Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Sat, 15 Sep 2018 21:40:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.11 Go-Go Hold Open Workout to Help Fill Roster http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/09/go-go-hold-open-workout-to-help-fill-roster.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/09/go-go-hold-open-workout-to-help-fill-roster.html#respond Sat, 15 Sep 2018 21:40:01 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55846

(h/t Capital City Go-Go)

The Capital City Go-Go will be starting their inaugural season in the NBA’s Development League, now known as the G-League, and the team hosted an open tryout to help fill out their roster. Basketball players from the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area and from all over the country flocked to the new St. Elizabeth’s arena practice facility to showcase their talents in front of a variety of Go-Go and Wizards staff.

The opportunity to chase their dreams was not lost on the more than 100 prospects who showed up in Southeast D.C. for the chance to become the next Jonathon Simmons. Simmons, currently with the Orlando Magic, jump-started his career when he paid $150 to try out for the Austin Spurs, the G-League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs. Last summer Simmons’ journey came full circle as he signed a 3-year $18 million contract and Go-Go General Manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu shared that story with the group of Go-G0 hopefuls before the tryout to let them know that it is still possible to reach their goals from this point.

Registration for the tryout began at 7 AM and there were a group of 20-30 players lined up outside the arena before the coaching staff even got there as if it were American Idol auditions. For some, this will be their last attempt at chasing their dreams of playing in the NBA. For others, it is just another step in their basketball journeys.

The tryout consisted of two different workouts, the first one filled with participants who paid $150 and the second with players personally invited by the Go-Go staff.  The first group started the day being lined up by height, shortest to tallest, and given a respective jersey number. Next was individual drill work with coaches and trainers and finally the crop of prospects ended up in intense scrimmages after players were broken down into teams.

Many of these players are from the DMV area, but some traveled from all over the country to take advantage of the opportunity to tryout for the latest expansion G-League team. A notable player who worked out with the first group was former University of Missouri forward Tony Criswell who most recently played for the London Lightning of the NBL, a professional basketball league in Canada. Criswell stood out among the group of paying players and had a chance to showcase his skills some more in the second group.

In that second workout there were a few notable former standout players from the DMV, including Georgetown product Austin Freeman, University of Virginia point guard Nigel Johnson and the pride of Baltimore basketball — Aquille “Crimestopper” Carr.

Carr became a basketball sensation on the high school scene a few years back, but is attempting to make a comeback with the Go-Go and hopefully live up to some of the hype and potential that he once showed as a prospect.

Overall, the Go-Go completed a step in the right direction of opening up a new pool of talent to complete their roster ahead of their opening game on November 1. The Go-Go already filled most of their roster through the G-League expansion draft, which netted the team a few intriguing players such as former Indiana Pacer Lavoy Allen, and via trade, acquiring promising guard Chasson Randle from the Westchester Knicks in exchange for a player they selected in the expansion draft.

Of the 100+ prospects to workout for the Go-Go, a lucky four will receive an invite to the team’s training camp and continue chasing their dream.

 

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Four Reasons To Be Excited About The Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/09/four-reasons-to-be-excited-about-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/09/four-reasons-to-be-excited-about-the-wizards.html#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 19:04:06 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55775 https://www.instagram.com/p/BmT-PnOgB9H/?hl=en&taken-by=bradbeal3

It’s mid-September, which means we are nearing the point when all four major sports are in play. The NFL has already given us one week of excitement, the MLB is knee-deep in pennant races, and both the NHL and the NBA are on the verge of opening training camps and eventually exhibition seasons.

On a local level, the Washington Mystics tried valiantly but were swept 3-0 by the Seattle Storm in the WNBA Finals. The Washington Nationals are all but eliminated from playoff contention, the Washington Football team is 1-0 after one week (curb your enthusiasm Washington fans), and the Capitals will begin their title defense shortly.

As a result, it is never too early to gin up the excitement for the Washington Wizards’ 2018-19 season.

The NBA had a sizable presence in the lives of NBA fans, from September of last year to this past July, from the highly entertaining season to the flurry of free agents signed and traded. But in August–save for Instagram posts and inflated Twitter beefs–the NBA went dormant but that is starting to change.

Dwight Howard and his trainer kicked off the chatter (or maybe it was an uproar) last month when Candace Buckner of The Washington Post reported that Howard, “wants to evolve into Anthony Davis, into Kevin Durant … but his own version of that.”

Lofty goals? Yes. Doable? Probably not. Having said that, there are four genuine reasons to be excited about this upcoming Wizards season. Let’s delve.

1) John Wall is motivated

Wall has documented his summer of intense workouts in entitled, “Summer of Separation,” and on more than one occasion, he explains his desire to push his body, get better, and to consistently play at an All-Star level. He also spoke with Michael Lee of The Vertical earlier this summer, where he once again spoke of the importance of preparing for this season given the changes in personnel (the additions of Howard, Jeff Green and Austin Rivers):

“People are saying it’s not going to work. I’m cool with taking on those burdens and understanding what it takes. That’s my job as a leader of the team, to get everybody to be on one page,” said Wall, who averaged 26 points and 11.5 assists in the playoffs despite returning to play just three of the final five regular-season games. “That was great, but we didn’t win. Now it’s what will John Wall do next? My job is to try to stay healthy. I can’t control that. I do all the stuff I’m supposed to do to. Everybody understands when I’m healthy what I’m really, really capable of doing, and when I’m not, I’m still a hell of a player in this league, but not the player I want to be. And I just want to be in the best shape possible.”

As TAI contributor Adam Rubin recently wrote, there is still an outside chance of meltdown between Wall and Howard (who Wall openly lobbied to come to D.C.), and of course, the Wall/Beal “beef” could always flare up again during the season, especially if the Wizards start slowly.  But for now, let’s focus on the good vibes.

Speaking of Beal…

2) Beal will be Beal again

Beal had career-highs in assists, rebounds, free-throw attempts, field-goal attempts, and games played. He led the team during Wall’s 41-game absence. In addition to the stats that can be tracked, Beal’s also showed more of a willingness to handle the ball, and find his way into the paint to score or distribute the ball. This Oladipo-like jump he took during his sixth season propelled him to the All-Star game, his first, and on paper that should have translated into success during the playoffs when Wall returned.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Beal appeared to fade towards the end of the season, and although he still averaged 23 points in the playoffs, he and Wall (who averagd 26 points and 11.5 assists) never seemed to hit their collective strides–as evidenced by the Wizards’ series loss to the Toronto Raptors in six games.

Washington’s All-Star backcourt will start the season healthy, hungry, and another year older–and hopefully wiser. Presumably, both players realize that success is not possible unless they are on the same page. And since Wall implied in that aforementioned interview with The Vertical that team played like joyless, disgruntled individuals, the assumption is that he will make sure to get Beal the ball in his sweet spots.

If Beal can successfully play off Wall (and the rest of the Wizards starters, of course), he will have more open shots and less attention when he drives the lane. That, along with strengthening of the bench (mainly guard Austin Rivers), will allow Beal to conserve energy and be closer to full strength when the 2019 playoff run commences. A freer, more energized Beal, when paired with a healthy, energized Wall, would truly ensure that everybody eats.

3) LeBron is out West

For the first time since 2003–just a few months before Michael Jordan abruptly left the then-Verizon Center after being fired by Abe Pollin–LeBron James is no longer a member of the Eastern Conference.

After 11 seasons, two titles with the Miami Heat and another with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James decided to take his seemingly limitless amount of energy and talent to the Western Conference as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

James and the Cavaliers terrorized the Eddie Jordan/Gilbert Arenas-led Wizards, sending them home in consecutive years (2006 and 2007). The John Wall/Bradley Beal-led Wizards had plenty of success against a LeBron-led team during the regular season–and one season, they actually accused the Cavaliers of ducking them in the first round.  But that version of the Wizards never had the opportunity to actually defeat big, bad LeBron, but they were in good company.

From 2010 until this past season, LeBron always represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. His departure doesn’t automatically vault the Wizards into the Eastern Conference Finals, but it certainly improves their chances given the competition.

Boston is talented and loaded at every position but with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning to their already youthful roster, there will surely be an adjustment period. The Philadelphia 76ers and their budding roster will be stronger and more mature than the year before, but they are still unproven. The Toronto Raptors have a more ideal mix of young and old players (including the addition of some guy named Kawhi Leonard), but they also have a new coach, a new philosophy, and an aging point guard in Kyle Lowry.

This isn’t to say that the Wizards are proven, or free of flaws flaws—just take a good look at last season’s team.  But the difference is that there isn’t a LeBron James in the conference who can skillfully and routinely exploit those deficiencies. Everyone is talented, everyone is vulnerable, and given that the Wizards will have the most experienced backcourt, they have more of a fighting chance than they’ve had since 2010.

4) The bench is strong(er)

Dwight Howard is the crown jewel of the Wizards’ offseason, and given what his ceiling could be, that is totally justifiable. But the Wizards also made some sneaky good moves to strengthen the versatility of their bench.

Last year’s bench averaged 35.6 points per game which was good for 16th in the NBA, but their plus/minus was minus-1.5 (22nd), and the played just 18.1 minutes per game (18th in the NBA).  Those numbers are a bit skewed because Wall, Markieff Morris and Otto Porter were all injured or hobbled at some point during the season which forced Coach Brooks to eschew normal rotations in favor of finding lineups that worked. Tomas Satoransky, Mike Scott, Kelly Oubre, Tim Frazier, and even Jason Smith found themselves in starting positions at some point during the season, thus throwing off any potential bench continuity.

But the bottom line–one which has been in play for at least two seasons now–is that the bench can neither be trusted to hold or increase the lead, nor can they give the starters a sufficient amount of rest. Until now…

Austin Rivers, who the Wizards acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers for Marcin Gortat, can play either guard position, he can score and dish, and he’s a serviceable defender. He averaged career-highs in points (15.1) assists (4.0), rebounds (2.4) and steals (1.2) last season.

The Wiz also added Jeff Green. As mercurial as his game has been during his career, he can guard multiple frontcourt positions, and he averaged 10.4 points in just 23 minutes a game for the Cavaliers last year.

Rookie Troy Brown has yet to play an NBA minute and should not be counted on to provide any type of consistent production. But his strong summer league performance cannot be pooh-poohed. He averaged 18 points a game, and he ran the point, he played off the ball, and he showed a willingness to defend. Yes, his outside shooting left much to be desired (18%) but Kelly Oubre is a shining example of how a rookie can improve with just one season of NBA experience.

Those new additions combined with Tomas Satoransky, who did yeoman’s work as a starter last season, the much maligned Kelly Oubre, and maybe even Jodie Meeks (provided he’s drug and injury-free) give the Wizards the potential to put an entire, starter-free lineup on the court, who could possibly, just maybe, increase a lead. That hasn’t been a realistic possibility during Coach Brooks’ tenure.

Are you excited yet?

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The Jodie Meeks Conundrum http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/09/the-jodie-meeks-conundrum.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/09/the-jodie-meeks-conundrum.html#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 06:52:18 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55803 John Wall, Jodie Meeks

When the 2017 NBA Free Agency period began, news broke that the Washington Wizards had inked Jodie Meeks to a two-year, $7 million deal. The signing of the 6’5″ veteran shooting guard to a relatively low-end contract seemed innocuous, but it immediately raised several red flags.

Meeks was coming off three injury-plagued seasons and he played just 99 games during that span. The demand for his services appeared non-existent, and the Wizards decision to lock him up early, instead of waiting the market out for a similar or better player on a more team friendly cap number, was puzzling. The patient approach weeks later allowed the Wizards to sign Mike Scott on a one-year minimum contract, which ended up being the most cost-efficient personnel move of last summer.

The rush to sign Meeks was compounded by the surprising decision to give him a player option on the second year. Option years in the NBA always benefit the party who holds it. If the player has the option and under-performs, he will exercise the option, much to the dismay of the team. If the team has the option and the player excels, the front office will keep the player on a team-friendly deal.

One of the many impressive accomplishments of John Wall’s professional tenure in DC is his elite ability to create open shots for teammates. Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Rasual Butler (RIP), Paul Pierce, Cartier Martin, and Bojan Bogdanovic all found success (and often financial reward) by running with Optimus Dime.

Meeks fit that bill as well on the surface. His defining characteristic in the league was being a solid spot-up shooter. Washington needed veteran shooting and any veteran leadership he could provide would also be beneficial. Being a Kentucky guy like John Wall certainly couldn’t hurt either.

The potential upside was Meeks becoming a long range threat for Coach Scott Brooks, providing scoring punch on the second unit and closing out games with the starters when he was filling it up on certain nights. The financial risk was low at $3.5 million for the 2017-18 campaign. The downside was Meeks flaming out, exercising his 2018-19 option, and the Wizards being stuck with his salary for an additional year. Although the cap hit figured to be low, every dollar was important considering the Wizards organization was deep in the luxury tax and had scary balance sheets for the foreseeable future. Of course, we know which outcome transpired: disaster.

Not only did Meeks offer little on the court as a Wizard, his season-defining moments were his agent publicly floating a trade demand and getting popped for performance enhancing drugs.

Epic disaster.

His injury history wasn’t the culprit. His inability to knock down shots was. Here are Meeks stats from last season:

Meeks began the season cold from the field, going month-long stretches with anemic shooting percentages, and he never consistently found the range.

Since Meeks isn’t an effective creator or an adept ball handler, his defensive liabilities became an issue when he couldn’t balance them out by drilling threes.

While it became painfully apparent that Meeks should be buried on the bench, Brooks kept him in the rotation for the first four months of the season. Brooks did something similar with Marcus Thornton, Trey Burke, and Tim Frazier, hoping those players would turn it around at some point, but his optimism was never rewarded.

Wizards fans began to sour on the Meeks experiment, and then this actually happened:

The initial reaction was hold up, Meeks has a camp?!? The guy who can’t guard anyone and fails at the only thing that keeps him employed in the NBA now wanted out of Washington? The mockery wrote itself.

Predictably, Meeks trade demand fell on deaf ears. The only Meeks-related positive memory from last season was him hitting this big three-pointer against Boston.

Meeks finished the season in an otherwise forgettable fashion by getting himself suspended 25  games for violating the NBA’s drug policy and was unavailable for the six postseason contests. Such a fitting way for Meeks’ underwhelming season to conclude.

During the Washington Capitals championship celebration on the Mall, I received an ESPN alert that…wait for it…Meeks had opted into the second year of his contract. Well DUH. I can’t even enjoy a triumph of Monumental hockey stewardship without a small reminder of their struggling basketball operation.

Small positive pixels is that Washington will save money due to Meeks drug use. 

Meeks will be suspended for the first 19 games of next season, costing him $596,695. The Wizards can deduct half that amount from their team salary for luxury-tax calculations – which might keep Meeks from getting stretched.

Questions remain: How will Meeks’ teammates accept him back? Can he contribute at all? How does Brooks handle this? If Meeks is out of the rotation, will he pout and become a distraction?

If Meeks can shed his cold shooting from last year and stay drug-free after the suspension, and morph into a consistent bench performer, then last year’s disappointment could be forgiven. But if not, his signing will be just another entry in the long list of free agent disappointments for the Wizards. 

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How Scott Brooks Can Avoid The Inevitable Dwight Howard-John Wall Meltdown http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/09/how-scott-brooks-can-avoid-the-inevitable-dwight-howard-john-wall-meltdown.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/09/how-scott-brooks-can-avoid-the-inevitable-dwight-howard-john-wall-meltdown.html#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 23:05:53 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55779

If history is any guide, the Washington Wizards’ 2018-19 half-court offense is headed towards a collision course between two immovable objects.

In one corner, there’s Dwight Howard and his fondness for camping out in the lane and demanding post-ups. In the other, there’s John Wall and his unabashed willingness to tell Dwight to move the f*** out of the way.

Howard tallied the third-most post ups in the entire league last year, trailing only Joel Embiid and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Wizards, on the other hand, hardly ever post-up. In fact, Dwight had more post-ups last year (499) than the entire Wizards team combined (462). Markieff Morris led the team with a measly 2.1 post-ups per game (compared to Dwight’s 6.2), and those were not “back your man under the basket and call for the ball” post-ups. They were of the “catch the ball 15-feet from the rim and shoot a turn-around jumper” variety.

Entry passes into the lane are so rare in Washington that two years ago Scott Brooks started every game with a post-up for Marcin Gortat as a joke, as if to say, “This is the only one you are getting tonight, so enjoy it.”

If Dwight Howard thinks John Wall will defer to him 499 times next season like his Charlotte Hornets teammates did, he is sorely mistaken. That goes double if Dwight Howard truly thinks — as his trainer told Candace Buckner earlier this summer — that he is going to use his time in DC to evolve into his own version of Kevin Durant.

If the 2015-2018 version of Dwight shows up in Washington, it should not take more than a handful of games for the following scenario to play out:

Dwight calls for a post-up. Wall waves him off. Dwight insists. Wall reluctantly gives him the ball and stands with his hands on his hips. Dwight bricks an 18-foot bank shot. In the next huddle John barks at Dwight and Dwight says something passive aggressive. Beal rolls his eyes while Scott Brooks says nothing. It will look something like this … but worse:

In Brooks’ two seasons in Washington, he has lived up to his reputation as a players’ coach. Unfortunately, too often that means refusing to hold his star players accountable. This is one of the most under-discussed risks of signing Howard. If Brooks continues his hands-off approach to player management and leaves Howard and Wall to work out their on-court differences on their own, the results will not be pretty.

Dwight’s “aw shucks, I’m just having fun” attitude isn’t going to fly with Wall’s “the F*** wrong with you boy” demeanor. It won’t be long before locker room whispers evolve into passive aggressive tweets, and all of a sudden there is an intra-squad feud that makes the Kumho Tires kerfuffle look like child’s play.

The good news is this doomsday scenario can be avoided. But it will require Scott Brooks to be something that he has not been thus far in Washington: a disciplinarian. Brooks’ number one training camp priority should be addressing Dwight’s role on the team. Howard needs to be told Day 1 that his days of camping out in the lane are over.

Show him game film of Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan — guys who are impactful despite attempting fewer than ten shots per game. Brooks needs to set expectations from the outset so that the players are not left to police themselves during the season. At his introductory press conference, Howard said he’s happy to play any role on the team. Now is the time to hold him to that.

If Brooks isn’t comfortable initiating that conversation with Howard, perhaps a suggestion from a high school coach I know would be helpful. He devised five simple rules to ensure Howard plays to his strengths:

  1. Dwight gets four post-ups per game
  2. If he gets one assist out of every two post-ups, he gets an extra post-up
  3. If he blocks four shots in one game, he gets an extra post-up the next game
  4. Total post-ups can never exceed total pick-and-rolls per game
  5. Pick-and-rolls only count if he rolls all the way to the rim

Now, you may be saying, “Dwight is a grown man, he shouldn’t be treated like a high school varsity player.” To which I’d reply, is he though?

But the point is well taken. Scott Brooks is not going to publicly humiliate Dwight by doling out low-post touches like a parent giving allowance for chores. Nevertheless, the theory behind the rules applies. There is a narrow set of circumstances under which Dwight Howard can be very successful on the Wizards. That requires him to focus exclusively on rebounding, blocking shots, setting picks and rolling to the rim. And absolutely nothing else.

It is Scott Brooks’ job to get Dwight to buy in and — most importantly — hold him accountable when he doesn’t. Brooks is already playing from behind in this regard. He spent almost the entirety of last season calling the Wizards’ effort “unacceptable” and crying wolf about needing to find five players who would compete, but never made a single lineup change or meaningful rotation change.

After waiting around last year for his players to “flip the switch,” Brooks no longer has the luxury of time. He needs to steer the ship this season and that process starts with managing Dwight Howard. Otherwise, the Wizards might be putting out an even bigger tire fire this season.


 

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The Polarization of Markieff Morris http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/08/the-polarization-of-markieff-morris.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/08/the-polarization-of-markieff-morris.html#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 00:20:24 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55761 Markieff Morris, Washington Wizards

The 2017-18 season was a mixed bag for the Wizards as a whole, and what is a team if not a sum of its parts? Mike Scott had a strong season, Jodie Meeks had a disastrous, forgettable season, but just about everybody else who played meaningful minutes in a Washington uniform had a fair share of positives and negatives to take from the year.

Markieff Morris was no exception. He had his lowest scoring average (11.5 points per game) since the 2012-13 season — his second in the league — and his 5.6 rebounds per game marked a stiff drop from the 6.5 boards per contest he grabbed a season prior. But he also dealt with injury problems early in the season and still finished with a .480 shooting percentage, up from .457 the year before. He shot .367 from beyond the arc, a career best, on a career-high 2.8 attempts per game, and his .536 eFG% was easily a personal best.

Morris played a more passive game last season than we’d previously seen from him, likely for a number of reasons. Injury concerns usually leave a player cautious, relegating him to more jumpers and fewer high-impact plays at the basket, and that was the case with Morris. John Wall’s extended absence also contributed to a different style of play, as the offense ran through a combination of Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky for much of that time.

In the 2016-17 season, Morris attempted 33.2 percent of his shots from within five feet of the basket, per NBA.com, and 24.6 percent of his shots from 20 or more feet away. A season later, those numbers nearly reversed; he took 24.3 percent of his shots within five feet of the basket and 32 percent of his shots at least 20 feet away.

Those numbers confirm what the eyes suggested: Morris spent a lot more of his time around the perimeter. On paper, that implies the 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward is adapting to the modern game by spacing the floor and not clogging the lane, and that’s partially true. He relied much more heavily on catch-and-shoot offense for himself, with moderate success. A season prior, 32 percent of his shots were classified as catch-and-shoot, and he shot .359 on those attempts. Last season, those numbers were up to 43.8 percent frequency and .430 efficiency.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Much of that shot chart was born out of stagnancy and apparent disinterest on Morris’ part. This has been part of the narrative for Morris his entire career: He’s great when he’s engaged, but he checks out of games for lengthy stretches.

This happened more frequently last season than in his previous season and a half in Washington, and it’s not fair to attribute it entirely to injury. In 76 games in 2016-17, Morris scored 20 or more points 14 times, and he failed to reach double-digits just 16 times. In 73 games last season, Morris scored 20-plus more just six times (he only surpassed 21 points three times) and failed to reach double-digits 28 times. Morris never scored fewer than five points in a game two years ago; one year ago, Morris had nine games of four points or fewer.

It wasn’t just an issue of scoring, he was markedly less active and less productive across the board last season. Expanding on that further:

  • He had 10 double-digit rebound games in 2016-17, four in which he hauled in 12 rebounds or more. He had six double-digit rebound games in 2017-18, only two of which featured 12 or more boards.
  • In 2016-17, Morris had 23 multi-steal games; he had just 12 such games last season.
  • He committed three or more turnovers on 16 occasions in 2016-17, but he did so 21 times (in three fewer games) last year.

He has always been something of a boom-or-bust player, but last year brought a more distinct gap in his highs and lows. He had a 17-rebound game against Memphis in just 32 minutes, but that was the only game he topped 12 rebounds all season. He had four points on four shots in a loss to Miami on March 10, then followed it up with a season-high 27 points on 15 shots in a loss to Minnesota on March 13.

He’ll Make You, He’ll Break You

Morris averaged 12.7 points per game on .503 shooting with the Wizards won. In losses, he averaged 10.3 points per game on .455 shooting. He won’t single-handedly win or lose you a game, but a good Morris game gives the Wizards a viable fourth option while a bad one creates a  void on both ends of the court.

Going hand-in-hand with his on-court volatility is Morris’ relationship with the team’s best player, John Wall. Wall and Morris get along well, and, for better or worse, enable each other. The two slowest players on the Wizards last year, by far, were Wall (average speed of 3.71 mph) and Morris (3.89 mph — though it went up to 3.92 during the long stretch Wall was out). Having Wall healthy for the whole season, ideally, will change a lot about the team, offensively and defensively. But if Wall comes back motivated with something to prove, it could in turn bring out the best in Morris due to their relationship.

Of course, Morris is only 28, and he’ll turn 29 shortly before the start of the season. There’s no real reason to think this is where his career is now headed. He entered last season with injury problems, as did Wall, and the team never really got off on the right foot. Maybe this season will bring a better start and therefore an encouraged and revitalized Morris — and if he’s hitting 3-pointers at the rate and efficiency he did a season ago, there’s reason to be optimistic for a career year.

With Morris, intangibles like state of mind and happiness levels cannot be ignored. But there’s a more clearly defined change that will impact how this season goes for Morris, and that comes in the form of his new frontcourt mate(s). (That said, the intangibles that come with the team’s new center acquisition are a whole other issue. If we were to start a pool today on who would be the first Wizards player to throw a punch at a teammate this season, and who the recipient of that punch would be, my money is on Morris throwing at Dwight Howard.)

Marcin Gortat was never an offensive dynamo, but his contributions on that side of the ball last season were basically reduced to setting screens and back-tapping missed shots. He clogged the lane, not because he was potentially dominant there, à la Rudy Gobert or DeAndre Jordan, but because he was more or less useless outside of the paint.

Dwight Howard is a different beast. He, too, is mostly relegated to the paint — about 85 percent of his field-goal attempts last season were in the paint, compared to about 83 percent for Gortat — but Howard, for all his many flaws on and off the court, can create his own offense.

And he’s a dynamic presence in the paint. For example, Howard converted 174 of 191 dunk attempts last season; Gortat went 28 for 37 on dunks. Gortat’s shots were very evenly split between jumpers/hook shots and layups/dunks at roughly 50-50; more than 60 percent of Howard’s shots last year were either layups or dunks.

Perhaps most notable: Howard has never once averaged fewer than 10 rebounds per game for a season. Gortat has only cleared 10 rebounds per game in two seasons.

(For what it’s worth, I was not and am not Team Howard.)

So that’s a very different style of player Morris and the rest of the Wizards, will have to get accustomed to. If Morris is indeed leaning all the way into the modern game and is willing to rely more on his outside shooting — his 3-point attempts have increased each of the past four seasons — then having Howard down low should help. Howard will draw more attention from defenses than Gortat ever did, even if it comes at the cost of fewer screens for Wall, and he is a much more adept rebounder who should ease some of that burden off Morris.

One other major element that could come into play: Morris is heading into a contract year. He’s coming off a somewhat disappointing season and is looking at entering an exceptionally volatile market — lots of teams have lots of money, but there are also an unusual number of high-level players hitting the open market. If he puts together a big year, he could be in line for a big payday from one of the teams that strikes out on the stars (ah yes, the Durant-Horford-Mahinmi Wild Finish). But if he puts together a lackluster season, he could easily become one of those decent players who has to settle for a subpar contract in mid-July because there’s no money left.

He’s entering his age-29 season with likely one decent contract left. The contract, the disappointment of last year, and the “wide open East” sans LeBron, not to mention the success his brother has had recently, perhaps we see a more motivated Morris than we’ve seen in a couple of years. And who knows, if he gets off to a good start, maybe the Wizards turn a strong first half and an expiring contract into something at the trade deadline. (Don’t get your hopes up.)

If Morris puts together a strong season, the Wizards could be Eastern Conference Finals-bound. After all, just a year ago, the Wizards were an up-and-coming team with mostly the same core they have now. While I don’t think it’ll happen, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that this team picks up where it left off two seasons ago. If that happens, Morris will be a big part of the success. If it doesn’t happen, don’t expect Morris to lead the team in a kumbaya singalong.

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What to Make of Bradley Beal http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/what-to-make-of-bradley-beal.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/what-to-make-of-bradley-beal.html#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 01:29:47 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55749

No one in their sane mind would question that the face of Washington Wizards is John F. Wall. When he is leading fast breaks, getting his teammates involved, getting to the free throw line, and, yes, judicious with his shot selection, Wall is a handful individually—and the Wizards are a formidable team collectively.

But last season, when John Wall missed 27 games while recovering from a minor procedure in his knee, it was Bradley Beal who took over the team and, temporarily, claimed the title as “The Man.”

During Wall’s absence, Beal’s scoring averaged dipped to 20.9 points (just two points from his eventual season average), but he averaged 1.3 more assists during that time, including 6.7 in the month of February. The team responded to Beal’s stewardship, too, averaging nearly 29.2 assists in February, and 27.2 in March, and they adopted and the much ballyhooed “Everybody Eats” mantra. (With wall, in January, the Wiz averaged 26.2 assists.)

With Beal’s new powers and the team’s collective confidence, there was every reason to believe that, when Wall returned, the Wizards would challenge for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals–a spot they just missed a year before.

But not so much.

The Wizards failed to get out of the first round due to inconsistent play, and Beal, who played well down the stretch and in the playoffs, was not able to lead or even co-lead his team to the same level of success.

Can Beal regain the momentum he had in Wall’s absence and build on that to take yet another step forward (if not a leap)? Has he plateaued already? Can and he and Wall, lead this slightly revamped Wizards into uncharted territory?

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) decided to have an in-depth discussion about Mr. Beal, as he prepares to enter his seventh year in the NBA.

@LedellsPlace

I must confess that even after watching virtually every game of Bradley Beal’s career, I am still not certain of his place in the NBA hierarchy.

Last year he began the season on a tear and earned his first All-Star nod. He was driving to the rim, finishing through contact and creating separation with step-back jumpers in the early months of the season. He seemed well on his way to claiming the title of best shooting guard in the Eastern Conference.

When John Wall went down, Beal led a dynamic but short-lived “Everybody Eats” renaissance that had many dreaming of the Wizards’ return to the top of the Eastern Conference.

But Beal’s season–along with the Wizards’–fizzled. By the end of the year, Beal was no longer slashing to the rim and absorbing contact for acrobatic and-1s. His free throw attempts dropped from 5.0 per game before the All-Star break to 3.4 per game after. He was playing point guard for long stretches with mixed results. He had a forgettable Game 2 against Toronto when he scored nine points in 24 minutes, leaving Wall to fend for himself.

Contrast Beal’s trajectory last season with the meteoric rise of Victor Oladipo, the continued excellence of DeMar DeRozan (now in San Antonio) and the impending return of Gordon Hayward, not to mention the continued growth of Jaylen Brown and even the rose-colored tweets about Markelle Fultz’s re-birth under Drew Hanlan.

We all know the Wizards’ biggest competitive advantage is its All-Star back court. But it seems fair (and a little scary) to ask: Even though Beal had a breakthrough season, is it possible that Washington’s advantage at shooting guard is even less now than it was a year ago?

@rashad20

I find myself just as unsure about Beal as you are. One the one hand, his game clearly improved last year, from ball handling to passing. Beal found the ability to efficiently get where he wanted with the ball on the court and absorb contact at the basket. He showed it before Wall got injured, and once Wall went down, he demonstrated that he could be the alpha dog on this Wizards team. But the increased workload/responsibility came with a price.

He played a career-high, injury-free 82 games, and as you alluded to, he simply ran out of gas when the stakes were the highest. Not only that, but he and Wall were not as in sync as they have been in previous years. Both players( along with Scott Brooks) will have to fix that before either player sets foot in training camp, let alone the start of the regular season.

But I think Beal deserves the benefit of the doubt. He worked on his game last year and it showed. He probably didn’t plan on doing the amount of heavy lifting he did. What if this offseason he is working on his conditioning and his ability to play the long game, not just focus the regular season and take what comes after? What if he (like the rest of the Wizards should be) is fueled by the absence of LeBron James, and is now re-doubling his efforts to be the best two-guard in the East? I think that’s worth considering.

The fact is, Beal will put up 22-27 points a night, he’ll get to the line at least four times a game (he averaged a career-high 4.5 free throw attempts last year), and he’ll continue to put pressure on any opposing backcourt, whether it features Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Oladipo, or Kawhi Leonard.

The big question for me is, will Beal learn how to be clutch? Because before his energy level failed him at the end of last year, he made a series of un-clutch plays during the season, and at times it seemed to affect his confidence. That, and the behind-the-scenes conflicts with Wall, are what concern me, not necessarily where he fits in the hierarchy of guards.

What say you, Mr. Rubin?

@LedellsPlace

I have to be honest, I was hoping you would snap me out of my skeptical funk with a “are you crazy, Beal is the best shooting guard in the East!?” response.

Nevertheless, I think you touched on the most important issue: Can Beal (and Wall) improve their play in the clutch. I’m not too concerned about the Wizards’ overall talent. Wall and Beal are a good enough foundation–from a strictly talent standpoint–to be a top-4 team in the East.

But that’s also the problem. It feels like Wall and Beal will always be destined for the 4/5 matchup. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Gilbert/Caron/Antawn era topped out at three 4/5 matchups in four years. Moving beyond that plateau requires a team building concept that the Wizards’ front office has not mastered. Ernie Grunfeld has shown the ability to assemble top-heavy starting lineups but he doesn’t surround them with enough depth or complementary pieces. Even with the addition of Dwight Howard, Austin Rivers and Jeff Green — a trio which has owner Ted Leonsis calling this the deepest roster during his ownership — the Wizards’ fate falls squarely on Wall and Beal’s shoulders.

So, rightly or wrongly, Washington’s success is heavily dependent on Beal making yet another leap and becoming a reliable crunch time scorer. It’s frustrating because he has shown flashes of a Ray Allen/Dwyane Wade-esque ability to take over games on the offensive end. But we are way beyond the “shows flashes” stage of Beal’s career. He may only be 25 years old, but Beal is entering his seventh season in the NBA. It’s been five seasons since his first playoff appearance. It’s time to put a complete season together.

One thing working in Beal’s favor is that he will finally have a viable backup in Austin Rivers. Given the lack of depth at shooting guard, Scott Brooks played Beal a ridiculous amount of minutes last season. Presumably, Rivers will lessen Brad’s workload by two to three minutes per game, which should increase his efficiency and save his legs a few hundred minutes for the post-season.

How do you think the Wizards’ improved depth–as well as playing alongside Dwight Howard–will impact Beal’s game this season?

@rashad20

Dwight Howard, for all his goofy behavior and inconsistent play over the past year still has the potential to be a rim protector, which on paper should do wonders for the Wizards fast break. If Dwight blocks or alters a shot and gets Wall the ball quickly, Beal simply has to sprint to the 3-point line and wait. Wall and Beal have mastered this fast break play at different times during their tenure, but never with the luxury of a legitimate big man–assuming he’s engaged. If I were Scott Brooks, I would putt together a package of plays designed to get Wall clear passing/driving lanes, and Beal open 3-point shots.

Trying to answer whether or how the arrival of Austin Rivers will affect Beal’s game is dependent upon the judgment of Scott Brooks–and that has so far been shaky, at best. After all, Rubin, we both felt like the emergence of Tomas Satoransky as a productive NBA point guard would allow Wall to rest and would add to the potency of the second unit. But Brooks decided to play Sato at the 2 or 3, and later Ty Lawson was brought in, and the situation became more chaotic than productive.

If Brooks is smart, he’ll tweak his lineup so that Wall can rest the last three or four minutes of the first quarter, giving Sato or Lawson a chance to run the team, and then allowing Beal to rest that same amount of time in the second quarter, so that Rivers can work his magic. Ideally, this will allow Beal and Wall to play closer to 34 minutes per game. Considering Beal struggled at the end of games and at the end of season, perhaps those stolen moments of rest will be the nudge he needs to make that Ray Allen/Wade-type transformation you alluded to earlier.

Do you think it is necessary for Coach Brooks (or maybe even Leonsis or Grunfeld) to force Wall and Beal to sit down and iron out their differences for the good of the team? Because I don’t know about you, but I feel if this Wizards team starts slowly and underachieves, the Wall/Beal issue, whatever it may be at that point, will resurface once again.

@LedellsPlace

Call me crazy but I don’t think Wall and Beal’s lack of friendship off the court impacts their play on it. The end-of-game hero ball is a big problem for the team but I don’t think Wall and Beal’s relationship is the problem. In fact, I think Scott Brooks is more to blame for the team’s late-game failures.

His plays are not creative and take too long to develop. Too often, Wall dribbles the ball at the top of the key for 20 seconds waiting for Beal to run through a series of picks. This inevitably leads to one of two scenarios. Either Beal catches the ball with way too little time on the shot clock and cannot create a decent shot, or, if Beal is not open, Wall has to break off the play with the shot clock winding down and forces a fade-away jumper.

This isn’t to say that Beal (and Wall) are without blame. Just that I don’t think their interpersonal relationship is the issue. Instead, they both need to decide for themselves that 40-win basketball is not good enough. That requires more than just saying the right thing in the locker room and scoring 22 points per game. You need to impose your will on the court. When your team is blowing a 15-point lead to the New York Knicks on a dreary Tuesday night in mid-January, you need to walk into the huddle and say, “Nope, this isn’t happening,” and then back it up on the court.

For several years now, those kind of games have gone the other way, with head scratching losses and befuddled locker room quotes from Beal and his teammates. So, I don’t think Beal and Wall need to iron out their differences, but they do need to sit down–metaphorically, at least–and make a pledge that this year is going to be different.

@rashad20

It sounds awfully like a full Zen Phil Jackson thing to say, but I do think Wall and Beal need an actual (not a metaphorical) sit down with Coach Brooks. Yes, the end-of-game plays drawn up by Coach Brooks have left much to be desired, and yes, Wall has fallen in love with his dribble-drive ability one too many times . . . and hell yes, Beal seems to tense up when his services are needed most. But that’s all the more reason for a discussion. And in my head, here’s how that discussion should play out.

Brooks needs to impress upon Beal and Wall that this is their team and the proverbial sense of urgency is high. Then there should be a group discussion where Beal and Wall discuss successful plays and situations. And finally, Beal needs to speak up and discuss what made the Wall-less Wizards work so well and see if they can incorporate bits and pieces of that into this new roster, which now includes Austin Rivers and Dwight Howard.

This sounds more like an SNL sketch than a realistic situation, but if Wall, Beal and Brooks fall short of expectations early, this could be quite a long season for everyone. Wall is going to be Wall, and sadly, Brooks has proven to be exactly who we thought he’d be.

Beal is the wild card here. If he can find another gear, and if Howard or Rivers are steady, that could be enough to offset Brooks’s shortcomings. The Wizards could exceed expectations.

https://twitter.com/cmillsnbcs/status/1024332448790925312

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Dwight Still Has Star Power, But Can He Be A Winning Player? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/dwight-still-has-star-power-but-can-he-be-a-winning-player.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/dwight-still-has-star-power-but-can-he-be-a-winning-player.html#respond Wed, 25 Jul 2018 03:59:44 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55726

The Washington Wizards media market is B-list, at best. There just isn’t a large contingent of journalists who show up for every single team press conference or media availability. If Monday afternoon’s introductory press conference for A-list NBA superstar and future Hall of Famer Dwight Howard was any indication, that might change this week.

When Howard was asked about all of his team movement in the latter stages of his career, he electrified the Etihad Lounge in the bowels of Capital One Arena with a pre-written soliloquy charting his journey in comedic form: “I learned Magic for eight years. Traveled to La La Land. Learned how to work with Rockets. And then I went and learned how to fly with some Hawks. Got stung by the Hornets. Just a joke. But through all of that, it’s taught me how to be a Wizard.”

This was peak Dwight Howard—jovial, corny, and histrionic. And for the most part, media members, team officials, and a group of season-ticket holding fans ate it up.

That stand-up comedic bit seemed like an act to draw attention to himself and to deflect attention away from the real questions  about why Howard keeps bouncing around from team to team. He got the exact reaction he wanted with his quote of the afternoon—Google today—and even took some time after the camera lights went off to check his phone to see how “viral” the comments had gone. Dwight elicited the exact response he was looking for because that seemed to be all everyone on NBA twitter talked about for at least an hour after his press conference ended. If Dwight Howard was looking to win over people with his introductory press conference—mission accomplished.

What most resonated with me was how he plans on retiring in Washington. “For the rest of my career here, and I plan to be here until I retire, it’s about this team. It’s about us winning,” Howard said.

With his trainer seated in the front row, right next to Dwight Howard, Sr., the artist formerly known as Superman stated that, while he’ll be 34 when his contract expires in 2020, he does not plan on retiring anytime soon. “For me, I plan on playing this game for another good eight years,” he said.

Howard insinuated that he plans on playing until he’s 40, prompting Scott Brooks (sitting next to him) to say that he doesn’t even know if he can coach for eight more years. The joke about him bouncing around from team to team is based in fact and when Dwight Howard begins throwing out lofty and perhaps unrealistic expectations, he begins to show a chink in the armor of his Superman exterior. As twitter investigators found out yesterday, this is not the first destination that Dwight has claimed to be his last.

Now, there is room to be optimistic that the Wizards may be the best fit for Dwight since his days of dominance in Orlando.

Howard voluntarily left the Houston Rockets after falling out with James Harden, plus he could see the writing on the wall about his role being diminished with the emergence of Clint Capela. Howard’s next destination was his hometown Atlanta Hawks, where he had reasonable success, helping lead that team to a fifth seed in the playoffs. After that season, Atlanta decided to pivot as an organization to tanking mode after the harsh realization that they had capped off a run with their current core.

Last season Dwight Howard had one of his better season in the last five years, averaging 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game close to his career averages of 17.4 points and 12.7 rebounds. The Hornets did not reach their goal of making the playoffs, but to no fault of Dwight Howard. After the season, Charlotte fired head coach Steve Clifford, prompting an organizational shift that would not include Howard. Part of the reason Dwight has bounced around so much has to do with teammates being frustrated by his old-school playing style of being a center who demands post touches instead of focusing on rim-running and screening. While there have been negative things said about him in the press, Howard felt as though he had been about winning.

The center said he felt “stung” by being traded from the Hornets and even put in a call to General Manager Mitch Kupchak to find out why.

“I asked Mitch and I asked the coach: What did I do? Was it something in the locker room that I did? And Mitch said, ‘No, it had nothing to do with the locker room. It has nothing to do with you as a person. We just felt like we wanted to go in this direction as a team. If this is the truth, you need to come out and say this stuff, because people are thinking it’s because I did something in the locker room or acted a certain type of way. And I’m like, ‘This is not who I am.’ “

How does Dwight fit on the floor?

The driving narrative in the signing of Dwight Howard has been largely about what it means in terms of locker room fit, and only time will tell if that is much ado about nothing or actually something. What we do know is that at the end of the season, John Wall commented in his exit interview that the team needed to add an athletic big man, and that is what they did.

Dwight Howard is as athletic as they come in terms of centers in the NBA, a major upgrade in athleticism over Marcin Gortat. There is a lot of speculation that John Wall and Gortat’s deteriorating relationship is the reason why Gortat was shipped out of town—and it can only be taken as a positive sign that it was Wall who reached out to Dwight via Instagram to ask him about joining forces in Washington. Basketball-wise, Wall is by far the best point guard that Dwight Howard has played with in his career. Howard admitted so himself: “No disrespect to the point guards I’ve played with in my career, John is a different type of animal.”

Scott Brooks seems just as excited to have Howard on the team because he’s the best center that he’s ever coached and, even in the small ball NBA-era, Howard should help Brooks open up his playbook.

“We want to shoot more 3s, and with him [Dwight] on the floor, he spaces it because defenses key on him,” Brooks said. The Wizards ranked 23rd last season in 3-point attempts despite finishing tied for third in 3-point percentage, with only Golden State and Boston besting them. The Wizards should not have to dramatically change their offensive sets that were predicated on lots of Gortat screens because Dwight actually finished sixth in the NBA last season in screen assists, just two spots behind Marc.

So let’s talk verticality. The Wizards pick-and-rolls can now be finished with alley-oops at the rim instead of bounce passes for layups (which Gortat would often miss), and that will indeed draw enough attention away from Washington stable of sharp-shooters to be more active than they were last season. Howard said he’s back to slapping the backboard like he did in his old Superman days and word is the cape will make a comeback in Washington: “It was a little dusty, had a couple of holes in it, so I had my seamstress put it back together and got it cleaned.”

Defensively, Dwight adds much needed rim-protection to a team that finished 22nd in blocks per game last season, led by their point guard in that category. There will be some questions as to which lineups Brooks will choose to close games with, as most teams tend to go even smaller in fourth quarters, but Howard says he’s not worried about that right now.

He came to D.C. because he sees this as an opportunity to not just forget the past and rehab his image, but to win, too.

“I’ve been put with a wonderful organization,” he said. “It all worked out perfect. I really think we have a great opportunity to win in the East. All of us are hungry. To finally be here, it feels like home. I’m looking forward to it.”

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Part II: Satoransky Talks Life in the NBA with Czech Forbes http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/part-ii-satoransky-talks-life-in-the-nba-with-czech-forbes.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/part-ii-satoransky-talks-life-in-the-nba-with-czech-forbes.html#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 03:55:17 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55721

[Photo from Czech Forbes]

At the beginning of April, Tomas Satoransky did an interview (titled “I’m Living My Dream”) with Czech Forbes magazine in Washington, D.C. It ran in the June edition. Satoransky offered some interesting comments about being a rookie in the NBA, life on the road and making a name for himself on the Wizards. Lukas Kuba (@Luke_Mellow), TAI’s Czech correspondent since 2011, translated the lengthy interview. This is Part Two of the interview. Part One is here.

Forbes Česko: What is it like to negotiate a deal with an NBA team?

Saty: A player is not present at negotiations, I only dealt with it from afar. I had never played in America, so my starting position wasn’t entirely ideal. The Wizards knew absolutely everything about me, but they had never seen me play in America, so they didn’t know how I would fare against tougher competition. Moreover, another thing that matters are the other salaries on the team, because in the NBA there’s a set salary cap. So when a team has high contracts on the payroll, it can’t even offer you more money. But nevertheless we managed to increase the original offer.

Forbes: To 3 million dollars gross per year, which is still a below-average salary in the NBA.

Saty: I don’t mind it. If all I cared about were money, that would be bad because it would be affecting me. I’ve never envied others their money, I don’t have it in myself. I do it for the love of basketball and if all I cared about were money, I would be only cheating the game. I just always assure myself that as long as I play all-out and I give all I have every game, those bigger money will eventually come.

Forbes: When did you start playing basketball?

Saty: Probably in the second grade. I loved Michael Jordan, probably like everyone else then. I was seven or eight and I was watching him dunking all the time. I was fascinated by his athleticism.

Forbes: Have you ever met him personally?

Saty: No. He owns the Charlotte Hornets franchise and they say that he always sits right beside the bench. When we played there I didn’t get on the court, so I at least kept peeking at their bench trying to spot him somewhere out there. But he wasn’t there. His business is probably so big that he doesn’t get to games much.

Forbes: Back to your beginnings.

Saty: I started in USK [Prague], where they opened an after-school basketball group back then. I have always done ball sports, I probably had talent for them – namely, in our family everyone plays volleyball. My grandma always doesn’t like to hear it but I considered volleyball boring. But those two sports are kind of similar.

Forbes: Were you a natural talent at basketball or did you have to work hard to master it?

Saty: I certainly had talent. And luck as well, because I could take something from everyone in the family. For example, grandpa and mom always played fierce volleyball and put a lot of heart into it, and I probably got it from them. I go into everything at full blast and I hate losing. My mom was a teacher in the kindergarten, where she must have had fun with me because for me every kid game was a life or death matter.

Forbes: Are you still the same today?

Saty: Yes. My wife could tell how tough it sometimes is with me after a game, when we lose and I’m frustrated. But we play so many games that I gotta calm down, there’s no time for it because tomorrow we play again. But it’s a fact that I have a bit of a problem with it from time to time.

Forbes: So the first season must have been tough for you. You came to the NBA as a Barcelona star, but you didn’t get many opportunities and playing time as a rookie.

Saty: It was tough. It was a frustrating period. I pondered what might have been, if I had made the right decision coming over to America. I came here because of basketball, but then I didn’t play. But I’m not the type to give up quickly, that also helped me.

Forbes: Did you expect such a scenario?

Saty: I expected that it would be complicated, but I didn’t realize how much until I came here. Without direct experience, you can’t really imagine it. I expected some of it, but I didn’t really expect what I would have to go through and what my position on the team would be.

Forbes: Maybe they just wanted to test your character by making it rough on you?

Saty: I didn’t care in that moment, it bothered me, but maybe it could be one of the explanations. That’s how Marcin Gortat, a Pole who’s been in the NBA for 11 years, was explaining it to me. He kept reiterating to me that I have to be patient. What also made it more difficult was that there’s a difference between being a 25-year-old rookie and being a 19-year-old one. At 19, you know that you have lots of time in front of you. I was telling myself: I’m in my best years, I have the best period of my career, but at the same time I don’t play. Several times it has crossed my mind if it wouldn’t be better if I was elsewhere.

Forbes: Has it crossed your mind that you could become worse at basketball by not playing?

Saty: Such thoughts popped into my mind too. I didn’t play and we also didn’t practice much, so I had to maintain myself individually. Even when I had a free day, I went to the gym alone to work out in order to keep myself in game shape and be ready if I got a chance to play. It was not an easy period at all, but I was telling myself that if it doesn’t give me anything playing-wise, at least it is perhaps going to steel me mentally-wise.

Forbes: Last year, an influential Washington journalist Adam Rubin thought up a hashtag on your behalf, #FreeSato, and was clamoring for more playing time for you.

Saty: I knew about it also because fans were tagging me on Twitter and adding that hashtag. It probably had not much big influence on the team, but it helped me in self-confidence, because I felt that I had the support.

Forbes: Describe that stress when you sit on the bench for half a game and then you have only couple of minutes to prove that you deserve a bigger opportunity.

Saty: This was the biggest challenge I’ve experienced in America. Coming off the bench and subbing for the biggest star of the team is quite stressful, because in such a situation mistakes are not forgiven. If I made a mistake, I would get subbed out quickly. I had to be mentally prepared for this. The NBA has taught me that I have to be prepared to immediately take advantage of the opportunity.

Forbes: Which you exactly did, when John Wall got injured at the beginning of this year.

Saty: Yes. I had the advantage that this was my second season here, so I was a little bit more experienced. Last summer I played with the Czech national team and I worked on the things about which I was convinced could help me in the NBA. I felt that I was ready.

Forbes: And you surprised everyone with your performances. Which compliment pleased you most?

Saty: Last year we played well and thanks to it we played more nationally televised games on ESPN or TNT this year, so thus more people noticed me, people who until then didn’t have a clue at all who Satoransky is. So I was probably most pleased by praise from Isiah Thomas, former Pistons star player, who said on one broadcast that I’m kind of a glue guy. Literally a glue which cements a team together and improves its performance. That was a nice thing to hear.

Forbes: What kind of relationship do you have with Wall?

Saty: We are cool. We are definitely not the best buddies, but I communicate with him quite often. We play at the same position so every so often I come up to him for advice.

Forbes: Do you have a rivalry with him?  

Saty: The NBA is a big business and the rivalry on the team is bigger than I was used to from Europe. But with regards to John, I don’t have any rivalry with him. I know how the roles on the team are distributed – and John’s role is unshakeable. So if I want to be on the court more, I have to get better playing at other positions than point guard. So now I’m trying to get better and take advantage of John’s speed in order to open new opportunities for me when we are on the court together.

Forbes: By the way, what is it like when you are on the court and a player who’s 20 kilos [44 lbs] heavier and 20 centimeters [8 inches] taller is running at you at full speed?

Saty: It sounds scary, but in that moment I cannot think much about it. So I rather go headlong into it. I’ve learned that showing fear is the worst thing I can do. In the NBA, the players sense it and then they go after you even more. Obviously, it is hard not to have awe when I go against LeBron, who weighs 130 kilos [287 lbs] and is physically an incredibly strong human, but at least it must not be seen on me. It would be my weakness.

Forbes: Is the NBA still more difficult for a white man?

Saty: Well, it’s known about me that I was a very athletic type of player in Barcelona. But this athleticism of mine isn’t so unique here like it was in Europe. Let’s face it, everyone in the NBA is athletic. I probably have advantage in the understanding of basketball. I read the game differently. But regarding foot speed and quickness, it’s a lot more difficult here.

Forbes: How have the NBA and America changed you?

Saty: Not in any way fundamentally. Rather, they gave me another view on the world. I enjoy Washington, by American standards it is a very European city. Even so, I rather prefer Spain than America.

Forbes: In what specifically?

Saty: On the one hand, I’m still not used to American units. All those pounds and ounces. So when I refuel I just rather say “Full tank.” But that is amusing. What I don’t like is that it’s a land of awful wasting. Americans waste a lot, perhaps leading the world in this regard. It’s terrible, in a store they give you a plastic bag for everything, even if you don’t need it. In the NBA we always have a lot of food around us and sometimes there’s so much of it that it just gets thrown away. That awfully bothers me and I can’t put up with it. And moreover, I miss that Spanish warmth a little. Americans are warm, too, but I never know when it’s sincere.

Forbes: You still have one year left on your deal with the Wizards, but staying in the NBA is much tougher than, say, in the NHL.

Saty: Probably, yes. In comparison with the NHL, in the NBA there’s probably a bigger competition. Moreover, in basketball there’s usually a roster turnover of 30 percent after every season, which is not usual in other sports, either. So the road to the NBA is awfully tough, and going back [to Europe] is terribly easy.

Forbes: So is it important to take advantage of every moment you’re in the NBA?

Saty: Yes, this is probably the most important message that we get at the beginning at all those courses [like the RTP]. That it is good to meet as many behind-the-scenes people as possible, because perhaps one day it can be helpful for your own business. So I try to get to know as many people as possible and to learn something new. When you’re here and you have the label of an NBA player, even important people talk to you differently.

Forbes: What drives you forward now, when you’ve already fulfilled your dream of playing in the NBA?

Saty: I still want to get better and to have an even bigger role on the team, that’s the goal for me now. And there’s one more thing that drives me forward. I’ve been on famous teams but at the same time I’ve won quite little. When I was in Barcelona, Real Madrid was just dominating in the Spanish league, so we won only one cup (Note: Spanish Super Cup in 2015). I know that this goal is awfully tough in the NBA, but it’s already high time for me to win something.

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Summer League Day 1 – Wizards Suffer Ugly Loss to Cavs http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/summer-league-day-1-wizards-suffer-ugly-loss-to-cavs.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/summer-league-day-1-wizards-suffer-ugly-loss-to-cavs.html#respond Sat, 07 Jul 2018 15:53:39 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55709  

[Washington Wizards summer league coach Ryan Richman leads a huddle during July 6, 2018 game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo – A. Rubin]

One of the unintended consequences of Ernie Grunfeld’s penchant for trading and selling draft picks is that the Wizards summer league teams have been disappointingly boring.

Not this year. The Wizards finally used both their draft picks (Troy Brown, Issuf Sanon), picked up a promising young player off waivers (Thomas Bryant) and brought back last season’s two-way player (Devin Robinson). The Wizards even got to play against a top-10 pick in their opening game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers (Collin Sexton, No. 8).

Theoretically, this should be Washington’s most exciting summer league team in years. I say “theoretically” because I wrote that introduction before I actually entered the Cox Pavilion and watched whatever it is you would call the Wizards first game.

Washington played the first half like a third-grade team without a point guard. Each offensive possession ended with a turnover worse than the last. Passes flew out of bounds, off of feet, off of backs and sometimes directly into the hands of the opponent. The Wizards were stuck on 10 points well into the second quarter and even with a (relatively) more successful second half, they only managed 59 points for the entire game. I’m not sure how they did it, but Washington committed 25 turnovers in 40 minutes of play.

Luckily, wins and losses don’t matter in summer league, and individual player performances are far more important to the Wizards organization.

Speaking of the Wizards organization, all the big guns were out in full force in Vegas. Ernie Grunfeld, Scott Brooks, John Wall, Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre and (reportedly) Austin Rivers attended the first game. Some guys looked happier than others.

https://twitter.com/WashWizards/status/1015417052171911170

[Ernie Grunfeld and Scott Brooks at the Wizards July 6, 2018 summer league game. Photo – A. Rubin]

So, without further ado (and with all the usual reminders not to take summer league too seriously) let’s get to some Instant Analysis of the Wizards and few other notable players from around the league.

Wizards

Troy Brown, Jr.: Troy Brown’s summer league debut was a lot like Kelly Oubre’s — at least on the offensive end. For a guy who is supposed to be the anti-Oubre, Brown forced a lot drives into traffic that ended with a block or a turnover (6-for-14 FG, five turnovers). To be clear, this is only one game and I am not saying the two are similar players, just that Brown and Oubre had similar troubles adjusting to the speed of quasi-NBA games in their debut.

I expect Brown to improve exponentially as the jitters wear off and he becomes more comfortable on the court. Brown was more or less as advertised in his 27 minutes on the court. He’s not a great athlete but showed poise and an awareness at the defensive end that is often lacking at summer league.

In short, Brown continued the long line of nondescript summer league debuts for Wizards rookies, from Oubre to Bradley Beal. However, the last rookie to make a splash for Washington was Glen Rice, Jr. So maybe that’s a good thing.

Issuf Sanon: I can confirm that Issuf Sanon exists. That’s about it. Despite the fact that Washington’s point guard play was comically bad in the opening half — committing turnover after turnover — Sanon never got in the game. I assume this was by design. The Wizards have a history of spreading out summer league minutes so that some guys play heavily in the first couple games and then not at all by the end of the week. Hopefully, it was pre-determined that Sanon would get a DNP on Day 1, no matter what point guard atrocities were being committed on the court.

Devin Robinson: Robinson returned to the Wizards summer league team with a completely different mentality than his debut last season. From the opening tip, he attacked the offensive rim with aggression. His most impressive play may have been an unsuccessful offensive rebound attempt early in the game. He bounced off the floor like it was a trampoline and rose well above the rim. He also had a thunderous dunk in the opening minutes.

He was definitely forced the issue on offense, but that’s par for the course in summer league .  Robinson played exactly like a guy who spent last season in the G-league and wants to show his coaches that he is ready for the majors.

Robinson is still skinny but looks noticeably stronger on the court. I’m not sure if he’s put on that much weight or if it is just his increased confidence. His jumper is still shaky (4-for-11 FG, 0-for-2 3PT) and that will most likely be the biggest issue that keeps him from joining the varsity squad. At one point in the first half Devin unintentionally banked in a jumper, giving a Jordan-esque shrug as he backpedalled down the court.

Thomas Bryant: Bryant is active on and off the court but he did not do anything particularly well. He did yell at his teammates from the bench to talk on defense as Cleveland brought the ball up the floor, so that’s good. Usually, the Wizards don’t yell at each other on defense until after a basket is scored.

Around The League

Collin Sexton, Cleveland: If you just looked at the box score (4-for-12, 0 assists), you’d think Collin Sexton had a poor summer league debut. You’d be wrong. Right from the opening tip, it was clear Sexton was playing at another level. He was the fastest guy on the court and his game could best be described in one word: smooth.

His handles are not at Kyrie Irving’s level by any means, but the ball seems like an extension of his arm when he’s dribbling. He was able to get anywhere he wanted on the court and he made some great passes once he got there. He laughed off ball pressure, got to the rim with ease (6-for-6 FT) and played with confidence and a bit of swagger. I have no idea how he ended up with zero assists, but I expect some big games from him this summer.

Robert Williams, Boston: Williams came off the bench in his summer league debut, presumably as punishment for missing his introductory conference call and first practice with the Celtics. His first few minutes on the court were unremarkable. He was moving well on offense but never touched the ball and was not impacting the game at all on either end of the court. I was beginning to wonder why he was in the mix for the Wizards at the #15 pick in the draft.

Then Williams caught the ball under basket and quickly rose up for a powerful dunk. Then he hit a smooth step-back jumper. Then he skied for a defensive rebound. Then he showed nice touch on a shot-clock-beating floater (it missed, but still). In just a few short minutes, he showed all the physical tools that caught the eye of scouts. He’s still raw, he still has off court issues and he was quite winded after a few minutes of play, ending the first quarter with his hands on his hips. But you can at least see what made him so intriguing on draft night, despite the red flags.

Chris McCullough, Philadelphia: Am I really going to do this? Sure, why not. You may remember McCullough as the throw-in to the Nicholson-Bogdanovic trade. The Wizards front office predictably called him the first round pick they never had. He’s still the first round pick they never had.

McCullough started for the 76ers and flashed the same subtle irrelevance that he did during his brief stint on the Wizards. He bricked a 3-pointer, got blocked at the rim and committed a couple fouls. He finished his 12 minutes on the court missing all six of his field goal attempts.

Furkan Korkmaz, Philadelphia: I sort of remember seeing this guy’s name on the 76ers roster last season. He made sure I would not forget his name on Day 1 in Vegas. Korkmaz started the game by hitting a 3-pointer. Then a few possessions later he hit another 3-pointer. He is not a particularly athletic guy, but he’s crafty. Like a smaller Hedo Turkoglu.

He caught the crowd’s attention and when he hit another three-pointer a couple minutes later there was a little buzz in the crowd at Thomas & Mack. One of the fun quirks of summer league is when an unknown player gets on a roll and a groundswell of support starts building in the stadium. It’s like when a 15-seed takes an early lead in a first round game and the previously disinterested crowd starts to pay attention. As the points keep coming, they start to adopt the underdog as their own.

He re-entered the game in the second quarter and quickly scored a four-point play. Unfortunately, I had to switch gyms for the start of the Wizards-Cavs game so I missed the rest of the Furkan show. When the curtain fell, Korkmaz had dropped 40-points on 10-for-18 FG (8-for-14 3PT) and 12-for-15 FT and cemented his place in the lore of summer league.

Mikal Bridges, Phoenix: I only saw the No. 10 pick play for a few minutes, but he didn’t miss a three-point shot shot while I was there. He finished 5-for-6 (4-for-5 3PT) and looked real confident on the court — with good reason.

Lakers Fans: The Los Angeles Lakers takeover of summer league reached an apex last season when tickets sold out for Lonzo Ball’s Saturday night debut. Even without any notable players on the court, they are still out in full force this season.

 

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“I’m Living My Dream” — Satoransky Talks Life in the NBA with Czech Forbes http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/im-living-my-dream-satoransky-talks-life-in-the-nba-with-czech-forbes.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/im-living-my-dream-satoransky-talks-life-in-the-nba-with-czech-forbes.html#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 01:41:58 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55701

Tomas Satoransky: I'M LIVING MY DREAM pic.twitter.com/1LPm2GuFAI

— Lukas Kuba (@Luke_Mellow) June 13, 2018

At the beginning of April, Tomas Satoransky did an interview (titled “I’m Living My Dream”) with Czech Forbes magazine in Washington, D.C. It ran in the June edition. Satoransky offered some interesting comments about being a rookie in the NBA, life on the road and making a name for himself on the Wizards. Lukas Kuba (@Luke_Mellow), TAI’s Czech correspondent since 2011, translated the lengthy interview. Part One is below. Part Two is coming later this month.

Forbes Česko: At the moment, you’re the only Czech in the NBA. What does it actually mean for you?

Saty: I don’t want to praise myself much, but it is a fact that I didn’t come here from fully a basketball country, so it’s that much more interesting. When I look back at it, it’s pretty sick. We’ve had four players in the NBA and I’m one of them. Here in America I maybe don’t quite realize what it means, but when I come home, I feel it. Hoops is not that much popular in Czechia, so I hope that I could help to change it.

Forbes: What’s the biggest difference between Czech basketball league and NBA?

Saty: I don’t know where to begin. I played in the Czech league when I was 15, which is maybe the answer to your question. It’s an unreal difference, NBA is at least five levels higher. The biggest difference is that the Czech league lacks the drive. I don’t want to criticize it, but now I cannot really imagine that one day I could end my career there, even if that was my plan originally. More likely I’ll probably go back to Spain.

Forbes: The Spanish league is not that much worse than the NBA?

Saty: Of course, there’s still a difference between those two, but the Spanish league is mightily approximating to the NBA. According to me it’s the second or third best competition in the world, and thanks to it the Americans respect the Europeans more. But let’s face it, Americans don’t really care anyway what we accomplish in Europe. In Barcelona I had an excellent run of play, but here nobody cares about it, so I was starting entirely from zero anyway.

Forbes: That has to be challenging – in Barcelona you were a star, but here you’re just a rookie.

Saty: Yeah, that was quite a blow. But again, it wasn’t such a shock, I counted on it happening. Every European goes through it in the NBA. It doesn’t matter what position I had in Europe, here it it means nothing. Here the mentality of people is different, Americans start respecting someone the moment he proves to them that he really has what it takes to play at their level.

Forbes: What else surprised you in the NBA?

Saty: How huge business it is. Sometimes the sport completely disappears from it and it reminds more of a business. There are statistics about absolutely everything here, Americans are possessed by it. A lot of things are then about the money, for example, who plays and when he plays. In the beginning I was a little struck by it.

Forbes: It’s not important to win, but primarily to make money?

Saty: Not to that extent, but when you have a star on the roster who sells lots of tickets, he just plays more minutes and has a bigger role on the team. Who has a good image in the eyes of fans, it doesn’t happen that he wouldn’t play, even if he wasn’t exactly in a good form. This doesn’t happen in Europe. And now another factor coming into this is the height of player contracts, which the NBA has one of the highest. It has sold television rights for an unbelievable amount and because of that the player salaries shot up, and suddenly a lot of teams deal only with money.

Forbes: So the guy with a higher salary plays?

Saty: I hope that this doesn’t completely play a role – actually, owing to my salary, there is nothing else left for me than hoping, but it’s a fact that sometimes that’s how it works here.

Forbes: Which is a disadvantage, because you earn 3 million dollars per year and John Wall 18 millions.

Saty: John is our biggest star, fans come to games to watch him play. Fortunately, he plays really well, so this doesn’t apply to him, but of course his star image is a plus for him. In Europe it’s usually not a custom that the starting five would be set in advance, the guy who is a better fit for the game plan simply plays. But not here.

Forbes: Doesn’t it create bad blood on the team, that those salaries are published? It’s not like that in Europe.

Saty: At times it is a bit of a problem. Of course, it’s not talked about much publicly, but salaries are known, so every player knows it about his rival. When they asked me in one of my first interviews how much I make, I was so puzzled by that that I was shying away from the question, even though beat writers knew it anyway. It can have some effect on the thinking of a player, but I try not to think about it in order to not getting distracted by it.

Forbes: Can the NBA make you financially secure to the end of your life?

Saty: I hope that when I’ll be smart, yes. When I see what kind of contracts are signed here and what kind of money a guy can make here, I tell to myself that it is possible to make yourself secure here. But you can’t be stupid and start throwing those money about. In America, when someone receives big money, a plenty of people then stick to him and they want to borrow some money. Therefore the NBA tries to educate players and increase their fincancial literacy, so as a rookie I had to take part in the three-day Rookie Transition Program. Sometimes it was quite humorous.

Forbes: How come?

Saty: The most humorous thing was when they were fully seriously explaining to us that we shouldn’t beat our wives up at home, because NBA players used to have problems with home violence. That was an amusing advice which I didn’t exactly need from anyone, but when there was a talk about finances, I was paying attention. According to the regulations, 18,000 dollars of everyone’s salary automatically go to the savings account, to which the NBA adds another $21,000 for us. And the NBA will start paying out these money to us when we are 50 years old.

Forbes: Because a lot of players are bankrupt after the end of their careers.

Saty: Yes, I looked at the statistics, according to which it’s up to 65 percent of players. They end their basketball career and all of a sudden they don’t have an input of money, but at the same time they still have the same lifestyle. There have even been cases when those guys had to sell their NBA championship ring due to debts. I told to myself: you work hard the whole life to get one and then you have to sell that ring. So yes, the NBA is able to secure you financially, but you have to approach it smartly.

Forbes: Three million dollars per year is not few dollars. In comparison with Barcelona, it is an improvement? 

Saty: My salary did improve, but again not so much that my head started spinning, because before I went to the NBA I signed a good contract for the next four years in Barcelona. And I didn’t go over here because of money, what drove me forward the most was the dream of playing in the NBA, for because of it I started playing hoops once upon a time.

Forbes: Describe from the inside the NBA world to me.

Saty: It’s a perfectly well-oiled machine. Everything is at the highest standard that you can imagine. The service which I have is the highest one I’ve ever experienced. For example, we have three times more members of the coaching staff than players. That indicates something. Players are just maximally taken care of.

Forbes: How does it look in practice?

Saty: The NBA has special airlines for teams, so we have our plane where there’s more space for players. Travel is probably an area where there’s the biggest luxury. For instance, we can leave our cars right beside the plane, we go through only minimal control, so I spend barely five minutes at the airport. Everything is awfully fast. But the worst thing is when we have an extended trip of away games, then I have problem remembering even the number of my room.

Forbes: Every day you are in a different city.

Saty: Exactly. We play 82 games in six months, half of it outside Washington, D.C. So in a hotel in Cleveland I go to the 17th floor where I realize that I had the 17th floor yesterday in Chicago and that today I sleep three floors below. We stay in the best hotels, only I don’t take notice of it anymore, because on the one hand I’m not even able to remember the number of my room, and then I’m mostly glad that I have a bed into which I can plonk and fall asleep. Another interesting thing: in comparison to Europe, in the NBA everything’s much more individualistic. That was kind of a novel feeling for me.

Forbes: What do you mean?

Saty: In Barcelona I was used to doing everything with the whole team, but here we fly in to some city and the only thing which we have to adhere to is the time of departure for practice. They let everyone do what he wants, as long as he behaves as a professional. We don’t even have breakfasts, lunches or dinners together. Before a trip everybody gets pocket money and we have to obtain a meal by ourselves. So initially I always ordered room service, but then I realized that generally it’s not exactly the healthiest diet, moreover for that room service you pay an extra 15 dollars, so now I try to eat in a hotel as few times as possible.

Forbes: Are you a thrifty type?

Saty: On the whole, yes. I’m not cheap, when I like something I’m able to enjoy money. I spend most of my money on fashion and food. My wife Anička is a daughter of a food critic Pavel Maurer, so she taught me to enjoy good restaurants. But I definitely don’t throw money around. And as far as room service in a hotel is concerned, it’s mostly a surcharge for nothing, so I’d say I deal with this.

Forbes: By the way, I noticed that every player warms up by himself before the game.

Saty: That is true and in the beginning I had quite a problem with it. In Europe the whole team goes to warm up together at one time half an hour before the game, but here everyone warms up by himself in predetermined time. I go on the court two and a half hours before the game. I warm up for quarter of an hour and then I still have more than two hours until the game starts, so I somehow have to shorten the wait.

Forbes: Why is it like that?

Saty: I don’t know. Probably so that every player has maximum service. I shoot at the basket and I have five assistants around me, so I can focus only on my routine. It works like this: the bigger the star, the closer to the tip-off he warms up. My position on the team has improved, but on the other hand no rookie came to the team, so I still have my warm up at the same time. The worst thing is that I have nothing to do two hours before the game. The adrenaline fades away, your body cools off, so I try to go to the weight room in order to keep myself in operating temperature.

Forbes: Don’t you think that the NBA is primarily a big show?

Saty: It’s definitely a show, which you can see at timeouts. The play stops but the spectators have to constantly have entertainment, so they devise everything possible for them at the arena. Teams are convinced that fans pay a lot of money for tickets, so they have to get the best show.

Forbes: It’s a fact, from what I watched, that during the game there wasn’t any real break.

Saty: Exactly! When I played my first NBA game the whole arena exploded with excitement in the fourth quarter and it completely startled me. I didn’t understand at all what’s happening, but after a while I got it. The opposing team didn’t make two free throws and that meant that every fan gets a free chicken sandwich. Americans just cheer the most when they can get something for free, in comparison with Europe there isn’t such a tradition of cheering here. First and foremost, they just have to enjoy the game. For example, courtside tickets at our home games cost 2,500 dollars per game, that’s over two million Czech crowns per season. And when someone pays such money, he’s got a feeling that he can afford anything. For example, a waitress brings them beer during games – I watched this with open mouth. I’m running on the court and suddenly a lady with a tray of beers is walking next to me.

Forbes: How can you concentrate in this environment?

Saty: I block this stuff out. When I play, I’m able to concentrate only on the game. I didn’t play much my first year and I sat on the bench, but it worked to my advantage a little bit, because I could watch and learn quite a lot. In short, the NBA is a huge show, which is also connected with money that are around the game here.

Forbes: What do you enjoy the most about it?

Saty: I’m living a dream which I had when I started playing as a little boy. A lot of people probably doubted me at that time, when I was telling them that I would play in the NBA one day. So yeah, sometimes I slow down a bit and I try to enjoy that I’m here. That is what I enjoy the most about it. I’m awfully competitive, so I don’t want to just sit on the bench here for the length of my contract. I wanted to prove to myself and others that I’m able to play an important role here, and not just survive here. And perhaps I’ve already managed to do that.

Forbes: If we are judging it by the fact that before the end of the regular season the Wizards official store started selling jerseys with your name, then yes.

Saty: Really? They have my jerseys there? I didn’t even have a hunch.

Forbes: Yes, although so far only in the least expensive category for $69, but your jersey is there.

Saty: That is great. Previously they had jerseys only with the names of three, four players there, but as I started playing more they probably printed my name as well. I’m glad that my performances get noticed. In Czechia too, people started talking about me more and, paradoxically, I’m also known by people who otherwise don’t watch basketball at all. Yeah, I’m enjoying that I’m in the NBA and that I can compete here with the best players in the world.

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Is it Good or Bad That the Wizards Signed Dwight Howard? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/is-it-good-or-bad-that-the-wizards-signed-dwight-howard.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/07/is-it-good-or-bad-that-the-wizards-signed-dwight-howard.html#respond Thu, 05 Jul 2018 19:25:32 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55689

The Washington Wizards will reportedly sign Dwight Howard to a one-year contract. He’s an eight-time All-Star and three-time defensive player of the year. He averaged 16.6 points and 12.2 rebounds last season with Charlotte. He plays a position of desperate need, and he is getting paid a relatively paltry salary (at the most $5.3 million).

These are all good things. His signing should, theoretically, be cause for celebration. Yet, the reaction to Dwight’s pending arrival is far from universal glee. In fact, there is legitimate debate about whether his presence is even a positive for this team.

Howard might be the most polarizing Wizard in years and he hasn’t even played a game — or even officially signed his contract. To some, he is the missing piece to put Washington back in contention. To others, he is the ticking bomb that will finally and irreversibly blow up the team’s fragile locker room. The range of potential outcomes is limitless and harrowing.

It seems strange to have to ask this question about signing such an accomplished player, but the answer is far from clear:
Is it good or bad that the Wizards signed Dwight Howard?

TAI’s Adam Rubin, Kyle Weidie, Bryan Frantz, and Sean Fagan attempt to answer that question…

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)

The most common refrain from fans in the wake of Howard’s signing was to ask: “What was the alternative?”

It’s a very Grunfeldian way of looking at the world. If you ignore why the Wizards have no cap space and why they have no viable center on their roster and only evaluate the Dwight Howard signing through the prism of, “Is he better than Ian Mahinmi?” … then the answer will almost always be yes.

But the calculus is a little more complicated with Dwight for two reasons: one off-court and one on-court. Despite being one of the most physically dominant athletes in the NBA, Howard has spent the last three seasons on three different teams. One of the purported reasons is locker room issues. From afar, Dwight doesn’t appear to be a bad guy. He’s more like the annoying kid who thinks he’s funny but he’s not. According to comments from Zach Lowe and Brendan Haywood, his act quickly wears thin and his former teammates have celebrated his departure.

To be fair, these reports only tell one side of the story, but when you hear that same story multiple times in multiple cities, that’s a lot of smoke. Washington has a fragile locker room. They just shipped out one starting center who clashed with the star point guard. Bringing in an even bigger prima donna is an undeniable risk.

Some in the media insist Dwight is ready to change his image. That sounds great but it is also not the first time we’ve heard it. Here’s what the New York Times wrote when he joined the Atlanta Hawks two years ago:

After five mostly disappointing years with Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers since leaving Orlando, Howard says this time will be different. Atlanta is where he belongs.

“One of the things biblically is the purging of the heart, and throughout the years, there are things that have happened behind closed doors that it really hardened my heart towards different situations,” Howard later told reporters. “I really have to purge my heart and come at basketball in a different manner. I was very upset with how things turned out and what people were saying. I hardened my heart towards everybody.”

Two years later, NBC Washington’s Chris Miller and Chase Hughes are singing the same song about Dwight wanting to change his image. It all sounds very familiar.

Then there’s the on-court fit. Dwight brings certain skills the Wizards need. Namely, shot-blocking and rebounding. If Dwight sticks only to those skills (and dunking), he’d be a great fit. But that’s not what he has done in his last few stops. Again, like the unfunny kid who fancies himself a comedian, Howard is an offensively challenged big man who fancies himself a back to the basket post-up player. Amazingly, Dwight had more post-ups last year (499) than the entire Wizards team combined (462). He was third among all NBA players in number of post-up possessions behind Joel Embiid and LaMarcus Aldridge.

This is a major potential problem. If Howard breaks off plays and calls for the ball in the post, John Wall is not going to defer to him in the same way Dwight’s teammates did in Charlotte. Wall will yell at him to clear out and will continue yelling at Dwight all the way to the bench if he puts up a fight. In short, Dwight is not getting those shots with the Wizards, whether he likes it or not. Wall is blunt, both on and off the court. Marcin Gortat could take it, for the most part — and even he clashed with Wall. It remains to be seen if Howard is willing to do the dirty work on defense while being the third, fourth or fifth option on offense. If he does — if Dwight accepts a role as Clint Capela to John Wall’s Chris Paul — then the pairing has the potential to be a big success. History, though, isn’t on Dwight’s (or Washington’s) side.

So, you asked the question: Is it good or bad that the Wizards signed Dwight Howard? I’ll respond with a question of my own: What’s the alternative?

Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it)

No advanced stat could capture the impact Dwight Howard once had. How do you count the times players simply did not drive the lane because he was there? His shoulders, his wingspan, his hops, his immovability. A similar human specimen with such once-upon-a-time incredible influence on the NBA may never exist again (and probably never existed before).

But Dwight Howard is now washed. He’s not the answer the Wizards need. Yet, in a league with limited talent pool and resources, he’s ‘one’ answer to ‘a’ problem — Defense. Howard is an experiment that could be doomed to fail, but a very low risk (salary-wise) perhaps worth taking. It’s batshit difficult to know how to feel about the Wizards getting him; on top of Jeff Green, on top of Austin Rivers — yada, yada, yada.

Good? Bad? If the Wizards are going to navigate foggy Eastern Conference skies in a race to land, might as well put all the sails up and onboard all the scurviest pirates who
could still be able to wield a sword. I love the Wizards; I hate this team; I don’t know what to do with this summer. Take my words, and Tweets, with a grain of salt.

Turning 33-years-old in December with over 1,030 NBA regular season games and nearly 100 playoff games under his belt, Howard is on his sixth team within the last six calendar years. His stint with the Wizards might work under all of these conditions:

  • He doesn’t demand the ball in the post.
  • John Wall gets him the ball at the rim.
  • His lateral movement isn’t completely washed.
  • He doesn’t do stuff like fart on reporters and think it’s funny.
  • When he sits every fourth quarter because he’s a 56% career free throw shooter he doesn’t get salty.
  • He shuts up but also smiles. It’s OK to be strategically goofy.
  • He blocks shots (fifth-lowest career blocks per 100 possessions last season, 2.6).
  • He rebounds (second-most career defensive rebounds per 100 possessions last season, 15.0)

There is no answer to the question other than to say that we are on a present-day, NBA version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202)

The Dwight Howard signing, paired with the Jeff Green signing, seals this as an incredibly Wizards offseason. Washington needed to get Marcin Gortat out of town for the sake of the locker room. Say what you want about the return, but the objective was completed. Replacing Gortat with Howard, however, is almost guaranteed to turn disastrous. The Wizards have a bad locker room culture. Even if the stories about Howard being terrible in locker rooms are overblown, there’s still more than enough there to think he won’t improve the locker room culture.

Howard’s first year with the Houston Rockets was the only post-Orlando season that ended positively. His best Lakers teammate hated him, there are mixed reports on his time in Houston but the drama was always there, his homecoming to Atlanta ended with him benched in the playoffs, then he was shipped out after a year for a laughable return to Charlotte, who gave up on him after a season and sent him to Brooklyn, where he was promptly paid to go away.

And this is the guy Ernie Grunfeld has decided will get the Wizards over the hump. His per-36 numbers last year were more or less in line with those of his dominant Orlando years — and teams still want nothing to do with him. Stan Van Gundy,Mike D’Antoni, Kevin McHale, Mike Budenholzer, and Steve Clifford have all worked with him, and there’s not much to be found as far as positive reviews.

But hey, I’m sure all he needs is a fresh startReally.

Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)

Here are a few things that we know about Dwight Howard’s imminent signing with the Washington Wizards.

  1. When approached with the idea of signing Howard, the entire Golden State Warriors team vetoed the idea according to Tim Kawakami. (Kawakami later clarified to say the choice was between Howard and Cousins.)
  2. The Golden State Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins, whose disciplinary record is checkered at best and most likely won’t be able to suit up until December, if at all.
  3. In Howard’s last two stops (in Atlanta and Charlotte) there have been reports of open locker room celebrations when his departure has been announced.

This … well, this isn’t a great narrative. In fact, since departing Los Angeles (where a campaign was waged to keep him) Howard (and the media) have tried to reframe each subsequent stop along the way. Atlanta was going to Dwight’s coming home party – instead it marked the end of the Budenholzer regime as Dwight never acclimated and pulled his now patented passive-aggressive shenanigans. Shipped off to Charlotte, there was a hope that he would thrive in a smaller market where the media lights glowed dimmer (much like Orlando) and he could reinsert himself as an above average NBA starter. While Dwight was a double-double machine in Charlotte, the rest of the offense broke down whenever he had the ball. He reduced the efficacy of two way players like Nicholas Batum. In an era where bigs run the pick and roll almost exclusively, Howard kept demanding the ball in the post and often loafed on transition defense.

The key issue when trying to judge Howard’s impact on the Wizards is in separating Howard’s impact as a personality with that of the ability he provides on the court. Howard wears out his welcome by appearing either disingenuous, out of touch or at the worst disengaged. Placing him within an already volatile Wizards locker room sounds about as safe as putting a 10x more talented Andray Blatche back into the mix. Add in noted agitator Austin Rivers and becomes unclear whether Ernie Grunfeld is building a basketball team of conducting an extremely dangerous science experiment.

Then the actual “basketball” part of this equation. John Wall thrives in concert with his center while working the pick and roll. Howard has shown only a passing interest in running the play — instead happy to continue to exist a stasis where the league is still stuck in 2011. What Howard does bring (rebounding, the ability to put back easy bunnies) he seems to take more away from in an already limited offense. The concern here is that Scott Brooks already limited play-calling ability will be taxed in keeping his new rental somewhat happy without completely breaking the scheme his team’s success has been predicated upon.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day — the Wizards choices were limited. Reports indicate they did not bid on Cousins, nor were they actively working on taking a risk to acquire a center who might thrive under John Wall like Myles Turner. What we are left with again is another patch job – as the organization plugs gaping holes with quick fixes without really considering the consequences on or off the court.

Maybe Howard will go down as one of Grunfeld’s greatest reclamation projects. If Grunfeld has one talent, it is plucking players from the scrap heap and getting more than their “designated” value. It is more likely though that this grand experiment is doomed from the start both from a perspective of fit and an organization that continues to think small and make minor adjustments, rather than admit that as currently comprised they are dead in East.


 

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A Discussion About John Wall and His Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/06/a-discussion-about-john-wall-and-his-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/06/a-discussion-about-john-wall-and-his-wizards.html#respond Thu, 28 Jun 2018 12:05:29 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55658

The 2017-18 Washington Wizards season has been over since late April, and the preparations for the 2018-19 season have already begun. Marcin Gortat — the thorn in John Wall’s side last season— was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Austin Rivers on Tuesday.  Prior to that, Washington’s front office opted to make the slightly head scratching draft selections of Troy Brown, Jr. and Issuf Sanon — both very young and far from ready. Next, on July 1, the LeBron James sweepstakes NBA free agency season will commence, and everyone, from coaches to GMs to owners to players to maybe even bloggers (excluding the author of this article), will let the good and bad memories of last season expire in favor of the promise surrounding a new one.

While that is certainly an understandable sentiment, the disappointment of last season should not come and go without a mention. And since we’re addressing the Washington Wizards, the discussion — despite the fact the he missed 41 games — must begin with John Wall.

Right now, Wall is deep into intense summer workouts, maybe smarting a bit that they Wizards and Ernie Grunfeld didn’t fulfill his wish of drafting a pace-and-space friendly big man … but optimistic that Gortat is gone. But prior to that, Wall had to endure a season that saw the franchise he leads regress from being on the brink of the Eastern Conference Finals to internal sniping, expectations not met, and watching teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics (without Kyrie and Gordon Hayward) and Toronto Raptors make significant improvements to their roster and overall play.

So the question is, how much responsibility falls on the shoulder of Wall, and going forward, what, if anything, can he do to lead this franchise to a place of significance? My colleague Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) and I decided to delve into those topics and more.

@rashad20:

In some ways, I feel like this was a lost season for John Wall. He asked for a better bench and he kind of got one with the emergence of Satoransky, but he was saddled with a coach who failed to maximize that bench in the playoffs. He missed a big chunk of the season after the All-Star Break, but it is fair to say his team was disjointed and flawed before, during, and after his injury. And after the prior season’s disappointing playoff loss to the Celtics in Game 7 when the Wizards seemed to be on the brink of something special, Wall’s team has regressed, while Philadelphia, Indiana and Milwaukee have risen. There seemed to be an ascent to Wall’s career prior to this year, and it stagnated a bit.

Do you think it is fair to question his leadership this season?  Or was Wall not part of the problem?

@LedellsPlace:

It’s interesting you raise this question because I posed a similar question to Wall during his much ballyhooed exit interview in May. He talked about team chemistry issues and the difficulties of being a leader. So, on the very last question of the day, I asked if he felt the locker room issues could be solved with the current roster or if another veteran voice was needed. I was not intending to single out his leadership, but he may have taken it that way:

“You can fix it, but it’s the same as if I don’t like you for asking me a certain question, we might argue, right? You might take it the wrong way, I might take it the right way. See what I’m saying? It is what it is. Certain people you talk to can handle certain situations — like I might can yell at you, but I might not can yell at him. You got to know how to talk to certain people, then when certain people feel offended by that, it’s kind of hard to balance it out. If I have a problem with somebody, we might argue here but when I get on the court, I throw it to the side because I’m trying to win. Some people can’t function both of those ways. Sometimes it escalates from having a problem in the locker room or disliking somebody and taking it on the court and not playing as a group.”

My takeaway from Wall’s response — and the ones that preceded it — is that the Wizards current roster is broken and Wall does not have enough super glue to put it back together. He’s got enough scotch tape to piece together a decent playoff squad, but that’s about it.

Does Wall shoulder some of the blame? Sure. With all due respect to Bradley Beal, Wall is the Washington Wizards and the team will only go as far as he takes them. But it’s also true that despite being in D.C. for eight years, the front office still has yet to surround him with a roster tailored to his skills (versatile 3-point shooting wings and an athletic big man).

So, do you still think Wall can be the center piece of a contender with the right pieces around him? If not where does he fall short?

@rashad20:

I absolutely think Wall can be the centerpiece of a team that goes to the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond, but that magical milestone cannot be reached with the roster as it is currently constructed. Beal and Gortat took subtle swipes at him this past season, and if we’re being honest, Scott Brooks isn’t an authoritative enough presence to galvanize the troops and get them focused. A change in roster is needed, a come-to-Jesus talk with Beal is also needed, and then Wall could flourish.

But Wall still does shoulder some of the blame. His end-of-the-game decisions need to be more efficient, and he needs to cut down on the turnovers. Yes, he still has the uncanny ability to get the ball to his teammates in their respective sweet spots, but he needs to step it up one more level. Kevin Durant has done it, DeMar DeRozan did it last year, LeBron does it every damn year, and at age 28, Wall has to do it, because last season, with or without the injury, his game and leadership abilities left a bit to be desired.

I find myself wondering what Wall was thinking when he watched Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington Capitals as they paraded through D.C. with Ted Leonsis. Was he thinking that he had to double his efforts this summer to get there, or was he resigned to the fact that it may not happen?

Now that Gortat is gone … can Wall gain the trust and respect of Beal and Porter? Because a small part of me thinks that Wall wants this team blown up and re-made with more complimentary players.

@LedellsPlace:

Wall is not perfect by any means. But he’s in a tough spot. He gets criticized — sometimes fairly — for the team’s inconsistency and inability to get over the hump. However, he is also asked to carry the team’s entire offense for large stretches of the game. You could see it in the Toronto series when the Wizards got off to slow starts and Wall had to single-handedly keep his team afloat. You could see it during the 2016-17 season when Wall could not rest for two minutes without watching hard-earned double digit leads vanish into thin air.

I keep coming back to the fact that Wall was playing with a front court of Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi, Markieff Morris and Jason Smith. Wall is one of the best players in the NBA at getting into the lane and creating scoring opportunities for teammates. Imagine what he would do alongside Clint Capela? Imagine Chris Paul’s exasperated facial expressions if he had to make pocket passes to Mahinmi? As good as Wall is, he could be so much better with the right personnel. So, I tend to give him a pass for those turnovers and forced shots when he is trying to do too much.

You asked about Wall’s on-court relationship with Beal and Porter. I think Wall respects Beal and has no problem running the offense through him. Otto is another story. Wall views him as a nice complimentary player who can hit an open shot but who cannot create for himself. I think Wall would rather have a more aggressive running mate on the wing. Basically, I think Wall meant exactly what he said when he was recruiting Paul George last summer: Otto is not a third star. In fact, outside of Beal, I don’t think there is another player on the team that Wall truly trusts. That’s a big problem and it speaks to the chemistry issues that have plagued this team.

@rashad20:

Based on your description, Wall may be feeling a bit trapped which makes me wonder if he’s put any real pressure on the Wizards front office to give him some help.  Sadly, he’d have more leverage if it hadn’t signed that super max contract last summer, I still think he has enough clout to go to the front office and ask them to be real players this offseason.  Or maybe he could pull a Kawhi and passive-aggressively sulk his way out of town by demanding a trade … but I digress.

I will say this about Wall: he’s devoted a great deal of his offseason to getting his body into shape; he’s calling it the summer of separation. If he comes into shape, he’ll feel even more empowered to lead this team no matter what personnel moves are or are not made. And provided he and Beal can stay healthy, which at this point in their careers is a 50-50 proposition, the Wizards should be better than an 8-seed, but still not ready to content in the East. And that has to frustrate Wall.

We aren’t painting a very rosy picture here, but this is the reality right now.

@LedellsPlace:

It’s crazy that we are only one year removed from pushing the Celtics to seven games, and Bradley Beal just had an All-Star season … yet the only positive spin you could muster is that if everyone is healthy next season “the Wizards should be better than an 8-seed.” Think about that for a second. Beal took a major step forward. Otto had another efficient year. Kelly Oubre improved (although not as much as I would have liked). Mike Scott and Tomas Satoransky excelled off the bench. Yet the team took a significant step backward. That’s a big, big problem that speaks to fundamental issues with this organization. And that’s exactly why I enjoyed Wall’s exit interview so much. He was the only member of the Wizards franchise — from player to coach to general manager to owner — who told the truth: the Washington Wizards are not that good and they need a lot of help in a lot of areas.

 


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Gortat Helped The Wizkids Grow, But it Was Time For a Change http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/06/gortat-helped-the-wizkids-grow-but-it-was-time-for-a-change.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/06/gortat-helped-the-wizkids-grow-but-it-was-time-for-a-change.html#respond Wed, 27 Jun 2018 17:08:22 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55671

The Wizards brought an abrupt end to Marcin Gortat’s tenure with the franchise on Tuesday afternoon when they traded way their starting center of the last five seasons to the Los Angeles Clippers for Austin Rivers. Although he was far from a fan favorite by the end of his tenure, Gortat should be credited with being a solid contributing member of the Bullets/Wizards second-best era in the history of the franchise, behind only the championship team of 1978. Gortat helped the team reach that level by showing a level of consistency that is honestly rare in sports nowadays.

The best ability is availability and Gortat played in 402 of 410 possible regular season games as a Wizard, fielding averages of 11.6 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game. In recent years,  it was easy to point out that Gortat could not defend the rim or guard players on the perimeter.  But for the true students of the game it was always intriguing to point out the thing that Marc excelled at on the court. The NBA just started tracking a new stat called screen assists in the 2016-17 season and to the surprise of no one, Marcin was at the top of the list for the first the majority of the first two seasons of the stats existence until finally being unseated by Rudy Gobert last season. In 2016-17 Marcin Gortat lead the NBA with 6.2 screen assists per game, edging out Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Jordan. Last season Gortat was leading the stat for a good portion of the season until his minutes began to decrease, he finished 3rd in screen assists (4.5) in 2017-18 behind Rudy Gobert and Steven Adams.

There are two reasons why Gortat was such a prolific screener according to the screen assist stat:  He always set screens in Washington’s downhill style offense, and he always a willing screener. Some big men shun screening because they know their chances of getting the ball back are low and other centers purposely slip screens instead of taking on the contact, but not Gortat. He thrived off of throwing his body around with power to stonewall defenders, but still possessed enough grace to avoid clipping the defender so as to not get an offensive foul. Marcin could screen a defender to open up John Wall or Bradley Beal and if the initial action did not work, he would come back and screen again. The chemistry between Brad and Gortat was unique because they had their timing down where Gortat would sometimes flip his screening direction in the middle of the play because he was able to read where Brad was going. This lead to a lot of open jump shots for the sharpshooting Beal.

The screening relationship between Gortat and Wall was probably the most special point guard to center pick-and-roll combination in the league over the last few seasons. Wall was able to use his elite athleticism to blow by defenders when Gortat would initiate contact with them and in a game of cat and mouse, when defenders would overplay that action, Gortat would slip the screen and be spoon-fed dunk after dunk.

In the end the on-the-court relationship between Marcin Gortat and John Wall was not enough to salvage lingering issues that the two seemed to develop as teammates over the last season. It has been reported that Gortat was not happy about his reduced role coming into the season and besides Scott Brooks, the only person for him to blame was the man who had the ball in his hands most, John Wall. The Wizards tried to acquiesce to Gortat early on in the Scott Brooks era by force feeding him the ball on the first possession of every game during the course of the 2016-17 season despite that action yielding very low points per possessions. Gortat could see the writing on the wall in his diminished role before that season even started when the team brought in his presumed replacement, Ian Mahinmi on a four year/$64 million contract.

Frustrations began to boil over when Wall was injured and the team went on a stretch of games in February when the ball seemed to be moving a ltitle bit more and Bradley Beal made his “Everybody Eats” declaration. Gortat added fuel to that fire by tweeting about a great “team” win and then all hell seem to break loose in the Wizards locker room.

https://twitter.com/MGortat/status/959286793123250177

John Wall did not take kindly to that tweet and responded by going on the now defunct SC:6 with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill to let it be known that Gortat should be the last one complaining since he gets the most spoon-fed buckets on the team.

There was no going back to normal after this public spat between teammates and the tension in the locker room could be felt throughout the rest of the season. John Wall then doubled down on his displeasure at the end of the season by reiterating to the media members in his exit interview that he felt the team needed an “athletic big man” going forward. The Wizards may have had a moment of addition by subtraction by trading Gortat away and removing conflict in the locker room.

Tangibly the Wizards did get back Austin Rivers who is neither a good nor bad basketball player, but does give the team versatility in terms of being able to play multiple positions and will help Ernie Grunfeld actualize his dream of playing more “positionless” basketball. Rivers lacks efficiency on offense, and he isn’t a great defender, but he brings a certain type of moxie that this team needs coming off of their bench. The fact that Rivers will make $1.4 million less than what Gortat was expected to make is an added bonus and Wizards fans should expect for him to be a decent stop-gap bench performer on his own expiring contract.

What Marcin Gortat was able to help the Wizards accomplish should not be taken for granted despite how toxic the situation became towards the end. Sports is a business and it does not require for teammates to be friends, but to be good co-workers and achieve the main objective, which is winning. This is important and perhaps the Wizards felt that was no longer possible. The Wizards may not have made it to the conference finals as they had dreamed, but their 49 win season was the most in damn near four decades and as Washington sports fans have come to realize, that is something.

 

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C.R.E.A.M. — A Wizards Draft Story http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/06/c-r-e-a-m-a-wizards-draft-story.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/06/c-r-e-a-m-a-wizards-draft-story.html#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 01:18:32 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55659

[I’m Ernie, charmed to meet you.]

When the Wizards picked Issuf Sanon in the second round of last week’s draft, the first thing that came to my mind was “Draft and Stash,” and at that precise moment, I knew the answer to the most asked question among #DCFamily faithful: “Why has Ernie not been fired?”

Ernest Grunfeld may not have been the best basketball mind to run this Wizards team during his 15-year tenure as President of Basketball Operations, but he damn sure knows how to take care of the bottom line which is to keep his boss (Ted Leonsis) happy. Sports is a game on the court or field of play, but it is also a business and the number one rule of business is to make money.

As the great philosophers of Wu-Tang Clan  fame once told the world: “Cash Rules Everything Around Me, C.R.E.A.M. get the money…”

If Ted Leonsis sends an edict to go get the money then that’s exactly what Ernie Grunfeld does.  The drafting of Issuf Sanon despite knowing that he will most likely not play in the NBA this year saves the Wizards money. I understand that balancing a roster economically is a coordinated orchestra that requires mechanisms like “Drafting and Stashing” players or our dear old friend “cash considerations” and I’m definitely not here to tell Ted how to spend his hard earned money. But some of these decisions do not reflect the actions of a franchise fully intent on winning a championship sooner rather than later.

When Grunfeld traded away Sheldon Mac in February for a 2019 second round pick, he saved the Wizards nearly $3 million in luxury tax dollars  after shedding his $1.3 million contract that was fully guaranteed after he tore his Achilles in the preseason.

When Ernie decided to cut two-way contract recipient Michael Young on January, 3rd 20018, he saved the franchise a six-figure sum.

When Grunfeld traded Andrew Nicholson and the team’s 2017 first round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdonavic and Chris McCullough, he saved the franchise another $19.5 million. Of course he was the one responsible for giving the slow-footed power forward a four-year $26 million contract in the first place.

When “Team President for Life” sold the 46th pick in the 2014 draft to the Los Angeles Lakers who ultimately drafted Jordan Clarkson, a more than serviceable player on 2nd round pick salary for $1.8 million in cash, he in turned netted Ted more cold hard cash.

And for the latest transaction made by Ernie Grunfeld, the drafting and ultimate stashing of Issuf Sanon potentailly saves the Wizards $850,000 in salary for the 2018-19 season and approximately another $2.5 million in luxury tax payments. Sanon is a project player who the Wizards may have to spend years waiting for, just as they did for Tomas Satoransky. That is fine for a team that is in a rebuild, not a team that fancies themselves as contenders. The Wizards could have taken more productive and proven college players who could have possible turned into good talent on cheap contracts for the the next few seasons.

Think about a team like the Golden State Warriors who spent $3.5 million dollars to buy the 38th pick from the Chicago Bulls, who turned into Jordan Bell and was able to produce a PER of 14.6 in 10.2 minutes per game during the Warriors championship run. When speaking in front of media after the Sanon pick, Grunfeld admitted that the team picked Issuf because they wanted to give him more time to develop.

“There’s a couple of other guys that we want to get on our roster, I am making the point that you need roster spots and if you pick a player, they take up the roster spot for you even if you send them to the G-League.”

Ernie let it be known that the team is looking at other players in the impending free-agent class, and that Sanon would have taken up a roster spot, regardless of him playing in the G-League or the main team. Ultimately the stashing of Sanon will cost the Wizards more money because by having to pay a veteran player to fill his roster spot instead of a rookie, they will have to pay a veteran player at least twice as much as the 850,000 salary of a second round pick and three times that salary in luxury tax payments if they are not able to get under the tax line. Last season the Wizards had an astronomical payroll of $123.3 million, putting them about $4 million over the luxury tax line which was set at $119.2 million for the 2017-18 season. The Wizards are already projected at + $125 million in salaries for the 2018-19 season and that only includes the 11 players that are under contract, including the recently drafted Troy Brown.

The problem with Grunfeld’s approach is that instead of trying to field the best possible team around a team nucleus of John Wall and Bradley Beal, he is risking wasting their best season. The team is limited with the movement they can make based on past transactions. The summer of 2016 has turned into the main catalyst for all of the Wizards financial troubles and that was the summer when Ted Leonsis seemingly gave Ernie carte blanche with the roster. Grunfeld made miscalculations on not only the players that he signed that summer (Mahinmi, Nicholson, Marcus Thornton), but he miscalculated where the NBA game was heading and did not load up on the wing players that the best teams in the “Association” seem to thrive off of. The drafting of Troy Brown is a step in the right direction because it adds another ball-handler and play-maker to the Wizards wing depth, but the real question is will it be too little too late?

The main task of an employee is to make sure that their employer is happy, and Ernie is the master of making sure that Ted gets what he wants. Between the two there is a relationship of trust and that can not be understated when evaluating the tenure of Ernie Grunfeld. When team decision-makers make long-term plans for the future by drafting and stashing players, it is a result of job security and yet another secret contract extension this past season. Ernie is here to stay as long as the boss remains happy  content with the work being done.

 

 

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What’s Next For The Washington Wizards? A TAI Roundtable http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/05/whats-next-for-the-washington-wizards-a-tai-roundtable.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/05/whats-next-for-the-washington-wizards-a-tai-roundtable.html#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 06:57:16 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55616

Now that the sting of the Washington Wizards’ first round exit has dissipated and the anger at the revelation of another Ernie Grunfeld secret extension has given way to numbness, it is time to look forward to next season. The Wizards enter a pivotal summer with way too many roster holes and way too little cap space or flexibility to plug them.

But they still have to try. The NBA calendar waits for no team and the draft lottery, combine, individual team workouts, and the draft itself are on the horizon. As Washington’s front office scrambles to assess and address the team’s needs, several TAI colleagues put fingers to keyboards to answer three burning questions about what’s next for the Washington Wizards.

1. What is the team’s biggest need(s) this off-season?

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace): A time machine to July 7, 2016. Short of that, the Wizards need a new starting center. This is not to say that Marcin Gortat is the team’s biggest problem. Far from it. But they cannot enter Year 4 with the same exact starting lineup and Gortat is the most replaceable cog in that five-man unit. His minutes per game already dropped precipitously to 25.3. This has to be the year that John Wall’s plea for an athletic big man is finally answered.

Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202): Even assuming a new GM is off the table, the Wizards’ list of needs is still expansive. A slew of wings who can shoot, ideally athletic wings who can also play some measure of defense, probably tops the list. Another ballhandler off the bench who can create his own shot would also be beneficial, but not a one-year veteran signing who will steal Sato’s minutes without the benefit of long-term growth. I want to say a youngish, athletic big man, but considering the money already tied up in old, unathletic big men, I’m not sure how likely that is.

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20): This horse has been beaten, killed, revived and beat again, but the most significant change that needs to happen is Ernie Grunfeld’s dismissal from the Team President role. He’s done good things, he’s done some questionable things, and now 16 years later, the Wizards are once again at the crossroads without so much as an Eastern Conference Finals appearance to show for it. The Wizards should look for some new front office minds, which would inevitably lead to a new head coach (that’s not a huge need, but it is definitely on the list of needs given Scott Brooks’s questionable substitution patterns–more on that later). That alone might be enough to lure a free agent of significance. But who are we kidding, that simply will not happen so…

John Wall was correct: an athletic big man who is adept at scoring, defending, and not bellyaching is definitely needed. The Wizards still need a shooter, too, since Jodie Meeks was relatively ineffective even before his drug suspension. It would be nice if this shooter could also defend, but if not, marksman-like shooting will suffice. An Oubre/Satoransky second-unit could benefit from spacing and some scoring punch, and an effective shooter would provide just that.

Lastly, the Wizards–mainly Scott Brooks–needs to have confidence in Satoransky. The Ty Lawson experiment surely put a bit of a dent in Sato’s confidence, after the yeoman effort he put in during John Wall’s regular season absence did the exact opposite. Yes, he needs to work on his ball-handling and his outside shooting, but that is not enough to prevent Brooks from anointing him as THE backup point guard.

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur): The Wizards biggest need is an athletic big man, as John Wall stated in his exit interview. An athletic big man would help the Wizards by 1) giving them someone who is capable of properly defending a pick-and-roll and protecting the rim on defense, and 2) unlocking above-the-rim play on the offensive end.

After that, it would probably behoove the Wizards to get anther 3-and-D wing to go along with Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre. The way that the NBA landscape is transitioning to position-less basketball, the teams which have the most success are the ones that have multiple players who are capable of doing multiple things. Wing players are the most diverse, if not complete, athletes because they must shoot and defend on the perimeter while also being able to rebound and defend in the post. Another player with that skill set would help the Wizards tremendously.

2. Give one (or more) realistic off-season moves that the Wizards can make.

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace): Remember, I said “realistic.” We would all like to trade Otto Porter for Kawhi Leonard. On the periphery, a guy like Ersan Ilyasova is attainable. He hustles, rebounds, can hit 3s and play center in a small ball lineup. If LeBron leaves Cleveland, then maybe try Jason Smith and a non-guaranteed contract for Kyle Korver (Wizards would take on an extra year of $7M salary). If you are so inclined, adding Kelly Oubre for Larry Nance, Jr. works too.

Speaking of Kelly Oubre…he is entering a contract year and the Wizards have to make a decision on him relatively quickly. If they are not willing to go deeper into the luxury tax to retain him, then he becomes a somewhat valuable trade chip. If Oubre is moved, Luc Mbah a Moute is a low-key free agent target who could provide substantially better defense and the same 3-point shooting percentages. Of course, that would leave the Wizards will an even bigger energy/youth deficit than they have now.

The other thing Washington could do is actually use their first round pick to select a player who can help right away. That’s easier said than done, but grabbing a rotation player on a rookie deal–especially if it’s a center like Jarret Allen–would solve a lot of the Wizards problems.

Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202): Sell on Beal or Porter and pick up a young borderline star in exchange. This isn’t exactly apples to apples, but last year we saw the Pacers deal Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis and the Bulls deal Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. Neither of those returns seemed like all that much initially, but the Pacers turned Oladipo into what he was hoped to be coming out of college–and the Pacers didn’t have much leverage in trade talks due to George 1) being a pending free agent and 2) saying he wanted out. I’ve previously thrown out names like Gary Harris, Jarret Allen, Julius Randle, and Andre Drummond. This is the only reasonable way to create flexibility and possibly inject some life into the roster without dealing away more picks.

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20): Michael Wilbon was asked this question about the Raptors on PTI the day after they were swept out of the playoffs by LeBron James  the Cavaliers, and his answer then applies to the Wizards now. The Wizards have to make wish-lists that start with big catches, not bargain deals. The big catches will be Kawhi Leonard and Boogie Cousins, but there are other free agents like Will Barton, Derrick Favors, Brook Lopez, or even an Avery Bradley who could possibly help this team. Once the Wizards establish a wish-list, they then have to assess what they could get for Gortat and maybe even Oubre. Owner Ted Leonsis has romanticized this notion of how well the Wizards have built the team via draft, and he bandies about Otto Porter’s name as proof. But of the three players on max deals, Porter is the most expendable, and there may be a non-playoff team willing to take his bloated salary as part of a rebuild. But that starts with Leonsis and Grunfeld being open to letting him go, and that feels highly unlikely.

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur): The most realistic off-season move is to trade Otto Porter for a disgruntled superstar (Kawhi Leonard) or to just move him to get some cap space to try and sign a more desired third superstar (Paul George, Boogie Cousins, or *gasp* LeBron James). I’m not making the argument that Otto Porter hasn’t been worth the money they paid him last summer or that he can’t improve as a player going forward, but it is clear that the Wizards as an organization will never truly value Otto Porter for what he really is as a basketball player. If he will continue to be marginalized by Scott Brooks, who fails to draw up enough plays to keep him involved anyway, or John Wall and Bradley Beal, who constantly treat him as an ancillary option instead of an equal, then he will never reach his full potential with the Wizards.

3. With the emergence of Philadelphia and Indiana in the playoffs, Brad Stevens working miracles in Boston, Giannis’s continued development in Milwaukee and the prospect of LeBron staying in the East, is the Wizards’ window already closed or is 50 wins and a conference finals appearance still possible for this core?

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace): If you count the core as Wall, Beal, Porter, Markieff, Gortat and Oubre as the 6th man off the bench, then yes the window is closed. There simply isn’t enough cap space available to build a bench that can lift that group to contender status. As it stands, Ernie Grunfeld will be shopping in the bargain bin as usual in July and there are a whole lot more Gary Neals and Marcus Thortons than there are Mike Scotts. Besides, Washington’s problem isn’t necessarily talent. It’s something much more sinister than that. It’s complacency. The Wizards need a shakeup. It does not have to be a rebuild or a fire sale. But the guys at the top of the roster need to start feeling uncomfortable. They have been given every opportunity to fix their inconsistency and have made perfectly clear that they can’t do it. It’s time to let a new starting five try.

Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202): I believe the window has closed for this iteration of the Wizards–if there ever really was a window–but given the recent history of stars switching teams, it’s hard to say what the East will realistically look like in a year or two. A significant Embiid or Simmons injury throws the Sixers into chaos (also, what is Markelle Fultz going to be?), maybe Hayward and Irving clash or there’s not enough to go around for all the Celtics wings and Irving (I know, I’m grasping on this), maybe LeBron goes west, maybe the Raptors blow it up, etc.

And again, if the Wizards pull a trade that sends Beal out and brings back somebody who thrives alongside Wall, maybe it gives the roster a new dynamic. Nobody expected the Pacers and Jazz to recover from their star exodus the way they did. With the status of DeMarcus Cousins, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and others (hey, LeBron) all in serious limbo this off-season, it’s impossible to say (almost) any team does or does not have a window. But stars aren’t exactly fighting to dedicate their primes to a team built by Ernie Grunfeld. Especially when the team’s biggest star publicly and repeatedly puts the onus on the front office.

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20): If the same Wizards team that petered out in the second round of this year’s playoffs returns at the start of the 2018-19 season, they will get to the playoffs, they will get no higher than a 3-seed, and they will lose to Boston or Philadelphia in the second round–aka insanity. So, yes, the window is closed. But with a strategic free agent signing here, a promising draft pick there, and a willingness to be creative with limited options and money, the Wizards could be a contender. Toronto did it before LeBron sent them reeling again. Houston did it this past off-season, and the Wizards need to do the same to pry that window back open.

But again, I just wrote all of these lovely words of optimism, promise and whimsy, and the first move the Wizards made in the off-season was to “announce” that the architect of the team–Mr. Ernie Grunfeld–will be reprising his endless role of Team President.  In the words of Jerry McGuire, that’s NOT what inspires people.

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur): The Wizards window is most definitely not closed. If anything, this season has taught this franchise that the best way to succeed in the playoffs is by taking the regular season seriously. Washington was a victim of its own procrastination. They tried to coast through the regular season in hopes of turning it on when the playoffs started and in return dug themselves a hole they were never capable of getting out of. Washington’s dynamic backcourt has shown they can succeed in the playoffs, sometimes, and with more favorable matchups could even put themselves in a position of advancing to the conference finals, just as Ted Leonsis’s beloved Washington Capitals have done.
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NSFW: A Chronological List of Ernie Grunfeld’s Last 45 Transactions Spanning Almost Three Years http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/05/nsfw-a-chronological-list-of-ernie-grunfelds-last-45-transactions-spanning-almost-three-years.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/05/nsfw-a-chronological-list-of-ernie-grunfelds-last-45-transactions-spanning-almost-three-years.html#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 15:17:28 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55602

Presented without comment: a chronological list of the last 45 transactions Ernie Grunfeld has made as President of the Washington Wizards, spanning almost three years. G-league assignments and preseason, non-guaranteed contracts and waivers are omitted.

April 11, 2018 – Signed Ty Lawson to a contract for the rest of the season.

March 19, 2018 – Signed Ramon Sessions to a contract for the rest of the season.

March 5, 2018 – Signed Ramon Sessions to a 2nd 10-day contract.

February 23, 2018 – Signed Ramon Sessions to a 10-day contract.

February 8, 2018 – Traded Sheldon Mac and cash to the Atlanta Hawks for a 2019 2nd round draft pick. (2019 2nd-Rd pick is heavily protected and unlikely to convey)

January 3, 2018 – Waived Michael Young.

November 2, 2017 – Waived Carrick Felix.

October 9, 2017 – Waived Daniel Ochefu.

September 11, 2017 – Signed Carrick Felix.

July 26, 2017 – Signed John Wall to a multi-year contract.

July 13, 2017 – Signed Otto Porter to a multi-year contract.

– Signed Devin Robinson to a two-way contract.

July 12, 2017 – Signed Jodie Meeks to a multi-year contract.

July 8, 2017 – Signed Mike Scott.

July 5, 2017 – Signed Michael Young to a two-way contract.

June 21, 2017 – Traded a 2017 2nd round draft pick (Edmond Sumner was later selected) to the New Orleans Pelicans for Tim Frazier.

March 1, 2017 – Signed Brandon Jennings.

– Waived Danuel House.

February 22, 2017 – Traded Andrew NicholsonMarcus Thornton and a 2017 1st round draft pick (Jarrett Allen was later selected) to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough. (2017 1st-rd pick from WAS to BRK was lottery protected)

July 26, 2016  Signed Bradley Beal to a multi-year contract.

July 24, 2016  Signed Sheldon McClellan to a multi-year contract.

July 22, 2016 – Signed Marcus Thornton.

July 21, 2016 – Signed Tomas Satoransky to a multi-year contract.

July 15, 2016 – Signed Danuel House to a multi-year contract.

July 7, 2016 – Signed Ian Mahinmi to a multi-year contract.

– Signed Andrew Nicholson to a multi-year contract.

– Signed Jason Smith to a multi-year contract.

– Signed Daniel Ochefu to a multi-year contract.

– Traded a 2021 2nd round draft pick to the Utah Jazz for Trey Burke.

April 26, 2016 – Hired Scott Brooks as Head Coach.

April 14, 2016 – Fired Randy Wittman as Head Coach.

March 9, 2016 – Signed Marcus Thornton.

– Waived Gary Neal.

February 25, 2016 – Signed J.J. Hickson to a contract for the rest of the season.

February 18, 2016 – Traded DeJuan BlairKris Humphries and a 2016 1st round draft pick (Georgios Papagiannis was later selected) to the Phoenix Sunsfor Markieff Morris. (2016 1st-Rd pick is top-9 protected)

December 23, 2015 – Signed Jarell Eddie.

December 22, 2015 – Waived Ryan Hollins.

November 30, 2015 – Signed Ryan Hollins.

– Waived Martell Webster

October 26, 2015 – Ish Smith claimed on waivers by the New Orleans Pelicans.

July 13, 2015 – Signed Drew Gooden.

July 12, 2015 – Signed Alan Anderson.

July 9, 2015 – Signed Gary Neal.

– Signed Kelly Oubre to a multi-year contract.

– Traded a 2020 2nd round draft pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for Jared Dudley. (Top-55 protected)

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Please, Just Blow Up the Wizards (and Fire Ernie) http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/05/please-just-blow-up-the-wizards-and-fire-ernie.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/05/please-just-blow-up-the-wizards-and-fire-ernie.html#respond Tue, 01 May 2018 16:15:22 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55553

The Wizards are in perhaps the least enjoyable position for an NBA team. They’re treading water, wallowing in the mire of mediocrity. They’re the pre-Giannis Bucks and the pre-Process Sixers. They’re the mid-aughts Nets.

Those teams are all different, sure, but they’re really the same. They have some pieces and are competitive enough on a game-to-game basis, but they’re not going to contend for a title, or even a conference title without some good fortune. Here’s the general formula:

  1. Overestimate the strength of the team’s core. In this case, it’s a core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and to a lesser extent Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, and Kelly Oubre. Thinking the core is ready to take the next step, the front office impatiently goes into win-now mode a year or two early.
  2. Overpay role players. For (this era of) the Wizards, the atrocious contracts of Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson, and Jason Smith were the biggest offenders, but giving a 30-year-old Marcin Gortat a five-year, $60 million deal in 2014 was an early indicator of where this was going. (As our own Kyle Weidie explained at the time, this was a necessary move by the Wiz–it’s what followed that hurts.) The bizarre pattern of attaching player options to contracts that likely don’t require them doesn’t help, either.
  3. Sacrifice future for present. This goes hand-in-hand with the above step. The ultimate example of this is the first-rounder for Bojan Bogdanovic trade, a move Ernie Grunfeld made before last season’s trade deadline knowing full well the Wizards couldn’t afford to keep both him and Otto Porter. Other examples range from giving up first-rounders for Gortat and Morris and second-rounders for Tim Frazier and Trey Burke (all trades that were varying levels of fine individually, but they play a part in a longer equation); playing tapped-out veterans such as Marcus Thornton and Kris Humphries while refusing to develop Kelly Oubre; and signing veterans (Ramon Sessions, Ty Lawson, J.J. Hickson, Will Bynum, etc.) midseason instead of scouring the league for young diamond-in-the-rough types.

An Example.

This is the kind of thinking that leads to teams such as the 2010-11 Bucks. The year prior, Milwaukee had increased its win total from 34 to 46 behind a core of rookie Brandon Jennings (who, incredibly, shot .370 from 2-point range and .374 from 3-point range), Andrew Bogut, John Salmons (acquired midseason), Michael Redd, Carlos Delfino, and Ersan Ilyasova.

Thinking this was an up-and-coming core (step 1), the Bucks front office went ahead and traded for Corey Maggette and his nearly-$10 million salary (step 2). Turns out Corey Maggette was not the player to push Milwaukee to the top. The team won just 35 games the next season behind the league’s worst offense (they scored 91.9 points per game!), then traded away Maggette, Salmons, and Jimmer Fredette in exchange for Tobias Harris, Shaun Livingston, Stephen Jackson, and Beno Udrih.

A 31-win season followed, during which the Bucks signed Mike Dunleavy and traded Bogut and Jackson for Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh (and Kwame Brown!), then Livingston was shipped out in a trade right before the draft. In desperation mode, the Bucks fired coach Scott Skiles in January of the following season, then at the trade deadline swapped 20-year-old Tobias Harris for J.J. Redick, on an expiring deal, in a win-now move to make the playoffs (step 3). They made the playoffs with a 38-44 record and got swept by the Heat in the first round.

Following that season, the Bucks blew it all up. They facilitated a sign-and-trade that sent Redick to the Clippers in exchange for a pair of second-rounders, they swapped Jennings for Khris Middleton and Brandon Knight, and they dealt Luc Mbah a Moute for a pair of second-rounders (one of which eventually became Malcolm Brogdon). Ellis signed with the Mavericks, Dunleavy signed with the Bulls, and they drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick. Giannis eventually became an elite talent, but he was a project to start and the team won just 15 games his rookie season, enabling the Bucks to then draft Jabari Parker, starting the new core.

This was all toward the end of a 14-season stretch that featured 10 seasons of between 30 and 42 wins. The four exceptions: 52 wins (2000-01), 30 wins (2004-05), 28 wins (2006-07), 26 wins (2007-08). First off, that’s one more 50-win season than Washington has seen in a long time, and it led to a trip to the conference finals. But more importantly, that’s 12 times in 14 seasons Milwaukee was not either one of the four best or four worst teams; the two exceptions resulted in a loss to Allen Iverson’s Sixers in the ECF and spending the sixth overall pick on Yi Jianlian.

(Milwaukee won 42 games a season ago and 44 this past season, it has most of its core locked up for the immediate future, and its future draft pick cupboard is nearly full. The smart move would be continue walking the line for another year or two and let the team develop naturally; beware an ill-advised win-now move.)

How the Wizards Fit.

That’s what the Wizards are looking at right now. A fifth consecutive season of 40-something wins just wrapped up with yet another disheartening postseason performance–this time they didn’t even make it to the second round before falling apart.

John Wall is probably good enough to be the best, or at least second-best, player on an elite team. Bradley Beal might be good enough to be the second-best player on an elite team. With some proper coaching, Otto Porter could be the fourth-best player on an elite team.

The problem is, none of those three players is LeBron James, who allows you to surround him with a handful of scraps from the league’s collective leftover pile and still contend for a title. As a result, you need a logical team-building strategy that considers both the present and the future. If you take Washington’s current trio and surround it with several talented, high-energy role players and supplement the group with a steady flow of eager young draftees on dirt-cheap contracts, maybe you’ve got something. (Hi, Toronto.)

The Wizards haven’t done that. Instead, Ernie Grunfeld has traded away virtually every draft pick the team has had in win-now moves; the only two players Washington has drafted and kept since 2013, when it drafted Otto Porter, are Kelly Oubre and Aaron White (who’s playing in Lithuania). These moves have slightly improved the roster (usually) in the immediate term, but they’ve ravaged the team’s future assets.

In the best-case scenario, you get a Marcin Gortat, who was a solid starter for several seasons. In the more common scenario, you get a Bojan Bogdanovic, who was great for a handful of regular season games and negligible for most of one postseason, then you couldn’t afford to keep him. Meanwhile, the pick Grunfeld shipped away (which had to be traded because he needed to pawn off Andrew Nicholson’s contract) became Jarrett Allen. Allen, 19 years old and making $1.7 million, averaged 15-10-2 per 36 minutes for Brooklyn last season. Gortat, 33 years old and making $12.8 million, averaged 12-11-1 per 36 minutes. Allen, named a “rising star” by Nets Daily and ranked as a better rookie than Lonzo Ball by Complex, will continue to improve; Gortat will continue to decline and say things like “Small ball in this league is just trash.”

Other moves that were low-risk and low-cost on their own haven’t panned out and ultimately compounded the problem. As mentioned earlier in this story, Washington dealt second-round picks in back-to-back offseasons for Trey Burke and Tim Frazier.


Sidebar

Pause there. Let’s just look at that for a moment. In the span of a year, Ernie Grunfeld:

  • Signed Andrew Nicholson, Ian Mahinmi, and Jason Smith to terrible long-term contracts.
  • Traded a second-round pick for Trey Burke.
  • Traded Nicholson and a first-round pick (and Marcus Thornton) for Bojan Bogdanovic (and Chris McCullough).
  • Watched Bogdanovic sign elsewhere because the team was out of cap space.
  • Traded a second-round pick for Tim Frazier.

The only players noted above who will still be on Washington’s roster next season are Mahinmi and Smith. Mahinmi is making $16 million per year and–over the course of two seasons–has only occasionally been playable. Smith played a grand total of 285 minutes this season, including two minutes in the playoffs. He was paid $5.2 million for his services, and he has a $5.4 million player option for next season. (This doesn’t include the 2017 offseason, which featured the Jodie Meeks player option debacle.)

In exchange for $[redacted] million, a first-round pick, and two second-round picks, the Wizards won 92 games over two seasons–just a five-game increase over their previous two seasons.

Here is a complete list of transactions made by Ernie Grunfeld since July 1, 2016, that you can possibly qualify as “good”: signed John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter to max contracts; signed Mike Scott (he’s now a free agent); signed Tomas Satoransky; traded Sheldon Mac for a heavily-protected future second-round pick. If you want to throw short-term signings of Ty Lawson and Ramon Sessions in there, go ahead. I won’t.

/Sidebar


Signing players such as Lawson and Sessions (and Will Bynum and J.J. Hickson and Marcus Thornton and Brandon Jennings) to midseason contracts is another problem. When you use one of your roster spots, and eventually rotation spots, on veterans who have no long-term upside, it hurts down the road. When second-round picks are traded for players other teams would probably end up dropping, it also hurts down the road. When you offer player options to free agents who would surely sign without them, you hurt yourself down the road.

And when you do all three of those things, and you have a terrible eye for talent (shoutout Andrew Nicholson), and you’re reactionary (shoutout Kevin Durant Al Horford Ian Mahinmi), you have a very distinct ceiling to your success.

You have to keep your draft picks for two major reasons: First, they bring low salaries. Second, they bring upside. The Wizards, several seasons ago, featured lots of players with high upside and low salaries. The team decided to go for it a year or two early and began trading picks for veterans, and it didn’t pan out.

The result is the roster we see today.

Assets (can be traded for value):
Wall, Beal, Porter, Oubre, Satoransky, draft picks.

Negatives (asset must be attached to any trade):
Mahinmi, Gortat, Meeks, Smith.

Neutral (a good GM could maybe turn into something of small value):
Morris.

If we’re assuming Grunfeld keeps his job for at least another year, and we’re assuming the Wizards don’t trade any of their assets, there are basically two ways Washington can actually improve: 1) Grunfeld nails the 2018 NBA draft (a friendly reminder that Grunfeld has drafted three All-Stars in more than 25 years as a GM, two of whom are John Wall and Bradley Beal), and 2) Some combination of Wall/Beal/Porter/Oubre/Satoransky takes a massive leap.

It’s safe to assume Grunfeld will not be drafting a star player, especially not an instant-impact one, in the second half of the first round.

That means Wizards fans have to hope and pray for immediate and considerable improvement from one or more of their five quality young players in order to have a chance at making it to the next level. Don’t forget:

  • Wall missed 41 games this season, missed a lot of time early in his career with various injuries, and has averaged about 36 minutes per game over the course of his career.
  • Beal just played the first 82-game season of his career and only reached 65 games played once in his first four seasons.
  • Porter was effectively useless for the 2018 postseason due to injury and has missed nearly a full season’s worth of games over his career (67 excluding playoffs).
  • Oubre and Satoransky are both restricted free agents in 2019.

Locking up Wall, Beal, and Porter for max contracts was the correct move. But because of those deals and the Mahinmi albatross, Washington has $107 million on the books for the 2019-20 season–and just four players under contract. For reference, the salary cap for this season was a hair under $100 million.

Again: The amount of money you’ve committed to paying four players two years from now is more than the salary cap for this season. And two of the five assets currently on the roster will be free agents.

The Only Option.

The only option then is to blow it up. Not necessarily all the way up, but trade one or two of your three core players, ideally for younger, cheaper talent with room to grow. And draft picks. Please get some draft picks.

This core has been really fun at times, and the potential at one time looked considerable. But Wall will turn 28 shortly after next season begins, and Beal and Porter will each be 25 at the start of next season. They’ll each continue to grow and improve, but we’re probably not going to see some incredible one-year leap from any of them. Trade them now while their value is still high.

My preference would be to keep Wall, trade Beal, and test the market for Porter. And see if you can attach one of your negatives to the deal.

Maybe you see if the Nuggets are willing to part with Gary Harris or Jamal Murray. Maybe the Pistons blow it up and are selling low on Andre Drummond. Maybe the Lakers strike out on one of the max players they want and you work out a Julius Randle deal (assuming the Lakers re-sign him). Maybe the Nets are willing to take on Mahinmi’s money in exchange for adding Porter, and you can work out a Jarrett Allen deal. Maybe the Suns are willing to part with T.J. Warren (you’re not getting Devin Booker or Josh Jackson).

And there’s always a move for DeMarcus Cousins, which Zach Lowe points out could still happen, but we can get a little more creative. (Also, the deal he mentions of Porter, Oubre, Gortat, and a pick in a sign-and-trade for Cousins–if the league allows it–would then pair a big man coming off an Achilles tear with a point guard with recurring knee problems; the upside is very real, but we’re also looking at the possibility of Dwight Howard plus Steve Nash levels of disaster.)

Each of those players could potentially be a second or third option on an elite team down the road, just as Beal and Porter could be. The difference is, I’m comfortable saying at this stage, we know this team is not going to contend for a title as currently constructed, but we don’t know how it would fare if you make substantive changes.

If you replace Beal and Gortat with Gary Harris and Trey Lyles, for example, are the Wizards better or worse? Beal’s salary is roughly $9 million more than Harris’s over the next three years (Harris is also under contract one extra season), and Gortat will cost about $10 million more than Lyles will next season (after which Gortat will be an unrestricted free agent and Lyles will be a restricted free agent). Other things would have to be worked out to make it feasible money-wise, but it’s potentially manageable.

Is Beal better than, say, Julius Randle? Absolutely. But Randle gives the Wizards an athletic big man like the one Wall has been begging for, his coming deal will be much cheaper than Beal’s current, and it would change the entire dynamic of the Wizards’ lineup. Plus, you could likely squeeze a pick or two out of it considering the Lakers are going into win-now mode.

What about something like Beal and Gortat for Andre Drummond and Reggie Bullock? Hey look, there’s an athletic big man and shooting! A Wall-Drummond pairing could be deadly for years to come (Drummond will be 25 when next season starts and is locked up for three more seasons), and while you still don’t have any shooting in your frontcourt, you add a wing who’s coming off a year of .445 3-point shooting on 4.5 attempts per game and is just 27 with one more year ($2.5 million) under contract.

It’s tough to say how Wall would feel about any of this. Suffice to say, based on his recent comments, Wall wants changes made. If this offseason consists exclusively of another overhaul of the bench, your star player is going to be furious. Maybe he would be furious if you traded his best teammates away and he didn’t like who you got in return.

Or maybe he appreciates the front office hearing his unhappiness and doing something about it. The worst-case scenario is really bad: Beal (or Wall or Porter) goes on to thrive for a different team while the pieces Washington got in return fall flat and the whole thing falls apart. But what’s the best-case scenario for this team as currently constructed, as we look at it today? A loss in the Eastern Conference Finals? That’d be a step up, sure, but it’s hard to imagine a ceiling higher than that right now.

This sucks. Make no mistake about it. This team, a few seasons ago, was on the rise and had mountains of potential. But it’s over. There is no roster flexibility left. Quality free agents don’t want to come to Washington; all you’re getting is veterans looking for a late payday. I’m not saying start from scratch. But if the Wizards don’t move one of their three best players now, three years from now we might be looking at a complete rebuild and nothing to show for this era of Wizards basketball but early postseason exits.

Oh, and you have to fire Ernie Grunfeld if you ever want success in your basketball life. But that goes without saying.


 

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Nothing Will Change Until Ted Wants It To Change http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/nothing-will-change-until-ted-wants-it-to-change.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/nothing-will-change-until-ted-wants-it-to-change.html#respond Sun, 29 Apr 2018 20:36:52 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55566 In 2017 after Toronto was swept by Cleveland in the playoffs, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri famously said the team needs a culture change. They went on to change their style, improve their bench and grab the No. 1 seed in the East.

After the Raptors handed the Wizards a disappointing first round loss on Friday, David Aldridge tweeted the Wizards need to do the same thing.

However, that same type of culture change won’t happen in Washington. And there is one very specific reason why.

Ujiri’s demand for change came after a four-year stretch where the Raptors averaged 51 wins and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Imagine, for a second, what would happen if the Wizards had a four-year stretch like that. Ownership and management would not be calling for wholesale changes. They would be celebrating the franchise’s most successful run in 40 years.

Therein lies the problem. You can debate the roster and cap space and coaching decisions all day, but the team will never make it to the next level until mediocrity is no longer tolerated.

Washington just completed a five-year run averaging 44.6 wins and they made the second round of the playoffs three times. They regressed this season following their 49-win 2016-17 campaign. Yet the takeaway from Ted Leonsis in his season-ending note to fans was that it was an acceptable – if not disappointing — season that was marred by injuries:

“They overcame their star player being out for 41 games and still found a way to win. Bradley Beal was recognized as an All-Star in his own right.  Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky were incredibly effective off the bench and showed that they can contribute at a high level.  Otto Porter fought through injury and continued to compete in this Toronto series and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

Head coach Scott Brooks echoed Ted’s sentiments in his end-of-season remarks, repeatedly mentioning injuries when explaining the disappointing outcome of the season.

Read the first line of David Aldridge’s tweet again: “The Raptors faced their problems as a team last season…” The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it exists. The Wizards have problems at every level — management, coaching and player — but ownership and the front office continue to look the other way.

When player after player says the team plays down to lesser opponents and they don’t know why, the reaction should be to demand changes, not preach continuity.

When the coach spends 82 games saying he needs to find five guys who want to compete but never makes any substantive changes, preserving the status quo is not acceptable.

When the roster has glaring holes at multiple positions year-after-year and has huge amounts of cap space tied up in outdated players, a new approach is needed.

But the owner chooses to keep his head in the sand, while insisting to fans that a championship is the highest priority.

“Our singular goal in everything we do is to win a championship.  You deserve it.  Our city deserves it.  It remains our first and only priority and I think our team showed this year that we have the pieces to make it happen.”

Ted’s words ring hollow given the fact that the team left its 15th roster spot open all season, and the Wizards were the only team in the NBA to not use both of its allotted two-way contracts. They were also one of the last franchises to get its own G League team. Those are not the actions of a team whose singular goal in everything it does is to win a championship.

To be clear, Ted is not obligated to spend indiscriminately to chase a championship. It’s his money. He already spends a hell of a lot on payroll – the fifth highest in the league. He doesn’t have to make the additional investments necessary to nudge the Wizards over the hump. But he can’t have it both ways. He cannot claim a championship-or-bust mantra while at the same time annually celebrating the grand accomplishment of playing in late-April.

If Washington’s singular priority truly is to win a championship, then the 2017-18 season would be a catalyst for major change, not a minor disappointment. Of all the members of the Wizards organization who publicly commented during exit interview day, only one person acknowledged the fundamental problems with the team: John Wall.

“I think it’s pretty obvious. I don’t need to point it out. I think the way the league is going, you need athletic bigs, you need scoring off the bench, you need all of those types of things. We don’t really have an athletic big. I mean, Ian is older. March is older. They’re not athletic guys, but they do the little things that permit their game to help as much as possible. Scoring off the bench, we had that the majority of the time. A shooter that can put the ball on the floor. Tomas is a great point guard to set everybody up. KO is a lockdown defender who can knock down shots for us. Mike was basically our go-to scorer and things like that. We need somebody else that can create off the dribble. I think at times it hurt us. We kind of got that when Ty came, but it was later in the season.”

Wall is right. It is obvious and he has been saying it for a few years now. Despite his pleas, the front office has gone in the opposite direction, sinking most of its disposable income into stationary, non-shooting centers, leaving the wing depth woefully thin and rotating through backup guards who cannot create their own shot.

The predictable result has been top-heavy rosters that rely entirely too much on Wall and Beal to carry the scoring load. Even with the built-in excuse of Wall’s injury, this season – which was marred by inconsistency even before Wall was hurt– should be a wake-up call for this franchise. It should be a moment of enlightenment. It should be a flashing red light screaming for a new approach.

Instead, we get this from the owner: “I think our team showed this year that we have the pieces to make it [a championship] happen.”

Those are not the words of someone demanding a culture change. Those are not the words of someone contemplating any personnel changes. John Wall recognizes the problems with the Wizards. It remains to be seen if anyone else does.

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Wizards/Raptors Game 6: Why the Wizards Fell Short http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizardsraptors-game-6-why-the-wizards-fell-short.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizardsraptors-game-6-why-the-wizards-fell-short.html#respond Sat, 28 Apr 2018 08:05:46 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55555 The Washington Wizards 2017-18 season is over. The Toronto Raptors came into the Capital One Arena, stayed within striking distance for three quarters, and then imposed their will in the fourth quarter en route to a series-clinching victory.

Coach Scott Brooks blamed the loss on his team’s inability to hit shots and turnovers, but later he admitted–albeit begrudgingly–that the better team did indeed win. He then congratulated Raptors Coach Dwane Casey and called him the “Coach of the Year.”

Coach Casey was equally as effusive with his praise for Coach Brooks, and he also acknowledged that the Wizards weren’t quite at full strength without Otto and Jodie Meeks–yes, he said Jodie Meeks.

But Casey eventually removed his magnanimous hat and praised the exploits of his own team. He attributed the Raptors’ victory to the return of Fred VanVleet–after admitting that he downplayed VanVleet’s importance earlier in the series to build the confidence of the players who were playing in his absence–and the overall play of the bench. The Raptors bench scored 34 points and had a total plus/minus of plus-52, while the Wizards bench had 20 points and were minus-27.

So, why did the Wizards lose? Let us count the ways.

Kelly Oubre, MIA

This past Wednesday Kelly Oubre implied that Raptors guard Delon Wright did not play well at home, and then at the shoot-around prior to Game 6, he doubled down and then some by saying, “He can take it very personally but at the end of the day if you want to go to war, I’m the wrong person to go to war against. If I die, I’m going to come back to life and kill you.” In the words of Woody Harrelson, “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly…”

Oubre confidently made his first shot in the first quarter–a 3-pointer from 26 feet–which gave the Wizards an 11-point lead. Sadly, he missed his next six shots, which included an airball, and he did not score the remainder of the game despite playing 26 minutes. He exacerbated his lack of scoring by committing four fouls, which rendered him useless the entire game.

During one futile sequence, Oubre ignored John Wall’s pleas for the ball and decided to take on three Raptors between him and the basket. He missed the shot, and he sprinted down the other end of the floor to commit an ill-advised foul on Kyle Lowry.

Oubre was in the starting lineup because Otto Porter was out after undergoing a successful left lower leg fasciotomy for compartment syndrome. This was Oubre’s chance to shine, but instead he continued to struggle as he did over the last quarter of the season.

Porter’s presence, even when he was clearly hobbled by injuries, spread the floor a bit, and gave Wall and Beal more space with which to operate. And when his shot didn’t fall, Porter still had a masterful mid-range game as his Plan B. But with Oubre’s inability to hit an outside shot or even get to the basket, he was a liability on the offensive end of the floor and was basically rendered useless.

Coach Brooks was more diplomatic in his analysis of Oubre:

“He didn’t shoot the ball, he’s been struggling from the 3 for awhile now. But you hope after that first one went in he’d feel good offensively, but he just didn’t get in a good rhythm. A couple of shots didn’t go his way….I thought he got fouled maybe once or twice..but he gives you great effort. He was guarding a really, really great player, one of the best players in the league, DeRozan.”

All Minutes Matter

Prior to Game 6, Coach Brooks boldly proclaimed that worrying about the number of minutes played by starters was overrated due to the number of days off the players had between games. That sounded good on paper, but even a casual observer could see that in Game 5 there was a direct correlation between minutes played by Wall (43) and his fourth quarter effectiveness (2-6 from the field and just four points).

In Game 6, Wall played 40 minutes and Beal played 43. They combined to shoot 2-for-9 in the fourth quarter for just 10 points, and all of Wall’s points were from the free throw line, not the field. It is worth mentioning that the Wizards not named Beal or Wall scored just four points on 2-for-7 shooting, which wasn’t exactly helpful. But Wall and Beal lacked energy and crispness in that last quarter, and it seemed to be directly related to the number of minutes they played.

Raptors Coach Casey agreed:

“Beal had 43 minutes, John had 40 and [Markieff] Morris had 38 so they were logging some heavy minutes and I thought that was the difference in the game and that was credited to the second unit.”

To his credit, after the game, Coach Brooks maintained that the excessive minutes played by his star back-court had no effect on the final outcome of the game, “I don’t think the minutes were a deciding factor. …They outplayed us.”

It’s A Matter of Trust

The Wizards led 78-73 after three quarters, and they started the fourth with Beal, before subbing in John Wall after 27 seconds. Wall was on the floor with Gortat, Satoransky, Ty Lawson, and Mike Scott. The Raptors had DeRozan and Lowry on the bench with Jakob Poeltl, C.J. Miles, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam on the floor.

The first 5:45 of the fourth quarter, the Raptors bench outscored the Wizards mix of starters and bench players, 15-7.  Then Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas checked into the game, and they stretched the lead as high as eight points. By the time DeRozan re-entered the game, the lead that was initially six points had slowly escalated to double figures. Lowry and DeRozan were instrumental in their team’s fourth quarter performance, but it was the bench–anchored by VanVleet–that did the heavy lifting.

Coach Casey said it was his trust in VanVleet and the bench that helped the Raptors win:

“It is nothing different then we have done. Just added Freddy [Fred VanVleet] to the group. That is the difference. We tried not to make a big deal out of it while he was out, keep the other guys motivated but he was the difference. I thought that little group has a playing personality that he does make a difference with that group. He is kind of the engine, the toughness. It is that little birdie on the shoulder and I thought it really propelled Pascal [Siakam] and those other guys to give them a sense of confidence.”

When Wall was injured, Coach Brooks entrusted Tomas Satoransky to lead the team, and he did yeoman’s work and was instrumental in helping the Wizards gain a playoff berth. But once the playoffs started, Brooks leaned heavily on the newly signed Ty Lawson to run the team. Lawson had six points and no assists in 19 minutes of play and for the series he averaged 5.7 points and 3.4 assists. Satoransky, who played shooting guard and small forward during this series against the Raptors, but not one minute at point guard, had just two points with no assists in Game 6, and averaged just 1.0 point and 0.6 assists in the playoffs.

Coach Casey danced with the girls who brung him, while Coach Brooks opted to experiment and tinker with lineups, and it ended up being one of the factors that prematurely ended the Wizards season. The North won this war, and the Wizards were bounced a round earlier than they were the previous year.

Next up for the Raptors? The winner of the Pacers/LeBronCavaliers series. Next up for the Wizards? Exit interviews, draft plans and personnel decisions. Clearly, we aren’t in 2015 anymore.

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Wizards Forget to Clutch Their Soul in Game 5 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizards-forgot-to-clutch-their-soul-in-game-5.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/04/wizards-forgot-to-clutch-their-soul-in-game-5.html#respond Thu, 26 Apr 2018 04:37:56 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55540

Damn look at this shift in gear by Wall… pic.twitter.com/cJEmjt9kmX

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) April 25, 2018

You couldn’t not be nervous the whole game, whether you were a Wizards or Raptors fan. It was either going to end miserably, or triumphantly but just by the skin of its teeth. And it was only Game 5 in a knotted up series — no fishing involved but just the baiting of the hook.

A relatively 3-point-less Wizards team lost it in the end. They imploded, lost by 10 points, 108-98. There were 17 lead changes and 10 ties in this game, folks.

Late in the third period, already 4-for-12 from distance on the night, they missed 13 straight 3-pointers. Where they really lost it: Washington missed seven straight 3s after the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter. That is, until Bradley Beal made a meaningless, pressure-less 3, his first points of the final period, with the Wizards down 13 points with 16 seconds left.

Ironically, Beal made a 3-pointer to bring the Wizards within 56-57 with 8:39 left in the third quarter. Then the misses, by player, in sequence:

  1. Porter
  2. Morris
  3. Morris
  4. Wall
  5. Oubre
  6. Beal
  7. Oubre
  8. Wall
  9. Beal
  10. Beal
  11. Wall
  12. Oubre
  13. Porter

It was 94-93, Raptors, with 4:05 left. Toronto went on a 14-5 run to end it. It was rolling-on-the-ground, locked arm-and-arm competitive until one opponent rolled off a cliff. While the other got up, dusted off their hands, and walked away shrugging their shoulders thinking, ‘Boy am I lucky it just happened to be me.’

Meaning, it was actually a good — damn near great — game in either direction. Then it wasn’t even close.

But it featured everything.

Early fouls, late whistles, and letting them play.

Trash-talking: mostly from Wall, unfortunately, to Toronto’s bench, including assistant coach/ambassador/rabble-rouser Drake.

It featured Wall being amazing, and yet also a clip with his hands on his hip for an entire possession (tweeted by yours truly), which then unfortunately made its way around the twittersphere painting an inaccurate but certainly should-be-accountable picture of Wall.

Wall finished with 26 points on 21 shots, with 9 assists, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 7 turnovers, at least 3 of which were sleepy-eyed careless. He played a game-high 44 minutes (DeRozan played 39, Lowry 38 and Beal played 36). Beal in no way tried to help to seal the deal in the end, even if he and Wall combined for 46 points, on 41 shot no less. DeRozan and Lowry combined for 49 points on 37 shots. It was just about enough.

[There was just a LeBron James buzzer beater in Game 5 while I was writing this, for what it is worth, which is nearly our lives — sporting fandom lives, for what they are worth.]

But the Wizards-Raptors game featured everything. And it was a pretty, pret-ty good contest that got ruined, win or loss.

It was messy, that game. But with encapsulating back-and-forth action — amongst the stars, and role players (from Delon Wright to Mike Scott to Ty Lawson).

There was decent defense — mixed in with quite good defense (sub-47% shooting for both teams, although much of that could have possibly been the lack of legs by both teams).

There was hero ball, and heroics, up until a point for the Wizards, who generally rode grinding out (and stalling) in the clutch all season. Sheesh! Those aforementioned 3-pointers missed. Did we really watch that?

There was good Kelly Oubre, there was terrible Kelly Oubre. There was fourth quarter Jonas Valanciunas. And there was vintage Gortat-from-Wall action; Marcin scored 10 points with 12 rebounds (5 offensive).

The Wizards crushed Toronto on the glass, by the way — 14-6 offensive and 50-35 overall. But Washington’s 18 team turnovers (to Toronto’s 10) coughed up 14 points. Another prevailing theme in Wizlandia: turnovers and the lack of 3-pointers.

Kyle Lowry just snatching the ball from Otto Porter with the Wizards down just three points with 5:20 left was the silent stinker amongst a party of crop-dusters.

NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg reported during the game that he could read lips. Wall and the sidelined Drake exchanged public, friendly, almost branded banter disguised as trash talk, and Wall apparently told said rapper that the Wizards weren’t coming back [for a Game 7].

So, of course, Greenberg boosted the point to DeRozan during the on-court, post-game interview after the Raptors actually won. DeRozan, who looked like he was gunning for points at whatever cost early on (to the potential chagrin of Raptors fans), finished with 32 points but 5 assists (after Lowry’s 10 assists and topping anyone else on the Wizards not named Wall).

“I hope they’re not,” said DeRozan about Wall proclaiming that the Wizards would not make it back to Canada.

And so the Raptors take a critical 3-2 series lead into Friday’s Game 6 in Washington. Maybe it was better that the Wizards got snuffed out like a cat’s paw on an upside-down roach. Not sure how they pick themselves up emotionally after such a loss and survive otherwise. They’ve got the soul to push this series to 7, just not sure they’re capable.

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