Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Wed, 14 Mar 2018 17:38:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.9 The Timberwolves Go Hard in the Paint to Defeat the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/the-timberwolves-go-hard-in-the-paint-to-defeat-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/the-timberwolves-go-hard-in-the-paint-to-defeat-the-wizards.html#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 11:14:52 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55206

That was the shortest postgame session for Brooks. Maybe 2 minutes. Not happy with the team defense. Lull with the questions from media, he bounced.

— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) March 14, 2018

Washington Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks does not display a tremendous amount of anger in front of the media after losses. He’s usually muted and measured in his comments, typically first saying he has to do a better job coaching, then adding that his team has to do the same. In fact, he used that exact logic to explain why the Wizards played so poorly in their 129-102 loss to Miami this past Saturday night.

Brooks was not nearly as magnanimous after the Wizards’ 116-111 loss to the Timberwolves.

He didn’t raise his voice and slap the podium like the late Denny Green so famously did back in 2002, and he wasn’t dismissive and condescending with his retorts the way Gregg Popovich routinely is after bad losses. But given the brevity of his responses, and the accountability he told the media he was not seeing from his team, it was clear that Brooks was more than a bit miffed.

“We’re getting beat on backdoors, we’re getting beat off the dribble. If you do that, you can’t expect your bigs to protect you every time. You got to guard, you got to guard the ball. You can’t keep saying the same things every game. It’s been four games now, and we’ve given up over 60 points in the paint. It’s a personal pride. I got to find the guys that are going to do it.”

Brooks had every right to be upset with his team given the events that transpired leading up to the game. In the aforementioned 27-point loss to the Miami Heat, the Wizards trailed by as many as 38 points, committed 15 turnovers and allowed the Heat to score 76 points (38-of-52) in the paint.

According to Brooks, both the turnovers and the points in the paint were points of emphasis in the Wizards’ last practice—a practice Brooks characterized as “good.” Before the game, he reiterated that his team’s ability to limit both of those factors were key to a victory against the Timberwolves (and them playing well overall heading into the playoffs).

But instead of heeding their coach’s words, the Wizards let those very factors determine the outcome of the game, and not in a good way.

In fairness, the Wizards did seem to have their turnover problem under control against the Timberwolves. They committed just 11 turnovers, which was four less than they did against the Heat, and just one more than Minnesota. But with 11 seconds left in the game, when they trailed by just three points, the 6-foot-5 Bradley Beal, who had a game-high four turnovers, allowed himself to get pinned near the out-of-bounds line by 7-footer Karl-Anthony Towns.

Beal maintains that Towns pushed him, which forced Beal to throw a bad pass, but there was plenty of open real estate on the left and right side of Towns, and the Big Panda could have easily used his dribble to break free. In fact, one of the biggest improvements Beal has made to his game is his ability to get by his man using hesitation and sharp changes of direction with his dribble. He employed neither against Towns, and threw the ball away to Jeff Teague who dunked the ball emphatically to put the game out of reach.

As bad as that game-ending turnover was, it was small potatoes compared to the points the Wizards allowed in the paint: 64 of the Timberwolves’ 116 points were in the paint, they shot 68 percent while they were in there, and they were relentless from the opening quarter, where Minnesota scored 18 of their first 24 points in the lane.

Even in the second quarter, when a strong push from the Wizards’ starters and bench propelled them to an eight-point lead, the Timberwolves would get a dunk from Taj Gibson, two layups from Jeff Teague and tip-in from Gorgui Dieng to keep the Wizards from pulling away before halftime.

Yes, the Timberwolves got insanely hot from the 3-point range in the fourth quarter, thanks to Nemaja Bjelica (3-3) and Towns (2-2), but it seemed like the baskets that broke the Wizards’ collective backs came via the paint.

When the Timberwolves went on a 14-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter to turn their seven-point deficit into a seven-point lead, eight of those 14 points came via layups and dunks. And both times the Wizards fought to get within one basket, they allowed Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague to get in the lane for easy layups.

Ian Mahinmi had his moments against Towns, despite a single blocked shot; Marcin Gortat did an effective job at putting his body on Towns, too. Markieff Morris and Otto Porter also forced Taj Gibson to give up the ball deep in the paint on more than one occasion. But the Wizards’ perimeter players did not hold up their end of the bargain, whether defending the perimeter players or preventing them from penetrating and throwing entry passes. Markieff Morris blamed it on his teammates being “a step behind,” while Beal said the Wizards needed to be more effective in “contesting shots.” Meanwhile, Brooks just came out and said that he would “find the guys willing to do it”—the “it” being preventing entry to the paint. That could have been a knee-jerk emotional reaction after the game, or it could mean Brooks is looking to make personnel changes.

The good news is that the Wizards will be in Boston tonight, where they will face a Celtics team without Kyrie Irving, Daniel Theis, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and maybe Al Horford—all of whom are adept at scoring in the paint or maneuvering their way in there.  The bad news is that the Celtics game is still the second in two nights, and on the road after a bad loss—too soon for the Wizards to forget? And if Coach Brooks decides to shake up the rotations due to what he believes is a lack of defensive effort from his current core of players, it could very well lead to yet another disappointing loss.

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Scott Brooks Deserves Some Credit for the Win Against Miami http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/scott-brooks-deserves-some-credit-for-the-win-in-miami.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/scott-brooks-deserves-some-credit-for-the-win-in-miami.html#respond Thu, 08 Mar 2018 02:40:39 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55194

When the Wizards were at their darkest hour, having gone on their first three-game losing streak of the season, Scott Brooks simply went to the drawing board and put together one of his better game plans during his D.C. tenure. Washington was held on and scored a pivotal 117-113 overtime victory over the Miami Heat in a win that had playoff-like intensity.

The impressive part wasn’t that they were able to stave off the Heat from surpassing them in the Eastern Conference standings, it was how Scott Brooks was able to out duel one of the better coaches in the NBA with his lineup decisions.

For one night at least, Brooks had Erik Spoelstra on his heels and was able to dictate the pace and style of play because of his executive decision to go with his smaller lineup that included Markieff Morris playing center next to Mike Scott at the four, Kelly Oubre at the three, and Sato and Beal in the back court. After the game, Brooks was asked how the team limited Whiteside and he let it be known that the way it played out was no coincidence:

“We wanted to make sure that he didn’t get a ton of offensive rebounds and he still ended up with four. Not a lot of minutes, but they have a lot of good players. They have a lot of good players and they have a lot of different kinds of bigs. Kelly [Olynyk] is a big-time shooter that didn’t shoot the ball well tonight. The young fella [Bam Adebayo] is aggressive and makes a lot of plays – he didn’t play a lot of minutes tonight. We wanted to make sure that we stayed between Whiteside and the basket. He’s had some terrific games against us and tonight we did a good job of keeping it under check.”

The decision to go with Keef at center for extended minutes was a forward thinking one by Brooks, since it is no secret that Hassan Whiteside has been dominant against the Wizards in years past averaging 21.7 points and a staggering 15.8 rebounds in his last six games against the Wizards. Washington decided the best course of action was to limit his impact on the game by forcing Spoelstra to take him off the court.

Whiteside only was able to log 21 minutes of game action and barely played at all in the second half because the Heat quickly observed that the Wizards could pull him away from the basket with Keef floating around near the three-point line. It is important to note that Brooks elected to go with the small lineup instead of just inserting Ian Mahinmi into the game. Mahnimi only played four minutes in this game as a result of Brooks’ strategy.

The newfound space on the court because of the Wizards “Death Lineup,” helped them shoot 14-24 from three-point range and  their defensive versatility allowed them to hold Miami to just 9-33 shooting from beyond the arc.One of more than fair criticisms of Brooks this season has been his inability to properly feel the game ebb ad flow of the game and modify his lineups accordingly.

Just a few days ago, Brooks showed how rigid his rotations can be when he kept Jodie Meeks in the game for far too long as they were erasing a double digit fourth quarter deficit against the Indiana Pacers. In this game, Brooks demonstrated why he was named Coach of the Month i February. After essentially benching Marcin Gortat in the second half in an effort to give the Heat a different look, Brooks went back to the Polish Machine in the overtime period, and Gortat rewarded his coach by playing well. Brooks was asked about Gortat’s play in the extra frame and was complimentary of the little details:

“One, we had to spread some of the minutes around and he’s probably the league leader in jump balls, he gets all of them – I don’t know the percentage off hand. He does do a great job there and he does set great screens for Brad [Beal] and our guys to get open looks. He made two big plays: he got the charge and he made two free throws.”

The most important sign of growth from Brooks in this win was his trust in point guard Tomas Satoransky. In the not so distant past, Scott Brooks has shown that while the empirical data suggests that Satoransky should be on the floor a lot more than what he actually is. According to ESPN’s Real Plus Minus stat that evaluates a player’s complete on-court performance, Satoransky rates as the 11th best at his designated postion of shooting guard in the NBA with an RPM of 1.65. For context that is higher than the Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown.  Despite that, Brooks has felt more comfortable with the ball in Beal’s hand towards the end of games.

Against the Heat, not only did Brooks play Tomas a career-high 40 minutes, but he even allowed him the opportunity to have the ball in his hands in some of the games most critical possessions. Satoransky was entrusted with running the last play at the end of regulation that resulted in a set-up pass to Bradley Beal. There will obviously be growing pains for any young player who is learning how to close out games, but the best way to learn is through personal experience. Satoransky gained invaluable end of game experience in the win that will surely assist him when he is getting his first meaningful playoff minutes this spring.

The one questionable lineup change Brooks made was his decision to break the “in case of emergency” glass on Ramon Sessions who just recently signed a second ten-day contract with the team. Sessions finished the game with a mind boggling plus/minus of minus-17 in just 13 minutes of play. Sessions entered the game at the 3:52 mark of the first quarter with the Wizards well in control of the game 28-12, but when Sessions left the game at the 10:39 mark of second quarter, the score was 31-28 Wizards.

The sample size is obviously small, but there were some positive things happening with Sessions on the court. He still has the knack for driving to the basket and drawing contact, as he went 4-4 from the free throw line. What Sessions gives the Wizards second unit is a player who is more than comfortable at being aggressive offensively. His style of play is a much different look from the offensively conservative Tim Frazier who becomes a liability at times because teams refuse to honor him as a viable offensive threat.

Scott Brooks showed glimpses of a coach who is willing to evaluate his own performance as a decision-maker and use that information to devise new ideas. While he didn’t sway any votes his way for coach of the year with his latest win, he did at least take a step in the right direction in demonstrating that he is willing to be flexible.

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From The Other Side: He’s Older and a Bit Slower but He’s Still Dwyane Wade http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/from-the-other-side-hes-older-and-a-bit-slower-but-hes-still-dwyane-wade.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/from-the-other-side-hes-older-and-a-bit-slower-but-hes-still-dwyane-wade.html#respond Wed, 07 Mar 2018 17:34:49 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55187 Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use that access to explore what’s going on with the opposing team. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on Dwyane Wade’s performance against the Wizards last night.

Seventy-five minutes before tip-off, Dwyane Wade stood about 10 feet beyond the 3-point line with a basketball by his side. He wasn’t moving, he wasn’t stretching, he wasn’t talking to anyone, he was simply standing still watching his teammates.

Justise Winslow was dribbling in and out of the lane practicing floaters off of one knee. Josh Richardson stood in the corner trying to perfect his 3-point shot, James Johnson was in the post trying out an array of moves, while attempting to stay out of Winslow’s way, and guards Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic were on the floor stretching. And in back of them all, there was Wade standing still as a statue as he surveyed the Heat landscape.

After about seven minutes, a group of kids walked to half court to practice singing the National Anthem, and they finally uprooted Wade just a bit. Instead of standing 10 feet beyond a straightaway 3-pointer, he shuffled about 10 feet to the left. And instead of holding the ball, he put it under his foot, folded his arms, and kept watching his teammates prepare for the game.

Two minutes after that, Wade’s old friend Udonis Haslem walked on to the court, slapped fives with Wade, and then went to talk to assistant coach Juwan Howard. Then, as if Haslem’s hand had activated some type of freeze tag cheat code, Wade broke out of his catatonic state, and began doing vigorous dribble drills in preparation for the game against the Wizards.

Perhaps Wade was meditating, perhaps his body was just tired and he was pacing himself before starting his pregame drills. Or maybe, Wade was just practicing the approach he was going to use against the Wizards, because that type of cat-and-mouse game is exactly what he did during the Miami Heat’s 117-113 loss to the Wizards.

“It’s like that country song, ‘I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.’ I truly believe that about Dwyane. He might not be able to play the role that he did for us in 2008 and 2009, playing 40 minutes and I would ask him to play the best player in defense on the other end as well. But for 20 to 25 minutes, I think he can be every bit of who he used to be, just in compact minutes.” – Erik Spoelstra

When Wade entered the game with 3:52 left in the first quarter, the Heat trailed by 17 points. A little over a minute later. he went on a run where he accounted for eight of the Heat’s last 10 points of the quarter. He scored on a driving layup, he hit a mid-range jumper, he capitalized on one of the Wizards’ three turnovers by dunking off the fast break, and then he found Kelly Olynyk open for a 3-pointer. By the end of the quarter the Heat’s deficit had gone from 17 to five points.

Wade scored a total of five points in the second and third quarters, but frankly, they were nowhere near as impactful as the feats of strength he pulled off in the first quarter.  In fact, his relative inactivity in the middle two quarters was akin to the statue-like existence he seemed to be in prior to the game. By the time the fourth quarter came, Wade snapped out of it and resembled his younger, more spry self–and most of it came at the expense of Kelly Oubre who is 14 years younger than Wade.

First, Wade caught the ball on the right side of the lane, took two dribbles, gave a slight fake and hit a right hook over Oubre to cut the Wizards lead to eight points.

Two minutes later, Wade caught the ball in the post, and Oubre attempted to smother him, because he knew he was younger, quicker and more athletic than Wade. In his mind, the closer he got to Wade, the less likely he was to gain any type of offensive advantage. But Wade took one dribble to the right, then quickly pivoted to the left and shot a fadeaway over the outstretched hands of the overzealous Oubre. Right before the shot went through the basket, Oubre fell into Wade knocking him into the crowd a bit and the referees called the foul. Wade nailed the free throw and the Heat led by two points, 90-88.

With 28.4 seconds left in the game, the Heat trailed by three points and Wade found himself bringing the ball up the court after a missed Tomas Satoransky 3-pointer. He dribbled the ball up the court and sized up the Wizards’ defense. He used a hesitation dribble to go by Markieff Morris and once he got to the rim, Bradley Beal tried to block or at least alter his shot, but neither attempt was successful. Wade was fouled, yet still scored and after he hit the free throw, the game was tied at 105, and that’s how it would stay the remainder of regulation.

Wade started the overtime session on the bench, which was Coach Spoelstra’s way of resting him until he was needed in the home stretch–and the need came after 1:36 had elapsed.

After a quiet three minutes of play, Wade found himself wide open in the corner for a 3-point shot. He let it go with Oubre closing in quickly, but on the release, Oubre managed to hit him in the face.  The referees reviewed the play to make sure it was indeed a foul, and once that was established, Wade hit all three free throws to bring the Heat within one point of the lead. He had victimized poor Oubre once again.

Just eight seconds later, Wade found himself in the lane, just two feet from the basket, with a chance to tie the game. First he head faked to get Satoransky off his feet, then he shot a floater over the arms of Markieff Morris, but the shot clanged off the back rim, and Oubre–yes the same Oubre who Wade had been torching in crunch time–grabbed the rebound. The Heat did not score another basket, and the Wizards ended up winning the game, 117-113.

After the game, Wade was asked how he was able to play such a sizable role in the outcome of the game despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back at 36 years old. To Wade’s credit, he downplayed the degree of difficulty and explained his feat in the simplest of basketball terms:

“When its at the end[of the game]…everything goes out the window at the end of games. I lock it in–its like a mechanism when you lock in.”

Coach Spoelstra could have been hard on Wade’s inability to force double overtime from point blank range, even on the second night of a back-to-back, but instead–in true Coach Spoelstra fashion–he chose to focus on the positive aspects of the past 48 hours for his star player:

I think one of the most brilliant qualities that Dwyane has is he can observe and take note of what’s needed for a team and find a way to fill in the gaps…and that may be to score like it is tonight but last night[against the Phoenix Suns] he was just a facilitator..when I saw he can be as good as he once was, that can be as a facilitator and somebody that will draw a lot of attention and help somebody else.






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Not Everyone Ate in the Wizards’ Third Straight Loss http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/not-everyone-ate-in-the-wizards-third-straight-loss.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/not-everyone-ate-in-the-wizards-third-straight-loss.html#respond Mon, 05 Mar 2018 04:24:52 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55176

(Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time this season, the Wizards have lost three consecutive games. This particular loss stung because of its potential playoff implications down the road. The Wizards entered the evening with a half-game lead over the Indiana Pacers for the 4-seed in the Eastern Conference playoff standings—with a win, they would have moved a game and a half in front of them. More importantly, Washington could have stolen both the season series and the coveted tie-breaker over the Pacers. With their 98-95 loss, however, the Wizards will now have to go back to the drawing board as they attempt to keep their playoff positioning intact as they wait for John Wall’s return.

Everybody’s Not Eating

Bradley Beal started a little bit of a controversy a few weeks back when he first dropped the patented Paid in Full lineeverybody eats” after a big win against the Toronto Raptors. The sentiment behind Beal’s comments was that the team was seeing success because the ball movement was at an all-time high and multiple Wizards players were receiving ample opportunities to showcase their talents. This style of play has helped the Wizards do more than tread water during the 15-game stretch without Wall, but for some reason it was not quite implemented last night, when Beal’s shot was not falling.

Brad shot 8-for-27 from the floor, and missed his last five shots from the field, while turning the ball over twice on two errant passes. The problem with Beal taking 27 shots on a night where he simply did not have “it” is the Wizards as a team only took 83 shots during the game–meaning Big Panda took 32.5 percent of the teams shots at a 29 percent conversion rate.

When asked if fatigue played a factor in his off shooting night, Beal was blunt in not making any excuses:

“It’s no excuse, man. I got to hit them shots. It’s just plain and simple. I was tired but you can’t half-ass carry a team. You got to go all out. I got to make some shots.”

Part of the reason why Beal felt like he had the carte blanche in the shot department was Scott Brooks empowering him with his lineup choices down the stretch. Brooks elected to sit Tomas Satoransky for the entire fourth quarter, after he picked up his fourth foul in the third. When asked about why Brooks did not get his starting point guard back in the game, the head coach commented that he felt the bench guys deserved to close out the game:

“They gave us energy. The other lineup, we were down a big number and they gave us energy. We came from behind with that lineup, and I was going to roll the dice. I thought they deserved the chance to win the game.”

The logic behind this lineup decision is shaky at best and is even more baffling considering there is empirical evidence to show that Satoransky is simply a much better basketball player than Jodie Meeks. There is literally nothing that Meeks does better on the basketball court than Satoransky, yet Brooks trotted Meeks out for the entire fourth quarter, including two late defensive possessions out of timeouts, when it would have been easy to put the superior defender on the court. Sato has been the catalyst behind the “everybody eats” movement, thanks to his ability to be assertive within the flow of the game and his uncanny ability to find his teammates off of his dribble drives. Brooks stifled the Wizards offense by going with his gut feeling instead of the trusting the data.

Oladipo Outduels Beal and Bogey Gets His Revenge

Victor Oladipo made a return to his hometown metro area after his first All-Star appearance and he put on a show for his family and friends. Oladipo scored a game-high 33 points on 11-for-20 shooting and put his improved play-making skills on full display. In the first half, Victor was able to get to the rim at will and, when he wasn’t finishing through contact, he was receiving the benefit of the doubt from the referees and he made it count by hitting nine of his 10 free throw attempts. When asked about what it meant to play at “home” and to jump the Wizards in the standings, Oladipo made sure to keep his answer politically correct, since these two teams will meet again in two weeks:

“It was a good win, period. Obviously, it is cool playing in front of my family and friends. This is not the first or last time I will be doing this. We just needed the win, obviously, and every win is important. Every game is important from now on till the rest of the season, so we just have to continue to keep getting better and taking it one game at a time.”

Bojan Bogdanovic also made his return to D.C. after he spent half a season with the Wizards as they made their playoff push last year. Bogey did not receive a contract offer from the Wizards during his restricted free agency last summer, and he took that slight out on the Wizards to the tune of 20 points. The former Wizard was able to get into a rhythm with his jump shot and was competent enough on the defensive end to not end up being a liability—even if there was a stretch where Otto Porter, Bogey’s mark, looked as if he were going to take over the game (going 5-for-5 in the second and third quarters after starting the game 1-for-7 from the field). Bogdanovic made his presence known on the game and was certainly a contributing factor as to why the Pacers won the game.

Game Extras

  • While Beal took one-third of the Wizards shots, he also accumulated 11 assists, a new career high and his first points/assists double-double
  • The Wizards need to scrap Gortat and Mahinmi post-ups from the playbook, as they went 0-for-6 on post-up opportunities against the Pacers. The two big man are only scoring 0.88 and 0.63 points per possession (PPP) respectively on post-ups. Those are wasted possessions that could end up in much more fruitful PPP play-types.
  • Kelly Oubre missed his first game of the season with a sore left foot, but coach Brooks did not seem too concerned about Oubre’s availability going forward.
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Behind Miles, Toronto’s Bench Outdistances the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/behind-miles-torontos-bench-outdistances-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/behind-miles-torontos-bench-outdistances-the-wizards.html#respond Sat, 03 Mar 2018 15:08:46 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55169

CJ Miles knocked down SIX triples for the @Raptors to help them to their 4th-straight ROAD win! #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/MKjrG2KgC3

— NBA Canada (@NBACanada) March 3, 2018

Prior to Friday night’s game, Coach Scott Brooks seemed to have all the answers to the challenges the Raptors would present to his Washington Wizards.

First, he tipped his cap to Toronto’s bench — coming into the contest averaging 41.3 points per game — by mentioning that they had a knack “moving the scoreboard”  by erasing and extending leads against their opponents.

Then he joked that CJ Miles, who is an unofficial Wizards killer, had the potential to hit 10 3-pointers on any given night.

Finally, Brooks mentioned that DeMar DeRozan’s ability to shoot and make 3-pointers, not only made him more difficult to defend, but it made the Raptors more difficult to defend overall as a team.

So common sense would lead one to believe that if Coach Brooks knew the secret to Toronto’s success, he could quell their attempts at it, provided his team continued to lean on Bradley Beal while making sure everyone else “ate.”

But as former ESPN personality Chris Berman used to say, “That, is why they play the games.”

The Wizards lost to the Raptors 102-95. And while Toronto’s defense did a masterful job of taking Washington out of their comfort zones during key points in the game (more on that later), the Wizards can trace their demise back to the very bullet points Coach Brooks laid out before the game: Toronto’s bench, CJ Miles and DeMar DeRozan.

It wasn’t just that the Raptors’ bench scored 50 of their team’s 102 points, it was when those points were scored. When they entered the game, the Wizards led by five points thanks to a balanced scoring attack by their starters. But then the opponent’s bench started to slowly chip away with the successful combination of smothering defense and efficient shooting.

They forced three turnovers in the first five minutes of the quarter (including two from the normally reliable Tomas Satoransky) which led to eight points. By the time their starters began to re-enter the game, Washington’s five-point lead had turned into a one-point Raptors lead.

In the fourth quarter, his bench was playing so well that Coach Dwane Casey opted to keep Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and Norman Powell on the bench in favor of Jakob Poetl, Fred VanVleet and Miles. They combined to score 20 points as Toronto outscored the Wizards 25-21 in the fourth quarter. Washington’s bench scored just 15 points the entire night, which is something that Brooks did not bite his tongue about after the game — “Our bench didn’t make shots tonight,” he said.

The majority of the damage inflicted on the Wizards was done by CJ Miles, who scored 20 points in 20 minutes on 7-of-10 shooting from the field (6-of-9 from the 3-point line).

Otto Porter had just accounted for 11 straight Wizards points (six points, two assists), and as a result his team turned a four-point deficit into a three point lead. Then Miles hit consecutive 3-point basket to give the Raptors a lead heading into the final period.

In that fourth quarter, Miles scored 11 points — nine coming from the three-point line. Some of the shots were wide open (as were many of the Raptors fourth quarter 3-point attempts), others were contested much too late. It was if the Wizards had not gotten the pre-game memo from their coach that Miles was a threat from deep.

But Washington’s loss to the Raptors was not solely due to their inability to heed their coach’s warning. Some of their difficulties stemmed from the lack of offensive fluidity, which was a direct result of the Toronto’s physicality.

For the second consecutive game, Bradley Beal was guarded physically, which threw off his shooting rhythm. He shot just 8-for-19 from the floor and scored a hard-earned 23 points.

As a team, the Wizards committed 17 turnovers, and six of them came from Tomas Satoransky, who is usually quite careful with the ball (he’s averaging just 0.9 turnovers this season). When asked why he committed an unusually high number of turnovers, Satoransky had to tip his cap to the defensive acumen of his opponent.

“Not every team is playing the same defense. They were physical today and especially, my part, it was a different kind of physicality than I’m used to and I have to do a better job. I think it’s defense against who we face each and every game and definitely we were doing a great job the whole year. Now, we have to get back to not losing the ball.”

It wasn’t all negative for the Wizards. Porter played well for the second consecutive game with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, and Markieff Morris continued his solid play of late with 15 points. But it wasn’t enough. The Raptors slowed the pace, forced an inordinate amount of turnovers, and used a superior performance by their bench to inch by the Wizards. In short, they demonstrated why they continue to have the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Before the game, Coach Casey acknowledged that the Wizards were playing well without John Wall, because of their reliance on movement, on and off the ball. But he also said that those “experts” who were quick to proclaim how much better the Wizards were without him were smoking something, which caused the media scrum to break into raucous laughter.

With consecutive losses to two of the NBA’s best teams, it is quite clear that the Wizards are indeed missing Wall. Yes, he’ll have to take a long look at what worked for the Wizards in his absence, and hell yes he’ll have to make sure that he continues to support the “everybody eats” way of life that Beal has so vocally championed. But on nights like Friday, when a team has  figured out the Wizards’ tendencies and strengths, rendering their offense turnover prone and stagnant, it sure would help to have a quicker-than-life player to throw a monkey wrench in the plans of the opponent.

The Wizards still must wait. Even though Wall is ahead of schedule, according to Coach Brooks and a report from Comcast SportsNet’s Chris Miller, he is still a few weeks away from returning.  So for now, it is on to play the Indiana Pacers, fifth in the Eastern Conference Standings and just a half-game behind Washington.


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Golden State’s Big Dogs Put Down Washington’s Old Mutts and Scrappy Pups http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/golden-states-big-dogs-put-down-washingtons-old-mutts-and-scrappy-pups.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/03/golden-states-big-dogs-put-down-washingtons-old-mutts-and-scrappy-pups.html#respond Thu, 01 Mar 2018 20:21:39 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55164

Is there any narrative more tired than the Wizards “being better” without John Wall? It feels like we’ve been drowning in clickbaity, half-baked thinkpieces about the subject for months now, and the star point guard only underwent knee surgery at the end of January.

The obvious answer: No, the Wizards are decidedly not a better team without their best player. The equally obvious next step in that logical sequence: The Wizards can’t even pretend to contend without him. Wednesday night’s loss to the defending-champion Warriors proved that for anybody who needed proof, as if the past few decades of NBA history hasn’t provided enough evidence of it.

There are two ways a team can reach elite levels in the NBA: 1) with a top-heavy roster filled out with capable role players, and 2) with a balanced roster that features a much smaller gap between the best player and, say, the fourth-best player.

Sure, you have your blends of these, but those are basically the two formulas each champion has used throughout the NBA’s history. The Warriors (2015 and 2017) are the rare combination of being both incredibly heavy at the top and also boasting remarkable depth. The Cavaliers (2016) employed the best player in the world, as well as two others in the top 30 or so.

The Spurs (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014) featured an elite player in Tim Duncan, two lesser stars in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and a changing slew of valuable role players over the course of nearly two decades. The Heat (2012 and 2013) and Celtics (2008) also used the Big 3 formula, while the early-2000s Lakers (2000-02) relied on a one-two punch of Kobe and Shaq that absolutely dominated opponents. The 2006 Heat also used the one-two punch method, swapping Kobe for Dwyane Wade, while the 2009 and 2010 Lakers featured scoring-machine Kobe and nightly double-double Pau Gasol.

So, from 2000 all the way to 2017, that leaves two teams that don’t obviously fit the multi-star mold: The 2004 Pistons (duh) and the 2011 Mavericks.

The Mavericks were led by Dirk Nowitzki (23 and 7 per game), but there was no clear second star. Tyson Chandler was one of the most imposing defensive presences in the league that year, Jason Kidd was a steadying force at point, and Caron Butler and Jason Terry (65 points over the last three games of the Finals!) were valuable pieces who each averaged about 15 points per game — although Butler got injured and missed the entire post-season run. But it was a group of high-end role players (plus ex-Wizards Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson and current Wizards Ian Mahinmi) behind one bona fide star.

The 2004 Pistons, well, you know the story. They’re the ultimate example of a star-less team (or a team full of stars, if you’re a glass-half-full type), the likes of which we haven’t seen anything close to since, aside from maybe the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks.

Back to the Wizards. They’re not competing for a title this year, or probably any time in the next few years, unless Kelly Oubre makes a massive leap or Ernie Grunfeld bucks the trend and swipes an elite player late in the first round (like, finding a Donovan Mitchell-type with a mid-round pick). So we can take this all with a grain of salt.

That whole breakdown of every team to win a title this millennium is to show one thing: This is a star-driven league. When it comes time for the playoffs, or as Draymond Green referred to it Wednesday night, the “real season,” you need stars to stand a chance.

Bradley Beal is a star. Otto Porter will probably never reach that level, but he has nights where he can play like a star, and who knows — he’s only 24 and has time to grow. Oubre could develop into a perennial All-Star, or he could top out as a high-end role player. Tomas Satoransky has been a revelation and deserves endless credit for his play this season, but he’s not threatening the All-Star conversation any time soon.

John Wall is a legitimate, bona fide star. He’s the one player on this roster that other teams will have to gameplan for.

Beal is a quality player who is getting better and might one day reach top-10 player status. Right now, he’s a guy who is average or worse at passing, dribbling, rebounding, and defense. He’s not atrocious at any of those things, but he’s not exactly known for them. By default, that means he needs to be a dominant scorer to really set himself apart.

Beal has seven career 40-point games, three of which have come this season, four of which came a season ago. Only one of those seven went for more than 42 points (51). That’s nothing to scoff at for a 24-year-old kid who’s missed more than a full season’s worth of games due to injury, but that’s not world-beater stuff. For comparison: Devin Booker had a 70-point game last season, and he’s added outings of 46, 43, and 40 points this season.

Beal will continue to get better, and his February numbers (without Wall) of 21.8 points, 4.8 rebounds. and 6.7 assists per game are encouraging. But the role players on this roster are nowhere near good enough to carry Washington through multiple series, and there is no second star without Wall.

After helping his Warriors beat the Wizards on Wednesday night, Kevin Durant was asked about Wall and the Wizards. Specifically, he was asked to compare what Washington is going through now with how his old Thunder teams dealt with repeated injuries to Durant and Russell Westbrook.

“We did it in the regular season, but if it had happened in the playoffs — we’d seen it the year before, we couldn’t sustain that. It’s a different game in the playoffs. You get scouting, you play a team seven times, potentially. So it’s a different game. That one-on-one stuff, everybody just looking at you and letting you score, letting you play one-on-one, it’s not going to happen in the playoffs.

“So you can get excited about what these guys are doing, obviously, you want them to play well. But in the playoffs you need your big dogs, and John’s a big dog.”

John Wall is a big dog. He averaged 27.2 points, 10.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game in the playoffs a year ago with an eFG% of .489, while playing a whopping 39 minutes per game. For comparison, likely 2018 MVP James Harden posted the following numbers last postseason: 28.5 points, 8.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game with an eFG% of .486 in 37 minutes per game. James Harden is also a big dog.

When you get to the playoffs, you need big dogs. Regular-season wins are great, and they obviously play a major role in the postseason, but Durant is right. When you get to the season’s live-or-die stretch, and you gameplan for days for each game, and you turn up the intensity, it’s going to be Wall and Beal who carry the team with a helping of Porter, Oubre, Sato (please, Scott Brooks, let him be the backup point guard in the playoffs), and whoever else shows up. Jodie Meeks might have a random big game, and Mike Scott has been a very useful piece. Marcin Gortat does stuff sometimes. Markieff Morris can be an impact player at times.

But this team goes as Wall and Beal go, just like the Warriors go as their Big 4 go, just as the Cavs go as LeBron goes, just as the Celtics go as Kyrie Irving goes, just as the Raptors go as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan go, just as the Rockets go as Harden and Chris Paul go, just as the Thunder go as Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony go, just as the Timberwolves go as Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins go, just as the Spurs go as Kawhi Leonard (possibly) goes.

The NBA is a big dog league. The Wizards don’t have big enough dogs or enough support puppies to win a title. But without John Wall, they’re a feisty Pomeranian. They might not be a Doberman with him in the lineup, but they’re at least a bulldog.

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A Plea to Scott Brooks: Please Stop Playing Without a Point Guard in the Fourth Quarter http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/a-plea-to-scott-brooks-please-stop-playing-without-a-point-guard-in-the-fourth-quarter.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/a-plea-to-scott-brooks-please-stop-playing-without-a-point-guard-in-the-fourth-quarter.html#respond Wed, 28 Feb 2018 15:42:51 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55148

Tomas Satoransky has started every game since John Wall’s latest injury. The team is 10-3. They are leading the league in assists. The offense is humming with Satoransky on the court and he’s been phenomenal on defense. Yet, when his contributions are needed the most, he is consistently benched. It’s as if Will Smith flashes a neuralizer at Scott Brooks midway through the fourth quarter and he completely forgets everything that happened the previous two hours.

Brooks abandons the rotation that has made the Wizards a joy to watch over the last month and plays Bradley Beal at point guard instead of Satoransky during critical stretches of the fourth quarter, leading to a lot of ball-pounding and empty possessions.

Initially, it was just a minor annoyance. Perhaps Brooks needed a game or two to recognize Tomas as a legitimate starter who deserved the majority of fourth quarter minutes. After all, it took a year and a half for Brooks to even acknowledge Tomas was a point guard.

Turns out that’s not the case. Thirteen games is a large enough sample size to deduce that Scott Brooks prefers to play without a point guard for long stretches in the fourth quarter — despite the fact that Satoransky is playing out of his mind, despite the fact that the offense is incontrovertibly worse when he sits, and despite the fact that Brooks has watched the point-guard-less lineup sputter time after time, only to be bailed out by an unsustainable number of buzzer beaters.

Brooks’ fourth quarter rotation has become a legitimate problem and it has cast a black cloud over three very impressive post-All-Star break wins against Cleveland, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

Against Cleveland, Tim Frazier started the fourth quarter and subbed out with 7:08 remaining. Scott Brooks played Beal and Jodie Meeks in the back court together for nearly five (5!) minutes before Satoransky entered with 2:14 left in the game.

Before you ask whether Satoransky was having a bad game, the answer is “No.” In the 29 minutes prior to his benching, 4Tomas had 15 points (6-for-7 FG), eight assists, four rebounds, two steals and no turnovers.

Prior to the Wizards’ next game, I asked Brooks about his fourth quarter point guard rotation in Cleveland:

“I think it’s a combination of trying to get him [Beal] some more reps at the point guard spot and also giving Tomas a little bit of a break. Last night’s decision was to give Jodie some more minutes. I thought he had a good game, he was locked in.  Offensively he gave us some good possessions I thought in that stretch, then he missed two wide open threes so that could have really made a nice stretch when Brad was at the point. Not going to do a lot of it, just two or three minutes, four minutes at times. I thought last night was one of Brad’s better games as the point.”

Brooks’ explanation was underwhelming. It’s one thing to give Tomas a break in the fourth quarter. It’s another to wait until a 6-0 run late in the fourth quarter to finally call a timeout to insert a point guard into the game.

Against Philadelphia on Sunday, it happened again. Satoransky subbed out of the game with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter and Bradley Beal played point guard for the next four and a half minutes. Brooks even had Otto Porter bringing the ball up the court. Philadelphia’s length and trapping defense can be difficult for any NBA team – especially ones without a point guard. It’s no surprise Beal had seven turnovers in the game.

Brooks watched Washington’s lead – and its offensive rhythm – fade from 13 to eight points before finally putting Satoransky back in with 3:33 left. Washington immediately went on a 7-0 run over the next 90 seconds to seal the game.

Last night against Milwaukee, it happened yet again. Tomas picked up his fourth foul with 8:09 left in the third quarter and subbed out for Frazier. Then he waited and waited and waited and waited. Satoransky did not return until 3:37 remaining in the game. That’s over 16 and a half minutes of game time on the bench. During that stretch, Frazier played over 12 consecutive minutes, Beal took over at point guard for over four more minutes, and there were even a few occasions when Otto brought the ball up the floor.

This makes no sense. If Brooks wants to play Beal at point guard a few minutes per game because he has lost faith in Frazier, that’s one thing. But he is playing Beal at the expense of Satoransky, and he is doing it for prolonged stretches deep into the fourth quarter. Washington finally has a very good backup point guard. In Wall’s absence, he has been a very good starting point guard — to the point that Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis singled Satoransky out in the NBA-TV halftime show as the difference maker on the team.

There is no reason to play without a point guard for critical stretches in the fourth quarter. There is even less reason to do so when the point guard you are benching has arguably been the fourth or fifth most important player on the team – on both offense and defense.

What’s even more frustrating is that Brooks often waits for a bad offensive possession or a defensive breakdown before he puts Satoransky back in the game. In other words, he acknowledges that Satoransky’s presence on the court will make those types of plays less likely to occur in the future, but he won’t put Tomas in earlier to prevent them from happening in the first place.

It’s unclear what Tomas must do to earn the right to play alongside his fellow starters for the final seven minutes of close games. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say he can’t play much better. Whatever it is, he better do it fast. If Brooks continues to lean on this no point guard lineup, it is going to start costing the Wizards games.

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The Wizards Interrupt the Process and Defeat the Sixers http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/the-wizards-interrupt-the-process-and-defeat-the-sixers.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/the-wizards-interrupt-the-process-and-defeat-the-sixers.html#respond Mon, 26 Feb 2018 07:52:49 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55105 https://twitter.com/WashWizards/status/967978652569931776

Prior to last night’s game, Sixers Coach Brett Brown and Wizards Coach Scott Brooks both told the media what they expected to see from their respective teams.

Coach Brown, whose team was in the midst of a seven-game win streak, wanted to see incremental improvement as his team marched towards the playoffs. He also mentioned that the Wizards reluctance to double-team post players, and how he wanted to see Joel Embiid exploit Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi as a result.

Coach Brooks had two main concerns: Slow starts and the length of the Sixers. In the last two games against the Sixers, the Wizards faced double-digit deficits in the first quarter, and Coach Brooks attributed those slow offensive starts to the length of the Sixers’ starting five. Brooks’ solution to that problem? He wanted the Wizards to move the ball from side to side to create mismatches, so that everyone could eat. Ok, he didn’t exactly say that last part, but in the absence of John Wall, when the ball moves, everyone eats and the Wizards win–eight out of 11 games to be exact.

The first quarter was a virtual draw. The Wizards started quickly–led by Beal (seven points) and Kelly Oubre (eight points) and scored 30 first quarter points. Nine of the ten Wizards’ players who played scored at least one basket and ten of them were assisted. Unfortunately, the Sixers’ length combined with the Wizards’ carelessness with the ball, led to five turnovers which turned into several Philadelphia baskets.

Joel Embiid was indeed single-covered first by Gortat, then Mahinmi, and he exploited that to the tune of eight points, three assists and just one turnover in that initial quarter. The Sixers as a team did not look sharp (which was understandable considering they were on the second of back-to-back games) but similar to a golfer who misses fairways but continues to scramble to save par (Tiger Woods anyone?), the Sixers did enough to only trail by two heading into the second quarter.

Then the Sixers experienced an Otto Porter/Kelly Oubre takeover. And it wasn’t pretty.

Porter scored 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting (including 2-of-2 from the three-point line), Kelly Oubre scored eight points, and the rest of the Wizards’ bench fed off their energy and scored 37 second quarter points compared to just 20 for the Sixers. The last 2:17 of the quarter was particularly devastating for the Sixers, as the Wizards increased their lead from 11 to 19 points.

Otto scored on consecutive layups, Satoransky hit two free throws, Beal scored his only five points of the quarter in an 18-second span and then Otto ended the half by hitting this dagger:

The halftime score was a lopsided 67-48 in the Wizards’ favor, and that trend continued for the first ten minutes of the third quarter. Embiid continued to score with nine points, but Gortat was pushing him out of his comfort zone and forcing him to take high-degree-of-difficulty shots. Ben Simmons and Robert Covington were seemingly scoring at will, but for every shot they made, Gortat (seven points) or Otto (five points) matched their scoring output. The Wizards led 85-64 with 2:33 left in the third quarter, and then things temporarily took a turn for the worse, or as Beal told ESPN after the game, “sometimes we make things look way harder than they have to be.”

First Beal, who was playing point guard even with Satoransky on the floor (more on that later), turned the ball over on consecutive possessions, and the opportunistic Sixers scored four points to cut the lead to seven. Then Mike Scott’s shot was blocked by Richaun Holmes and Embiid scored a layup on the other end to trim the Wizards’ lead to 15. Gortat temporarily stopped the bleeding with a hook to increase the lead to 17, but Embiid ended the quarter with a three-point shot, and the Sixers had the momentum despite still trailing by 14 points.

Satoransky played point guard for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, and during that time, the Wizards were able to tread water, despite the Sixers’ growing momentum, and their lead never dipped below 13 points. Oubre, who seemed to be occupying every inch of the court on both ends of the floor and even Jodie Meeks made a cameo, scoring five crucial points.

The unselfish play of Satoransky was the catalyst behind the Wizards’ stellar play at the start of the fourth quarter, but with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter, Coach Brooks removed him from the game, which on the surface, seemed relatively innocuous.  But instead of inserting Tim Frazier or even the yet-to-be-used Ramon Sessions, Coach Brooks subbed in Otto Porter. For the next 4:23 of game play, the crucial position of point guard was divvied between Porter (who struggled to keep possession of the ball the first time up the court and was only bailed out by a miracle shot at the end of the shot clock by Beal) and Beal, who by his own admission, struggled to take care of the ball the entire night.

When the ball was swinging from side to side and everyone was eating–per Coach Brooks’s request–either Satoransky or Frazier was playing quarterback. But now late in the fourth quarter when the Sixers were gaining confidence and momentum, neither player was on the floor and the Sixers took full advantage. Dario Saric scored six points on two 3-point shots, and the Sixers whittled the Wizards’ lead down to eight points with 3:33 left in the game.

As soon as Sato re-entered the game, the Wizards went on a 7-0 run to push the lead to 15 points. Coach Brown called timeout, removed all of his starters and basically conceded the game.

The Wizards went on to win 109-94 to split the season series (2-2) with the Sixers, which Coach Brooks admitted after the game, could come in handy down the road in a playofff tiebreaker. Yes, his team had 19 turnovers, which was something that both he and Beal lamented after the game, but they also had 35 assists and 34 bench points, thanks mostly to the spry Kelly Oubre. His team shot 54-percent from the field, 48-percent from the three-point line and 91-percent from the free-throw line.

Conversely, the Sixers shot just 36-percent from the field, 27-percent from the three-point line and 74-percent from the free-throw line. Embiid did his best to exploit the single-coverage thrown at him by Gortat and Mahinmi, but he only shot 9-for-20 from the field, and he did not get much assistance from his teammates outside of Ben Simmons’ 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. In the end, Coach Brown conceded that the Wizards were simply the better team on this night:

I mean I thought defensively we struggled. I give the Wizards credit. You know, when you look at what [Kelly] Oubre [Jr.] did, when you look at what [Otto] Porter [Jr.] did, and when you look at what [Bradley] Beal did, those are impressive numbers. Some of it you shake their hand, other bits I thought we get in scrambled rotations with some inappropriate help. Inappropriate sort of attention to our rules and we got punished badly for that. Tonight was always going to be hard. Coming into Washington on a back-to-back, playing against the Wizards. We look forward to it. This is, you know, very much a playoff type situation in regards to the mental toughness you need to have come down here after a back-to-back and winning and we didn’t do it.

The Wizards continued to play with house money by winning for the ninth time in 12 games without John Wall. They are fourth in the Eastern Conference, but just a half game behind the suddenly-reeling Cleveland Cavaliers. Coach Brooks is still doing odd things with the point guard slot, and their level of effort against lesser teams is still not as consistent as it needs to be. But the Wizards bench is clicking, players are seeing their potential without Wall spoon-feeding them the ball, and there’s every reason to believe that the Wizards are that much closer to being a well-oiled machine in the playoffs, which ultimately is all that matters, right?


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For Tomas Satoransky, It’s Been a Long Journey From Prague to D.C. http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/for-tomas-satoransky-its-been-a-long-journey-from-prague-to-d-c.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/for-tomas-satoransky-its-been-a-long-journey-from-prague-to-d-c.html#respond Sun, 25 Feb 2018 17:34:22 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55097

[Tomas Satoransky with Ken Scalabroni, his former USK Prague “A” team coach, at Satoransky’s camp last summer. Photo: Lukas Kuba]

Ken Scalabroni has had a difficult few weeks. “I’ve been losing sleep lately,” he explained. “Here in Prague the time difference between Europe and the U.S.A. forces me to stay up really late to be able to follow the Wizards games. My co-workers can tell just by looking at me that the Wizards probably had a game the night before.”

Ken is not your average Wizards fan living abroad. He has a very specific connection to the team. Scalabroni, an American basketball coach living in the Czech Republic, coached the USK Prague “A” team in the Czech National Basketball League when a 15-year-old Tomas Satoransky joined the squad back in 2006.

Ken has followed Tomas’ career closely and agreed to share some memories of Tomas’ tenure with his team, as well as his observations from all those late nights watching Satoransky on the Wizards.

As Ken explains via email, Tomas arrived in Prague with high expectations:

“The club management informed me that a pretty good prospect would be joining the team, that he was 15 years old and that he was one of the biggest young prospects in Europe. If you coach long enough you will hear that statement a thousand times over—and a lot of times it’s hyperbole. That kind of description can really put young players under a lot of pressure to live up to and exceed expectations.”

Turns out, Tomas was not the average 15-year-old:

“He came to me on the first day of practice, shook my hand and introduced himself and from that day on until he left the club he had a laser focus of where he was heading and what he wanted to be. He told me he would play in the Spanish ACB league and from there he would play in the NBA.”

Scalabroni quickly learned that Satoransky’s ambitions were more than just talk:

 “I realized after coaching Tomas for a few weeks that nothing was going to stop him from reaching his goals and getting him to be patient would be a monumental task. He was a 15-year-old boy, fearless, practicing against men and playing against men in the Czech [NBL] league.”

After a recent Wizards’ practice, I shared Scalabroni’s comments with Satoransky and he corroborated Ken’s first impression, “I was very foolish too back then,” Satoransky chuckled.

“I was always hyperactive at the practices. I remember from those years always trying to dunk after or before every practice. I don’t do that anymore. I have no energy for that, but I think they saw me kind of like that being active, being still like a kid, being with confidence. I think back then I was dreaming about playing in the NBA here, so it’s kind of special.”

Satoransky believes playing against older competition with USK Prague helped him mature much faster and gave him a greater understanding of the game. He also thinks it helped to play for an American coach and credits Scalabroni with giving him a new perspective on the game.

When you read Scalabroni’s description of Satoransky as a player at age 15, it sounds exactly like the player Wizards fans have watched develop the last two seasons:

“The best thing about him was he understood the real essence of the game and the meaning of team. He was a great teammate, unselfish to a fault, and made everyone around him better. He was no different than any player in regards to ups and downs—all players go through them, that’s how you learn to grow as a player and person. His work ethic was so strong that keeping him out of the gym for any kind of rest and recovery was almost torture for him.”

[Photo: fotohacko.cz]

Even though Scalabroni has not coached Satoransky for nine years, he still watches his NBA games with a coaches’ eye. Last year he noticed Tomas was not playing with enough aggression:

“The biggest improvement I see when he plays is he is not hesitating like in his rookie season. Hesitant players are non-players. He is attacking with confidence, defending aggressively and growing as a player.”

Part of Tomas’ hesitation last year may have stemmed from his lack of minutes.

“The hardest part of the transition from Europe to the NBA is the harsh reality of the bench,” Ken wrote. “To go from running the high powered offense for Barcelona as the starter and extended arm of the coach to basically a role player off the bench, having to accept DNP-CDs, is tough to handle.”

Ken praised Satoransky’s perseverance after a difficult rookie year. Instead of pouting, Tomas worked even harder in the off-season and when John Wall’s injury opened the door, Satoransky kicked it down. As Ken explains, his recent stellar play is the culmination of years of hard work:

“Tomas’ performance the last nine games as the starting point guard have been basically the perfect storm of when opportunity presents itself and then being ready to be productive and make the most of the opportunity.”

For the first time in his NBA career, Tomas is playing consistent minutes. With that opportunity comes the chance to prove to himself—and the rest of the league—that he belongs. Satoransky remarked that his confidence grows with every positive performance: “I think having a good game or having a good impact on the game gives you that kind of confidence to not hesitate on some of the plays.”

For a pass-first point guard like Tomas, there is a delicate balance between aggression and unselfishness. Tomas said he hears the calls for him to shoot more and he is trying to pick and choose his spots:

“Sometimes maybe it looks like passing too much but the truth is, those minutes I’ve been playing gave me the confidence that I do more on the court and I think I have more courage and aggression.”

Scalabroni agrees: “His game as a pass-first point guard has meshed well with the abundance of scorers on the Wizards team. At the same time he is scoring when he is supposed to rather than when he wants to.”

Tomas has now started eleven games in place of Wall. The Wizards are 8-3. The rest of the NBA world may be shocked, but Ken isn’t: “As he gains more experience and opportunity his performance is not really surprising to me. It’s exactly what he has always expected of himself.”

There’s only one problem, according to Scalabroni: “The better he plays and the more the Wizards win the less we all sleep here in Prague.”

Tomas sympathizes with the lack of sleep and he appreciates everyone’s support. “It’s great to hear that, to be honest,” Tomas explained. “That’s why you do it, for the people who love the game, because you have the passion and if you see people sharing that with you that makes you very happy.”

Satoransky hopes his stint in the starting lineup will make it easier for his fellow countrymen to watch him play: “Obviously if you are watching the game at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. and I don’t play until the second quarter, you fall asleep.”

If Tomas keeps playing the way he has, no one will be complaining about staying up a little while longer to watch the Wizards.

[Special thanks to Lukas Kuba, TAI’s Czech correspondent since 2011, for putting together the interview with Ken Scalabroni. Lukas’s work can be found on twitter @Luke_Mellow.]

[Photo: fotohacko.cz]

[Photo: fotohacko.cz]

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Another Game, Another Loss Against the Charlotte Hornets http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/another-game-another-loss-against-the-charlotte-hornets.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/another-game-another-loss-against-the-charlotte-hornets.html#respond Sat, 24 Feb 2018 19:03:58 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55122

[A surprising number of fans lined up early to attend the Washington vs. Charlotte game. Photo – A. Rubin]

The Washington Wizards have played the Charlotte Hornets three time this season. They have lost all three games. Prior to the third game at Capital One Arena on Friday night, Hornets coach Steve Clifford explained why the Hornets have had success versus Washington:

“We made shots. Especially the second game if you watch it. Look, when the ball goes in the basket, what do they say? Shooting cures a lot of sins. You can make a lot of mistakes and if you make a lot shots…really there’s nothing more important you can do, right? You can do a lot of things well defensively, you can rebound the ball and if you don’t shoot well it’s going to be hard to win and in those two games we shot the ball well.”

The Hornets kept the good times rolling at the start of their third match-up with the Wizards, shooting 60 percent (15-25) in the first quarter, en route to a 36-26 lead. Charlotte scored from near (8-11 in the paint) and far (5-9 on 3-pointers) with little in the way of resistance from Wizards defenders.

Things didn’t improve much for Washington in the second quarter. The pace of play was disrupted by a ridiculous 17 combined fouls, many in comically late fashion. At one point the second quarter devolved into a battle of dueling offensive fouls. Both teams’ players and coaches spent the bulk of their effort arguing calls — and rightfully so.

Still, amid the whistles, Charlotte was able to extend its lead to 17 points before Washington’s final possession of the half when Otto, Oubre and Beal brought some much need energy to the arena. First, Otto drove to the basket and dropped off a nice pass to a cutting Oubre for a layup with 1.4 seconds remaining. Then, this happened:

Just like that, the Wizards entered halftime with momentum and a very manageable deficit. Unfortunately, they were never quite able to get over the hump. Washington went on a lightning quick 9-0 run early in the third quarter to cut Charlotte’s lead to six points. The 60-second burst included a Beal jumper, layup and 3-pointer, as well as an athletic tip-in by Porter.

But less than 90 seconds later, Charlotte built its lead back up to 14. The Wizards never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way. That was the ebb and flow for the entire second half. Washington showed a glimmer of life and then the Hornets snuffed it out, usually courtesy of a Kemba Walker or Frank Kaminsky basket.

It’s hard to tell when the final breath left their lungs — whether it was Charlotte’s three consecutive offensive rebounds in a possession that lasted more than a minute (from 7:46 to 6:35 in the fourth quarter) and ended with an emphatic Jeremy Lamb dunk, or whether it was Frank Kaminsky’s umpteenth 3-pointer that gave Charlotte a 19 point lead with 3:32 left — but the message was clear: this was not Washington’s night.

Scott Brooks walked into the post-game press conference looking like he would rather be anywhere else.

[Scott Brooks post-game press conference. February 23, 2018. Photo – A. Rubin]

“We haven’t been able to figure them out,” Brooks said. “They came out and played a physical basketball game against us and we were back on our heels most of the night.”

Brooks said what everyone could see on the court: “They outplayed us. We seemed to be a step slow throughout the night on both ends of the floor… Defensively we were just giving them too many easy shots – back doors, offensive rebounds, wide open 3s.”

Brooks acknowledged that it was a lackluster effort on the heels of such an uplifting win in Cleveland the night before: “You would have hoped that we would have come out with better physicality, better juice, and we did not do that. I don’t know if it negates last night’s win or not but you don’t feel good.”

The only moment of levity came when a reporter addressed the coach as “Mr. Brooks” and Scott couldn’t help but smile. Other than that, the team’s mood mirrored that of its fans: disappointment.

Steve Clifford Explains the Wizards Non-John Wall Success

The Washington Wizards success without John Wall – they were 8-2 heading into the game against Charlotte – has been a topic of discussion among fans, commentators and the players themselves. Hornets coach Steve Clifford was asked about the unexpected success before the game:

“They’ve done an incredible job. I think they are 10-2 without him. I think Satoransky has done a great job of really showing everybody what a good player he can be and blending it with the first unit, their ball movement. And they’ve stayed with their defense which is such a big part of what they do. They’re a balanced team. One thing you have to do – you can’t turn the ball over and John is great at creating offense with defense, Satoransky also a very active defender.”

As Bradley Beal famously noted with his “everybody eats” comment, the Wizards offense has been more balanced lately. Clifford highlighted the versatility of the Wizards offense:

“The thing that they do well — what any good team does, especially teams that want to play well in the playoffs – you have to have different aspects of your offense. If you watch them, they’ll post Morris a little bit and iso a little bit but they have a pick and roll game, they have player movement options and then they have all the Wall catch-and-shoot, Jodie Meeks catch-and-shoot and Porter’s doing more of that too. So they challenge more aspects of NBA defense than a lot of teams do.”

When asked specifically how a team that relies so heavily on its point guard could be playing so well in his absence, Clifford once again cited the play of Satoransky:

“Again, this is just – obviously we played last night so I’m no expert – this is just a few hours here but I think one, Satoransky I would think his play has been exceptional. I think they are at best when they are scoring off their defense and he surprised me, and I watched pretty closely with how he is able to create defense. Really quick with his hands, length, aggressiveness. So I think he blends well with the other players.

“Then I think looking at it, I think by the numbers Otto Porter is four points more per game. And you’ve got veteran guys that have been through the wars, so it’s a good team, Bradley Beal’s having really an incredible year and they’ve all played better. But I still think is much of it – this would just be again sitting and watching for a few hours – I think Satoransky’s come in and done a great job.”

Hearing Clifford mention Satoransky so many times reminded me of Otto Porter’s emergence early last season when he was hitting 3-pointers at a league-leading clip. Even though Otto was a key to the Wizards’ success, it took the rest of the league a few weeks to take notice. After one of Otto’s big games, I remember players in the visiting locker room complaining that he was not even on the scouting report.

I wondered if the same phenomenon might be playing out with Satoransky, so I asked Clifford if he has to do anything special to make sure his team is prepared for the Wizards’ different style of play with a relatively unknown point guard:

“Well, they’ve played against him. He’s been in the playing group here too, so it’s not like he’s an unknown guy. I mean look, you can’t be a good player in this league if you’re not a student of other guys. The best players I’ve been around are the most studious. These guys are watching all the time. They watch the other teams play.

“Let’s put it this way. If I’m having to walk in there – which I’m not, not with our guys – and saying ‘Hey look out for this guy,’ then you have no chance to win.  I think that’s one of the things that NBA players, the good ones, don’t get enough credit for. They’re watching. They study other teams.”

Clifford was correct. The Hornets have clearly been prepared for whatever the Wizards have thrown their way this season. The two teams will have to wait until March 31 for their fourth and final meeting to see if Washington can finally crack Charlotte’s code.

[Hornets coach Steve Clifford addresses the media before the game against Washington. Photo – A. Rubin]

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Wizards Down New-Look Cavs, Sealed with a Kiss http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/wizards-down-new-look-cavs-sealed-with-a-kiss.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/wizards-down-new-look-cavs-sealed-with-a-kiss.html#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 18:53:33 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55103

Oubre blew a kiss to the Cavs bench 😘 pic.twitter.com/nGb5dJOsg9

— Rudy Gersten (@DCBarno) February 23, 2018

It was a long All-Star break, especially for the “new-look” Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of four straight following a dramatic series of trades that revamped the team’s supporting cast. And the Cavs took the Wizards to the mat in the early going of last night’s eventual Wizards victory. Building a double-digit lead that floated between 10 and 11 points (once stretching to 12), it was mostly the long-time Cavs, rather than the newcomers, that punished the Wizards: LeBron James shot 72 percent for the game, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson made their mark in those early quarters.

But the Wizards closed out the first half on a remarkable run, pulling ahead by six on a Kelly Oubre dunk before the Cavs closed it to three on the back of James, who looked unstoppable going to the basket.

Let’s talk about that Oubre dunk.

It almost didn’t happen! After Otto Porter and Markieff Morries disrupted the Cavs on offense, Oubre got the ball with Beal and Porter streaking ahead. Oubre passed ahead to Beal—just an awful pass, far ahead of Beal, who may have wanted to spot up behind the 3-point line for a fast-break 3-pointer with Oubre and Porter there for the rebound, if necessary. Beal, anyway, stretched out to get a finger on the ball and eventually tracked it down just outside the paint. Rodney Hood was right there, and Beal looked like he’s headed for a highly contested layup. Instead, two options opened up for him.

Oubre kept his head in the game, and saw the opening to cut behind Hood (if Beal could get it to him right away). Porter, sensing that Oubre’s cut may be too late, floated out into the far corner, providing Beal with the long pass option, or getting ready for a full halfcourt possession if nothing develops immediately. And then…

With Tomas Satoransky in the starting lineup, Oubre is the sole dual interloper, good enough to start but necessary for the bench to function. Oubre’s evolving game and swingman’s body allow Brooks to play him anywhere between the 2 and the 4. But it’s Oubre’s confidence that lets Brooks plug him in late in quarters, halves, and games alike. My friend Ben Standig put it well, on Twitter, when he pointed out the correlation between Oubre’s pre-break slump and Washington’s suddenly cold bench, which continued early against the Cavs: “The only way this Wizards’ bench unit can survive is with Kelly Oubre making shots, something he wasn’t dojng before the break. Starts 2-for-6 and 0-for-2 from 3.”

The thing about Oubre is . . . he’s not going to stop shooting. He’s had a taste of the impact he can make for Washington, and laps up the spotlight like few others in Washington sports. He’s got the candor that made Arenas a bone-deep favorite, but without some of the baggage that fans needed to accept in the service of Gilly (so far). This game was no different. Oubre started slow, kept shooting, snapped his slump, drew Cleveland Game Operations’ ire by pranking Rodney Hood, hit a corner 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that stretched Washington’s tenuous lead out beyond a possession, blew a kiss to Cleveland’s bench, helped Washington shut out everyone but LeBron James in the final ten minutes of the game (seriously, no one else scored—we’re talking zero points), and then showed up for postgame interviews sporting a full grill.

Throughout the game, other than the misguided stanza of offensive sets in which Beal brought the ball up, Satoransky was scary good. By now, you know that Satoransky has excelled by moving the ball, moving off the ball (where I most hope Wall is watching with an open mind), almost eliminating turnovers, and avoiding punishment for a slightly slow first step by stewing together a mix of floaters, baseline cuts, and catch-and-shoot 3s. I could talk about this all day. He’s been legitimately great, an oxygen tank at the bottom of the ocean, where Washington’s offense was slowly scraping towards isolationism and uninspired repetition prior to Wall’s injury.

Instead of prattling on about his effect on the offense, I’d like to share something a little more surprising, uncovered by (disclosure!) Washington Wizards employee Zach Rosen. You see, Satoransky has figured out how to stay in front of folks.

Satoransky can be forgiven for Irving’s performance. Few can stop the Navel-Gazing Galileo. Aside from that game, though, Satoransky’s marks have been inefficient, funneled to uncomfortable spots on the floor and unable to convert possessions into points. Defense was my biggest concern with Satoransky, especially against the game’s most athletic guards, who often can put Satoransky on their hip as they drive to the basket. The young Czech has gotten far better at staying with players during a drive rather than peeling off and cutting his losses.

In this game, Satoransky’s mark was George Hill, who was 2-for-10 overall and 0-for-8 when guarded by Tomas Satoransky, according to the NBA’s stats page. A frustrated point guard in Hill led to the game being exclusively on the shoulders of LeBron James late in the fourth quarter. And by golly, he almost pulled it off, just as he has too many times against Washington. I mean, this is the guy, over a decade ago, who whispered in Arenas’ ear at the free throw line. Who almost single-handedly deflated the best Wizards team in recent memory prior to the current one.

The Wizards showed signs of faltering late, bringing the ball up slowly with Beal at the point for a series of 6-second possessions, in order to run down the clock with four minutes left and a sizeable lead. It backfired like it always does, and LeBron muscled his way through Ian Mahinmi on a couple of truly ill-suited defensive possessions (looking at you, Scott Brooks) to bring the Cavs within a possession of the Wizards as Washington squandered play after play. The Wizards didn’t score between 3:44 remaining and 0:57 remaining. They finally did when Scott Brooks designed a nice little inbounds play following a lengthy out-of-bounds video review, where Porter inbounded it to Beal (as expected) with nine seconds on the shot clock, only for Beal to shoot it right back to Porter on the baseline (not expected) for a difficult, but well-executed layup.

LeBron scored again on the next play, bull-rushing Washington’s defense for what seemed like the tenth time in a row, using his elbows to create an impermeable bubble around himself. The Wizards brought the ball up the court, and ran the clock. Satoransky passed it to Beal with six seconds left on the shot clock and 33 seconds left in the game. Beal was well beyond the 3-point line, but surprised Hill by immediately driving left rather than faking left and pushing right. Hill never recovered, and Beal faced only token resistance from an outmatched Kyle Korver with his hands up outside the restricted area. Two possessions ahead and with only 30 seconds remaining, the Wizards were blessed by some poor foul shooting from James, and the game was theirs. Washington is now just a half-game behind the Cavs for the 3-seed in the East.

Tonight it’s the Hornets. Let’s get Wizard.

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Please Get Bradley Beal a Backup Before It’s Too Late http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/please-get-bradley-beal-a-backup-before-its-too-late.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/please-get-bradley-beal-a-backup-before-its-too-late.html#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 14:11:20 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55083

43, 35, 44, 41, 36, 31, 38, 41.

Those are the minutes Bradley Beal has played in his last eight games. That’s 38.62 minutes per game, which is over one minute more than the current league leader – Jimmy Butler – plays each night (37.3).

That’s a problem.

Now, I know what you are thinking. John Wall missed all those games. It’s perfectly reasonable for Brooks to lean on his only healthy All-Star while Wall recovers.

Only one problem with that reasoning: Beal was actually playing more minutes before Wall’s injury. In Wall’s last 12 games played (from December 31 to January 25) Beal averaged a staggering 39.25 minutes per game. He played over 40 minutes in seven of the twelve games.

This is not a new phenomenon. Brooks has been clinging to Beal like Linus to his blanket for a while now. And, with a brutal post-All-Star break schedule on the horizon, things could get much worse, very quickly.

Beginning this Thursday, Washington plays five games in seven nights against Cleveland, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Golden State. Then, after one day off, the Wizards play three games in five nights versus Toronto, Indiana and Miami.

That’s eight games in 13 days with all but one coming against current playoff teams. And if history is any guide, Brooks will not hesitate to play Beal 40+ minutes in all of those games as long as the Wizards are within striking distance. So, how can we stop Brooks from wearing Beal down with “playoff” minutes before the playoffs even begin?

Only one man can do it: Ernie Grunfeld. Ernie needs to do now what he failed to do the last two off-seasons — sign a backup shooting guard who can play meaningful NBA minutes.

For the second straight summer, the Wizards filled their backup shooting guard spot with a guy who was several years removed from providing a full season of solid NBA production. Last year it was Marcus Thornton. This year it was Jodie Meeks.

Meeks was coming off two straight injury-ravaged campaigns when Ernie signed him to a two-year deal with a player option. Ironically, in a season where his Wizards’ teammates have been hit with a rash of injuries, Meeks’ durability has not been an issue. He has been available to play in all 57 games thus far.

Instead, it’s what he has done on the court that’s been the problem. Meeks, whose only above-average NBA skill is shooting three-pointers, is hitting an unsightly 30.9 percent from long-range. That’s not good. To put that in perspective, Tomas Satoransky, who is far from a three-point specialist, could miss his next 31 three-point attempts and still have a higher three-point shooting percentage than Meeks.

With Satoransky playing starter’s minutes at point guard, John Wall sidelined for another month and Tim Frazier struggling again as a backup point guard even before his nasal fracture injury, there are simply no good backcourt options for Brooks when he scans the bench looking to give Beal a breather. Frazier’s ineffectiveness has exacerbated the problem because, in addition to his shooting guard duties, Brooks has routinely played Beal at point guard for stretches when Satoransky sits, to limit Frazier’s minutes.

This is where Ernie and the front office must do their job. The Wizards have had an open roster spot all season. Despite having a significant need for a backup shooting guard for a very long time, Washington left that spot unfilled.

When the Wizards traded Sheldon Mac to the Atlanta Hawks at the trade deadline, they created a second open roster spot. Despite having only one point guard on their active roster against the New York Knicks in the final game before the All-Star break, Washington did not use one of its open spots to sign a back-up point guard to a 10-day contract. As a result, Bradley Beal played 43 minutes in that game.

Washington is also the only team in the entire NBA that chose not to use both of its two-way player contracts.

This roster neglect needs to stop. The good news is the Wizards have to sign a player by Thursday to meet the league’s minimum roster requirement. The bad news is that all the chatter surrounding the team’s free agent search thus far has pointed to them signing a point guard.

Don’t get me wrong. The team could benefit from a backup point guard who can replace Frazier and allow Beal to play exclusively at shooting guard. However, that need pales in comparison to finding a viable backup for Beal.

Simply put, Beal cannot play over 38 minutes per game for four straight months and then be expected to significantly increase his output in the playoffs. Given Washington’s tough schedule during the final 25 games of the season and the crowded standings in the Eastern Conference, it is likely they will be jockeying for playoff seeding all the way until the final regular season game.  Not only does that limit Beal’s opportunities to rest for a game or two, but even if Wall returns as scheduled, he likely will not be available to play his normal allotment of minutes until the playoffs begin.

In a perfect world, Washington would fill both open roster spots in the coming days to bolster its depth. However, since the front office left a roster spot open all season, it seems more likely that only one free agent will be joining the team. If that is the case, the Wizards’ main priority should be finding someone – anyone – who can earn Brooks’ trust at shooting guard.

If not, Beal will continue to rack up minutes at a rate that would make Tom Thibodeau blush. That’s not good for Beal and it’s especially not good for the Wizards’ playoff hopes.

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Satoransky’s Career Night Shows Signs of Things to Come for the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/satoranskys-career-night-shows-signs-of-things-to-come-for-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/satoranskys-career-night-shows-signs-of-things-to-come-for-the-wizards.html#respond Sun, 11 Feb 2018 19:35:41 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55076 There’s a silver lining in every cloud, and while the D.C. area was showered with rain all day Saturday, the Wizards were in Chicago reaping the benefits of the John Wall Silver Lining. This team is decidedly, obviously better with Wall in the lineup, but his extended absence certainly brings positive takeaways.

First and foremost, every game without Wall in the lineup allows Tomas Satoransky one more chance to prove to Scott Brooks that, no, really, he is a point guard! And a good one at that! Satoransky was excellent on Saturday and nothing short of dominant at times, showing a quality stroke from beyond the arc, rapid-fire decision-making, and instantaneous swinging of the ball from side-to-side on offense.

Satoransky set a new career high before the third quarter was over, already sitting on 22 points on just 11 shots, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. He finished the game with 25 points on 10-for-12 shooting, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers, setting a new scoring record for Czech-born players.

He hardly got to enjoy the victory lap, however, as he watched the Wizards close out the 101-90 win from the locker room after a hard foul (deemed a flagrant-2) by Bobby Portis that sent him flying. Satoransky drove baseline to the basket, went up as Portis went up, and Portis caught him at the right angle where Sato’s legs went flying up and while his head plummeted down.

#WizardsTwitter immediately cried “dirty!” while #BullsTwitter was baffled at the ejection. Other players might have gotten the benefit of the doubt. The guy who knocked out his own teammate before the season will never get the benefit of the doubt. (But shame on everybody who made the same tired “Portis thought Satoransky was Nikola Mirotic!” joke in the immediate aftermath.)


Satoransky’s injury is potentially devastating for Washington, though he tweeted Sunday morning that he was “relatively OK” (what does that mean?).

Wall is sidelined for at least a few more weeks, and Tim Frazier took a knee (from Bobby Portis, no less) to the face earlier Saturday night and suffered a nasal fracture that will require surgery.

Positionally, it’s a killer for the Wizards, who desperately need point guard help. Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Washington could be in the buyout market for one Derrick Rose. Several hours later, the only two true point guards on the roster fell victim to Portis for thus-far undetermined lengths of time. And now we’re venturing into the 10-day contract arena, per David Aldridge.

Aldridge lists former Wizards Ramon Sessions and Donald Sloan as potential targets, as well as VCU product Briante Weber. (For what it’s worth, I’m vehemently in the Weber camp of that trio. Weber is young and has the potential to emerge as a useful player, whereas you know exactly what you’re going to get from Sloan and Sessions. Go with the upside, not the minutes-eaters … Just please don’t sign Derrick Rose.)

Prior to the injury, Satoransky was nothing short of spectacular. He led all scorers with 11 points (4-for-5 shooting, 3-for-3 on 3-pointers) in the first quarter as the Wiz jumped out to an eight-point lead, and he finished the half with a game-high 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, despite playing the fewest minutes of any Wizards starter.

With Frazier at that point out for the game, Sato played the entire third quarter and was on his way to playing the entire fourth quarter before Portis took him out. It was a reassuring sign of confidence in Satoransky on Scott Brooks’ part; I personally expected Brooks to resort to Bradley Beal as the primary ball-handler for parts of the second half and ask him to play all 24 minutes. Despite his night ending early, Satoransky played the most second-half minutes of any player for either team.

Always the unselfish playmaker, Sato continued looking for his shot as a second or even third option despite the hot hand. He instead worked to get Kelly Oubre and Jodie Meeks (among others) involved, for both better and worse. Oubre struggled with his shot and the box score is not kind to him, but his persistent aggressiveness gave the Bulls something to think about all night. Meeks showed signs of life at times and finished with 10 points (4-for-6 from the field, 1-for-2 on 3-pointers) and added four rebounds and a pair of assists while playing 18 minutes.

Jason Smith saw eight minutes of action thanks to Markieff Morris sitting out with an illness and Ian Mahinmi leaving early, also with an illness. Smith turned in seven points on four shots while showing a general interest in playing basketball, and Mike Scott was his typical productive self with 14 points (5-for-11 FG) and five boards in 24 minutes of action.

It’s easy to say Beal was a non-factor in this game, as he finished with just seven points on 3-for-13 shooting (0-for-7 on triples), but that’s not entirely fair. His shot wasn’t falling, but he contributed six assists while showing a willingness to keep the ball swinging from side-to-side. And once it became clear that it was Sato’s time to shine, Beal appropriately took a back seat. It was easily one of the worst games Beal has played this season, but the box score is harsher than the reality.

Speaking of Beal: He’s very obviously not a natural point guard. With Wall out, Beal is inadvertently proving Wall’s significance to this team, as there is nobody else on the roster who can individually dissect a defense.

But another aspect of the John Wall Silver Lining is Beal getting a chance to run the offense. This is the most he’s been in control of an offense since he entered the league, and he looks markedly more comfortable in the role than he did two weeks ago. There is already some chemistry with Beal and Gortat in the pick-and-roll game, he’s getting a chance to work on his ball-handling, and who knows, it might help Beal appreciate Wall’s role a bit more. (It’s not easy to create offense for this Wizard-ing squad.)

Of course, the flip side to this is every time Beal becomes the de facto point guard, Tomas Satoransky is not acting as the point guard. That is a bad thing that Scott Brooks needs to stop doing. Satoransky is very clearly the best point guard on this team when Wall is out, and everybody benefits from his quick thinking and unselfish play. If Sato keeps stroking 3s anywhere near the .483 clip he’s shooting for the season, Washington could have itself a future Sixth Man of the Year candidate.


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From The Other Side: The Celtics Are Under Construction http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/from-the-other-side-the-celtics-are-under-construction.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/from-the-other-side-the-celtics-are-under-construction.html#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 23:23:00 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55067

Celtics escape with 110-104 win in overtime. Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown combine to score all 12 points for the Celtics in OT.

— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) February 9, 2018

The Boston Celtics team that lost to the Washington Wizards last Christmas Day looks and plays slightly different than the one that enacted revenge with a 110-104 overtime win on Thursday.

Back in December Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown did the heavy lifting in the scoring department (20 points each), the starters (except Aron Baynes) all played at least 31 minutes, and the bench featured contributions from Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis. Marcus Morris was still recovering from a lingering knee issue after missing nine games and Shane Larkin added five mainly inconsequential minutes. The Celtics lost that game in the fourth quarter due to their failure to grab defensive rebounds (none in the last six minutes), their inability to counter the Wizards’ small-ball lineup of Wall-Beal-Oubre-Morris-Porter, and the late game synergy of Wall, Beal and young Kelly Oubre.

Last night the Wizards were without Wall, who was in attendance in street clothes after a knee cleanup, which automatically meant the complexion of the game would be much different than it had been on Christmas Day. In his absence the Wizards adopted a share-the-wealth approach to basketball, and given they won five of their last six games, that strategy proved to be fruitful. Coach Stevens noticed it as well:

Well, I mean, they’re much different. He’s a however many time All-Star. He’s a max-player in the league. He’s special. But they’ve done a good job of replacing him by committee, which you have to do in this situation.

Jaylen Brown chimed in on the Wizards’ growth as well:

They’ve been moving the ball and any team that moves the ball is hard to guard. Satoransky has been playing really well for them getting the ball side to side and Brad Beal has been taking that leadership role and playing really well. I think that’s the biggest difference and they’ve been playing more as a team.

The Celtics did not have to deal with the loss of their superstar against the Wizards, but Kyrie Irving was only playing his second game since injuring his quad, Marcus Smart was out of the lineup–not because of a trade despite all the rumors leading up to yesterday’s trade deadline–but due to a hand that he inauspiciously injured.

In addition to dealing with those injuries, Coach Stevens also had to figure out how to officially incorporate Greg Monroe into the rotation. Monroe’s contract was bought out by the Phoenix Suns last week and although the Celtics agreed to sign him shortly thereafter, the deal could not be made official (and Monroe could not occupy the Celtics last roster spot) until the trade deadline passed. The Celtics didn’t make any moves, the deal was made official, Monroe met with the team and got a crash course on the offense, and by game-time he was part of Coach Stevens game plan for the Wizards.

Once the game started, it was clear that Coach Stevens was in trial-and-error mode in terms of balancing his new lineup options.

At the 3:15 mark of the first quarter with the Celtics down by just two points, Coach Stevens decided he wanted to see Monroe play with the other members of the Celtics’ bench, while they played against some of the Wizards bench players. He subbed in Daniel Theis for Al Horford and Monroe for Kyrie Irving.

That lineup of Theis, Monroe, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown (the lone starter) and Marcus Morris played together around eight minutes against both the Wizards’ starters and bench players, and they more than held their own. They outscored the Wizards 22-19 during that time, and although Monroe looked slow and out of sync at times, the play of Theis and Rozier more than made up for it.

At the start of the second half the Celtics reverted to their traditional ways of wreaking havoc on opponents by letting Al Horford and Kyrie Irving have their way with the Wizards and they did just that by scoring nine points apiece. The Wizards led by two at halftime, but by the time Horford and Irving checked out of the game for some rest in the third quarter, the Celtics led 73-68. This time the lineup consisted of Monroe, Rozier, Jayson Tatum, Morris and Theis and once again they extended the lead, this time by three points. The offense was a tad uneven–partly due to unfamiliarity and partly because the Wizards kept fouling and forcing the Celtics to the foul line–but it was clear that Coach Stevens was gradually gaining trust with this particular combination of players.

By the mid fourth quarter, Coach Stevens decided to mesh the bench and the starters together for the home stretch, and things came unraveled a bit. Kyrie returned to the game and began missing shots, there were turnovers by Horford and Morris, and overall the Celtics were stagnant on offense, as the Wizards–thanks to Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Bradley Beal–began to catch fire. The Celtics looked to be headed towards a three-point loss until the referees, or Irving, (depending on who is answering the question) bailed them out.

In overtime, the duo of Irving (who once again drew a foul via a 3-point shot from Markieff Morris) and Jaylen Brown were the weapons of choice for Brad Stevens and they proved to be the deciding factor in Boston’s victory. It wasn’t a pretty win, and it was clear that Coach Stevens was straddling the line between his comfort zone and experimentation, but in the end, Boston was victorious and he learned something about Monroe’s fit on the team.

On Monroe:

It’d be really hard to, basically, not be in the locker room at all until 35 [minutes] on the clock and I’m talking to the team for the first time. That’s the first time you’re sitting there. For him to come in and, you know, we simplified what we’re doing for the most part just to certain actions that we had talked to him about. I thought he did a really good job.

On Daniel Theis:

I think Theis can rebound against smaller guards, especially on the offensive glass. He had a few unfortunate bounces in overtime otherwise he had two tip-ins. And then I think he can move his feet enough to guard guards.

On the lineup of Rozier-Brown/Tatum-Monroe-Theis and Morris

I think one of the things you think about when adding Greg is that’s time that you don’t necessarily have to stagger necessarily Kyrie and Al. And so I think that’s a positive moving forward. We still will [stagger] some depending on who we’re playing and the match-ups and those types of things but I felt about the way that Theis and Greg played together with Morris at the “3” which he hasn’t played at all this year, but he got in the post and utilized his size advantage.

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Scott Brooks Talks Wall, Gortat (and a lot more) Before Celtics Game http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/scott-brooks-talks-wall-gortat-and-a-lot-more-before-celtics-game.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/scott-brooks-talks-wall-gortat-and-a-lot-more-before-celtics-game.html#respond Fri, 09 Feb 2018 12:16:33 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55050

[Scott Brooks at the podium before the February 8, 2018 game versus the Boston Celtics. Photo – A. Rubin]

THERE HAS BEEN a lot said about these Washington Wizards over the last few days. Much was from talking heads, much was from fans and much – perhaps too much – was from the Wizards’ players themselves.

On Thursday night before the national TV matchup with the Boston Celtics, it was Scott Brooks’ turn to talk. The normally reserved coach was in rare form during his customary pre-game availability and he covered a wide range of topics that had been on the minds of Wizards fans—and media.

On John Wall’s series of interviews where he responded to criticism of his playing style:

Brooks felt the criticism was unfair because Wall showed tremendous grit fighting through injuries and the coach left no doubt about how the team feels about Wall.

That’s the world we live in. You see it all the time. You see it here in our city. Things are said and people say things. John is one of the best players in basketball and I kind of admire a guy that plays through some ups and downs. When we met early in November with our doctors, Dr. Parker our medical team and John, we felt the best thing for him to move forward just continue to do a rehab and manage him and sit him out as many practices as we possibly can and I knew he was gonna have some good days and he was going to have some tougher days and it’s easy to judge him on those days that he wasn’t playing as well as he would have liked to, but I looked at is as he’s out there gutting it out for his team. To me that’s a winner and he was healthy last year and it’s just part of it.

On the supposed debate about whether the Wizards are better without Wall:

He knows how I feel about him, he knows how our organization, his teammates feel about him and for people to think that we are not better with John, that’s just for click bait and I guess that’s what they want to do and it probably worked in some cases but it hasn’t worked in our locker room.

Brooks said he did not speak to Wall after the interviews but he offered his general philosophy about dealing with outside distractions:

But I talk to all of our guys all the time. What’s being said about us, you can’t worry about that. You just have to worry about what you can control and our attitude every day is coming into work and do our job and be good teammates and focus on helping our team win and focus on getting better individually yourself.

Ok. But what about the fact that some of the noise is coming from Wall’s own teammate, Marcin Gortat, in the form of a tweet. Do John and Marcin need to have a talk?

Brooks initially dismissed the incident as run-of-the-mill drama that happens to every team.

You go through any team, any season, when I was a player you’re going to have disagreements with players and it’s not going to be our last one. It might be one tonight with Brad and I.  That’s just part of being a coach, part of being a teammate, you’re going to have those.  These guys are brotherhoods and they’re around each other so much.

Brooks chalked up tweet-gate to a miscommunication.

Was it a misunderstanding? Probably.

Then he offered a full-throated defense of his franchise point guard:

I know one thing that John is so unselfish, he leads the league in assists – or basically the top two since he’s been in the league. And last year we were third or fourth in the league in assists and it’s just not from his passing, we are all passing.  They hear it from me all the time ‘good to great’ share the ball. It could be nights that we’ve had 30 assists. It’s not like we’ve only started passing the ball – against Boston we passed the ball, at Detroit we passed the ball, here against the Pelicans and those two guys were having monster games and we passed the ball. We have to pass the ball. It’s not just the last four or five games.

Brooks mentioned again that the issue was nothing to be concerned about:

So when players have a misunderstanding you got to talk it out and move on and I have no problem with what our guys are about.

Brooks then turned his attention to Gortat and offered praise, as Brooks often does, for his screen setting. Then, in an unexpected twist, Brooks started to explain why Gortat does not get many shot attempts and — though this was not his intention — why Gortat’s value as an NBA center continues to decline:

Does Marc[in] want more post touches? Sure he does. Every big in the league wants more post touches. There’s no more post touches. It’s not coming back. It’s three-point, it’s pick and rolls and rolls to the basket and spread the floor. Post touches are not good percentage shots. I feel bad for Marc but he’s not going to get a lot of them. I’m going to throw some to him if he has a good match-up but he sets screens like nobody else. When he’s rolling, it’s really good, he makes passes and…

At this point Brooks stopped himself mid-sentence, as if he realized he was going down a path that was not responsive to any question that had been posed:

I don’t know really what I’m talking about.

Brooks paused again:

Am I right? Olajuwon is not coming back. There’s no more post touches.

Brooks’ soliloquy prompted a question about last season when the Wizards started every game with a post-up to Gortat and why the practice was stopped:

It was becoming a little inside joke between Marc and I. He actually came to me, ‘Coach, no more, no more, I can’t score on that first play in the game.’ So I said, ‘ok.’  This was like the end of last year, but it was almost a joke. It was almost like we were having fun with it. I still go to him every now and then. I try to get Kieff going. Sometimes I get Otto going. Tonight I’m going to probably go with Otto the first play so you can tell Brad [Stevens] that.

Brooks closed his remarks by returning to his initial premise that the Wall-Gortat misunderstanding is simply a function of playing on a competitive team. (Brooks also introduced the media room to a new term: high school harrys.)

Like I said I’ve been on a championship team and there’s times that you thought we wouldn’t win a game let alone a championship in ’94 and you’d have thought that Rudy Tomjanovich hated all of us. That’s part of the game. It’s a heavily competitive game and you have to have competitive guys and you don’t want everybody to just get along and have a bunch of high school harrys. You want to be able to get guys that are competitive, that are going to challenge each other, that are going to fight each other in practice in a competitive way. That’s how you get better. Every team I’ve been on, if you are not competitive you stink.

It was quite a spirited performance from Brooks and it seemed like the buzz from the nationally televised match-up with Boston had him fired up:

I’m excited. We have the Celtics. We have one of the best teams in basketball.

We played really good here on our last few home games against one of the best teams in the West and one of the best teams in the East and now we’ve got another one.


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The Sixers Fly Over the Wizards in Philly http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/the-sixers-fly-over-the-wizards-in-philly.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/the-sixers-fly-over-the-wizards-in-philly.html#respond Wed, 07 Feb 2018 14:07:43 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55041

Not sure Wizards will finish this game off with a win, but they have fought more tonight then during some victories earlier in the season. Have just looked a step slow playing 3rd in 4 days. Can't quite get over the hump.

— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) February 7, 2018

In hindsight, there was no way the Wizards were going to defeat the Sixers on Tuesday night.

The Wizards came into the game with a peculiar vibe surrounding them. The day started with rumors of Marcin Gortat being involved in trade talks, and then later in the day, John Wall went on ESPN’s “The Jump”, to basically let everyone know he was still the franchise player and the team still needed him to thrive going forward. And oh by the way, this game against the Sixers represented their third in four nights and the second night of a back-to-back.

Coaches typically don’t like to make excuses, but there were plenty for Scott Brooks to choose from if he were so inclined.

On the flip side, the Sixers came into last night’s game quite rested, having not played since their loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. And they also had the privilege of playing their first home game since the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots on Sunday night. Not only did the crowd break into countless E-A-G-L-E-S chants, but the Eagles offensive line showed up to ring the ceremonial bell.

Once the game started, the Sixers more than capitalized on that intangible mojo.

After five minutes, thanks to 3-pointers from Dario Saric, Joel Embiid and JJ Redick, the Sixers led 15-7, which prompted Scott Brooks to call his first timeout. Two minutes later, the Sixers went on a 7-0 run thanks to five points and a steal from Amir Johnson, and Scott Brooks had to call yet another timeout. By the end of the quarter, the Sixers shot 69-percent, while the Wizards managed just 33-percent shooting, thanks mostly to Otto Porter’s 4-for-8, nine-point performance.

The Wizards bench went on a 4-0 run to end the first quarter, and thanks to Ian Mahinmi and Tim Frazier, that run extended to 10-2, and they were able to cut the Sixers lead to 13 points, 39-26 with 10:26 left in the second quarter. Brett Brown called timeout to quell the Wizards run, and Philly responded by going on a 12-2 run to push the lead back up to 22 points.

That was the ebb and flow of the entire game after the first quarter.

Bradley Beal (30 points in three quarters), Otto Porter (17 points) and even Ian Mahinmi  (13 points) made shots and seemingly put the Wizards in a position to make a sustained run. Then Joel Embiid (27 points) would hit a 3-pointer, Ben Simmons would blow by Porter for a dunk, layup or an assist, or Robert Covington, Saric or Redick would hit a wide-open shot to stop the burgeoning Wizards’ comeback.

The “everybody eats” mantra that has regrettably spread like wildfire and is now used as an appositive whenever the Wizards are mentioned, was still in effect last night. The Wizards had 23 assists, five players in double figures, and had they figured out a way to stop the Sixers for just five minutes of play in the second half, they would have pulled off their sixth consecutive victory.

But the Wizards just could not summon that five-game-win-streak magic this time around. Tomas Satoransky struggled to find open teammates like he’d done so adeptly during the win streak and as Comcast SportsNet’s Kara Lawson observed, he wasn’t pushing the ball with his usual pace. Tim Frazier did a good job pushing the pace, but he wasn’t much of a threat on offense and he did nothing of note on the defensive end of the ball, which is why in the fourth quarter, Coach Brooks basically decided to make Beal the point guard.

The Wizards shot just 29-percent with two assists in the fourth quarter, and Satoransky, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat did not play a minute. The Sixers didn’t exactly set the world on fire with their 35-percent shooting, but they got timely scoring from Embiid and Redick, and that served as just enough of a deterrent to the Wizards anemic offense.

The Wizards have now won five out of six games since Wall’s injury, and they have one day to rest before they take on the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics at home. By then the trade deadline will have come and gone, and if the rumors are true, either Gortat will be gone, or the Wizards will have added some elusive perimeter depth. Stay tuned my friends.

More Bullets

  • Brian Windhorst, unlike Stephen A. Smith who talks to hear himself talk, rarely gets it wrong in the reporting department, which makes it hard to ignore his report that Gortat may be on the move. If that is indeed the case, the Wizards should take comfort in the recent play of Ian Mahinmi. He’s averaged 8.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in the month of February, and last night he scored eight of his 13 points in the second quarter. But it wasn’t just the sheer volume of points that made his night impressive, it was the way he scored and who he did his scoring against. He grabbed rebounds over and around Embiid, he drove the lane when the Sixers defense fell asleep against him, and he even showed faint signs of post moves from time to time. Yes, in the long run, Mahinmi will have to prove he has a legitimate chemistry with John Wall, before he’s a trusted member of the Wizards’ rotation, but in the past couple weeks, he’s proven to be a valuable replacement when Gortat goes to the bench–which is not a phrase anyone has been able to type or speak since Mahinmi arrived in D.C.

  • With 2:09 left in the first half, Embiid got the ball on the block while being guarded by Morris. Embiid, as he had been doing against Gortat, simply tried to use his weight to get better position in the post, but Morris provided significant resistance–or so he thought. The refs thought there was too much contact, and they whistled Morris for a foul. Morris (and Embiid for some reason) protested the foul call and got dangerously close to the referee but no technical foul was called. But a minute later, when Morris refused to leave the scorer’s table and go to the bench, he eventually received that technical foul. Beal scored or assisted on the Wizards’ next nine points, so Morris’s antics were not harmful, but it was incredibly selfish and something that Coach Brooks has to eventually reel in.

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Wizards Keep Eating In Indy — Washington Wins Fifth Straight Without Wall http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/wizards-keep-eating-in-indy-washington-wins-fifth-straight-without-wall.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/wizards-keep-eating-in-indy-washington-wins-fifth-straight-without-wall.html#respond Tue, 06 Feb 2018 14:57:35 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55031 [Bradley Beal everything, via @wzztnzz]

[via @wzztnzz]

A John Wall-less Wizards team certainly isn’t going to feel sorry for a Pacers team without All-Star Victor Oladipo. But maybe they should, even if Indiana is the 7-seed in the East while the Wizards sit at 4.

The obvious and just as intriguing narrative goes like this: Washington has just won a season-high five games in a row, all since the team’s heart and soul went out with a bad knee. Normally this would not be such a thing — just a team in need coming together, which it is. But, unless the compact dirt under a rock has been your home, a variety of stats do enough to convey the before and after. For example, 73.9 percent of Washington’s made shots have been assisted over the last five games, compared to just 58.5 percent over the 48 games before that (most with Wall, some without him).

Even without Oladipo, the Pacers still field a decent starting five: Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, and Myles Turner; with Domantas Sabonis and Al Jefferson being two primaries off the bench. This is a playoff team after all, albeit a surprise one this season, and one most likely to fall out of the race (in favor of potentially surging Detroit).

But how Washington has been playing now is basically how they were built to play, so constructed by three head coaches in succession over Wall’s career — Flip, Randy and Scott. They all preached well-roundedness to varying degrees, particularly with a pass-first point and then a shooter like Beal, it had to be democratic (perhaps Saunders and Wittman more in practice while Brooks’s track record is questionable via his ISO OKC days). The Wizards have not been playing near their potential this season — big surprise, the table has been bare yet those sitting at each head still got greedy.

Take comfort in knowing that they know better, and even without Wall, and that there’s a correlation between how this team has been constructed (in theory, with mouths capable of chewing with the ball in their hands in the right spot at the right time) with how the Wizards have played over the last five wins. In Monday night’s 111-102 win in Indy, Washington tallied 29 assists on 45 buckets as double figures in Wizards players scored in double figures (but only one Wizard scored more than 13 points — Beal with 21 on 16 shots). Flaws linger below the surface, but it feels like teaching middle-aged dogs new tricks.

Here’s how everyone ate on Monday: 

Act 1: Spacing

Look, credit the Pacers defense for allowing Marcin Gortat to cut around unimpeded early. But also credit newfound Wizards team comfort with Beal finding a lot more space to operate these days. Again, it’s driven by how Satoransky moves as a point guard.

The Wizards went cold for a spell mid-opening stanza, during which young Sabonis found a few darting buckets, and even Big Al dropped a nugget. But then the Pacers — young Sabonis — would do things like inexplicably leave Mike Scott wide open after a high ball screen. That’s a 3, my brother. Young Sabonis got Ian with some baskets but also got Ian’d, thanks to a Mahinmi up-and-under late in the period — that worked!

Beal dropped 10, Gortat 7, and Sato delivered 3 assist, two of which kept Markieff Morris involved. 28-23, Wizards.

Act 2: Dive & Recover

Indiana’s secondary combinations knew how to pick their spots. Sabonis continued to force action with cuts and Jefferson had the green light versus every mismatch (or otherwise — vs. Mahinmi, Scott, whomever). The Wizards even forgot Bogdanovic’s ability to deceive on the drive or pull up from Steph Curry range a time or two. And, sorry, but the Oubre-Mahinmi combo just didn’t have much resistance to offer versus the Lance-Sabonis pick-and-roll. Washington managed once to slow down Domantas Sabonis (15 points in 27 minutes off the bench overall), but not really for long.

The second quarter recovery was sparked by Beal checking in with a three-point Wizards lead and dropping 7 points in 2.5 minutes. The recovery was fueled by Oubre’s 9 points (4-6 free throws) and back-to-back charge draws versus Turner and Stephenson. And while Tim Frazier continues to be solid, Scott Brooks couldn’t help but field a lineup where Beal ran point with the lengthy Oubre and Otto at 2-3, Morris at stretch-4, and either Gortat or Mahinmi at 5 (with the Ian-anchored crew usually better at defense, love it or leave it).

58-49, Wizards at halftime.

Act 3: Why You Pay Otto, Sometimes

I’ll tell you as much as anyone that Otto probably needs more of a chance to sink into that max contract — since I’ve criticized his snail’s pace development in the past. Sure, higher expectations are OK and the need for him to accelerate progress is a necessity. But you also pay him to sneakily drop 11 points in a quarter (but he did have just 13 for the game … so many ate). It shouldn’t necessarily be about Otto needing to attack more one-on-one. Just hit open shots, be aggressive in the open court and keep cutting, please.

What also helped on this night were instances like this: Washington in transition, at least two Pacers players pointing to an open Otto on the right wing, but no one gets him, and Tim Frazier’s job was made easy — assist to 3-ball for Porter. Bogdanovic tried his best to stick it for his former for-a-cup-of-tea franchise with a steep of points (29 total on 15 shots for the night). But a spoonful of Mike Scott buckets, which did sandwich a tech that Lance Stephenson drew on Scott while being a bug during free throw lineup, kept the Pacers a gear behind. 86-74, Wizards.

Act 4: Formality

The Pacers actually won this quarter, 28-25, with 13 of Bogdanovic’s 29 points coming in the period. But let me tell you a little story of Ian Mahinmi scoring 9 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter (before fouling out) and Jodie Meeks scoring 5 of his 10 points also in the fourth (as he seems to be shooting with more freedom, less pressure — nothing on earth to do with an open trade request). That long sentence says enough!

Indiana made it almost interesting for a few seconds, enough to make one wonder about the Wizards blowing it before remembering the steady confidence this team is building. While the combo of still being flawed and winning a tad lucky exists, this habit of winning while everyone eats might not wear off anytime soon. Game Wizards, 111-102.

Alas, weary legs head to Philadelphia for a third game in four days on Tuesday. This match will be nationally televised on TNT in front of a raucous Philly crowd, feeding of a Super Bowl victory and riot blood but still thirsty for The Process to bring them to the promised land. Good luck, Wizards, another chance to see what’s what and who’s who.


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New Identity, Mixed Feelings: Wizards Pave Over Orlando http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/new-identity-mixed-feelings-wizards-pave-over-orlando.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/new-identity-mixed-feelings-wizards-pave-over-orlando.html#respond Sun, 04 Feb 2018 20:10:22 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55023

Take a sip. pic.twitter.com/KaBHgCyXUK

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) February 4, 2018

As it happens, I watched Saturday’s game between my Wizards of Washington and the Orlando Magic not far from the Amway Center. There I sat, about an hour northeast of Orlando, in a freshly-opened sports bar in a sleepy town on the Atlantic coast. The crowd was sparse, the TVs were bountiful, and every time the bartender tried to change the channel, one of the televisions flashed to an On-Demand adult video. Everyone acted like it wasn’t happening.

Ignoring what is plainly in front of you isn’t good practice, regardless of the context. The title of the porno was hilarious (the first two words were “dong” and “stuffed” in no particular order), and the fact that the “BACK” button on the remote landed the bartender there doubly worthy of mirth. Laugh! And so it was under this roof that I watched the Wizards cement an identity without their defining star. There’s no running from that, and I’d urge you to embrace it. See it as the opportunity that it is…for the Wizards, and for John Wall. An opportunity for the best player on the team to get healthy, and to watch the Wizards adjust to life without him just how the most successful teams do: moving the ball, cutting off the ball, playing accountable defense, and winning games without over-reliance on Atlas holding the world up.

Embrace the fact that the Wizards have a talented and capable backup point guard (Tomas Satoransky) for the first time since Antonio Daniels donned a hideous teal jersey. Embrace Beal’s ascendance, and Satoransky’s eagerness to lower his own usage rate in service of upping Otto Porter Jr.’s. These are all good things. Please don’t treat the Wizards like Bruce Allen treats the Washington football team. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Throughout Wall’s career, he has improved with each offseason. This time, something was off. Maybe it was just his knee, but more likely it was his knee and a little bit of something else. Let this be the offseason that cures both for him, with a dose of challenge from an unheralded Czech on a team-friendly deal.

It should also be said, as a final note before we get into the weeds, that Orlando-loving center Marcin Gortat should not fucking needle Wall from behind his cell phone display, or otherwise. It’s immature, and exactly the kind of thing that makes a confident, happy team fracture under the weight of their own success. Gortat’s “team” tweet, which still stands unclarified by the big man, is the dumbest thing he’s ever done as a Wizard. Intrateam beef has hurt past versions of the Wizards (think Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas), and it’s similarly unhelpful now. The result is Bradley Beal spending his post-game interviews, during the best run of his young career, assuring everyone he still has his captain’s back instead of talking about how he secured another win for a team desperate for them. So I hope that Gortat cuts that shit right out and focuses on plays like this instead.

In short, Washington’s starting five was unstoppable in Orlando. Otto Porter led the team in minutes, had a 130.8 ORTG (offensive rating), and an 88.1 DRTG (defensive rating), which was good for a NETRTG (you figure it out) of 42.7. Numbers aside, it was a thing of beauty, even against the worst team in the league.

Much has been made of the Wizards’ ball movement of late, including by yours truly, and this game was no exception. Notably, Otto Porter had almost as many touches (61) as Bradley Beal (69), and more than Satoransky (56). While Satoransky undeniably ran the point, he often ceded control of the possession to Beal, who looked comfortable bringing the ball up and working the pick-and-roll with Gortat and Morris.

For comparison, in Washington’s January 25 loss to Oklahoma City on national television, Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 107 touches, John Wall followed behind with 88, and no one else had more than 50 (Morris had 50, Porter had 47). And so you can see that the structure of each Washington possession has changed dramatically, with the ball touching more hands, and ending in a variety of ways, instead of with desperate late shot-clock heaves by Washington’s heroes. That’s reductive, of course, because this was a winning team before the past week, but there’s no use denying that this is a prettier brand of basketball.

Satoransky mostly made up for his lack of quickness with good footwork, displaying an ability to stay even and home when opposing players drive to the basket, and a knack for heading off favorable driving lanes. On one occasion, Satoransky pinched in to help Beal defend the middle of the lane, surprised Beal’s man, whose long dribble gave Satoransky a window to make off with the ball. He took it and then did something I would categorize as essential fútbol, a give-and-go with Beal that Elfrid Payton was helpless to stop.

Another benefit of this style of play is that it has unlocked Beal’s potential as a secondary ball-handler, rather than a substitute point guard. Because Beal is Washington’s best shooter, best scorer, and most talented one-on-one player, the Wizards have too often allowed him (and Wall) to call for clearouts and work too hard for too little, i.e. a fadeaway jumper from 15-19 feet. Satoransky’s instinct to keep the offense flowing even with an isolation play evolving has served Washington well, and it gives Beal the option to use his considerable one-on-one skill to free up his teammates, rather than simply putting it all on red and spinning the wheel, hoping for a good result. Of Beal’s eight assists in this game, four were in some stage of a Beal one-on-one, and converted into open shots for his teammates. And the chemistry with Satoransky is real, given that four of Beal’s eight assists went to the Czech guard.

In games like this one, where Washington’s 3-pointers weren’t falling (7-for-26), efficiency in the paint is key. And Washington had that in spades, finding open cutters and with a variety of nifty, Arenas-esque ball-shielding moves from Beal and Porter.

Orlando, without semi-star Aaron Gordon, made their runs, but Coach Frank Vogel could not find a combination of players that could slow down Washington’s starters. Vogel threw a ton of lineups out against Washington, and almost everyone on Orlando’s roster that played ended up with 20+ minutes as a result. But even as Oubre, Frazier, and the bench mob struggled to tread water, the starters proved more than capable of closing this one out. And with a new, sustainable offensive identity, the Wizards are primed to be enjoyable even if they lose some along the way. With an eye on the horizon and Wall’s return, be careful not to look directly into the sun. Enjoy the best basketball this side of May 2017.

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John Who? Wizards Win Third Straight Without Wall http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/john-who-wizards-win-third-straight-without-wall.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/john-who-wizards-win-third-straight-without-wall.html#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 07:07:15 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55015 A cynic would look at Washington’s wins in their first two games without John Wall with a certain degree of skepticism. Last Saturday, they defeated the Atlanta Hawks — the worst team in the league — in Atlanta by 25 points. They weren’t able to defeat the Hawks in December when Wall was supposedly healthy, but those pesky skeptics could argue that doing it now without him is still a minuscule task.

The Wizards followed up that victory last weekend in Georgia with a 102-96 victory on Tuesday at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had previously won eight straight games. That night Washington had five players scoring in double figures and 27 assists en route to a team victory. But Russell Westbrook also shot 5-for-18 with just 13 points, so it could be argued that his off night, not the Wizards’s ability to play team basketball, was the reason for the second consecutive Wall-less win.

On Thursday night, the Toronto Raptors, currently second in the East and boasting the powerhouse, All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, came to town. The previous two times they played the Raptors, Wall was out due to injury and the Wizards went 1-1. The first time they rode the hot shooting of Bradley Beal (16-26 and 38 points), and the second time Beal remained hot (27 points) but DeRozan was hotter (33 points) and Toronto won.

This third game figured to be the true test of Washington’s ability to win without Wall. Would Beal bail the Wizards out again on his own? Or would the spread-the-wealth version of offense the Wizards had displayed in their two-game winning streak prevail? Or would the Raptors prove to be too much?

Prior to the game, Toronto coach Dwane Casey seemed to have a sense that Washington’s recent ability to share the ball and distribute the scoring was a force to be reckoned with:

“They played probably one of their best games against OKC. As hard as I’ve seen them play in a long time … A lot of times guys lose one of their star players and the rest of the guys pick it up. And they have picked it up. They picked up the tempo, the hard play, offensive execution, ball movement.”

Casey is excellent at foreshadowing, but on this night he didn’t do so well at preventing what he foresaw, and his team lost, 122-119. Washington had a plus-12 advantage in rebounding (+4 on the offensive glass) and a plus-10 advantage in assists.

In the first quarter, thanks to matador defense on Serge Ibaka by Markieff Morris and hot shooting by OG Anunoby, the Raptors jumped out to a 34-27 lead, even though DeRozan and Lowry combined for just six points while Beal went scoreless.

But Washington’s starters combined for 17 points, and the bench, lead by Mike Scott (5 points) and Kelly Oubre (3 points), kept the game close, as Casey predicted might happen before the game.

At the start of the second quarter, Scott showed off his full repertoire of skills by scoring, assisting, rebounding, setting picks and playing exemplary post defense. His bench colleagues followed suit and broke even with Toronto’s bench. When the starters for both teams returned, Tomas Satoransky, who continues to play with a brand of poise and maturity that belies his two years of NBA experience, led the way with six points, while Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas led the way with 11 points.

Toronto led by seven points at halftime but DeRozan and Lowry still only had eight points. The Wizards had gotten significant contributions from eight out of the ten players who had checked into the game (Jodie Meeks went scoreless in five minutes of play), but Beal had just two points from the free throw line and he was 0-for-6 from the field.

Then Beal found his mojo.

Beal scored 11 of his team’s first 13 points in the third quarter, and he single-handedly caused Casey to call timeout to get his team to re-group. By the end of the period, Beal had scored or assisted on 19 of Washington’s 33 points, and he had a heavy hand in turning their seven-point halftime deficit into a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

After the game, Beal discussed what changed after halftime:

“I think in the first half I was trying to get a feel of how they were going to play me and they were doubling me a lot. A lot of the shots I took I didn’t necessarily like. I felt like they were shots they wanted me to take. In the second half, I knew that I had to be aggressive as much as possible, to give my teammates confidence and to give us a chance to go on a run and pull out a win. So, I just wanted to stay aggressive, stay confident. Once I saw one go down it was over from there.”

The Wizards outscored the Raptors 34-32 in the fourth quarter, and they once again distributed the scoring among eight different players.

Meeks scored all 10 of his points in the first four minutes of the fourth, and as Coach Brooks alluded to after the game, he gave the Wizards “a cushion” of seven points just a minute into the quarter.

The remainder of the final period was an exercise in back and forth basketball. Lowry or DeRozan would score for the Raptors, and the Wizards countered with balanced scoring from their starting five. Washington took after the final buzzer because in the fourth quarter they shot 55 percent from the field, 42 percent from the 3-point line and 91 percent from the charity stripe. During that same quarter Toronto shot a blistering 63 percent from the field, but a paltry 25 percent from the 3-point line and just 60 percent on free throws.

In the end, Coach Casey and his Raptors squad were defeated by the very thing he had so gracefully praised prior to the game: Balance.

Five Wizards starters and three bench players were in double figures. They had 30 assists for the second time in four games. Seemingly every player was eating equally, something Beal stressed to the media after the game:

Three wins in three games over the past five days without John Wall does not an Eastern Conference Finals team make by any stretch of the imagination. Glaring issues still showed up against the Raptors, particularly on defense. The Wizards surrendered 119 points on 53 percent shooting, the offense was far from fluid the last three minutes of the game, and Kelly Oubre is still a bit too inconsistent when it counts.

But given how badly the Wizards were struggling with a hobbled Wall in December and January, this recent stretch of games demonstrates their versatility and depth — two traits that they could not have possibly imagined after their loss to the Boston Celtics in seven games last May.

In the words of Bob from the movie, “What About Bob?”— Baby steps.

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R-E-L-A-X: The Wizards Will Be Just Fine With Tomas Satoransky http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/r-e-l-a-x-the-wizards-will-be-just-fine-with-tomas-satoransky.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/02/r-e-l-a-x-the-wizards-will-be-just-fine-with-tomas-satoransky.html#comments Thu, 01 Feb 2018 23:10:09 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54972

WHEN THE NEWS broke that John Wall would miss six-to-eight weeks with another knee surgery, the reaction was predictably morbid. There goes the season. The Wizards are done. The playoffs are no longer guaranteed.

But, I felt differently.

That’s because the doomsday prognosticators were ignoring two very important things:

1) the Wizards were playing rather poorly with John Wall, and

2) Wall’s replacement, Tomas Satoransky, has a very unique set of skills that is perfectly suited to cure what ails the starting lineup.

On the first point, the Wizards were performing below expectations the first 48 games of the season. The offense was inconsistent and stagnant at times, the effort was abhorrent, team chemistry was non-existent and defense was optional. They needed a serious jolt — either through a trade or lineup change — and it had become increasingly obvious that neither would happen.

Washington has insufficient assets and cap space to trade for an impact player and Scott Brooks, despite threatening to make changes after each embarrassing loss, called his own bluff every time.

In other words, Wall’s injury did not derail the Wizards’s season. The train was already careening off the tracks by the time Wall flew to Cleveland for a second opinion on his bothersome left knee.

To the contrary, Wall’s injury, while unfortunate, provided the perfect cover for Brooks to make a drastic change and it just might end up saving the season.

This brings me to the main point of the story: The Wizards will be just fine with Tomas Satoransky in the starting lineup. I know it sounds strange, but set aside your knee-jerk assumptions and hear me out.

Satoransky is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Washington Wizards. He gets no respect.

Even his own general manager and coach did not believe in him. On the very same day Ernie Grunfeld signed Satoransky to a three-year contract, Ernie traded a second round pick so that Trey Burke could play ahead of Tomas. One year later Ernie did the exact same thing, trading a second round pick for Tim Frazier to be the primary backup point guard to Wall.

All the while, Scott Brooks refused to even acknowledge that Satoransky was a point guard and buried him deep on the bench.

There were even doubters on this very website. When I tweeted that the Wizards would be fine with Satoransky starting against Atlanta last week, none other than the founder of Truth About It responded: “Versus Dennis [Schroder]. I’m not so sure.” Et tu, Kyle?

For some reason, people only see the negatives when they evaluate Satoransky:

  • He has trouble against quicker point guards
  • He sometimes turns his back against pressure bringing the ball up court
  • He’s not a great spot up shooter.

All those things are true. But, so what?

All scouting reports look shaky if only the cons are listed. Here, I’ll show you. LeBron James:

  • Turns the ball over too much
  • Poor free throw shooter
  • Passive-aggressive front-runner who will quit on his team and leave in free agency if things don’t go his way

Doesn’t sound so good, does it?

Let’s get one thing straight before going any further. Am I saying Satoransky is anywhere near as good as John Wall? No, of course not. But that’s not the point. He doesn’t have to be.

Satoransky is a completely different player with a completely different skill set. It just so happens that Satoransky’s very unique set of skills fits perfectly with what the starting lineup has been missing all season.

He’s the jolt the team needs to shock them back to their Eastern Conference contending ways and his temporary presence in the starting lineup will put this team in a better position when a healthy John Wall finally returns.

Here are the four reasons why:

1. Quick Ball Movement

The ball never sticks in Satoransky’s hands. He is always looking to advance the ball to a player in a better scoring position. If theres’s a mismatch in the post, Tomas will create a lane for an entry pass. When he drives, he’s looking for an open teammate — almost to a fault.

There are never any zero-pass possessions when Satoransky is running the point. That’s because he never calls his own number, which means each possession begins with at least an attempt to run an offensive set.

Again, this is not a knock on John Wall who has the ability to create his own shot and sprint by opponents. That is an elite skill and a major component of Washington’s offense. But with his field goal percentage at an almost career-low 41.7-percent and his mid-range jumper especially off, Wall’s quick trigger has not led to an efficient Wizards offense this season.

Satoransky brings a more egalitarian approach to the offense. In Satoransky’s starts versus Atlanta and Oklahoma City, five Wizards players registered double-digit shot attempts. Satoransky himself only attempted nine shots total over the two games.

To put that in perspective, the last time Washington had five players shoot ten or more times was December 1, a blowout win over the Detroit Pistons in a game that John Wall missed due to injury and both Satoransky and Tim Frazier played 23 minutes.

You have to go all the way back to November 13 against Sacramento to find a game that Wall started where five players shot at least 10 times — and Wall was one of them.

Washington’s offense had become entirely too dependent on Wall and Beal. Satoransky’s insertion into the starting lineup will get everyone more involved. Otto will be more aggressive, Markieff will spread the floor and Wall will have so many more weapons at his disposal when he returns.

2. Off-Ball Movement

This is one skill that John Wall could actually learn from Satoransky. When Tomas hands the ball to Beal (or anyone else for that matter) on the perimeter, he is far from a spectator. He dives into the lane, makes himself available for a pass or drifts to the corner and tries to catch his defender sleeping for a baseline cut. In short, his participation in the play does not end the moment he gives up the ball.

This type of movement does two things. First, it opens up space for Beal and other shooters on the perimeter by drawing a help defender away from the action.

Second, it keeps the offense in motion. When Satoransky enters a teammate’s space, that player is prompted to move as well, flashing to the lane or cutting along the baseline. Several times against Oklahoma City, Bradley Beal was bailed out by a cutting teammate at the end of a possession. Earlier this season, those same possessions have too often ended in forced jumpers when the offense stagnates.

3. Position Defense

Here’s where Satoransky really gets no respect. Tomas does not have great lateral agility, so when he gets beat by a quicker guard it looks bad. I get that. But Satoransky more than makes up for it with exceptional position defense. Tomas is great at anticipating moves and staying in front of his man and, with his 6-foot-7 frame, he can recover and contest shots even when he does get beat.

In the final two minutes of a tight game against the Thunder, Satoransky was isolated on Westbrook on several occasions and forced him into tough passes almost every time. Westbrook was visibly frustrated by his inability to get to the rim and the one twisting layup he hit was well-contested.

Just as important, Tomas does not die on screens. The Wizards’ perimeter defenders get into trouble when they don’t even bother fighting through picks. Instead, they automatically switch, which leads to mismatches. Satoransky allows the Wizards to play more straight up defense because he always hustles around picks.

With his size, Tomas can also cover four positions. This versatility allows Washington to trap aggressively like they did against Oklahoma City to get the ball out of Russell Westbrook’s hands. It also allows Washington to switch all defensive match-ups from 1 to 4 when Washington plays small ball.

4. Ball Security

Satoransky does not make mistakes. He leads the league in assist to turnover ratio (4.2) and he has a combined 13 assists and two turnovers in his two starts against Atlanta and Oklahoma City. That type of mistake-free basketball is exactly what the Wizards need in Wall’s absence.

When John is playing, you can tolerate a few careless turnovers because he creates so many scoring opportunities with the ball in his hands. Satoransky does not have that luxury, especially when he is running the second unit. If you are not going to score, you sure as hell better not turn it over.

There you have it. The sky is not falling. Life will go on. The Washington Wizards will be in the 2018 NBA Playoffs and no one will want to face them in the first round. Assuming John Wall returns from his injury as scheduled in six-to-eight weeks, he will inherit a team that is in better shape than when he left it.



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