taken moments before tip-off, this photo:

The Washington Wizards had nothing to play for, while the Nets … well, also had nothing to play for.

Brook Lopez: out.
Jarrett Jack: out.
Thaddeus Young: out.
Thomas Robinson: out.
Willie Reed: out.
Sergey Karasev (who?): out.
Markieff Morris: out.
Drew Gooden: out-ish
Nene: out.
Bradley Beal: out.
John Wall: out.

And last, but not least, because this is and was huge news:

Randy F. Wittman: out!

There’s so much to say here, but with intent of writing about Monday night’s basketball game, I’ll say this: Randy Wittman, like his team, was once an afterthought, later an overachiever, and ultimately, in 2016, an indefensible disappointment. As I wrote in February of 2015, the Wizards can do better than Randy Wittman and probably deserve better.

To sports reporting: Ramon Sessions started alongside Marcus Thornton, Otto Porter, Jared Dudley, and Marcin Gortat. Standing in the way of a win in game 81 were Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, Chris McCullough, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Henry Sims.

The first two minutes of the game went exactly as you might expect. The Wizards’ respectable lost-season starters took one long, hard look at the capitulators in black and white across from them and immediately found themselves winning 10-0. That 10-0 lead doubled some blinks later, prompting Nets interim coach Tony Brown to call timeout.

Brooklyn, then down 20-0 in the first quarter, had the fight of a cardboard box in the rain. And so I would love to know what Coach Brown said in the huddle, or whether he fired up his charges by reading lines from “The Iliad,” because they stepped onto the floor and immediately scored a 3-pointer. The few thousand humans in the building roared with delight. Analytics THAT!

A few possessions later, it was 22-7, prompting one of the YES Network analysts to cheer, “The floodgates have opened.” I found that funny, but the Nets quickly found themselves trailing by just eight points. And just like that, Brooklyn kept pouring in buckets: three straight scores from worldbeater Shane Larkin cut the Wizards’ lead to three points, 51-48.

Timeout, Washington.

An off-balance midrange jumper from Jarrell Eddie followed the timeout (#RandyBall), which was followed by some of the wildest, low-quality basketball ever seen, which involved Bogdanovic launching (and making) from Curryville, Bojan taking Porter to the tin for an and-1 (to take the lead), and Sessions botching a handoff to Thornton which led to a breakaway dunk for Ellington.

That lead didn’t last long, because Jared Dudley swished a 3 from above the break. But holy cannoli, the Wizards since the first few minutes had been outscored 58-29 by Brooklyn’s rat pack of reserves.

Kelly Oubre, who played 29 minutes (his third highest total this season), saved his team some stick going into the locker room at halftime. He answered a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson reverse layup with a running 3-pointer to the tune of the blaring buzzer, then kept running into depths of the Barclays Center.

The Wizards led after 24 minutes, but just barely: 70-69. The two teams would combine for 198 points after three quarters, as the Wizards and Nets scooted and scored and ran into each other without any real designs or sophistication. It looked like pick-up with principles, at best, to borrow a Washingtonian basketball phrase.

Notable: The Nets did enjoy a four-point lead in the third quarter, which was the first lead they had played with in eight and a half games—since a win against the Pacers on March 26.

Given the shambolic circumstances, that’s nothing more than a fun fact. That’s especially true since the Wizards ended up winning the game quite comfortably, helped greatly by a 13-4 run. They outscored the Brooklyn 20-13 in the final quarter to hand them their ninth consecutive loss.

The Wizards won. A result of depth or overall talent or just not being the Nets?

“We knew at the end of the game if we continued to play that pace we’d be fine,” said ersatz All-Star point guard Ramon Sessions, who led all players in points (21). “We just had to get some stops and we did in that second half.”

Really, though, the Wizards stopped giving the Nets easy opportunities. Brooklyn scored a season-high 37 points in transition but were held to just four in the fourth quarter.

The Washington Wizards are 40-41 on the season, hot in pursuit of an ever-elusive .500 record. They play the 48-33 Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.


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Key Legislature: Wizards 113 vs Hornets 98 — Dancing On Their Own Grave Like Nobody’s Watching http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-wizards-113-vs-hornets-98-dancing-on-their-own-grave-like-nobodys-watching.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-wizards-113-vs-hornets-98-dancing-on-their-own-grave-like-nobodys-watching.html#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2016 21:00:54 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50745 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs Hornets, Regular Season Game 80, April 10, 2016, by Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace).

The Washington Wizards played their first meaningless game of the 2015-16 season on Sunday afternoon. Sure, they have been dead men walking for the last few weeks, but this was the first official game with nothing on the line. No playoffs. No jockeying for draft position. No conceivable reason for even waking up in the morning.

Head coach Randy Wittman slowly took his place in front of the pre-game media scrum like a guy arriving at a funeral. This was his first home game since the Washington Wizards were mercifully eliminated from playoff contention and he was in no mood to conduct a postmortem on the season:

“Let’s don’t get into that. There’s a time for that at the end of the season, the ‘whys’ or whatever.”

But there was one issue I wanted to discuss: the whereabouts of 2015 first-round draft pick Kelly Oubre. An innocuous question—”Do you expect to play Oubre a little more these last few games?”—received a very Wittman-esque response.

“We’ll see. We’ll see how things go, who’s available moving forward,” Wittman said.

The response left some baffled.

If they were baffled before the game, fans were surely frustrated during it as Wittman called for a parade of players off the bench—Marcus Thornton, Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley, Garrett Temple—before finally giving Oubre the nod with 5:20 left in the second quarter. In what hopefully is a sign of things to come, Wittman played Oubre the entire fourth quarter of the Wizards’ surprising win. Oh yeah, the Wizards won, forgot to mention that earlier—so more minutes may finally come Oubre’s way in the final two games of the season.

Kelly played relatively well, but that’s not really the point. Save for a 10-game stretch in mid-December, Oubre has not been a part of the Wizard’s rotation. With Washington eliminated from the playoffs, Oubre should claim his rightful place ahead of Thornton on the depth chart.

It’s fitting that Washington’s first meaningless game was against the Charlotte Hornets. Before the season started, I was asked to be a guest on Hive Talk Live, a Hornets podcast. They were previewing teams in the Eastern Conference that were transitioning to a small ball offense—just like the Hornets.

Washington was fresh off acquiring Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley and Gary Neal, all great 3-point shooters who would stretch the floor. Meanwhile, the Hornets were embarking on their own journey into 21st century team-building, acquiring Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin and Frank Kaminsky, among others. Even though Charlotte endured significant injuries to two starters (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Al Jefferson), the results could not be more different.

David Aldridge recently wrote of the Hornets in his “Monday Morning Tip“:

“They have gotten with the league-wide program and put a team together that embraces 3-pointers and looks for those shots whenever possible. They have a charismatic star in Walker, the requisite flavoring (Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin) and they’re extremely well-coached and play defense under coach Steve Clifford.”

The last part of that quote should raise eyebrows in Washington. Apparently it’s not enough to simply tape boxes beyond the 3-point line on the Verizon Center practice floor. You also need to play defense with effort and energy—two buzz words that have become commonplace in Randy Wittman’s post-game press conferences.

For one game at least, the Wizards and Hornets switched places, with Washington playing the aggressor and Charlotte looking lost on defense.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford remarked after the game that his team was a step slow all day: “In the first timeout, they ran like three actions and we guarded none of them correctly. And that’s not our team.”

Washington’s win was even more unexpected given that Wall did not play and Bradley Beal was limited to seven (first-half) minutes due to a sore pelvis. Hornets forward Nicolas Batum took notice and declared the Wizards an honorary member of the postseason.

The sentiment is appreciated but the gesture is empty. I checked. Batum does not have administrator privileges to change playoff match-ups on nba.com.

https://twitter.com/BILLBELLAMY/status/719210465885196288

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Key Legislature: Wizards at Pistons — You May Now Rest in Peace http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-wizards-at-pistons-you-may-now-rest-in-peace.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-wizards-at-pistons-you-may-now-rest-in-peace.html#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2016 20:04:20 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50742 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Pistons, Regular Season Game 79, April 8, 2016, from Detroit, Michigan, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

I’ve never written an obituary before. Not while someone, something, is still alive. But playoff chances for the 2015-16 Washington Wizards died last night. I watched it happen. With three games to be played, their regular season only has a couple meaningless, perfunctory breaths left.

The Detroit Pistons came out motivated—excited and ready to play basketball (perhaps especially so since Detroit was 0-3 against Washington heading into Friday). The Pistons scored 62 points in the first half, held off a furious and desperate 19-point Wizards comeback (it always happens in the NBA, anyway), and they won by 13 points, 112-99.

Detroit is going to the postseason (with a chance to win 45 games; currently 43-37), and at the same time put coins over the closed eyes of Washington’s postseason, sending them down the river with the fish.

Last season, Detroit’s first under Stan Van Gundy, was quite disappointing—they won 32 games. They even paid Josh Smith to not play for them after he signed a four-year, $54 million contract in the summer of 2013. Not on Van Gundy’s watch, who’d decided he’d had enough of Smith’s pitiful bullshit after 28 games under his reign. As coach and president of basketball operations (Jeff Bower is his GM), Van Gundy has added Reggie Jackson for two second round picks, Kyle Singler, and D.J. Augustin; he let Greg Monroe walk to Milwaukee (where Monroe’s subpar defense continues to hint that he’s overrated); collected Marcus Morris for the mere penance of a second round pick; and most recently, Van Gundy picked up Tobias Harris for Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings. He didn’t have a first draft pick in 2014 (1), and with the eighth overall pick in 2015 he selected Stanley Johnson out of Arizona. Johnson, a DNP-Coach’s Decision in Friday night’s playoff clincher, has appeared in 71 games (1,642 minutes). For comparison, Washington’s Kelly Oubre has appeared in 60 games (600 minutes).

We take time to describe these current Pistons in detail because in writing one version of Washington’s playoff obituary—or at least the first draft of it—we somehow find ourselves curious about the room full of doctors who pulled the plug.

Reggie Jackson scored 39 points on 20 shots to pair with 9 assists, 5 turnovers, and 4 rebounds—bringing him to Detroit was worth every penny (and perhaps John Wall would now agree). Jackson didn’t care that John Wall wasn’t playing (out for the second straight game with a suddenly swollen knee), refusing to play down to the levels of his competition. He destroyed fill-in Ramon Sessions, then the Wizards switched Garrett Temple on Jackson—didn’t matter; Bradley Beal also gave a go of it at some point. Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris combined for 30 points on 17 shots, together going 5-for-9 from 3-point range. Detroit didn’t even really need their All-Star center, Andre Drummond (8 points and 6 rebounds in 25 minutes and victim of the “Hack-a” strategy with 9 minutes left in the game), all they really needed was the long ball—and Washington’s defense of it. The Pistons shot 7-for-9 on 3s in the first quarter, but then 3-for-10 in each of the next two quarters, and 1-for-3 in the final quarter (still, 14-32 for the game or 43.8%).

The Wizards came out not unlike the same Wizards we’ve seen all season, even with the services of Wall. Coaching strategy, player wherewithal, and player capability were terrible at defending the 3-point line—the Wizards have allowed 37.2 percent from deep on the season, tied with three other teams for second-worst to the Phoenix Suns.

Forty-five (45) of Detroit’s 77 field goal attempts versus Washington came from beyond 10-feet; they shot 4-for-13 on 2-pointers and, as relayed, 14-for-32 on 3-pointers. A Wizards defender was within 0-to-4 feet for just eight of those 45 attempts beyond 10 feet (the range NBA player tracking data calls closely or very closely defended), and Detroit shot 1-for-8 when this happened (0-3 from beyond the arc). With a Wizards defender leaving them open (within 4-6-feet) or wide open (no defender within 6 feet), the Pistons shot 17-for-37 from beyond 10 feet, 14-for-29 on 3-pointers (48.3%). The basic takeaway: Detroit hit all those open looks they were allowed to maneuver by Washington.

But the Wizards didn’t go out totally quitting. After getting outscored by 14 points (39-25) in the first quarter, the Wizards outscored Detroit by 12 points over the next two quarters (30-23 in the second, 29-24 in the third). A once 19-point Pistons lead even turned into a one-point Wizards advantage. Markieff Morris scored 20 points in the third quarter (including a buzzer-beater from beyond half court; he scored 9 points over the other three quarters). Detroit went cold over periods two and three (6-20 from deep; the Wizards went 4-10 during this stretch), and Washington woke up on the glass, nabbing eight offensive rebounds over that 24 minutes (Otto Porter grabbed four).

The game was tied at 92 as late as 8:34 left in the game. Randy Wittman once employed the Hack-a-Drummond strategy, and the center missed both. Bradley Beal answered with a sweet pull-up jumper from 21 feet out for the tie. Beal scored eight points in the fourth quarter but on the night he was just … OK. He scored 25 points on 10-for-22 shooting (2-4 on 3s, 3-6 on FTs) with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 6 turnovers (and a game-worst minus-29). As much as the Wizards have tried to develop Beal as combo guard who’s a threat to score off the dribble and drive, as well as the spot-up shot, it just hasn’t happened to a (max contract) promising degree. Yes, Beal can drive and weave his way to the basket better than ever, but he’s not (and never has been) good at getting to the free throw line (2), he’s not good at taking care of the ball, and his body control and ability to preserve odds on his on-court health leaves a shit-ton to be desired. There were also moments versus the Pistons where Beal just sort of gave up—but this was far from the first such display from Beal and his teammates this season.

Beal didn’t have much help, either. Otto Porter, third overall pick in 2013, played in his 183rd NBA game on Friday night. He shot 1-for-5 in 31 minutes (made his lone 3-point attempt). Otto has never cracked 30 points in his career (his high is 28 points back in December 2015 versus Dallas—his only time breaking the 24-point mark in scoring). Marcin Gortat didn’t do much either, scoring 8 points with 4 rebounds and 3 turnovers in 26 minutes to go with his punchless pick-and-roll defense. Nene fared better at the 5 (13 points and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes) in what could be the last meaningful game of his NBA career (3). Jared Dudley, increasingly coping with his body type’s limitations as the season has worn on, scored 7 points on 3-for-4 shooting (made his lone 3-point attempt); while Garrett Temple and Alan Anderson shot a combined 1-for-9 from the field. Ramon Sessions was actually OK, save for the all-important, and suddenly hard to pin down, concept of defense.

And so the Wizards went out with a whimper. After Beal tied the game at 92, Detroit closed the evening on a 20-7 run. Reggie Jackson scored 12 points over that run, including 5-for-5 from the free throw line (and not one was the result of a late-game fouling session). And Aron Baynes, inserted for a benched, non-free throw-shooting Drummond, scored 8 points over that final stretch (yes, Baynes was 6-6 on free throws). Beal shot 2-for-5 during the last 8:30 of action as the Wizards struggled to get stops as well as score via Wittman’s same ol’ puttering offense.

This isn’t technically an obituary. It’s just sports. Just basketball. Just the Washington Wizards. This is just a note, a blurb, a small notice of the passing of a season—albeit one with careers on the line. Careers nested in offices at multiple levels of the Verizon Center.

“Today’s the day, that’s how we’re going to start this off? Are you serious?” said an emotional Randy Wittman as soon as Comcast cut into his postgame comments with the media. “Disappointing, obviously. But, we got to learn from ‘em, and, you know, try to see if we can make amends for it.”

Amends—“reparation or compensation for a loss, damage, or injury of any kind,” per the dictionary. Always hard to make, especially if you’re not around to make them. Praises due to the basketball gods, rest in peace, 2015-16 Washington Wizards.

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This Isn’t The First Wizards Ride on the Must-Win Rodeo http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/this-isnt-the-first-wizards-ride-on-the-must-win-rodeo.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/this-isnt-the-first-wizards-ride-on-the-must-win-rodeo.html#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2016 20:57:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50734

GAME DAY. Win and we're in!

At home tonight for a @FanDuel Friday against the @WashWizards at 7:30 p.m. pic.twitter.com/qVgzvUPMyG

— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) April 8, 2016

One could argue that given the Washington Wizards’ upward arc of success over the last two years—consecutive appearances in second round of the playoffs—they should not currently be in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. In a near-futile fight for their playoff lives.

But as Bill Parcells once famously said, “You are what your record says you are,” and right now the Wizards’ record says they are 38-40 and sitting outside the playoff party hoping to win a berth.

Pinpointing the reason(s) for Washington’s disappointing season seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Ted Leonsis has this season an outlier because of all the injuries (Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Alan Anderson, and Nene have been the biggest offenders). Randy Wittman has been rhapsodic about the powers of defense and his team’s inability to play it on a consistent basis. Marcin Gortat thinks he should get the ball more. Jared Dudley and Bradley Beal have bemoaned the coaching staff’s inability to make the necessary in-game adjustments after the opposing team has removed the Wizards from their collective sweet spots. In reality, all of the above are probably true, but the diversity of answers is just one reason why this team has been struggling.

Despite those struggles, tonight’s matchup against the Detroit Pistons represents a chance for the Wizards to keep their playoffs chances alive for at least another day. If the Wizards win, they stave off elimination, and if they lose, the season ends, and presumably the DNP-rest parade will begin. It is still unknown whether the Wizards will have the services of John Wall, who is currently listed as questionable, but the game remains a must-win with or without him.

There have been subtle roster changes during Washington’s two-year playoff run, but the core of the team (Wall, Beal, Gortat, Nene, and yes, even Wittman) have faced three must-win situations during that span (four if you count Wednesday night’s victory over the Brooklyn Nets). Yes the results have been mixed, but they represent experiences to draw upon nonetheless.

Let’s delve a bit shall we?

2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 6: Hawks 94 – Wizards 91

The outcome and prologue of this gamethe referees waving off Paul Pierce’s 3-pointer after watching the video and realizing it was released after the buzzer—is more memorable than the events that led up to it. That was an agonizing way for the Wizards to lose, and Pierce’s departure for L.A. a couple of months later seemed to deepen the pain, as it represented a slight hiccup in the momentum the Wizards had built up to that point. But the fact is they lost the game much earlier.

The Wizards spent the entire second half of that game trying to catch up to the Hawks, who routinely kept their lead in double-digits. Atlanta had a balanced second-half attack (DeMarre Carroll had 17 points, Jeff Teague 13, and Al Horford 7), while the Wizards were left to rely on Beal, who scored 20 points in the half. Wall gave a valiant, second-half effort—considering his wrist was broken in five places—with nine points and eight assists (ironically enough, he could be hobbled in tonight’s game too), but it was the disappearance of the Wizards’ frontcourt which ultimately cost them.

Pierce, despite his nearly end-of-game heroics, scored just four points in that second half on 1-for-3 shooting. Nene scored just three points in 15 minutes, while Drew Gooden and Kevin Seraphin (who had played well in the first half) combined for just 10. The proverbial sense of urgency that should have been in place, from the coach down to the players, only seemed to be flowing through Beal. Despite playing on their home floor in an elimination game, the Wizards spent the majority of the half trying unsuccessfully to dig themselves out of a hole.

The Wizards will be on the road tonight in Detroit, which means the margin for error is significantly less. Beal figures to reprise his role as the dominant scorer (on limited touches), since he is as healthy as he’s ever going to be. Wall will do yeoman’s work in a limited capacity, if he plays. The questions for the Wizards is: Who’s the next man up?

2014 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 6: Pacers 93 – Wizards 80

[via @recordANDradio]

If the 2015 season-ending loss represented the beginning of the end of an era for the Wizards, the 2014 season-ending loss to the Pacers represented a promising future. The Wizards shocked the Pacers by staving off elimination the previous game (more on that later), and they had a chance to steal Game 6 for an ‘anything goes’ Game 7, but they fell just short.

Washington did not shoot particularly well from the field (39% sunk by a 2-for-18 effort from the 3-point line). Wall and Beal shot a combined 12-for-35. But the Wizards went on an 11-2 run to begin the fourth quarter, and they took the lead when Beal grabbed a rebound, dribbled the length of the basket and did this:

Sadly, almost immediately after Beal’s heroics, David West went on a run of his own and scored eight of Pacers’ next 20 points to put the game away. That Indiana team, despite its internal strife during their 2014 playoff run, was better coached and more experienced. Those things ultimately did in the Wizards.

Trevor Ariza, like Pierce did the following year, bolted out of D.C. for seemingly green pastures. Beal and Wall bawled like babies after the game, but they vowed to return, and they did.

2014 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 5:  Wizards 102 – Pacers 79

This was the only must-win game the Wizards have won in the Wall/Beal era, and this was the most unlikeliest of victories.

In Game 4 of the series, the Pacers went to the Verizon Center and stole a game away from the Wizards late in the fourth. Beal, who is seemingly at the center of these elimination games, had the opportunity to win the game with a 3-pointer with David West’s hand in his face, but he was unable to convert. That homecourt loss put the Wizards down 3-1 and left them visibly dejected heading back to Indiana for an elimination game.

Washington’s starters (the bench was scoreless in the first half) began the game strong and led the Pacers by six at halftime, mostly thanks to Marcin Gortat’s 17 points and 11 rebounds. Defensively, the Wizards limited the Pacers to just 36 percent shooting from the field, which is the type of performance Coach Wittman would surely love to see tonight against the Pistons.

The Wizards all but ended the game in the third quarter by putting their collective feet on the throat of the Pacers. Gortat continued his dominance with another 10 points and five rebounds, but Wall came alive with 17 points in the quarter (6-for-8 from the field, including 3-for-4 from the 3-point line). The Wizards held the Pacers to just 14 third-quarter points on 29 percent shooting (West scored 7 of those points). Washington’s lead was 24 by the end of the quarter, and in a garbage time-filled fourth quarter, the Wizards led by as many as 30 points.

The Wiz ultimately could not carry that supreme confidence over to Game 6, but they were successful in Game 5 because Wall was on his game (27 points), Gortat was on his (31 points and 16 rebounds), and despite the non-existent bench, starters Trevor Ariza (10 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists) and Beal (18 points and eight rebounds) were major contributors.

*****

The Pistons certainly aren’t as good as the Pacers were in 2014 or the Hawks were last season, but, frankly, neither are the Wizards. Despite their 1-2 record in elimination games during the Wall/Beal era, the Wizards have faced this situation before, and they certainly know what type of effort it will take to survive another day. Wall has to fight through his injuries, Beal has to pick up the slack, Sessions or Wall have to get Gortat and Morris engaged, and someone off the bench (maybe Alan Anderson, who is playing tonight) has to play well enough to 1) give the starters a rest, and 2) keep the game close.

A win certainly doesn’t salvage the season, but it does allow them to keep dreaming about an improbable playoff berth. A loss begins the endless speculation about coaching and personnel changes, and the future in general.

As the timeless rap group De La Soul once eloquently said, “The Stakes Is High.”

markieff morris, washington wizards, pixel and roll, pixel and roll show, truth about it, podcast, adam mcginnis, trade

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Key Legislature: Wizards 121 vs Nets 103 — Without Wall, Washington Weathers Storm http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-78-wizards-121-vs-nets-103.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-78-wizards-121-vs-nets-103.html#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 22:22:28 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50720 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs Nets, Regular Season Game 78, April 6, 2016, by Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).

The spring months are upon us, which means from now until August or September we will be subject to storms, tornadoes, and possibly even hurricanes. When our local or national meteorologists go live on air to prepare us for these incoming storms, they have two specific terms which basically inform folks whether they should panic immediately or be prepared—just in case they have to panic later. Those two terms are “watch” and “warning.”

When a watch is issued it simply means that the conditions are right for inclement weather but nothing is imminent. A watch graduates to a warning when the conditions have worsened, danger is imminent, and it is wise to began preparations for the end.

Prior to Wednesday night’s victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the Wizards were in prime “watch” territory. With five games to play, they trailed the Detroit Pistons by 3.5 games for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, which meant they could ill-afford a letdown against any team. John Wall, who did not participate in morning shoot-around or pregame warmups, was in street clothes at tip time because of a sore knee. In fact, Coach Randy Wittman said after the game that Wall’s knee had swelling and it was best to hold him out. The game represented the first time all season (77 games) that Wall did not play, which meant Ramon Sessions would be starting for the first time since Game 4 of last season’s playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Verizon Center wasn’t exactly primed to assist the Wizards in getting hyped, because at the start of the game, they were virtually silent. It was also virtually empty.

There were golf claps when the Wizards ran out of the locker room, golf claps during introductions, and a smattering of emphatic cheers shortly before the referee threw up the opening tip. The lack of attendance could have been attributed to the slim-to-none chances of postseason play for the Wizards, but it was most likely due to lowly Brooklyn Nets. Going into the game, the Nets had the fourth-worst record in the NBA at 21-56, and just a few days prior to their game against the Wizards, Nets GM Sean Marks announced that Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young (the team’s best players) would sit out the remainder of the season.

No Wall, no crowd, and no real threat of an opponent. Upset watch was in full effect.

Nearly three minutes into the game, it was clear: the Wizards, up 9-0, were not at all fazed by the factors stacked against them. Sessions did not score, but he assisted on two baskets, while Bradley Beal—as my colleague Conor Dirks indicated in the DC Council—handled the ball more and found his spots naturally in Wall’s absence for five quick points. However, Nets interim coach Tony Brown called timeout to settle down his team, make a few adjustments, and Brooklyn came right back.

The Nets went on a 21-11 run over the next five minutes to take a one-point lead at 21-20, thanks to the pesky Shane Larkin, who was able to maneuver his way into the lane, and Thomas Robinson, who is finally getting the playing time which has eluded him all season. The Nets relied more heavily on the pick-and-roll during this stretch and the Wizards, predictably, struggled to defend it properly. It did not help that the Markieff Morris, Otto Porter, and Sessions each committed turnovers that led to Nets points.

The Wizards went on a first quarter-ending 10-2 run to stretch their lead to seven points, but the Nets were slowly gaining confidence—just as the young and upcoming Minnesota Timberwolves had done two weeks ago.

That same back-and-forth dynamic continued in the second quarter. Sessions was scoreless but did his best John Wall impression by pushing the pace, finding his teammates on the perimeter, or cutting to the basket. Then the Wizards would commit careless turnovers, or be one or two steps slow on their defensive rotation, versus the Nets—led by not just by Robinson but also former Georgetown Hoyas forward Henry Sims (who had just been signed for the season after two 10-day contracts) and Sean Kilpatrick (who has been averaging a respective 15.7 points this month). These aren’t exactly the players who should have been preventing the Wizards from winning another “must-win” game, but that’s exactly what seemed to be happening.

The Wizards led just 54-52 at halftime. Washington shot 57 percent in the first half but allowed the Nets to shoot 46 percent. Perhaps more troubling than field goal percentage was that the Wizards committed nine first-half turnovers while the Nets had just three to go along with 12 second-chance points.

This was no longer a storm watch, this was a warning.

The Wizards got a bit of separation in the third quarter, as Porter and Sessions got a bit more assertive. Porter scored via a drive, his outside shot, and the free throw line—and even found time to block Shane Larkin’s shot. Sessions did the majority of his offensive damage during the second half of the third quarter when he scored 11 points to help stretch the Wizards’ lead from seven to 13 points. Just as Wall plays with more confidence when his shot and his passes are equally accurate, Sessions locked in as he easily drove by Larkin and Donald Sloan to put pressure on the Nets offense.

Even better: The Wizards played turnover-free basketball in the third quarter, they limited the Nets to just four second-chance points, and they did not allow Robinson or any of his teammates to find their rhythm. The Wizards led 88-75 after three quarters, the Nets’ confidence was waning, the warning had subsided to a watch, and even that label looked like overkill.

Just 2:15 into the fourth quarter, there was no watch, no storm, just sunny Wizards-colored skies. First, Jared Dudley hit an 18-footer from the top of the key, then Garrett Temple hit a 3-pointer, then Bradley Beal stole the ball and drove in for a layup. The Wizards’ 7-0 run pushed their lead to 20 points. The game was effectively over.

Beal, who probably stayed in the game two to three minutes too long, made sure the Nets did not even think of making a comeback with timely shooting (9 points) and passing (3 assists), and Nene scored and rebounded at will. Oh, and Drew Gooden tried and failed to be great:

After the game, Coach Wittman, who has been damn near Pavolvian this year when it comes to attributing losses or spotty play to defensive lapses, did not disappoint (although this time he was spot on):

“It’s kind of what this team is made up of when we want to play defense. First half, we just ran up and down the floor. We gave up, I think, eight layups in the half court. Not breakaway layups, eight layups against our half-court defense. Standing around, we came up in the third quarter, and I thought right away, first three minutes, turn the game around.”

The Wizards won 121-103 and stymied an early attempt by the Nets to pull off the season-ending upset. The Chicago Bulls (9th place in the East) were idle, but the Pistons and Indiana Pacers both won, which meant the Wizards, despite raining points on their opponents, were stuck in the standings with four games left. The good news is that the Wizards play the Pistons on Friday, and they have 3-0 advantage over them this season. A victory would prolong the Wizards’ season and perhaps place a seed of doubt in the collective heads of the Pistons, considering they end their season with Miami and Cleveland.

The bad news is that there is now uncertainty surrounding John Wall’s knee. Comcast SportsNet’s J. Michael reported that Wall will undergo tests on that swollen right knee and the Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo said Wall is questionable for Friday night’s game—and perhaps going forward. And while Sessions played a more-than-admirable game against the lowly Nets (18 points, 13 assists and one turnover in just 29 minutes), it isn’t realistic to expect him to lead the Wizards to the playoffs and beyond. The Wizards need their All-Star point guard, just like they need an aggressive Beal.

But on this night, Washington weathered the Wall-less storm, and lived to see at least one more game.

 

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Washington Twitches Briefly to Life after Unofficial Death — Wizards vs Nets, DC Council 78 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/washington-twitches-briefly-to-life-after-unofficial-death-wizards-vs-nets-dc-council-78.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/washington-twitches-briefly-to-life-after-unofficial-death-wizards-vs-nets-dc-council-78.html#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 15:23:06 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50722 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Nets, Game 78, April 6, 2016, from Verizon Center, via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks). 

That Games Was…An Epilogue

The Wizards gave up before the game started. Somewhere in the Wizards organization, someone decided that they weren’t going to let John Wall run his knee into the ground in pursuit of a no-longer attainable goal. It makes sense, and it’s the scalding, still roiling espresso of reality. This Wizards season is over. Maybe it never started.

Maybe it’s best if you think about this team as one in stasis, cryogenically frozen in time as a scrappy fifth seed that caught fire at the right time and would have beaten Atlanta in six games had John Wall not broken his hand. Maybe next year they pick up where that team left off.

But then again, that same promising team played 78 games this year. That team replaced Paul Pierce with the combination of Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson. And while Dudley started for most of the season (39 of 76 appearances), Anderson was the prince-in-waiting, the player who should have started while Dudley came off the bench. Except he probably shouldn’t have gotten past Washington’s medical staff last summer. He didn’t play in Wednesday night’s game against Brooklyn, his former team. And has only played in nine games all year. It’s a part of the larger Wizards story, but this is a team interrupted. And this is a season, for both Washington and Anderson, that died on the vine.

Then the Wizards implemented a new system that they never fully understood, and may not have fully embraced beyond making their old system go faster, faster, faster, disassembling comfort for the sake of speed alone. Then two of the necessary cogs for that shiny, speedy new machine sat on the shelf as the rest of the team ran lap after lap without relief.

So let’s clarify. The Wizards didn’t give up on this particular game versus the Nets. Bradley Beal started hot and looked oddly liberated, sporting a tight shape-up under his now trademarked thick (red) headband. Marcin Gortat soldiered on for another double-double. Markieff Morris got a cockback dunk blocked and an inbound pass stolen. Nene muscled through one of his final games. Ramon Sessions: carpe diem! They won. But the season ended some time ago, this team will be unrecognizable come July, and any playoff daydream is better left in a thought bubble from last week, when it was easier to take it day-by-day. The Wizards officially gave up on the season prior to the game against the Nets, and that’s OK. (Or, you know, they figured if they can’t beat the Nets without Wall, then who gives a fuck about the playoffs? Nuance!)

M.V.P.

Bradley Beal handled the ball more, found his spots naturally, turned the ball over just once, and looked plain better than he has in all but a few games this season. But don’t get it twisted: Beal did not stand in for John Wall, nor did he blossom as an independent solo star. Beal’s usage rate was still below D.C.’s point guard du jour, Ramon Sessions, and even Markieff Morris. In fact, Beal’s USG% last night of 20.7 percent was tied for his 12th-lowest of the season. And don’t talk to me about touches, because the young gun only had 54 touches to Garrett Temple’s 63.

So what was so different about Beal’s game? Well, Beal looked healthy (healthy enough to play extended minutes in a late-season blowout), he ran the floor for catch-and-shoot attempts and cuts to the rim alike. He looked comfortable putting the ball in the hoop, finding clear angles to the basket that he often tries to force, or ignores altogether. On one drive, Beal absorbed two Nets bodies driving to the left side of the basket, shielded the ball, and was still able to keep his right arm extended enough to finish, even as the rest of him fell to the side.

Part of this is that Brooklyn’s lineup, especially without Lopez, can’t defend the rim for shit. The Wizards destroyed the Nets in the paint, 68-46, and Beal was 7-for-7 at the rim. Look at this shot chart, people of Earth.

Life on Mars.

Life on Mars.

But this section wouldn’t be complete without recognizing Ramon Sessions’ incredible spot start, putting up a very John Wall-like 18 points and 13 assists (10 in the first half when the Nets were keeping it close). Sessions’ one turnover was also a welcome surprise.

L.V.P.

Markieff Morris, who is a good player involved in a desperation trade that could still work out long-term but could also blow up in Washington’s face and hasn’t provided any truly substantial return as of yet, had a pretty bad game. He might have a pretty good career with the Wizards, but I’m not convinced at this point. It’s too bad that he didn’t propel the team to the 8th seed in the 2015-16 NBA Playoffs. Because that’s why they gave up the first round pick for him, right?

Against the Nets, Markieff cocked back for a dunk, which provided the Nets with additional time to address that dunk, which was all of a sudden presented for blocking instead of being placed neatly in the hoop. Morris also inbounded the ball without the requisite care (a pattern at this point) and had it stolen rather easily. Morris also shot 4-for-13, missed all six of his shots outside of the paint, and could be seen by local paparazzo hanging his head after a few of his turnovers.

But Morris does bring an inscrutability, an element of toughness, that the Wizards need. For better or worse, he’s part of the lore, and how he plays next year is going to be a big part of the sequel to this disappointing season.

X-Factor

The Nets were missing Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez, who have both been shut down for the rest of a season that’s even more misery-laden and useless than the Wizards’ season. The Nets also waived Joe Johnson earlier this year (he then signed with Miami), and lost Jarrett Jack to injury in the season’s opening months. Am I missing something? In any event, Brooklyn was without its best players, played dudes like Bojan Bogdanovic, Shane Larkin, Donald Sloan, Sean Kilpatrick (who is good!), and Wayne Ellington heavy minutes. There may not be a worse team in the league, and that includes the newly-deceased Philadelphia Processes (2013-2016, R.I.P. Sam Hinkie).

Thomas Robinson, a D.C. native, kept Brooklyn in this game. Robinson, you’ll remember, is a player that the Wizards considered with the third overall pick in 2012, when they instead picked Bradley Beal after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went off the board at No.2 to Charlotte. Robinson was instead drafted by Sacramento, traded several times, and eventually waived before signing with Brooklyn.

Robinson threw down a vicious third-quarter dunk over Gortat, took advantage of Washington’s still lackadaisical mimicry of rebound positioning, and made the game seem like one taking place between two NBA teams for the better part of three quarters. Before it wasn’t.

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Crossed Up and Shot Down in LA — Wizards at Clippers, DC Council 77 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/wizards-109-at-clippers-114-dc-council-77.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/wizards-109-at-clippers-114-dc-council-77.html#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2016 14:58:22 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50709 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Clippers, Game 77, April 3, 2016, from Los Angeles, CA, via Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it). Image below via instagram.com/truthaboutit.

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At some point on a fairly nice but sort of chilly Sunday afternoon in the District, the unofficial but unequivocal end to the Wizards season was commemorated with … alcohol. And some camaraderie. Plenty of camaraderie, which is for good times and bad; in real life (IRL) and/or on the Twitter machine.

So at the corner of a neighborhood sports bar in Petworth, D.C., gathered a handful of cohorts in Wizards coverage on this very site. Two Adams, a Troy, a Bryan, and then another guy we know named Dean. Like the Wizards, not all made it by the 3:30 p.m. ET start time.

J.J. Redick burning a disinterested Wizards defense in maneuvering around screens (18 game points, 8 first quarter points); John Wall gathering two quick fouls and one missed layup; Chris Paul (9 first quarter points) making the acquisition of solid gold midrange jumpers look easy; the early ignition of Jamal Crawford; and a urinated (or pissed) off Randy Wittman, early—all these instances fell off into the abyss for late arrivers seeking libations nonetheless.

Halftime came before anyone knew what hit them. The Wizards trailed by 11. Not enough beers for a blur quite yet but everyone did double- or triple-takes when the ‘Zards couldn’t muster much in a second quarter featuring heavy play from a lineup of L.A. randos (Cole Aldrich, Wesley Johnson, Austin Rivers, and our dear old pal Jeff Green; those four finished plus-1 in four minutes on the court together, which is 8.3 percent of a 100 percent game).

In that same second quarter, John Wall (8 minutes) and Bradley Beal (9.5 minutes) saw significant action, as one would expect in desperate times. The result: a combined 1-for-9 from the field with Beal missing all five of his attempts and Wall making the lone bucket. There was a fun, if not merely notable, moment at the eight-minute mark of the second with the Wizards down 31-40: Wall missed a 19-foot jumper (Beal offensive rebound), Marcus Thornton missed a 3 in one corner (Jared Dudley offensive rebound), and Beal missed a 3 in the other corner all on one trip. That’s the point when I ordered the first round of shots of Jameson—just for showing up.

Things got interesting in the third quarter. And it wasn’t just the application of bar food to stomach (with beer). It was the Wizards. From the very start of the third up until the Clippers decided to counter with a 13-2 run, the Wizards had managed to outscore L.A. 10-0. They closed a 49-60 halftime deficit to 59-60 real quick (3:42 of court action). Markieff Morris scored 5 points, Marcin Gortat scored 3, and Otto Porter scored 2. Wall (4 assists) and Beal (1 assist) got their teammates going during the 10-0 punch of #WittmanJava out of intermission. But then the Clippers as a team flexed back, each Paul, Redick, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan scored in the ensuing 13-2 run over the next three minutes that put Los Angeles back up by 12 points, 73-61. According to the sparse notes I was somehow able to take on mobile phone, it was a blur of a Redick corner 3 and CP3 taking it to Otto P. The Wizards, nonetheless, matched the Clippers in points, 24, over the course of the penultimate period.

As has been the case for most of the season, the Wizards team made Wizards watchers care with their basketball play. And then they lost (which currently happens at 48% of the time the team steps on the court; but then again, the games where the team never show up would lower the True Winning Percentage—#analytics). The Washington basketball team fought tooth and nail—nine different Wizards scored in the fourth quarter. But all I really remember is the camaraderie, exchanges of excruciating moments, the ups, the downs, complaining about referees, the standing by the bar, the shifting standings in the Eastern Conference, the looking away, the knee-bending moments: every time the Clippers scored a bucket, which is all else I can recall, your honor.

Austin Rivers hit a 3, stared down the Wizards’ bench, 10-point Clippers cushion. But Beal answered with his own 3, this time, 84-91. Then Jamal Crawford—did that 3 go off the glass? If it looked like it did, might as well believe it did (and then take the second, of only two on the day, shots of Jameson). Ramon Sessions fought back with a floater, Blake Griffin answered by spin-cycling and going off the glass versus Morris. The Wizards played Hack-a-Jordan with about three minutes left in the day—and it worked! Wall somehow fired a 3, and made it, and Morris made a free throw, but missed one.

The Wizards were just short of totally there, and only desperation Porter and Wall 3s could subsequently counter 14-foot Paul jumpers after Clippers offensive rebounds, Crawford lobs to Jordan dunks, and Paul 3-point daggers to put the Wizards, scrappy as a French work week, away by six points with 21 ticks remaining. “Good to see everyone, enjoy the rest of your Sunday,” I said once it ended and as I escaped the bar and the game, but remembering the camaraderie.


M.V.P. — Chris Paul (27 points, 12 assists, 2 turnovers)

L.V.P. — John Wall and Bradley Beal (23 combined points, 7-30 FGs, 17 assists, 5 turnovers)

X-Factor — Jamal Crawford (19 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds in 25 minutes); Otto Porter was decent for the Wizards (14 points, 4-7 3-pointers, 8 rebounds in 32 minutes)

That Game Was — A five-point loss. It was Washington’s 13th two-possession loss (within six points) over 40 total losses on the season. Twenty-one (21) losses have been by 10 or more points, 14 losses by 17 or more points, and 9 losses by 20 or more points (we could go on).


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Gortat on the Season, the Offseason, and Driving Taxis — Dispatches from Poland http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/gortat-on-the-season-the-offseason-and-driving-taxis-dispatches-from-poland.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/gortat-on-the-season-the-offseason-and-driving-taxis-dispatches-from-poland.html#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2016 01:07:57 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50701 washington wizards, marcin gortat, poland, truth about it, chicago bulls, sign

After Washington’s loss to the Clippers on Sunday afternoon, Marcin Gortat sat down with Marcin Harasimowicz, a Los Angeles-based journalist with Przeglad Sportowy, a major sports media outlet in Poland. Gortat spoke of the disappointing 2015-16 Wizards season, watching the playoffs from home, and movie cameos, amongst other things.

Below is a translation of the interview via TAI’s Polish Correspondent, Bartosz Bielecki.

Marcin Harasimowicz: You were aiming high before the season, but it turns out, you won’t even make the playoffs…

Marcin Gortat: The playoffs got away from us, although we have been playing much better since All-Star Weekend than we were in the beginning of the season. Some of the injured players returned, new players were added that improved our team, too. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. The sources of the failure can be found in the first months of the season.

MH: Do you believe you’ve been missing a veteran—like Paul Pierce last season—who could carry the weight on his shoulders in crunch time?

Gortat: It’s not about a player like Pierce. He didn’t even play 30 minutes per game. We lacked good performances from our starters. And I mean myself as well, because I didn’t play well in the beginning. We also lacked determination, we didn’t fight, we didn’t have a heart for the game.

MH: Statistically, was it a better season for you than the last one?

Gortat: Definitely. Individually it was better, but it doesn’t matter. Stats don’t matter at this point. We lost this season. That’s the only stat that represents our place in the NBA hierarchy. Individual achievements won’t do anything for me. In the end of April, I will sit in my pool and watch the playoffs on TV.

MH: What should change with this team before the start of next season?

Gortat: We should gain determination, be more humble, analyze the mistakes that we made, and prepare much better for the beginning of next season. The truth is, the leaders of this team have to play at much higher level. Much better.

MH: You’re about to have more free time than you’ve had in a while. What will you be up to in the upcoming months?

Gortat: I’ll rest for sure… I’m terribly tired. I’m not hiding the fact that the games with the (Polish) national team in the past years have caught up with me. I need to regenerate. I’ll spend a lot of time with my family. My mom’s health is really bad, and she needs me now.

MH: You won’t play in the postseason, but we will see you in a Hollywood production. Could you reveal any details?

Gortat: I made a little cameo. I did it for the sheer experience, making new contacts, getting to know new people. I played a role of a taxi driver. Nothing big.

MH: What’s the title of the movie?

Gortat: You’ll find out soon. I did it for fun, so don’t get your hopes high.

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[Mr. Gortat. Photo credit: Marta Wojtal, for Poland’s “Champion” magazine.]

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Key Legislature: Wizards 109 at Clippers 114 — California Dreaming of Fat Ladies Singing http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-77-wizards-109-at-clippers-114.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-77-wizards-109-at-clippers-114.html#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2016 16:52:56 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50694 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Clippers, Regular Season Game 77, April 3, 2016, by Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur).

I must have been punch-drunk with disappointment, or at the very least dehydrated, from the previous night’s Final Four-watching fellowship. As the final seconds waned in the Wizards’ defeat on Sunday, I could only squint my eyes to the distance to discern what appeared to be a voluptuous woman belting at the top of her lungs.

OK, so maybe that was just a fever dream, but at this point my version of denial plausibility has to be more believable than Wizards players who are just in full-blown denial. For Bradley Beal to say that “The fat lady hasn’t started singing yet” in reference to the Wizards’ playoff chances is cute, but for those of us who live in the real world, missing the playoffs this season after two straight trips to the Eastern Conference Semi-finals is a mere formality. (And disappointing, for sure.)

Beal’s post-game optimism may seem endearing to some, but for a guy who seemingly ripped his teammates for not having a sense of urgency after last week’s loss to the Sacramento Kings, it would have been a hell of a lot better if he would have put his play where his mouth is. The Clippers dominated for a large stretch of Sunday’s matinee game, and for the most part, Beal was nowhere to be found. He finished the contest with just eight points on 2-for-16 shooting from the field. Combine that with John Wall’s disappointing 5-for-14 shooting from the field and what you have is a straight up miracle that the Wizards even found themselves staying competitive through the final minute.

Wall found himself outmatched against one of the point guards that I don’t think anyone can deny is on another level than the #WallStar movement. Chris Paul. He was masterful in this contest, even in the midst of his constant whining and complaining. Paul put on a clinic for Wall on how to run an efficient NBA offense by getting others involved to the tune of 12 assists, protecting the ball with only two turnovers, and also picking and choosing his spots to dominate with his array of crossover dribbles that seemingly always lead to pull-up jumpers from his hot-spots on the floor. Wall, on the other hand, struggled to get into a rhythm with his own jumper, and he failed to hit a big shot until the Wizards were making their desperate fourth-quarter rally. That made 3 from the top of the arc ultimately proved to be the tease that this entire Wizards season has been in general.

No, Wall and Beal did not bring their A-games to Sunday’s contest, but they are not the only two Wizards players to collect checks. The Clippers’ bench is well known throughout NBA circles for blowing leads at the drop of a hat, but you’d better catch them on an off night for former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford (averaging 14 points per game this year). The Wizards were not so lucky. Crawford poured in 19 points and was the second leading scorer for the Clippers (after Paul). The thing that is so amazing about Crawford is that no matter how good the defense is on him, he just has a knack for hitting tough, contested shots. He shot 4-for-7 on 3-point attempts and every last one of them could be categorized as the circus variety. It was just one of those days for Washington.

Heading into Sunday’s game, there was a narrative that would have led Wizards fans into believing that they actually had a chance to steal a much-needed contest on the road. Former All-Star Blake Griffin was making his not-so-triumphant return to the Clippers lineup, after not playing since Christmas day due to a torn quad muscle and a broken hand that he received from beating down a Clippers staff member outside of a Toronto establishment. It was conceivable that Griffin’s presence could have possibly thrown off the chemistry that has been built up by his teammates in his absence, but despite Griffin looking nothing like the supernova athlete that we are used to seeing from him, he was still able to show all of his other basketball nuances that make him one of the elite players in the game. Griffin finished with a game high plus/minus of plus-22 in just 25 minutes of action on a modest stat line of 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. The reason why he had so much success on the court was because of his ability to not force the issue; he let the game flow through him while he was on the court. His Wizards counterpart, Markieff Morris, had himself a decent outing as well, finishing with 18 points, but Griffin was able to give Markieff a a tough matchup defensively in the fourth quarter, after Keef exploded for 10 points in the third.

So where does this loss leave the Wizards? FiveThirtyEight gives the Wizards just a seven percent chance to make the playoffs, and that honestly seems kind of generous at this point. The Wizards are four games back of the number eight seed with only five games to go, so to say that they need a little help would be an understatement. Washington would essentially need the Pistons or Pacers to lose all of their games, and they would need to win all of theirs to miraculously make the postseason. The Wizards are living on a prayer, and there isn’t much evaluation to be done of the current roster to determine much going forward since this team is dead set on having major roster turnover heading into next year. The season isn’t quite over just yet, technically speaking, but there is some fat lady, somewhere, getting her pitch ready in honor of the 2015-16 Wizards.


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Key Legislature: Wizards 106 at Suns 99 — Making Good on Meaningless Promises http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-wizards-106-at-suns-99-making-good-on-meaningless-promises.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/key-legislature-wizards-106-at-suns-99-making-good-on-meaningless-promises.html#comments Sun, 03 Apr 2016 17:06:20 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50688 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Suns, Regular Season Game 76, April 1, 2015, by Sean Fagan (@McCarrick). Photo: instagram.com/washwizards.

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There have been so many statements of purpose for the Wizards this season that it is almost impossible to make an accurate determination on whether they actually believe in those statements. Since late February, every game that the Wizards have declared as a “must-win” has instead resulted in a loss—often in an embarrassing fashion as such demonstrated in ‘must-lose’ games against Chicago, Utah, and Sacramento.

If you reduce the stakes a tad and make the statements more personal, however, that is when the Wizards rise to the occasion. Such was the case in their win against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, which kept the Wizards ever-dimming playoff prospects on life support. Before the game began, Markieff Morris had strong words for the team that had traded him (and had previously traded his twin brother), declaring he had “no trust” in the management of the Suns. He was resultingly (and perhaps appropriately) booed for the entirety of the contest by the Phoenix fans. Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the desert. Morris, instead of wilting under the ire of the crowd, perhaps had his best game as a Wizard—scoring a total of 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting, while also registering nine boards and four blocks.

Despite that output, the Wizards still trailed the Suns at the beginning of the fourth quarter by the score of 79-77. And for the first two minutes of the quarter, it looked as if Washington was going to squander Morris’ revenge game as they fell back into their bedrock bad habits, failing to score for two minutes and turning the ball over on consecutive bad passes (first John Wall, then Garrett Temple). Nene ended the drought with 10:57 remaining by draining a seven-foot jump shot. It would be nice to say that the momentum shifted at that point and the Wizards began to look the part of a real basketball team, but viewers had to endure four more minutes of increasingly terrible basketball before the game finally shifted in favor of the ‘Zards. Temple received a kicked ball violation, Nene shot an ill-advised 19-footer and got T’d up for an altercation with former Terrapin Alex Len, and generally both teams looked content to play the game of “whoever screws up the least wins.”

Luckily for the Wizards, the Suns seemed hell bent on throwing away the game, or at the very least throwing it into the waiting arms of Jared Dudley. With 7:56 remaining, Ramon Sessions put the Wizards up for the first time with a converted 15-footer, and following a turnover off a Chase Budinger pass (who completely imploded in the fourth quarter), Bradley Beal found himself guarded on the perimeter by the aforementioned Alex Len. Beal first attempted to break Len’s ankles with a crossover and then blew past the plodding Marylander, hitting a make-a-prayer layup at 7:20. It was as nice a play as one has seen from a Wizard this season and perhaps a microcosm of all that is wrong with the team—moments of individual brilliance always trumping transformative team play.

The Wizards further stretched their lead (thanks to some stellar offensive play from John Wall) and ended up winning the game 106-99, but for the most part the accomplishment felt hollow. Yes, Markieff Morris had his revenge upon his former employers, but wouldn’t a better revenge be getting the Wizards to the playoffs and denying the Suns the first round pick they are owed if the Wizards play golf? Should the Wizards have trailed throughout the game to a team in full rebuilding mode, whose star guard (Eric Bledsoe) has been shut down for the season (1), and had two starters (Alex Len and Ronnie Price) go a combine 2-for-20 from the field?

Following the win on Friday, and after a Pacers win over the 76ers on Saturday night, the Wizards sat three games out of the final playoff spot behind Indiana. The question is whether anyone would actually want to see the Wizards in the playoffs considering how aesthetically unappealing their play been throughout the year. Some will cling to the two percent chance they still have to make up the ground (2), but it would have perhaps been better to lose to the Suns and inch closer to elimination. Because that might have forced some level of change on either management or the coaching staff’s part.

Instead, execution was stayed. Let us see if Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will deliver the death blow this afternoon.


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Just Good Enough to Score More Points — Wizards at Suns, DC Council 76 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/wizards-106-at-suns-99-dc-council-76.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/04/wizards-106-at-suns-99-dc-council-76.html#comments Sat, 02 Apr 2016 17:16:16 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50683 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Suns, Game 76, April 1, 2016, from Phoenix, Arizona, via Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

M.V.P.

Though the best scorers in the starting lineup combined for 64 points (22 from John Wall, 21 from Bradley Beal, and 21 from Markieff Morris), you can’t quite say that they played up to their potential. But they did enough, and their shots were hoisted with a certain confidence, given counterparts Ronnie Price, Devin Booker, and PJ Tucker, combined with the particular je ne sais quoi of a lackadaisical team way outside of the playoffs, looking in with nothing to lose.

In the first half Wall went 6-for-10 (16 points) with 12 of those points (5-8 FGs) quietly coming in the first quarter. In the second half Wall shot 3-for-10 (3-for-7 in the fourth quarter). But that’s where Beal picked up, shooting 2-for-4 in each the third and fourth quarters (16 second half points) after just going 2-for-6 in the first half. Morris, for his part, was balanced in making shots fueled by the boos Suns fans provided their former favored son with each time he touched the ball. The boos probably made him care just a little bit more, which is unfortunate but good enough. And that’s pretty much what the showing was from D.C.’s House of Guards (and buddies): unfortunate but good enough.

L.V.P.

No Wizard was particularly bad; they all just sort of pitched in to the drudgery. Only one player finished negative in plus-minus (Jared Dudley, -1), and Washington’s “average” lead was 1.38 points; Phoenix led in score for about 37 game minutes. Randy Wittman kept to a nine-man rotation with Garrett Temple, Nene, Ramon Sessions and Dudley unsurprisingly being the main players off the bench. It’s what could be expected with the nearly fully healthy squad the coach has at his disposal.

But if we wanted to pinpoint the least valuable player relative to court time we would point to Phoenix Sun and former Maryland Terrapin Alex Len. Not only did Len finish 1-for-10 from the floor, but only four attempts were within 10 feet (he was generally matched up against Morris), but his defense was … well, the Wizards appreciated the charity. A bevy of Washington’s play calls seemed aimed at isolation Beal versus Len in a switch. And there were several instances where Beal, even with his merely budding-towards-adequate handles, just left Len standing, frozen like a Ukrainian fish stick.

X-Factor.

Ramon Sessions went 3-for-7 and put up all zeros in the traditional box score aside from points (9 in 14:34)—he’s been slumping lately. But he went 3-for-3 for seven points in the fourth quarter and was part of the speck of light shining through a gap in the Wizards’ prison cell. On one particular play with just under five minutes left, Otto Porter set up in the far right corner, Morris in the far left, and Sessions set up on the left wing while Wall and Gortat distracted the defense with pick-and-roll action on the far right wing. As Sessions’ defender, Devin Booker, inched toward Wall and Gortat one inch too far, Wall whipped the ball cross court to Sessions who caught the pass on the move and in the air like a slot receiver off the line and darted into the paint. Tyson Chandler backpedaled as Gortat dove and Sessions had little resistance for a point-blank floater. This action was about 25 seconds after Sessions canned a 3-pointer and the five-point spurt gave the Wizards a 96-87 lead.

But let’s not get through this X-factor section without footnoting Jared Dudley. He only took two shots during his 14 minutes; one of them was a 3 and he made it. So he’s shooting 100 percent from deep for April so far, which is good since he went 5-for-30 (16.7%) over 16 games in the month of March. Dudley had achieved a least 50 3-point attempts and at least 42 percent shooting in each of the previous three months, but oh well. In Phoenix there was little evidence in the stat book that Dudley did anything over his 6:28 of action, but it was the simple things that helped: a crazed, cross-court double on Alex Len that resulted in a turnover, and a flailing of the body to reach and get a deflection that landed the ball in a teammate’s hands.

That Game Was … Whatever.

The Wizards looked terrible for about 40 minutes. They really did. Or was it that possessions in the doldrums, which can be randomly common during an 82-game stretch, were magnified by this glass-almost empty disappointing season? Or was it that the Suns are really inexperienced and the Wizards were going to manage to hang around no matter what? Washington went on a 17-7 run midway through the third quarter and it merely gave them a two-point lead, 75-73. And before the Wizards woke up during the game’s last eight minutes, seizing the lead for good with a 8-1 run, they led in score for a grand total of 128 seconds.

Whatever. They gone. Good for them and too little too late (but we’ll see). Washington pulled within 2.5 games of 8 seed Indiana … but the Pacers play in Philadelphia tonight. And in between are the Bulls, one back of Indy and 1.5 ahead of the Wizards. Chicago hosts the Pistons tonight and if anyone involved with the Wizards still cares, I guess they’d want Detroit to win. All three teams technically in play for 8th will play Sunday—Wizards at Clippers, Bulls at Bucks, and Pacers at Knicks. But let’s just take it day-by-day, game-by-game, and cliche-by-cliche, because soon for the Wizards, there will be no tomorrow. No John Wall, no Bradley Beal, no Wizards cohorts to take pleasure in but suffer through watching. Sports.

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Season’s End by Best Friend — Wizards at Kings, DC Council 75 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/wizards-111-at-kings-120-dc-council-75.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/wizards-111-at-kings-120-dc-council-75.html#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 23:03:11 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50679 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Kings, Game 75, March 31, 2016, from Sacramento, California, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick).

[via @James_Ham]

M.V.P.

DeMarcus Cousins and the King’s Offense

You always hurt the one you love the most.

How fitting that the playoff aspirations of the Washington Wizards were dealt if not a death blow, then at least a savage wound by John Wall’s Kentucky running-mate, DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins filleted the Wizards (in particular Marcin Gortat but often Nene) on the interior throughout the evening, opening the proceedings by scoring 11 points in the first quarter (including one 3-pointer), rampaging through the Wizards’ porous defense, and leaving the Kings trailing by only two points when the period came to a close at the score of 34-32 (John Wall hit a 3 at the buzzer to give Washington the lead).

Cousin’s line on the night (29 points, 11-18 FGs, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks) was eye-popping, but he was simply the fulcrum on which the Kings offense slowly dismantled a dispirited Washington squad that has lost three of its last four contests. The Wizards were bested both from beyond the arc and inside the paint. From the land of the 3-point shot, the Kings shot 44 percent and seemed intent on exploiting a season-long Washington weakness. The Kings, as a team, average only 8.0 3-point attempts per game, which places them at 18th in the league (tied with Indiana and Denver). Though this output has seen an uptick with Sacramento’s recent win streak (they are averaging closer to 15 attempts per game over the the last five games), the Kings are merely serving revenge cold—as the Association continually drops the most bombs on their heads at a rate of 28.0 attempts per game.

That Sacramento took advantage of the Wizards’ perimeter defense is no surprise (the Wizards rank 28th in league 3-point defense), but their reinterpretation of the modern day matador inside the paint was truly remarkable. The inability to stop Cousins is not surprising, as he regularly feasts on below average defenses, but it’s not as if the Wizards were able to stop any of the lesser Kings when they had the ball in their hands. Kosta Koufos went 5-for-5 from the field, casually draining 10-footers over the heads of hapless Wizards. Quincy Acy, whose entire game consists of rebounding and screaming loudly, went 3-for-3, with one of those attempts being an unbelievable 3-pointer in the first quarter. All told, the Kings shot an ungodly 56 percent from the floor, which seems preposterous considering the supposed importance of the game to the Wizards.

Afterward, Wizards players (notably Bradley Beal) once again called out the lack of effort and expressed frustration at being unable to beat a team “below them” in the pecking order of the NBA. Perhaps the surprise should come from the Wizards not being ready for a game in which the Kings had publicly proclaimed themselves as spoilers. Since beating the Mavericks (in a Rajon Rondo “revenge” game), the Kings have been very open to the fact that they want everyone “taking the plane home” after the last game of the season. The good news for the Wizards is that—after a loss that leaves the team 3.5 games behind the Pacers for the last playoff spot in the East—Wall may be able to make his vacation plans with Cousins early.

L.V.P.

The Lack of Statistical Anomalies

In a must-win game, there are many factors that could be isolated and pulled out as the “reason” the Wizards lost. The finger could be pointed to the lack of bench production, the lack of “effort,” or the failure to convert at key moments of the contest. However, the issue can probably be boiled down to one simple fact that has remained static throughout the 2015-16 season: the Wizards are a terrible defensive team. A quick scan through a list of key defensive performance indicators puts the Wizards near the bottom or lower half of each statistical category. And though the team has slowly crept up from “historically bad” in such categories such as 3-point percentage allowed, it hasn’t been enough to compensate for an offense that remains highly overrated. For the entire season, the promise was that once the Wizards got healthy, everything would change and suddenly the team would play at a different level. The problem is that none of the players the Wizards reintroduced to their lineup could be considered a defensive upgrade. From Bradley Beal to Alan Anderson to Markieff Morris—each player has the ability to be a decent defender but the onus has always been placed on their offensive output.

Wrapped within an ill-fitting metaphor, the Wizards have approached almost every game this season as the last round of a “Rocky” movie. Both teams come out swinging and whoever lands the biggest blow ends up winning the game. The problem with this approach is that the Wizards neither have the punching power to go toe-to-toe with the biggest opponents (Golden State, San Antonio) or any solution for a team like Boston that actually puts its hands up to defend. The Wizards can express frustration over the “lack of effort” all they want, but in this case the “statistics don’t lie.” To expect the team to become even competent defensively in face of all metrics is an exercise in futility.

X-Factor.

What to play for next?

The Wizards have lost every conceivable manner of “must-win” games throughout the season with the stated goal always being to reach the playoffs. Now with that goal all but impossible, it will be interesting to see how the Wizards’ staff and players react to the reality that there will be no first-round games in Cleveland this spring.

They could always play for Randy Wittman’s job, but at no point in the season has Team President Ernie Grunfeld or Team Owner Ted Leonsis stated that Wittman’s tenure is danger. The players could also continue to fold up their tents and play at their current level as a form of protest—in an attempt to force management’s hand into making a change.

They could play for pride, something that John Wall has talked about at length throughout the season, but the call to play for pride seems to fall on deaf ears, or clatter to the floor off another ill-advised jump pass.

They could punt the season for a better lottery— oh, wait….

That game was … nothing earth-shattering

Thousands of pixels later and we remain at the place where we started—dreaming of what could have been if only things had broken the Wizards’ way. The sad fact is that the Wizards are where they are because of a staunch inability to change—both as a basketball team and an organization. The organizational philosophy of “staying the course” has brought with it two appearances in the second round of the playoffs, but also lost draft picks, a stagnant coaching staff, and a directionless future. If there were ever a time to shake things up and try something new, this would be the moment, but the Wizards, alas, seem fundamentally incapable of seizing even the smallest of those.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 111 at Kings 120 — Season All But Put to Bed at Sleep Train Arena http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/key-legislature-75-wizards-111-at-kings-120.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/key-legislature-75-wizards-111-at-kings-120.html#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 16:07:25 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50669 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Kings, Regular Season Game 75, March 30, 2016, from Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, CA, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

Calling Wednesday night’s contest in Sacramento ‘The Season,’ factoring in Tuesday’s loss in Golden State and particularly last Friday’s double OT loss to Minnesota, is and was an utterly useless exercise. And yet, it was totally true, if only a fraction of the picture.

There have been plenty of ‘Season’ games for the hapless Wizards during this 2015-16 campaign. When they were desperate (like now), pre-desperate (mid-March losses in Utah and in Denver), knew the games would count (losses to the depleted Bulls and Heat in February; home losses to Portland and Denver in January), or trying to show they, as a team, mattered early (losing to the piss-poor Lakers at home with a chance to get to .500, 8-8, after a big road win in Cleveland). Those games mattered. They were all the season. Even the November that John Wall essentially punted.

Technically, though, in immeasurable and subjective ways, the Wizards should have brought more focus to a mere 48 minutes in Sacramento; even 38 minutes would have probably done the trick. But the Wizards did not—in damn near comical manners. Just look at this moment:

Randy Wittman spoke of a lack of discipline—his keyword of the night—after the game via CSN’s postgame show. Plugging that keyword in the translator: his players just didn’t care. He could see it, they could see it, I could see it from the other side of the country. And the culmination of season-long events continues to indicate that the head coach simply can’t get his players to care consistently enough. The substitute teacher has been good, but the classroom is way overdue for some true leadership. Because the end results are inarguable. The Wizards are underachievers.

People—in bite-sized sound bites, thought bubbles and micro-blogs—will try to point to that one thing which made this season so disappointing for the Wizards. In reality, there’s a growing laundry list. And so similar is the challenge of finding that one, ‘Key Legislature’ play in a contest that was just ridiculously sloppy. The Wizards committed 20 team turnovers, giving up 18 points, and the Kings coughed up the ball up 17 times for 20 points.

So, after glossing over the ineffective play above that so epitomized the quit in the Wizards’ dog, let us discuss the most skeleton of key turnovers among the 20 handed out like hard candy in a bowl at the nursing home by the Wizards.

Somehow, someway, the Wizards would just not go away—#WizardsTwitter could not fire their depression- or vitriol-filled tweets into the coping mechanism’s abyss fast enough. And Comcast’s Steve Buckhantz always seemed to be there to announce: “The Wizards have cut the Kings’ lead to five (or six, or a billion).”

It must have happened eight or nine times between the third and fourth quarters. So with around eight minutes left in the game, the Wizards secured three offensive rebounds on one, single possession (Gortat, Dudley, and Temple) and missed three 3-point shots (Dudley, Beal, and Wall). And after that third offensive board after the third missed 3, Dudley could not totally corral the possession and he turned the ball over. Sacramento (Ben McLemore) went the other way and hit a 3 to make the score 106-95. Instead of chopping their deficit to six points (once again), give or take, the Wizards never again got within single digits.

It probably would not have mattered, sadly. Because there were plenty of head-shaking turnovers—four in the first quarter, six in each the second and third quarters, and four in the fourth. A high-usage player like Wall predictably led the way with five turnovers, but his colleagues (Morris, Gortat, Beal, Nene, and Sessions) all did their part—13 total amongst those five. Otto Porter was the one exception with zero turnovers (and a confident 20 points—the ninth 20-point game of Otto’s season and tenth of his career; he’s yet to crack 30).

There was the time Beal appeared frozen and gazing into a lost season only to have McLemore cleanly pick his pocket (but Garrett Temple got it back).

There were terrible passes to inactionable teammates without thinking from Gortat, Nene, and Wall. In nearly a third-quarter minute, Wall got his lunch stolen by Boogie Cousins and the ball poked from behind by Rajon Rondo. We’re barely going to mention that Boogie thrashed the Wizards and any defender Washington threw at him. Cousins scored 21 first-half points (29 total on the night) on a variety of shot-jacks (including an over-the-backboard shot) and past poorly planned fronting post defense. He was held to four points in each the third and fourth quarters, but it barely seemed like the Wizards made an adjustment and/nor cared to execute any planned adjustments.

No, we’re just going to slowly back away from this post, this ‘Key Legislature,’ just like the Wizards have slowly backed away from their season with players who no longer care, a coach no longer capable, a front office that’s sewn seeds of losing for too long and only ever wanted to win just enough, and an owner who is blinded by a flux in selfies, his hockey team, and the misconception of injuries to his 15-man basketball roster.

Analytics This: The Wizards are, indeed, first in “man games lost” at 268, but the cost has been greatly overstated (1). In terms of significance of the injuries suffered by Wizards players (VORP—value over replacement player), Washington ranks 22nd in the NBA (2).

Prepare the bait and the fishing polls, it’s going to be an interesting offseason.

Sloppy Slippage.

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Optical Illusion in Oracle — Wizards at Warriors, DC Council 74 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/wizards-94-at-warriors-102-dc-council-74.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/wizards-94-at-warriors-102-dc-council-74.html#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 00:40:33 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50664 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Warriors, Game 74, March 29, 2016, from Oracle Arena, Oakland, in the Golden State of California, via Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

That Game Was … weirdly and deceptively competitive.

At least 20 minutes of game action seemed to be consumed by each team trading errors; Washington finished with 17 turnovers and Golden State with 16. There were also a lot of runs. The Warriors punched first with an 11-2 run early in the opening quarter. The Wizards countered with 7-0 and 9-0 runs early and midway through the second quarter (taking a 46-37 lead). Then, the Warriors ended the second quarter on a 12-0 run to take a 49-46 halftime lead.

There was a 12-4 Warriors run very early in the second half, and the Wizards answered with a 7-0 spurt (Morris 3, Wall assist; Beal dunk, Gortat assist; and Porter layup, Wall assist) to stay within one point, 60-61. The teams then traded 8-0 runs—Golden State first, then Washington. It was a two-point game, 74-72 Warriors, as the end of the third quarter encroached. But then, per usual, Washington’s offensive play fell apart. Sessions missed a desperate floater, Nene travelled with the ball, and Markieff Morris inexplicably fired a Curry-level deep 3 with five seconds left in the period.

The Warriors used 8-1 and 8-0 runs within the first six minutes of the fourth quarter to put the game away … until a rag-tag Wizards bunch of Ramon Sessions, Marcus Thornton, Kelly Oubre, Jared Dudley, and J.J. Hickson used a 12-1 run to claw back within six points, 94-100, with 40 seconds left. The Wizards further teased those still watching by making a stop and getting the ball back—but Sessions oddly forced a pass inside when he had options on the perimeter and the ball went out of bounds. Dagger. Golden State won, 102-94 (they were favored by 13).

The Warriors went through spells of apathy against Washington, while trying to entertain themselves and their adoring fans. The Wizards’ stars failed to play to their potential, sometimes by means of Golden State’s defense, sometimes by means of their own cognition. Decent game, decent effort—that was the game.

M.V.P.

Does any player, on either team, really deserve the M.V.P.? From the winner’s perspective, their second fiddles did their jobs almost in order—Klay Thompson scored 16, Draymond Green scored 15, and Harrison Barnes scored 14. Stephen Curry led the way with 26 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds. But he did more toying around than taking the game serious at the start, and he shot—gasp—just 45 percent from the floor, only the 24th time in 71 appearances on the season that he’s shot that mark or worse.

But he did what was needed in the end, staying true to his main skill set: Steph went 6-for-8 from deep, outscoring the Washington Wizards from the 3-point line. Curry made the game’s first bucket, a 3, and he nailed two from distance during Golden State’s demoralizing 12-0 run to end the first half. One 3 in particular came in the game’s most ‘no fair’ moment—with Jared Dudley switched on Curry.

So, sure, give him the M.V.P.

L.V.P.

John Wall didn’t bring it. While Golden State stumbled to a 27-22 first quarter lead, Wall was more of a passive observer for the meat of the game’s opening, watching teammates fire from the midrange with abandon. Wall’s one bucket—the ol’ reliable elbow jumper—and three assists in the first quarter came within the game’s first 4:40.

Sandwiched too many times amongst those plays were settled-for misses of the 16-foot (Beal), 18-foot (Morris), 13-foot (Gortat), 15-foot (Morris), and 19-foot (Porter) variety. As we’ve written before, Wall is judged by his own standards, so really, denoting him the L.V.P. isn’t truly valid. But it beez like that sometimes, and Wall has a lot of obstacles to hurdle as part of his superstardom—coaching, consistently available teammates, and, of course, himself. And, of course, coaching again.

X-Factor(s).

  • 47 total points (18-37 FGs), 14 assists, and 35 rebounds.
  • 52 total points (19-43 FGs), 5 assists, and 26 rebounds.

As briefed, Curry’s main supporting cast in Thompson, Green, and Barnes (and we’ll include Bogut, even though he didn’t play starter’s minutes) did their jobs in unspectacular but winning fashion.

Wall’s cast of Beal, Porter, Morris, and Gortat did just ‘OK,’ too. Enough for the Wizards to succeed, given what was written about Wall in the L.V.P. section. (Yes, this generally discards the crazy run by Wizards benchers in semi-garbage time.)

We don’t want to boil this down in Randy Wittman fashion, but, yes, Curry scored 26 points to Wall’s mere 8 (his sixth single-digit output in 74 games). And yes, the miserable free-throw-shooting Wizards went 17-for-27 from the line (the Warriors missed eight FTs, though).

And finally, yes, the statline above that scored fewer points (47) but assisted more baskets (14) comes from the supporting cast of the league M.V.P. and his world champion-class wrecking crew. The X-factor: whatever is floating in Oakland’s water.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 94 at Warriors 102 — Fighting Uphill Without Bullets http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/key-legislature-wizards-94-at-warriors-102-fighting-uphill-without-bullets.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/key-legislature-wizards-94-at-warriors-102-fighting-uphill-without-bullets.html#comments Wed, 30 Mar 2016 18:23:32 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50654 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Warriors, Regular Season Game 74, March 29, 2016, by Lucas Hubbard (@LucasHubbard1).

It’s almost unfortunate that the Wizards had to play Golden State—on the road—in game 74 of their 82-game slog. The task demanded of them was effectively impossible, with the Warriors 35-0 at home on the year and having not lost a regular season game in the friendly Oracle Arena confines since late January 2015. Ideally, Tuesday’s contest would’ve been a “process” game, one where silver linings draw more attention than the overall storm.

Of course, such luxuries can’t be afforded when your team is 2.5 games out of the playoffs with nine remaining (now three with eight to go). So, absent of context, any Wizards loss on Tuesday would be a disappointment, but the team’s failure to really put the Warriors in jeopardy in the second half transforms this loss from disappointing to disheartening.

I’ll come clean for the sake of context: I’m actually a Warriors fan(1), so I’ve watched a fair share of their games this year. For how infallible they’re portrayed in the national media, they have trace elements of weakness. Their games hold a pattern, and for as confident as their fans can seem, the Warriors faithful invariably hold their breath at two points of each game: the start of the second and fourth quarters, when Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green go to the bench. The three All-Stars are tremendous individually and in tandem, but without them, the Warriors’ offense devolves into Shaun Livingston post-ups, Harrison Barnes isolations, and Marreese Speights 3-pointers. In short, their bench is hilarious, but not consistently good or even consistently competent.

So any serious opponent needs to capitalize on the stars’ absences in these periods, either to carve into Golden State’s existing lead, or, better yet, gain a rare, insurmountable position of their own. In the second quarter, Washington (primarily, Bradley Beal) did just that: they transformed a five-point deficit at quarter’s end into a two-point advantage by the time that Curry and Green returned. The Washington lead ballooned to nine late in the second before, well, the Warriors happened, and the Wizards found themselves trailing at halftime after a 12-0 Golden State run. It was, however, still a manageable situation.

Washington treaded water in the third quarter, as Markieff Morris exploded for 13 points; even though the Warriors were up seven, they were about to enter one of those problematic periods in which Leandro Barbosa is an offensive fulcrum. And, when John Wall re-entered the game with 11 minutes remaining, he and Beal were about to play four-plus minutes unfettered by the Warriors’ star lineup. The Wizards, in theory, had a great chance to make it interesting.

Unfortunately, Wall was bad Tuesday—nowhere on par with his 41-point, 10-assist performance versus the Warriors in February. While he garnered highlights for a few chasedown blocks of Curry, he shot 4-for-14 from the field and delivered an 0-fer from beyond the arc, which included a wide-open third-quarter brick so far off that even an overwrought metaphor can’t do it justice. More importantly, he failed to significantly attack the rim and put pressure on the defense; Wall took just six shots in the restricted area all game and only two FTs—both in the fourth quarter.

When Wall initially returned, it seemed that the Wizards would inevitably make a run: on the first three possessions, the offense delivered a pretty optimal allocation of a Wall drive sandwiched between two Beal 3-point attempts. Unfortunately, all tries were unsuccessful, and with the team down 13 with just 10 minutes remaining, the Wizards turned to their only option: …Nene. Yes, on five of the next six possessions, the burly Brazilian was the one ending the possession, and he generated a fascinating stat line of one lay-up, three fouls drawn (2-6 FTs), and one turnover. And, after all that, the deficit was 14; Steph and Draymond returned seconds later and it was curtains for the Wiz.

It’s unfair to pin the loss on Wall; the Wizards weren’t sharp from the get-go, and they were sloppy both in the half-court (17 TOs) and in transition defense (yielding 24 fast break points). But given the requisite support from Beal, Morris, and even Otto Porter (11 points, 6 boards), the point guard’s egg-laying with the game—at least nominally—up for grabs was more painful. All told, Wall went 0-for-3 from the field in the fourth and 0-for-2 from the line. It was a no good, very bad quarter in a no good, very bad game: his eight-point output on the night was his worst in over two months.

There’s little worth belaboring here: Tuesday would’ve required an incredible, unprecedented effort, so the key is for Washington to salvage something in Sacramento tonight on the second game of the back-to-back. While the math doesn’t favor them in the hunt for the 8th spot, the Pistons’ final games are actually pretty tricky, and a 6-2 finish for Washington could be sufficient to edge Detroit and sneak into the playoffs. (Indiana’s closing schedule looks very Knicks-heavy, so I’m excluding them from reasonable consideration here.)

One positive from the game in Golden State is that the Wizards’ workloads weren’t especially taxing, with 12 players getting time and 10 hitting double figures; only Wall, Porter, and Beal cleared 30 minutes. Still, the season is shortening rapidly, and the stakes of each game are rising; Wednesday night will require a heavy dose of John Wall, and No. 2 needs to bounce back. I’m guessing he will; I hope I’m right.

 


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Opening Statements: Wizards at Warriors, Game 74 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/opening-statements-wizards-at-warriors-game-74.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/opening-statements-wizards-at-warriors-game-74.html#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2016 18:07:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50642 Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors - Dec. 8, 2012 - Truth About It.net


Teams: Wizards at Warriors
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
Television: TNT
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Warriors fav’d by 13


Anything in life worth having is worth working for. And if the Wizards want to make the playoffs, they are going to have to play extraordinary ball over these last nine games. Actually, extraordinary doesn’t even begin to describe the effort that it will take for the Wizards to stay competitive tonight against the defending world champion Golden State Warriors, who have somehow managed to exceed expectations while striving for another ring (they are 35-0 at home so far).

Unless you have been living under a rock, the whole world knows that the Warriors are in pursuit of NBA immortality, which they’ll have if they break the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls’ regular season record of 72-10. The Warriors currently sit at 66-7, atop the Western Conference standings. But they can’t just worry about chasing history, they also have to fend off another historically great team in the San Antonio Spurs for the 1-seed. The Spurs are just 4.5 games back of the Warriors with 62 wins and 12 losses. One of those 12 Spurs losses came against the Washington Wizards early in the season, so it’s not as if the Wizards are completely incapable of playing at high level (it’s just only ever seen every couple weeks).

The Wizards did not have much luck against the Warriors on February 3. They fell 121-134 in D.C., behind a masterful 51-point Stephen Curry performance in which he hit 11 of his 15 3s. John Wall was no slouch in that contest, going for 41 points himself, put he was the lone bright spot. That game did not feature Wizards guard Bradley Beal, but the way he’s been playing the last three games, he might not be the difference maker this team needs. The thing that separates the Warriors from other teams is the fact that they have so many lethal weapons at their disposal. The other half of the Splash Brothers duo, Klay Thompson, has been quietly revving up his play over the last few games, averaging 37.3 points per game and saving Curry from having to be a superhero on every night.

In order for the Wizards to even sniff victory against the Warriors, they will need to do a much better job at defending the 3-point line than they have all season. Golden State ranks first in the NBA from beyond the arc, knocking down 41.6 percent of their shots, and Washington comes into this game ranked in the bottom five in opponent 3-point shooting percentage (.369). Good communication between the frontcourt and backcourt players in high screen and pick-and-roll scenarios will be key—time, situation, and ball-handler must be considered when contesting on 3-point shots. The bigs need to do a better job at hedging onto ball-handlers to prevent even a half-foot of space (which could lead to open-enough shots or skip passes over an off-balance defense). And the guards, John Wall especially, need to be willing to fight over every screen—if players duck under screens, as Randy Wittman has instructed over the past two weeks, they will get roasted.

Extras!

Markieff Morris has been quite a surprise with his defensive intensity since coming over from Phoenix. He missed the Wizards last game against the Lakers with a calf strain, and it is still unclear whether he will play in tonight’s game, but Morris gives the Wizards a workable option to combating the Warriors’ Swiss army knife, Draymond Green. Green is a physical and intense player, so the Wizards will need not only Keef’s big body to bang with Draymond, but also his “spiciness” (word to Gortat) keep up Green’s trash-talk.

Steph Curry is chasing a bit of individual history. Curry has 350 made 3-pointers in 2015-16 and needs 50 more to be the first person in NBA history to make 400 3s in a season. Curry averages around five 3-point makes per game, so if he were to keep pace with his average, he would fall just short of 400 at 395 made 3s. If his performance earlier this year against the Wizards was any indicator, he could be significantly closer to 400 after this game.

The Warriors will be without Finals M.V.P. Andre Iguodala again tonight—he has missed the last two weeks due to an ankle injury. So, if there were a night where Bradley Beal could assert himself in front of the NBA world, it’s this one with Golden State’s best perimeter defender out. Remember, it was Beal who not only went toe-to-toe with Kawhi Leonard earlier this season, but also the game-winner to beat the Spurs.

The Wizards—mediocre for eternity, it seems—are somehow still actively in the playoff race. With nine games left, the Wizards may need to go at least 7-2 and see the Pistons go 4-4 to qualify for the postseason. Neither one of these outcomes is outside the realm of possibility, which is exactly why the Wizards owe it to themselves and their fans to put their best foot forward and steal an important game.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 101 at Lakers 88 — Wall Shows Shades of Showtime http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/key-legislature-73-wizards-101-at-lakers-88.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/03/key-legislature-73-wizards-101-at-lakers-88.html#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2016 14:38:18 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50621 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Lakers, Regular Season Game 73, March 27, 2016, by Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur).

One man can’t do it all by himself. True in sports, true in general. Still, at the end of the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers, John Wall appeared ready to carry the Wizards to victory by any means necessary. Wall was single-handedly staving off another potential Kobe farewell tour masterpiece performance … while his teammates were still trying to figure out how to chip in.

Once the Wizards were able to establish their dominance from the inside out, the game’s outcome became the mere formality that it should have been from the tip. The Wall/Gortat pick-and-roll was a weapon that the one-time All-NBA center Roy Hibbert was not ready for. Gortat finished with yet another double-double—16 points and 10 rebounds.

The thing that was impressive about Sunday night’s performance from Washington was the fact that Randy Wittman stuck to his big lineup gun of Gortat and Nene (with Markieff Morris out due to injury). And not only did it not backfire, but it actually proved to be a smart decision that allowed the Wizards to dominate the paint against a Lakers team without a fearsome stretch 4. The absence of Morris was still noticeable, however, but if the bruising power forward can benefit from a few extra days of rest to be ready for All-World Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, then that, too, was a good call.

Gortat and Nene weren’t the only bigs to get into a groove against the Lakers. Buyout acquisition J.J. Hickson had his best game in a Wizards uniform, scoring all of his 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field in the second half. Hickson’s performance was refreshing because it allowed the Wizards to avoid sweating out blowing a fourth quarter lead, as this team has grown so accustomed to doing.

Of course, Washington may not have had to worry about finishing off another reeling opponent—in this case, the Lakers—if they were getting the type of production expected from their second best player. To put it mildly, Bradley Beal had a disappointing week. After lighting up the Hawks on Monday, Beal went conspicuously M.I.A. against those same Hawks on Wednesday, and then he missed two potential game-winning shots against the Timberwolves, as the Wizards lost another close game in double overtime. Beal apparently saved his worst for last and was only able to muster four total points against the 15-win Lakers.

Beal played 29 minutes and only hit one of his five field goal attempts. The Wizards have been trying to go out of their way to get Beal more involved in the offense, but as my grandfather taught me at an early age, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. With only nine games in this season, it’s becoming obvious that young Bao Bao still needs a little more time to develop into Big Panda.

From the Lakers perspective, how can one watch that game on Sunday night and not walk away impressed with the No.2 overall pick in last year’s draft, D’Angelo Russell? Russell finished the game with 22 points on 8-for-20 shooting and looked about as natural a scorer as a rookie possibly can. The fact that Lakers coach Byron Scott has tightened the reigns on Russell over the course of this season is borderline criminal. Randy Wittman man not be leading any lectures at the Sloan Conference anytime soon, but at least the guy isn’t actively driving his franchise into the ground with rash decisions in the guise of teaching moments. (That said, Oubre could have gotten more minutes earlier this season.)

We can’t have the Wizards visiting Staples Center without mentioning the great Gilbert Arenas performance in 2006, when he out-dueled Kobe to score a Bullets/Wizards record 60 points—and an NBA record 16 points in an overtime period. Arenas is synonymous with “knucklehead,” but you have to give him some credit for the magical moments he brought the franchise in the mid-2000s. Arenas was courtside Sunday night to watch Kobe’s last game versus the Wizards.

Where do the Wizards go from here?

With nine games left on the season, the Wizards find themselves 2.5 games back of the Detroit Pistons for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. The positive: The Wizards still have one game remaining against the Pistons. The problem: The Wizards need to make sure they are in a position to make that last meeting mean anything at all. They play six away games (17-18 road record) to close the season.

Washington is currently facing the daunting task of going into Oracle Arena and giving the Warriors their first home loss of the season. Yes, the Warriors have struggled with bad teams over the last week, barely edging past the Timberwolves and Sixers. But Warriors coach Steve Kerr has said that the team will be trying to equal (or beat) the Bulls 72-10 record, so don’t expect them to be doing any favors by resting their star players (although a couple role players might be out). If there is one thing that the Wizards can count on, it’s their All-star, John Wall, to bring the intensity that has allowed this team to even be on the brink of the playoffs, instead of deep into the lottery.

Will any of his teammates feel like joining the party?


 

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