Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Tue, 23 Aug 2016 14:19:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 John Wall Delivers Back-to-School Block Party to D.C. http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/john-wall-delivers-back-to-school-block-party-to-d-c.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/08/john-wall-delivers-back-to-school-block-party-to-d-c.html#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 14:19:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51130 adam mcginnis, washington wizards, john wall, john wall family foundation, DCPS, malcolm x elementary, backpack giveaway, JWFF, Back To School Block Party, Back To School Backpack Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes.

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

Pictures.

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John Wall with the staff of Malcolm X Elementary

 

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Video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In case it matters, three things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus: Wanna Get Away Games…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Mahinmi

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

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

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

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

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

Trey Burke

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

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

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

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

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

Burke Shot Chart

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

Sessions Shot Chart


Perimeter Shooting

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

Burke shooting breakdown

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

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

Andrew Nicholson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vesely


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

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

Mark Your Calendars…

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

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

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

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

Marcin Gortat took notice.

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

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

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

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

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

Third Time’s a Charm.

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

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

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

Home, Sweet Home.

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

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

Time to Pay the Piper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You May be Right, Kelly May be Crazy

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Next Dennis Rodman?

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

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

Eddie Expanding his Repertoire

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

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

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

Bullets Throwback

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thumbs Up.

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

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

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

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

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

Thumbs Down.

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

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

Midrange.

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

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

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

Trending.

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

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

Baby steps, right?

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

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

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

Adam Rubin: Congratulations on the contract.

Garrett Temple: “Appreciate it.”

How crazy was it becoming a free agent this summer?

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

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

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

How many teams were you looking at in free agency?

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

Did they get into a bidding war?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where do you think you fit in with the Kings?

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

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[circa 2013]

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

(Photo: Defpen.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dudley otto

(Photo – Getty Images – Mike McGinnis)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

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

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

Were you surprised Horford was deciding between Boston and Washington?

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

Dudley is all smiles returning to Phoenix.

Dudley is all smiles returning to Phoenix.

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

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

On his current status:

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

On Scott Brooks: 

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

On the disappointing 2015-16 season and communicating expectations: 

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

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

On the missing piece:

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

On communicating with Bradley Beal after signing his max contract:

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

On Garret Temple’s new contract with the Kings:

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

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

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

On what Wall is working on to improve his game: 

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

On his post game:

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

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

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

On Otto Porter’s maturation:

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

On Kevin Durant choosing to play for Golden State:

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

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

On Washington facing the a new-look Eastern Conference:

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

On free agent movement:

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

On training and rehab:

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

On developing self-discipline:

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

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

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

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

Bermuda Triangle

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

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

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

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

Kelly Oubre Likes to Talk

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

Pleasant Surprise in the Paint

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

John Wall Sighting

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

Reinforcement for the Backcourt

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

Pam McGee Award for Embarrassing Mother

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

Beating a Dead Horse

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

Former Bullets/Wizards Seen in Vegas

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

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

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

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

Retirement Looks Good on You

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

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(Photo – A. Rubin)

 

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

Keep reading for the run-down.

2016-wizards-summer-league-game-2

Thumbs Up.

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

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

Thumbs Down.

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

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

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

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

Midrange.

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

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

Trending.

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

 

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

On to the highlights…

Game of the Summer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Groundhog Day.

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

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Terp in Vegas.

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

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

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

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

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

Mystery Man From Croatia.

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

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

Wizards Debut.

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

Days of Future Past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wave Papi into the Summer.

EXTRAS.

Oubre on his mentors:

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

On what he would be doing if not playing basketball:

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

 

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

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

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

Thumbs Up

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

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

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

Thumbs Down

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

Midrange

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

Trending

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

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

john-wall-summer-league-graphic

Kelly Oubre

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

Twitter: @KELLYOUBREJR


Aaron White

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

Twitter: @Aaron_White30

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


Daniel Ochefu

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

Twitter: @DanielOchefu23


Sheldon McClellan

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

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


Jarell Eddie

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

Twitter: @J_Ed31

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

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


Tywain McKee

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

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


Kaleb Tarczewski

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

Twitter: @tkalebckn (not very active)

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


Shawn Dawson

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

Twitter: @ShawnDawson8


 

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Live from Las Vegas: It’s NBA Summer League Day 1 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/live-from-las-vegas-its-nba-summer-league-day-1.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/live-from-las-vegas-its-nba-summer-league-day-1.html#comments Sat, 09 Jul 2016 07:27:01 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50905

Fans lining up for tickets to see Thon Maker's #NBASummer debut in 10 minutes. pic.twitter.com/q7SdE97Pty

— Ledell's Place (@LedellsPlace) July 8, 2016

David Spade tells a story about auditioning for Saturday Night Live. Right before he stepped on stage to face Lorne Michaels, Spade’s friend and then-cast member Dennis Miller told him: “You don’t want to kill too hard, Spudley. It throws up a red flag.”

Miller’s point was that Lorne is not looking for a guy who can confidently win over a crowd with hacky shtick. As Miller put it, “You don’t want to be a polished road act.”

Lorne wants someone raw but with potential, someone who could be a breakout star. The jokes don’t all have to land. He’s looking for that spark that says, “I belong on the big stage.”

NBA Summer League is a lot like those SNL auditions. There are plenty of “polished road acts” in Vegas who can put up big scoring numbers but cannot make an NBA roster. Anthony Randolph, who holds the single-game Summer League scoring record (42), and former Washington Wizards and Summer League MVP Glen Rice, Jr., are but two.

Summer League is not about stats. It’s not about scoring against inferior talent. It’s about demonstrating an elite skill or two. It’s about showing something that says, “I belong in the NBA.”

So, with Dennis Miller’s advice in mind, let’s review a few Vegas auditions from Day 1…

Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves: Dunn produced the highlight of Day 1—and most likely the highlight of the summer—when he crossed up a Nugget, Jakar Sampson, and made him fall down.

https://twitter.com/World_Wide_Wob/status/751599846352707584

But Dunn was not a one hit wonder. He played like an NBA vet, getting to the rim at will, shaking defenders for fade-away jumpers, and playing tenacious defense.

Dunn’s debut ranks among the best I have seen in nine years of attending the Las Vegas summer league. Fellow lottery pick, Jamal Murray of the Nuggets, was also on the court but was barely noticeable. Dunn is NBA-ready right now, and he was not doing this against standard summer league fare—he went head-to-head versus Emmanuel Mudiay and was up to the challenge.

Thon Maker, Milwaukee Bucks: Thon wasted no time announcing his arrival on the summer league stage. His first two offensive touches lasted about one second each. The first, a rushed jumper while straddling the 3-point line, bricked off the backboard. On the second, Maker stood completely beyond the 3-point arc and launched a more comfortable jumper that caromed off the rim.

Thon is certainly tall with a long reach, but he struggled to take advantage of those attributes on the defensive end. His shot-blocking instincts were uninspiring. Maker picked up several fouls reaching and slapping at shooters’ arms instead of using his full extension to contest from a safe distance. He is also struggled to box out at times and failed to hold onto a few contested rebounds. He has the size, but it remains to be seen whether he has the instincts and strength to be a Bismack Biyombo-like presence in the paint.

On the plus side, Thon runs the floor well and regularly beats his man down the court in transition. He is also comfortable pushing the ball up the floor after rebounds—perhaps a little too comfortable. A perfect microcosm of Thon’s debut occurred with 1:22 left in the third quarter. Maker jumped for a defensive rebound, snatching it out of the air at a height no other player on the court could reach. He turned, put his head down, and dribbled up the floor with the confidence of a young Andray Blatche … only to be picked cleanly shortly after crossing half-court by a guy named Raphiael Putney, who waltzed the other direction for an uncontested dunk.

Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets: Mudiay looks even better than his performance in last year’s summer league, which is to be expected. He went hard after Dunn on offense and showed some nice range on a twisting fade-away baseline jumper. However, the problem with Mudiay remains his long-distance shooting. He can get to the rim easily and has nice vision when he does, but his 3-point shot still is not falling. For Mudiay to take the next step in his sophomore NBA season, he will need to instill some fear in his opponents when he is left open beyond the arc.

Adreian Payne, Minnesota Timberwolves: Still does not pass under any circumstances.

Kay Felder, Cleveland Cavaliers: Cleveland acquired Felder (pick 54) in a draft night trade. He was billed as a scorer and he did not disappoint (14 points, 4-11 FGs). Felder may have some trouble excelling at the NBA level due to his Kevin Hart-like stature, but he had no problem scoring against the Milwaukee Bucks summer league team, including a pretty Steph Curry-esque floater over Thon Maker.

Jimmer Fredette, Denver Nuggets: Jimmer has not evolved much in his five years since graduating from BYU. He showed some nice vision in the paint (6 assists), but his signature long-range shooting was absent (2-for-7 FGs, 0-2 3Ps). His chances of joining another NBA roster are dwindling.

Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets: Harris looked like a guy who knows he belongs in the NBA and was just going through the motions. Which is perfectly fine, I guess.

Day 2 brings the Wizards first summer league game versus Utah at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the much anticipated Philadelphia Sixers (Ben Simmons) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (Brandon Ingram) matchup at 8:30.


 

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Sizzlin’ and Fizzlin’ at SummerFest: Markieff Morris and the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/sizzlin-and-fizzlin-at-summerfest-markieff-morris-and-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/sizzlin-and-fizzlin-at-summerfest-markieff-morris-and-the-wizards.html#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 19:51:53 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50890 2016-Wizards-SummerFest_3

The Washington Wizards held a SummerFest event for fans at their home arena this past Wednesday night. It appeared to be well-organized, was Polynesian-themed, and generally included your standard school carnival-like fare. It might not have facilitated the same sizzle had the Wizards signed Kevin Durant, had a lottery pick, or even convinced Al Horford to join them, but this is still the only local pro basketball team worth caring about.

Those in attendance, given leis upon their entrance, seemed to enjoy themselves with calm relief, as if coming to the realization that the loud pop they just heard was merely a party balloon bursting, and now its only job was to deflate and go in unpredictable directions. The team had plenty of handlers à la Walmart associate-style just in case there was a flux of interest in the open-to-the-public affair—after all, late just the night before the Wizards agreed to terms with third-string free agent center Jason Smith.

With plenty of space to roam on the Verizon Center concourse, attendees were welcome to check out an array of offerings—face painting, decorating doo-dads, pictures with G-Wiz (team mascot with synthetic blue fur), a line of humans that led to a table of John Wall bobbleheads, a guy mindlessly strumming on a ukulele, coconut bowling, and virtual reality consoling (sponsored by Mountain Dew). The line for free Italian ice was especially populated. There were no Warriors or Cavaliers paraphernalia visible, likely out of respect, but one passerby did mention to a companion, “We usually get to a couple Knicks games here each season.”

As the evening progressed, the events moved to the main basketball court. The Secret Service dunkers (a small cadre of people tasked with manufacturing energy with trampolines, balls, and baskets) did their thing; Polynesian dancers brought the heat, literally, with sticks and ropes on fire at their ends; and the Wizards Girls (the team’s gender-specific dance squad) added the appropriate undertones of sexuality.

The squadron of summer leaguers and hopefuls were introduced not by individual name, but rather as a collection of 15 individuals. Reaction was akin to seeing a police lineup emerge on the other side of a two-way mirror only to be told that you are picking your child’s babysitter for the evening. The basketball upstarts, already appearing sweaty from toiling away on the team’s practice court, broke into formation with a Lunchable-like offering of basketball—3-on-2 and 2-on-1 fast break drills for the bread, full court five-on-five for the meat and cheese, and a half-court shooting contest for dessert. Aaron White, 2015 Wizards second-round draft pick who honed his game in Germany last season, made a half-court shot to win a prize for a child. After the on-court festivities, the summer league squad broke into groups throughout the concourse and signed autographs for long lines of fans.

No grand, public proclamations were made nor consolement offered by team brass or personnel over loudspeaker. Seats available for ticket package purchases were, however, highlighted with 8.5x11s taped to their seatbacks. Usual game-night host, Rodney Rikai, served as the evening’s mouthpiece; and unrelated, Kelly Oubre seems to be bringing back the short shorts.

Toward the end, Markieff Morris, incumbent 4 man who’d dedicated time attending and signing autographs for fans, spoke with the media. He seemed much more relaxed and open than when he first arrived in Washington near last February’s trade deadline, which is understandable. The highlights:

On shooting more 3s:

“That’s what the game is now, so I got to work on them. But, I mean, if you score, you score … it can be 3s or 2s. I’m just not going to be a 3-point shooter, though, regardless of the situation.”

On how he expect the new coaching regime to be different:

“It was a great group of guys that was here before I came, and when I came. But with Scottie (Brooks), it’s a little different, man. It’s a lot more organized, it’s going to be a military kind of feel.”

On if he paid attention to Kevin Durant’s free agency:

“You gotta pay attention to it. I don’t think it’s right, but it is what it is.”

[Morris was asked what he means by that.]

“You know what I mean by that, it ain’t right, but …

[He was asked if it’s more a player issue or a system issue.]

“The money is going to be there for anything, it’s not about that. It’s the whole situation—you don’t do that, man.”

[Morris was asked if he would have stayed.]

“I mean, I wouldn’t say that. But I wouldn’t have went there (Golden State), for sure. First of all, they just beat us, so that’s more important. It would have been a fire inside me to beat them next year. But a lot of guys are different, man, I just ain’t expect that from Durant. I know him a little bit, I ain’t expect that from him.”

Sidney Lowe, local DMV product and new assistant on Scott Brooks’ staff who will be leading the summer league efforts, also took time to chat.

On Kelly Oubre:

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

“He’s obviously trying to develop his game in different areas. Coach has got him running pick-and-rolls, which he didn’t run a lot of before. It wasn’t something he was comfortable with, but now you can see he’s starting to do a little more of that. Want to see him stay aggressive. But I think the first thing that coach wants to see, and we all want to see, if for him to stay consistent on the defensive end, which he can do.”

On Aaron White:

“I like his ability to step out, I like his ability to stretch a little bit—saw him put it on the floor a few times. I think he’s one of those unique players that can play 3 and play 4. And obviously in our league, the way it is now, there’s no more ‘power forwards,’ it’s a 4 or a stretch-4. I think he’s going to have that ability to supply us with that type of situation where we can play him at the 4 spot where he can stretch the defense.”

On the transition to a new coaching staff (per Morris’ “more organized” and “military” comments) and balancing structure with being a players’ coach:

“I think it’s that balance. When players know that you really care about them, they can accept the constructive criticism or the corrections, the correcting. They can accept that a little better. I think Coach Brooks does a great job of that. I don’t think he reacts certain ways than players think he might to a certain situation. Where they think he might get really upset at something, he might make a joke about it. So I think he just has a great feel for his teams, and I think that’s so key … to have they pulse of your team and mentally find out where they are. And I think that guys are going to enjoy playing for him.”

And on Durant’s decision:

“I don’t talk about other teams’ players, I don’t.”

But as a fan?

“I don’t talk about other teams’ players.”

[Faint voice of PR staff in the background: “Thanks, guys”]

Off into the summer they go, en route to Las Vegas, Nevada, after a morning practice session in D.C. on Thursday. The Wizards will play Utah on Saturday, July 9 (6:30 p.m. ET); Atlanta on Sunday, July 10 (4 p.m. ET); and Brooklyn on Tuesday, July 12 (4 p.m. ET) before the summer league tournament starts.

Reps from Truth About It.net (yours truly, @truth_about_it, and Adam Rubin, @LedellsPlace) will be on hand for coverage, so stay tuned.

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The Plan, That Man, and The Post — Do You Believe in Wizards? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/the-plan-that-man-and-the-post-do-you-believe-in-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/the-plan-that-man-and-the-post-do-you-believe-in-wizards.html#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 14:23:30 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50882 construct

If you’re reading this, you’re familiar with The Plan for the professional basketball team in D.C. The Plan’s number one goal was made clear, published, by Wizards owner Ted Leonsis in 2010: “We want to produce generationally great teams that are in position to compete for a championship each year.”

So, imagine my surprise when I read this in the Washington Post:

“… The Wizards have positioned themselves in a two-year window to make this maligned free agency into sweet redemption or risk another major roster overhaul that Ernie Grunfeld likely wouldn’t be around to oversee.”

My interpretation is that Team President Ernie Grunfeld will continue calling the shots through the 2017-18 season, at least, and very likely beyond that (given today’s expectations, which I’ll get to in just a second). Yes, two more years of Grunfeld, the front office executive who’s entering his 14th season at the helm in D.C.

Entering his 14th season, he’s among the four longest tenured team architects in the Association. Of the four, Grunfeld is the only one without a championship. Of the four, Grunfeld is the only one whose teams have failed to win 50 games. Of the four, Grunfeld is the only one who “selected mediocrity in order to chase a long shot,” as TAI contributor Chris Thompson wrote on his Kinja, in a breakdown of everything that went wrong in the team’s pursuit of Kevin Durant.

Now, when I tweeted this news about Grunfeld’s seemingly never-ending tenure, which has featured secret contract extensions, Post columnist Jerry Brewer responded, repeating the phrase “clear progress.” 

Everything—including Grunfeld’s job security and Wall’s loyalty to the city—hinges on “clear progress.” But what does that mean, exactly?

Instead of assuaging my concern, Brewer’s clarification only crystallized it.

Because here is where we are:

Despite failing to make the playoffs last season, the Wizards “were executing to the plan,” according to Leonsis. Which means a playoff berth in 2016-17 is all the re-re-reloaded Wizards need to accomplish to call the coming season a “success.”

By the summer of 2018, two years from today, the Wizards don’t have to be great—or come close to competing for a championship as contenders. They just need to be “more than middling,” according to Brewer, reporting the insider’s perspective. “More than middling” to keep John Wall, and Ted Leonsis, happy-ish. Having misjudged what is attractive to a player very recently, I’m not sure Leonsis and Grunfeld are well-positioned to appease John Wall. And mere appeasement should hardly be the goal.

None of this suggests the Conference Finals are a requirement, though they should be. “Sweet redemption” for Ernie Grunfeld and Leonsis’ Plan demands only that the Wizards make the second round of the playoffs by 2018.

Or does it demand less?

Say, 50 games under the guidance of Scott Brooks, who used to be Kevin Durant’s head coach. Perhaps a competitive first round appearance (with a Trey Burke Game) would suffice.

While ticket prices continue to go up in D.C., expectations for this franchise from the team brass have, somehow, dropped significantly. In two years, they want to be where they were two years ago.

That doesn’t sound like “clear progress.” It sounds ambitionless(1).

“Let’s stay on plan,” the team owner says anyway, trusting that this season will produce richer results. Even with John Wall, the team’s lone All-Star, coming off a pair of knee surgeries. Even with Bradley Beal saying he’ll likely need to abide by a minutes limit for the rest of his career. Even with the team sacrificing too much for cap flexibility this summer, only to sign a cadre of career backups (note: I like Mahinmi, Nicholson and Satoransky just fine) instead of using earmarked money for stars.

You can trust The Plan. I don’t have to.

 

[Photo: unsplash.com/@danist07]


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Dispatches from Poland — Marcin Gortat’s 2016 Basketball Camp http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/dispatches-from-poland-marcin-gortats-2016-basketball-camp.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/07/dispatches-from-poland-marcin-gortats-2016-basketball-camp.html#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 03:47:14 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=50874 2016-Gortat-Poland-Camp-Marcin-Garrett-B-Bielecki

Hard to believe that it’s already been nine years, around when Marcin Gortat entered the NBA, since he and his people started organizing a series of camps for kids in Poland. On the last six occasions, a Polish celebrity game was played at the end of the series. This year, I was on-hand to cover the events for TAI.

Traditionally, Gortat has brought some special guests from the U.S. to help out. This year Garrett Temple joined the Polish Machine in his homeland—after two years of Marcin asking him to come. There were two other prominent Polish basketball players taking part: Gonzaga Bulldogs center Przemek Karnowski and Adam Waczyński, the third best scorer of the Spanish ACB last season. Gortat also invited three coaches: David Adkins, player development coach for the Wizards; Neal Meyer, former NBA assistant who now currently helps with the league operations in Europe; and Mike Taylor, the head coach of Poland’s national team. Team mascot G-Wiz, like last year, was there as well.

I was at the final of five camps—the one that took place in Kraków, a big, beautiful city in the south of Poland. Two notable things occurred before Gortat and his entourage arrived in Kraków. At the first camp of the series, Gortat announced, 100 percent, that he’s quitting the Polish national team (something he indicated was 99 percent certain in late-2015). Second, during their stay in Warsaw, Gortat and his team were invited to watch Poland’s soccer game at UEFA Euro 2016 tournament, alongside Poland’s Prime Minister, Beata Szydło.

Once Poland scored, this happened:

Temple was also all about rooting for Poland.

The camp in Kraków started on Friday evening with a practice for disabled children in wheelchairs. The pro players sat down in wheelchairs as well, soon realizing how difficult basketball is from a seated position. Temple lost the ball multiple times when he tried wheelchair crossovers. His on-floor communication was better: Temple learned some basic Polish in order to communicate with the children, which was a very nice gesture. A showcase game in wheelchairs was also played by Polish national team, and some of their plays left camp coaches in awe.

The main event kicked off at noon on Saturday. As usual, Gortat announced his guests before they ran onto the court. Another nice gesture by Temple: he introduced himself to the public by singing “Polska, Biało-Czerwoni,” which is a song that Polish fans belt at the stadium in support of their national team. (At this time of this dispatch, Poland was in a soccer frenzy, but they’ve since been knocked out by Portugal after 120 minutes, losing 3-5 in the decisive penalty shootout.)

In order to watch Poland’s first knockout stage game versus Portugal, Gortat moved the NBA Jr. Clinic from after the kids camp to before, and the camp was a bit shorter than usual. The practice was obviously a great opportunity for the kids to learn from true professionals, but it was also a great opportunity for me to talk NBA with some people straight from the league. David Adkins is my personal favorite of the NBA people I’ve interviewed—and not just because he complimented me on my Wizards T-shirt and expressed his appreciation of the questions I asked. Apart from coach Adkins and Garrett Temple, I also got to talk with Marcin Gortat during his presser. It turns out that if you start asking an NBA player NBA-related questions in Poland, most of the journalists lose interest and the presser almost turns to an exclusive interview. We spoke just after the Joakim Noah, $120 million max contract offer from the Wizards rumor surfaced.

On the Noah rumor:

“I didn’t fully believe it, I don’t care about such situations. It would be like shooting ourselves in the foot, if we signed Noah for four years, $120 million—a player that didn’t have a fantastic season. I didn’t panic, waited for the events to unfold, and after a couple of hours I got a call telling me not to care about this hoax, because it’s not true.”

On if he’d see Noah coming off the bench at all (not at the max contract):

“I don’t think Noah would agree to be my substitute. He’s a very talented player that can easily be a starter.”

On if he’d been assured he’s not going to be traded:

“I don’t have any assurance per se, but we talked about this, and I was told I won’t be traded for now. I’m an important piece for this team.”

On the Wizards not making any moves during the draft:

“It’s a good thing to do, because we wouldn’t acquire anybody who would give us as much production as Markieff Morris. That’s why that trade was genius. It’s better to give up the 13th or 15th pick and get an experienced player. That’s a much better solution.”

At the end of the event, the kids had a turn to ask Gortat questions. Little campers were curious about how many cars Marcin had (two Porsche Panameras in Poland; a Rolls Royce and a Ford F-150 in the States), who he cheered for in Game 7 of the NBA Finals (Warriors), how many houses Gortat owned (two in Orlando, one in Washington, and a small two-room flat on the same block of flats where his parents live in his hometown, Łódź), and, finally, which NBA player would he like to block. Gortat’s answer: “LeBron, because I tried to block Kevin Durant three times and he posterized me every time. I give up on trying to block KD from now on.”

On Sunday, Team Gortat played the Polish Army team. On Gortat’s side was Adam Waczyński and a bunch of celebrities, while the Polish Army team consisted of Garrett Temple, Agnieszka Szott-Hejmej (Polish women’s basketball player, whom I mostly remember for winning some kind of beauty contest in the past), and Polish soldiers. The Army team dominated from the start, as Temple showcased more highlight-worthy dunks than he has in his entire NBA career. Waczyński was constantly torching the net for Team Gortat, but the host of the event fell short to the Army, 62-71.

I asked Waczyński, whose shooting form got compliments from Temple, about his talks with the Wizards (last year Tommy Sheppard extended him an invite for the Wizards’ summer camp).

Here’s what he told me:

“I was invited by the Wizards for this year’s Summer League, and the training camp, but right now I’m negotiating a contract with a new team in Spain. I decided to play it safe, as the Wizards wouldn’t offer me a guaranteed contract right away. Obviously, I’m not burning any bridges, so hopefully I will get another shot in the future. My agent is in touch with other NBA teams as well.”

It is believed that Waczyński, after a tremendous season for Obradoiro, will move to one of the top Spanish teams, Unicaja Malaga.

And that’s it from me. I leave you with a video from the Skills Challenge, where campers competed to win a trip to Washington with Gortat. As he’s done before, Gortat invited each camp’s MVP to the States instead of only the winner of the Skills Challenge. In the video, Gortat and Temple compete against each other. Keep in mind that they’re using a smaller-sized ball.

[Click to watch the video.]

As always, the camp provided a lot of fun for everybody.

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