Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Sat, 09 Feb 2019 04:56:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.12 Jabari Parker’s Opening Statements http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/jabari-parkers-opening-statements.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/jabari-parkers-opening-statements.html#respond Sat, 09 Feb 2019 04:44:16 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56533

[Photo: NBA Fantasy Twitter]

Before making his debut in a Washington Wizards uniform, Jabari Parker was remarkably calm. He stood in the corner, in front of his newly assigned locker. It just so happened to be the same locker where Otto Porter (the player he was traded for) resided just a few days earlier. A few writers came up to him for some pregame chatter and he answered every question with disarming charm and a radiant smile.

Given his comments earlier that day during shootaround, his placid demeanor should not have been too much of a surprise. The angst surrounding the trading deadline was over, and he finally had a bit of closure regarding his whereabouts.

“It’s kind of, sort of been a relief, just because I knew what direction I was going to. There’s some confusion when you don’t know, you hear speculation here and there. Finally getting to that place, finally knowing where I’m at is a sign of relief for me.”

When Coach Scott Brooks was asked before the game how he would use Parker (along with Bobby Portis and Wesley Johnson), he was remarkably candid. Basically, he’s unsure about how to use his new toys:

“We gave them our video playbook yesterday, so they got the chance to see that when they were flying in and last night. And then we worked with them this morning at shootaround, so we’ll try to keep it real simple.

“My expectations are… I don’t really know, I don’t know how they’re all going to play, but they’re all going to play and they’re all going to play together. I just need to figure out who are going to be the other guys with them, because they’re going to need stability and guys that have been [here].”

Whatever magical words of encouragement Coach Brooks gave to the new guys, it would behoove him to bottle it up and use it for Saturday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

Wesley Johnson had a quiet night with just two points in 14 minutes, but Bobby Portis was the star. He scored 30 points (12-17 from the field, including 4-6 from the 3-point line) and grabbed five rebounds. And then, of course, there was Jabari Parker.

He checked into the game with 4:33 left in the first quarter, and fifteen seconds later–as predicted by NBC Sports Washington’s Ben Standig–he jacked up and shot, and made it, which was hardly shocking. The real surprise was the rest of the half when Parker, who is primarily known as a scorer, unveiled his all-around game.

Parker did not take another shot the remainder of the half, but he filled up the the stat sheet with 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, and 7 assists, including this nifty behind-the-back maneuver:

Parker finished the game with seven points (on 3-of-6 shooting), 9 assists, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, and a blocked shot. Scott Brooks joked after the game that Parker could have easily had a triple-double, had Brooks not checked him out of the game with 4:05 left in the game.

But more importantly, Coach Brooks, who had admitted that he didn’t quite know what to expect prior to the game, was now a believer in Parker after just 23 minutes:

“He knows how to play, he’s almost like a point forward out there and I’m comfortable–even after one game now. I’ve seen him handle the ball and I’ve seen him enough against us. He can handle the ball and make decisions, he’s a playmaker.”

When Parker spoke after the game, he maintained the exact same cool demeanor that was on display beforehand. Leaned up against the wall in the hallway outside of the locker room (where John Wall was holding court), Parker spoke about his performance in his first game as a Wizard, all the while snacking on pineapples and berries. He also admitted that playing with Trevor Ariza was a dream come true of his: “Playing with Trevor is a great thing just because there’s history, I grew up watching the guy, so it was a good feeling for me.”

As unselfish as Parker’s stat line was in his first game in Washington, his postgame comments were even more magnanimous.

Saturday night the Wizards are scheduled to take on the Chicago Bulls in Chicago, and that just so happens to be the former home of both Parker and Portis. I asked Parker if he had any trepidation about playing his former team so soon after he had been traded, and instead of making it about him, he quickly genuflected:

“I want to be there for Bobby,  I want to be there for him. It’s an important game for him because that’s his first time playing against his former team. Milwaukee games were my games, in my opinion, because that was my first time [playing against my former team], so I want him to have that and I’ll look out for him.”

Yes, this is just one game, and one game against the lowly, 11-44, lottery-bound Cleveland Cavaliers (despite the return of Kevin Love). But still a bit worrying: Parker was quite the matador on the defensive end of the floor, and the gaudy stats he was able to accumulate didn’t exactly come against stellar competition.

As the cliche’ goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and Parker checked all the boxes. He showed personality before the game, versatility during it, and humility afterwards.

Not a bad opening statement.

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The Wizards Do Not Have A Plan http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/the-wizards-do-not-have-a-plan.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/the-wizards-do-not-have-a-plan.html#respond Fri, 08 Feb 2019 20:32:34 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56521 Why beat around the bush? Ernie Grunfeld is an incompetent buffoon who has no semblance of a plan, and the longer Ted Leonsis ignores this fact, the longer the Washington Wizards will be irrelevant.

Grunfeld’s actions as a general manager/president are indefensible. Each of his most impressive accomplishments of the past decade has simply pushed the reckoning of his own mistakes to the future. That future has finally started to become the present, and the ensuing reality is going to be grim. This reckoning was predictable and avoidable, but Leonsis has refused to take responsibility for this disaster, and he appears content allowing this ship to sink all the way to the bottom.

The “Plan” Doesn’t Exist

Do not listen to the noise. There is no plan. The Wizards have eased off using the terminology of “The Plan,” but the same rhetoric remains. Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld want you to believe they have a plan, a backup plan, the ability to think long term, and the ability to react coherently. They have none of those things.

Grunfeld told Fred Katz of The Athletic that the Wizards “wanted to stay competitive” and needed to determine what “the best course of action is for the team for the remainder of this year — but also looking into the future, what helps us the most?”

That is not a plan. That is a trash bag full of half-baked ideas for building a basketball team. This is a cacophony of front-office buzzwords, like a toddler playing with magnetic letters on a refrigerator.

The following teams are in win-now mode: Milwaukee, Toronto, Indiana, Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Golden State, Denver, Oklahoma City, Portland, Houston, Utah, San Antonio, Sacramento. They all have winning records and can easily justify attempts to win now.

The following teams are in various stages of a rebuild: New York, Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, Memphis, New Orleans, Dallas. The all have losing records. But also, crucially, either young talent, quality draft picks, cap space, or a combination of the three.

Here are the teams that remain in the Western Conference: Minnesota and both Los Angeles teams. The Lakers and Clippers are planning a big swing, and the Timberwolves were forced to trade their best player early in the season, lost the main piece they received in that deal to injury, and have still pulled off a 25-29 record in a deep Western Conference.

Here are the teams that remain the Eastern Conference: Charlotte, Miami, Detroit, Orlando, and Washington. There aren’t many worse teams in the NBA to be grouped with, in any conversation. Charlotte and Orlando are in a perpetual state of mediocrity, but at least Orlando has some young talent and could have a bright future. Detroit is in its first season with a new head coach and GM and is still 2.5 games up on Washington.

Miami is the most comparable team to Washington for the sake of this exercise—in salary cap hell and just traded a big contract to avoid the luxury tax. But the Heat have a four-game lead on the Wizards, the team’s starting point guard is about to return from injury, Dwyane Wade is doing his victory tour so arenas are filling up, and a playoff spot seems likely.

Also, two years from now, the Heat have committed $71 million to six players while the Wizards have committed $73 million to three players. Oh, and the Heat play in one of the most desirable markets in the NBA and, for now, have an NBA legend in the front office, so future free agent pitches will likely be better for the Heat than they will for the Wizards.

Forget About This Year

What is the absolute best-case scenario for the 2018-19 Washington Wizards? At the time of the trade deadline, they sat 10 games below .500. Ten games. One of the team’s best players likely won’t take the court again until October 2020, when he’ll be 30 years old, and the other one is second in the NBA in minutes played (15 minutes fewer than Jrue Holiday, who has played one more game than Beal).

So one of their stars is on the mend for a huge chunk of what should be his prime, and the other star is being ground into dust playing 39 minutes a game . . . for what? To “stay competitive” this year? The four best teams in the East can all claim to be among the five or six best teams in the NBA, and all but the Celtics made trades this week to dramatically improve.

If the Wizards somehow stumble into the playoffs this year—that would require something like an 18-10 record the rest of the way, and 12 of those games are against teams with winning records—the NBA might have to institute a postseason slaughter rule.

When Washington loses Games 1 through 3 by an average of 25 points, well, do we really need to play a Game 4? The fans don’t want to see it, trust me. Or don’t trust me. Here’s what ticket prices for Wizards games look like the morning after the trade deadline.

What About The Future?

Let’s pretend the powers that be for the Wizards are rational, level-headed folks who realize this is a lost season, and let’s just focus on the second part of that Grunfeld quote: “Looking into the future, what helps us the most?”

Ernie Grunfeld rejected at least one trade offer that included a first-round pick, according to the Post’s Candace Buckner, because he didn’t want to accept a trade that “would force the team to take back the same amount of salary.”

Think about that: A week ago, the Wizards were content to pay the luxury tax next season for a team built around a Wall-Beal-Porter core with a slew of cheap veterans, apparently under the impression Wall would return healthy and looking like an All-Star again. Basically, they wanted to run it back against a new and improved Eastern Conference. Wall’s new injury problems, the Achilles tear, which Grunfeld claims will set him back “two, three months longer,” was enough to convince the team that saving money was now the ultimate goal.

Washington could have had a first-round draft pick (far from a slam dunk given Grunfeld’s spotty draft history), which would have provided young talent on a cheap deal for multiple years. The price was continuing to pay the money you had already signed up to pay. Instead, the front office decided to save the money, forgo the pick, and get a chance to “really take a good look at” two players who had little value; one of them you could have drafted but chose not to and has since punched a teammate in the face (Bobby Portis), the other is headed to his third team in two years and has two ACL tears over the past five seasons (Jabari Parker).

Well, you might ask: What happens if the Wizards actually got sneaky good value on the trade and one or both of Parker and Portis plays well? They can pick up a team option on Parker to the tune of $20 million, and Portis is a restricted free agent after the season.

This is a fun exercise, though, so let’s run through it.

Say the Wizards love what they get out of Parker, and they pick up his option. Here is what the 2019-20 Wizards look like: Wall (likely out for the season), Beal, Parker (now on an expiring contract, so even if he turns out to be a late bloomer, you’re going to lose him after the season), Troy Brown, Ian Mahinmi, and Dwight Howard. This ragtag bunch will cost Ted Leonsis $109 million, and that doesn’t include the cost of re-signing Tomas Satoransky, Thomas Bryant, or Bobby Portis, nor does it factor in a first-round draft pick or any other free agents.

Okay, what if they let Parker walk but Portis has a strong season and they want to bring him back? Now they’re at $89 million for Wall, Beal, Brown, Mahinmi, and Howard, and they’re at the mercy of the rest of the league on bidding for Portis and Satoransky. With all the major free agents available this summer, there will be many teams who whiff spectacularly and will need to spend that money elsewhere—picture summer of 2016. It’ll likely cost more if Portis plays well, but let’s pretend the Wizards get lucky and are able to re-sign the two players for a combined $25 million per year.

That puts Washington at $114 million for a mediocre starting lineup, a backup center, and John Wall on crutches. You’re now over the cap and about $18 million away from paying the luxury tax again, and that’s without paying your first-round pick or any free agents (including Thomas Bryant). That’s not exactly the stuff stellar general managers/presidents are made of.

The Window Has Passed

Both of those situations ignore the fact that Washington will again look up at the top of the Eastern Conference and see absolute juggernauts. Imagine if Kyrie Irving stays in Boston, Kawhi Leonard stays in Toronto, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris stay in Philadelphia, Khris Middleton stays in Milwaukee, and the Knicks go all-in and get Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis. You now have five powerhouse teams, plus the Pacers (currently 36-19) will have two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo back.

The Eastern Conference was a trainwreck for years. The depth is still laughable and it’s highly likely there will be multiple teams in the playoffs with losing records. But now, the top half is dominant—and the Wizards are nowhere to be found.

Their young core is in tatters, their coach is a lame duck, they have likely the worst contract in the league (and they still have another year of Mahinmi!), LeBron James Jr. will be in the NBA before they have their own second-round pick, and they’ve managed to be just good enough to position themselves for the bottom of the lottery each year, where they’ve historically struggled to find talent.

Avoiding the tax this season is not nothing. People love to mock teams for making moves to avoid the tax, and if that’s your championship for the season, that’s a fair criticism. But avoiding the tax in a lost season allows a team to go into the tax for a better team next season without paying an increased repeater tax, and that matters. Leonsis and Grunfeld, if they still retained any credibility, could reasonably say they were throwing this season away and getting out of the tax this year so it would be easier to dip back into the tax next year (or the following year) to make another run at it.

Two things invalidate that thinking: First, the ownership and front office don’t have a plan and are just bumbling through this ordeal until somebody puts them out of their misery, and nobody believes the cliché tropes they throw out at every trade deadline. Second, by not trading away Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green for future assets and a chance to tank, they’ve proven they are not committed to any one plan.

The Excuses Will Always Exist

In that same article from The Athletic, Grunfeld said the Wizards “had to change [their] approach” due to John Wall’s Achilles tear. He added, “some things in this league you can’t control, and injuries are one of them.”

Grunfeld’s boss, Leonsis, said the following to NBC Sports Washington in September: “We need to raise the expectations. We have to make the playoffs. I’d like us to win 50 games. I’d like us to go to the Eastern Conference Finals.” This was in the fifth paragraph of the linked article.

Two paragraphs later, Leonsis was quoted as saying the following: “We have one of the highest payrolls in the league with the Wizards. They have a beautiful, world-class practice facility. They’re healthy entering the year. Alright Wizards. If you have this practice facility and one of the highest payrolls in the league and you’re getting well-tended for your health, nutrition and the like; no excuses. Let’s play ball.”

Ted Leonsis is the owner of the Washington Wizards. Ted Leonsis is responsible for everything that happens to the Washington Wizards. Ted Leonsis has lied to Wizards fans repeatedly. And if Ernie Grunfeld is allowed to keep his job for another year, Ted Leonsis will have lied again.

 

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John Wall is Dunzo Part Deux – What Does his Extended Absence Mean for the Wizards? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/john-wall-is-dunzo-part-deux-what-does-his-extended-absence-mean-for-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/john-wall-is-dunzo-part-deux-what-does-his-extended-absence-mean-for-the-wizards.html#respond Wed, 06 Feb 2019 22:12:14 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56506

The New Orleans Pelicans’ option to trade or not trade Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers has cast quite a pall over the NBA this week, and justifiably so. Davis is arguably one of the top three players in the NBA, and whether he goes to the Lakers, the Clippers, the Knicks, the Bucks, or the Wizards (too soon?), his whereabouts will justifiably command front page, NBA headlines.

But at 1:39 p.m. yesterday, the Washington Wizards PR team unsheathed a bit of news that temporarily pressed pause on all things Anthony Davis. Their press release read as follows:

“Wizards guard John Wall will undergo surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon.  The procedure, which has yet to be scheduled, will be performed by Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, WI. Wall is expected to return to full basketball activity in approximately 12 months from the time of the surgery.

“Wall had developed an infection in the incision from initial surgery on Jan. 8 (a debridement and repair of a Haglund’s deformity and a chronic Achilles tendon injury in his left heel that was also performed by Dr. Anderson) and he suffered the rupture after slipping and falling in his home.  The rupture was diagnosed by Wizards Director of Medical Services and Orthopedist Dr. Wiemi Douoguih during a procedure to clean out the infection.”

Wizards Twitter immediately shifted into Apoplectic Mode, and the reactions ranged from “thoughts and prayers,” to outrage over Wall’s sizable contract, to sharp criticism directed towards the front office tandem of Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld.

Fans, bloggers and writers openly wondered if Wall would ever be the same, if the Wizards would have the cojones to make an impactful move–whether it be via trade or tanking–and what this will all mean going forward. Others chose to prematurely throw dirt on Wall’s career—and as a result, in his defense, Twitter was strewn with pictures and videos of Wall’s highlights from the past.

So what does all of this mean? No one truly knows, but TAI writers Bryan Frantz, Sean Fagan, Rashad Mobley and John Townsend did their very best to make sense of this weird, wild stuff.


Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202)

This is devastating. John Wall should have had a long, productive career as one of the top guards in the NBA. Instead, the Wizards surrounded him with exactly one good piece for the majority of his career, which was Bradley Beal. Besides Beal, all Wall has had to support him is a few years of Marcin Gortat, a year of Paul Pierce, a couple of years of Trevor Ariza, a handful of mediocre seasons from Otto Porter, and some on-again-off-again play from Nene.

Now, Wall is 28 years old and is looking at a grueling road back to the court. If his current timeline holds, he won’t take the court again until roughly this time next year. If the Wizards are indeed going to “stay the course” as Candace Buckner and Tom Haberstroh report they will, they’ll in all likelihood miss the playoffs next season, in which case it would behoove Wall to just sit the entire season and come back for the 2020-21 season. That means he would next take the court in October 2020, nearly 22 months since his last game action, at age 30 no less.

As everybody outside the Wizards front office knows, the best course of action is to go into sell mode. (This was the best course of action even before this news came out.) Washington could go into full seller mode by pawning off Bradley Beal and Otto Porter to the highest bidder, or it could be more conservative and just trade away expiring contracts for future assets.

The future is exceedingly bleak in Washington. The young core is aging and broken, the coach and GM have both proven to be among the league’s worst in their respective roles, the payroll is bloated for years to come, and there is little room for immediate improvement even for a talented, creative front office–which the Wizards don’t appear to have.

The worst part about all of this? Ted Leonsis just doesn’t give a damn. He has time and again refused to raise the bar for the basketball team he owns, and he has made it abundantly clear that perpetual mediocrity is a perfectly fine goal. Considering the Wizards are currently nine games below .500 and among the worst teams in the NBA, Ernie Grunfeld has some work to do to get back up to mediocre.

Strap in, Wizards fans: Minor, inconsequential change is coming.

★★★

Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)

The only thing more depressing than the news that John Wall ruptured his Achilles and will be out for a least a year is the news (according to Tom Haberstroh) that the Wizards intend to “stay the course.”

This is the Wizards’ apparent path of choice despite the fact that the universe decided to weigh in and take out billboards on every street corner in America, advising the Wizards that now, perhaps, might be the time to blow it up. A clearer message couldn’t have been sent unless it was hurled through the window tied to a brick. Yet Team President Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis, are safely ensconced in their war room at the center of the earth, headphones set to blast and pointedly ignoring the phone ringing off the hook for teams who might be interested in the services of Otto Porter.

Instead, what we have is an extremely diluted Tang-flavored version of “run it back.” Except this time next year, you are running it back without John Wall, mostly likely without Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant (the Wizards can’t afford them) and adding the charred remains of Dwight Howard (if he picks up his player option). Wizards management is also going to have present to their already anxious season ticket holders a po-faced rendition of “You can’t predict injuries, so if you hang on for 1.5 years we can promise you that this team is on the right track.”

To this point, the fact that management is asking Wizards fans and players to just wait out the next 12-18 months is what should set off alarm bells for the few remaining stalwarts following the team. “Staying the course” means subjecting yourself to losing basketball for at least a year, without any of  the promise of a rebuild. “Staying the course” means it become more likely each day that Bradley Beal takes a look around the league and issues a statement through his agent to get him out of D.C. and to a contender (e.g. Anthony Davis).

The real disappointment is that even with all the (fun) chaos currently engulfing the NBA and with the tea leaf reading business going gangbusters, the Wizards are immune to all weather patterns. They act (and react) like a far-flung small market outpost—simply unable (or unwilling) to acknowledge that the very structure of the league is changing around them, secure in knowledge that no outside of the DMV cares about the Wizards.

Perhaps they are embarrassed by the fact that the last time they tried to flex: Kevin Durant and Al Horford told them kick sand. But the fact remains that the Wizards remain a franchise firmly stuck in 2006, still using rotary phones and pagers while the rest of the world zooms by.

★★★

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20)

Man plans and God laughs, the expression goes, but in the case of the Wizards, Ted Leonsis planned to stand pat at the trading deadline (and possibly beyond), and Wall’s unfortunate Achilles injury makes those plans look laughable at best.

There’s no question that Wall will work hard to return to peak form, because as Boogie Cousins alluded when he was interviewed about it, Wall has overcome far tougher obstacles in his life. He’ll put in the work, he may even document the arduous process on social media, and he will be back in the Capital One Area either at the tail end of next season or at the very start of the 2020-21 season (if that seems far away, that’s because it is).

The question is what condition will Wall be in upon his return. Cousins looks surprisingly spry after missing a year due to his injury, but he’s more of a plodding big man who relies on strength, not quickness and speed. Derrick Rose did not have an Achilles injury like Wall, but he suffered a series of knee injuries that robbed him of much of his explosiveness. The first of those injuries happened in 2012, and it wasn’t until this 2018-2019 season that Rose’s game resembled what it used to be–and that still is a far cry from the level of play he possessed during his MVP season.

Considering Wall hasn’t even had the surgery yet, it is impossible to speculate what kind of player he’ll be in 11 to 15 months. But it is the job Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis to construct a plan in his stead, and that is where the trouble begins.

The last time the Wizards were faced with a stagnant roster and an injured/diminished superstar (Arenas), they lucked up and got the No. 1 pick (Wall) and they slowly built a team around him while shedding the previously problematic players in the process. This time around, the Wizards have a player to possibly build around (Beal), but his salary, as well as the ones for Wall and Otto Porter, make it virtually impossible to overhaul the roster sans trade. And in case you missed it, Leonsis has claimed that he won’t trade any of his so-called big three.

The other answer would be to figure out a way to tank and increase the team’s chances of getting a high draft pick, but again, Leonsis shut that down last week. Strike two.

So the question is, what’s the revised post-injury Wall plan? A playoff berth this season will most likely mean a first-round exit at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks. Keeping Wall, Beal and Porter and making everyone else open to trade is the equivalent of watching Tom Glavine pitch. A pitch on the corner of the plate here, a pitch on the other corner there, but no at-bat ending high heat down the middle. And given that a (sometimes) healthy Wall wasn’t exactly leading this Wizards team to post-second round playoff glory before his injury, minor changes just won’t do.

Unless Grunfeld and Leonsis step out of their respective comfort zones, and decide to make productive moves to improve the team with or without Wall, the Wizards will continue to be stagnant. That means the Wizards will continue to make substandard plans, the basketball gods will keep laughing and the Wizards’ fans will surely cry–or just stop coming to games altogether.

The bloggers will be fine by the way. We love writing about this stuff.

★★★

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)

America loves an underdog story. The Washington Wizards, this year, just like too many years prior, are not one of them. But at least then, in 2010, they looked like one. D.C. had John Wall, 20 years old and full of promise. At least then (closer to now, now), they had a five-time All-Star to carry a franchise that is too proud to tank but also too stubborn—some might even say stupid—to be truly, actually good. What a burden.

Wall put it all on the line, almost every time. Already, he’s the Wizards’ all-time leader in assists and steals, putting up numbers that test Magic Johnson’s legend. He’s starred on broken teams, and just fine ones. He’s played through broken bones and heartbreak. But eventually, it’s the promises broken by the team’s front office that have let down John Wall, and Wizards fans everywhere.

That same front office will do now what it always does: whatever it takes to survive. The franchise has long been desperate to be relevant, dying to be respected. (Never forget 2013’s chase for the 9th seed.) Now, surely, the team’s brass is exploring a minor deadline trade to save a job, or to save this season, as if a season can be saved by qualifying for the playoffs. 

Everything changes. Nothing changes.

“We have to stay the course for this season,” the team’s owner says. And sure, that makes sense. Wall was already out for the rest of this season. So why should the latest injury update change anything with respect to this franchise’s direction? Everything is fine. The Plan is working. We’re a free agent destination. And if we make the playoffs, anything can happen.

It’s business as usual.

The reality is, where the so-called American Dream is the most dead, people believe in it most strongly. That’s certainly true in Wizardsworld. A wealth of wins are not just around the corner. Unwilling to accept reality, the team’s leadership is doubling down and, once again, betting on themselves to prove the basketball gods wrong.

In the end, how long can an underdog be seen as such till it’s seen for what it actually is?

 

]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/john-wall-is-dunzo-part-deux-what-does-his-extended-absence-mean-for-the-wizards.html/feed 0 A Bad Loss to a Young Team and an Old(er) Man http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/a-bad-loss-to-a-young-team-and-an-older-man.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/a-bad-loss-to-a-young-team-and-an-older-man.html#respond Tue, 05 Feb 2019 15:20:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56499

[Photo: Geoff Burke / USA TODAY Sports]

On Saturday night, when the Wizards faced the Milwaukee Bucks, they found themselves trailing by as many as 32 points halfway through the third quarter. Washington fought valiantly to cut the lead down to 15 points, but, eventually, the Bucks put their hooves on the proverbial gas and put the game out of reach. Coach Brooks and his team were unhappy with the way they played—but they also understood that they’d been overrun by the freight trained named Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Last night, the Wizards were once again on the business end of a sizable deficit, but they weren’t facing an MVP candidate . . . or even one of the better teams in the NBA.  They were facing the Atlanta Hawks, who had a record of 17-35 heading into the action.

Although the Hawks had to that point exceeded expectations by going 3-3 on their seven-game road trip, they’d also been on the road for 14 days. Weary, sure, but also ready to win.

“We’ve been on the road for 14 days, I think we’re all just tired and ready to get back to Atlanta,” Coach Lloyd Pearce said before the game. “And [tonight’ game is] a great opportunity to finish this trip out above .500, and that’s what the conversation was going into the Phoenix game. When you’re on a long trip like that, you have to find as many positives as you can.”

After one quarter, the Hawks led the Wizards 35-20 (spoiler: a lead they would not surrender), and it was crystal clear that the Hawks had taken Coach Pearce’s message to heart. Meanwhile, the Wizards shot 33 percent from the field and zero percent (0-9) from the 3-point line.

The Wizards snapped out of their doldrums in the latter part of the second quarter, thanks to Jeff Green (9 points), who is averaging 15.2 points in his last 10 games, and Jordan McRae (13 points), who was averaging 30 points in the G-league and has continued with that prolific streak in the Association.

The Wizards trailed by just four points at halftime, and it felt like their late second-quarter momentum would propel them to a lead in the third quarter.

Then 42-year-old Vince Carter got going.

Carter did not play in the first half, and during the post-halftime shootaround, he missed all five of the 3-pointers he attempted. But the Capital One Arena crowed cheered when he entered the game midway through the third quarter, and Carter singlehandedly stymied Washington’s momentum by scoring 11 points (with one assist) in just 5:20 of play. As he worked himself into a lather with each made 3, the roar from the crowd got louder.

When Carter was asked after the game if he heard the cheers from Wizards fans, he chuckled and said, “Of course I did. It’s a cool feeling, like I said, to still be around and a lot of the fans that are cheering for me probably weren’t even born yet when I first started. But it is a great feeling, and I am thankful to have fans and have people cheer for you when you are on the road. Like I said, it’s just a cool feeling.”

The ebb and flow in the fourth quarter resembled a heavyweight prize fight. In one corner, the Hawks represented the champion fighter who did just enough to win rounds and maintain the advantage, and the Wizards were the scrappy challengers throwing haymakers with bad intentions, but connecting at a low percentage.

Beal (18 points in the fourth quarter) and to a lesser extent Trevor Ariza (7 points) did their very best to keep the Wizards close–in fact at one point they again whittled the Hawks’ lead down to four points. But just when the Wizards seemed poised to get within one possession, Beal would turn the ball over or miss a shot and Otto Porter would miss a free throw. The Hawks exacerbated that carelessness by hitting timely shots of their own.

In the fourth, Carter and guard Jeremy Lin score five each, Kent Bazemore scored six, but it was Taurean Prince (who according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is on the trading block) who did yeoman’s work in the with 12 points–including this one which put the Hawks up by seven points and effectively put the game out of reach:

After the game, Coach Brooks, Jeff Green and Jordan McRae attributed the Wizards loss to their inability to run the Hawks off the 3-point line. Brooks’s comments were the most damning, since he admitted that his team knew what the Hawks were going to do leading up to the game:

“Tonight we couldn’t guard the 3-point line. We came up short on all of our closeouts, and they made shots. And then we tried to and we did have good closeouts, then they made shots because they were hot and they were filling up and the basket became as big as an ocean. We couldn’t get the stops that we needed. They were feeling good, and then they banked one in. It’s about guarding the 3-point line. They took 41.

“We knew that they were going to be a 3-point shooting team. We knew that we were going to switch. We had some coverage mess ups. You got to close out alternate shooters and they got guys just do that alone and they do it at a high level. We were short so many times.”

At the end of the day, the nuts and bolts of why the Hawks played better than their record, and the Wizards disappointingly played down to the level of their inferior opponent, is irrelevant. What matters is that the Wizards are now tied for 10th in Eastern Conference and they are a full three games out of the last playoff spot.

If they were in tanking mode, that type of slippage would not at all be discouraging, but given that Ted Leonsis is operating under the playoffs-or-bust creed, losing a winnable game to a bad team–especially when 42-year-old Vince Carter was one of the catalysts–is simply not good. And nowhere near good enough.

To make matters worse, the Wizards next game is in Milwaukee against those pesky Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks.

 

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Bucks 131 – Wizards 115: Washington Won the First Two Minutes, Milwaukee Won the Rest http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/bucks-131-wizards-115-washington-won-the-first-two-minutes-milwaukee-won-the-rest.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/bucks-131-wizards-115-washington-won-the-first-two-minutes-milwaukee-won-the-rest.html#respond Sun, 03 Feb 2019 05:18:44 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56490 During the first series of last Saturday night’s Bucks-Wizards game, Brook Lopez threw an ill-advised pass that Trevor Ariza stole and converted into an easy layup. The next time the Bucks had the ball on offense, it was Khris Middleton who threw the errant pass, and Bradley Beal was there to intercept it. Beal then threw the ball up to Satoransky, who took three dribbles, elevated, and did something that frankly was not at all safe for work, man or beast:

The Capital One Arena fans went crazy, the Wizards bench immediately went to shower Sato with hugs and praise. Bucks Coach Mike Budenholzer, however, went apoplectic and called a Gregg Popovich-like timeout just 45 seconds into the game.

When Sato was asked about the dunk after the game he remarked, “I really didn’t see if I made it, but I saw the reaction of TB [Thomas Bryant] so it told me that I made it.”

Yes, only 45 seconds had elapsed, but considering the Bucks came into last night’s game with the NBA’s best record, and the fact that the Wizards were able to hit them in the mouth and jump out to a 5-0 lead, seemed to be a good omen for the Wizards.

But not so much.

In fact, when Bucks forward Khris Middleton was asked what was discussed during that quick, early timeout, he basically said that the Bucks were neither panicked nor worried. Just a little out of sorts to start the game.

“It was just about transition defense. We had two turnovers, forced or unforced. We just did not get back and gave them two quick baskets. That is all it was about. We knew what it was. Just get refocused and get back out there and play.”

The next two minutes of game time saw the Bucks turn a five-point deficit into a two-point lead. Giannis Antetokounmpo socred on two dunks and a layup, Malcolm Brogdon hit a 3-point shot, and Middleton also scored via layup. The score was 11-9 in their favor. But they did not stop there.

Thanks to Middleton, Giannis and a 26-foot 3-pointer by Brook Lopez, the Bucks were able to extend their two-point lead to nine points. The previously delirious Capital One Arena was now quite subdued, the Wizards bench tried their best to encourage the starters, and it was Scott Brooks, not Budenholzer, who called timeout and took that exasperated walk of shame towards the middle of the court.

To the Wizards credit, after that Brooks timeout, they played hard–specifically Sato and Thomas Bryant. The Wizards kept within reach of the Bucks, whose lead stayed between seven and 14 points. But the post-Sato dunk energy that filled the Capital One Arena earlier in the evening had completely disappeared. When the Bucks put their foot on the gas over the last 2:08 of the first half, the lead ballooned fromv14 points to 26 and the game was effectively over.

It was 73-50 at halftime, and although the Wizards have erased larger deficits this season–most recently against Cleveland, when they cut a 25-point deficit to three points before falling short–this felt different. The Cavaliers are notorious bottom dwellers in the Eastern Conference, while the Bucks are the best…and it showed.

The Bucks extended their lead to 32 points at the nine-minute mark of the third quarter, and when Giannis checked out of the game with 5:56 left in the quarter, the Bucks still had a healthy 25-point lead.

Jeff Green and Bradley Beal helped the Wizards cut the lead down to 15 points in Giannis’s absence, and during that three-minute span, the energy on the Wizards’ bench and in the Capital One Arena overall nearly matched the post-Sato dunk frenzy. But at the two-minute mark of the third quarter when the Wizards had an opportunity to cut the lead to 13 points, Otto Porter turned the ball over and Middleton hit a 3-pointer for the Bucks to extend the lead to 18 points. The Wizards never got closer the 16 points the remainder of the game.

After the game, Beal and Coach Brooks sang the praises of the Bucks, while also managing to throw a few subtle jabs at Giannis’s 17 free throw attempts (he made all 17):

“Giannis [Antetokounmpo] is a pretty good player. The way he’s playing right now, the 12 free throws that he got in the first half, and he was 12-for-12, 17 for the game. It’s hard to stop.” —Scott Brooks

“He’s difficult in transition for sure…. It made it a little tough. At half court we did a good job, it was transition that was kicking our butts and getting a lot of fouls. I know they shot over 20 free throws, which is outrageous.” —Bradley Beal

These two teams will play again next Wednesday in Milwaukee and the result may be the same–especially since Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe (who coach Budenholzer said should have been an All-Star) will play after sitting out tonight’s game with a sore Achilles. But if the Wizards can somehow figure out a way to re-create and/or bottle up that energy they had after Sato’s dunk and again in that third quarter, maybe, just maybe, they could upset this team—and find a blueprint going forward. After all, this is a potential first round playoff matchup

In the interim, let’s look at that dunk again, shall we?

 

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Wizards 107 – Pacers 89: Jeff Green, The Professional http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/wizards-107-pacers-89-jeff-green-the-professional.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/02/wizards-107-pacers-89-jeff-green-the-professional.html#respond Fri, 01 Feb 2019 12:39:24 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56483

AP Photo/Nick Wass

When a star player misses a game-winning shot, or a cornerback gets beat for a touchdown, or when a baseball reliever gives up a game-winning home run, conventional wisdom says that a short-term memory is the best medicine.

While moping or dwelling on the mistake is the knee-jerk and obvious reaction, these players expected to shed that line of thought, get back on their respective fields/courts of play and be professionals.

On Tuesday night, despite a furious comeback by the Wizards bench over the last five minutes of the game, Washington endured a forgettable loss, 116-113, to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. It was an L that saw Coach Scott Brooks openly question the effort of the starters. The Wizards could have carried those negative vibes into the matchup against the Pacers, or they could take advantage of the comfort of their home arena, be professionals and get the win.

Enter Jeff Green.

Prior, Coach Brooks sat down Green and informed him that he would be returning to the bench, and that Otto Porter would be starting. Brooks said that Green understood and even wondered why the coach had pulled him aside to tell about the decision.

When Green was asked about it, he echoed those sentiments: “He (Brooks) don’t need to explain, he’s the coach, I’m the player. Whatever he says, I do, and I’m fine with it. Otto’s a hell of a player and he’s one of our go-to guys on this team, so if he’s starting and coach says he’s starting, he’s starting.”

Porter didn’t play badly during the six minutes he played in the first quarter, but he did pick up two quick fouls, which forced Coach Brooks to insert Green for Porter. The Wizards trailed 18-14 at the time.

Green came in hot, and hit two of his three shots from the field and both of his free throws for a total of seven points. His sharp shooting, combined with the offensive exploits of Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza, put the Wizards up by 10 points by the end of the quarter. Green was had a team high plus/minus of plus-14 at the end of the first quarter. Not bad for a player who had been “demoted.” But he was not done there.

The Wizards bench extended their lead from 10 to 14 points in the second quarter by scoring 22 of the team’s 24 points in the period. Sam Dekker had six points via layups or dunks, Chasson Randle had five points, but the anchor of this unit was Green, who had nine points, three assists two rebounds and played every minute of the second quarter. When Porter was re-inserted in the game with 5:14 left in the quarter, he came in for Ian Mahinmi, not the glowing Green.

Porter played four minutes of the third quarter before coming up a bit lame with a sore toe (Coach Brooks said after the game that was Porter jammed his toe and he was hopeful that he could return to starting lineup with a couple days of treatment). Brooks once again inserted Green into the lineup with the starters, and although he wasn’t as productive in the scoring department (he scored 5 points in 8 minutes), he helped with the Wizards hold on to a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Beal and Randle helped the Wizards go on an 8-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, to put the Wizards up 21 points.    They never trailed by less than 18 points the remainder of the game. Green played just 3:38 and scored just two points, but by that point, the heavy lifting had already been done.

The Wizards won 107-89. Green finished with 23 points, six assists, five rebounds, two blocked shots, and no fouls in 29 minutes of play. More importantly, if Porter had to miss any time with his toe injuries, Brooks will have zero problems with re-inserting Green back into the lineup and expecting productivity. After all, Green had done nothing but exude professionalism on and off the court.

After the game, Green was asked how he approached the game differently last night, since he was coming off the bench, instead of starting. Without missing a beat, Green calmly responded the way a veteran, professional is supposed to respond: “At the end of the day it’s just basketball and I just go out there, play hard and live with the results.”

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The Wizards Have Options. They’ll Choose the Worst One http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/the-wizards-have-options-theyll-choose-the-worst-one.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/the-wizards-have-options-theyll-choose-the-worst-one.html#respond Wed, 30 Jan 2019 03:22:55 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56475 A back-and-forth on Twitter with Wizards’ season-ticket holder (and former Timberwolves’ season-ticket holder) Aaron Rupar last week got me thinking about the Wizards’ options in the coming months.

I’ve long been on the record as saying this team needs to be blown up and rebuilt. It’s also well known that Washington will do no such thing, and the likeliest scenario is a short-sighted trade that sacrifices the future in order to make the playoffs this year.

But there are numerous paths the Wizards could take right now. For example, do you go for the full rebuild, trade all your best players for future assets, and start all over? Or do you simply take a year off, sell all your expiring contracts for picks or young players, tank the season, then give it another go next season with a potential franchise rookie snagged at the top end of a top-heavy draft? Or how about a middle ground, where you flip Otto Porter for a miscast piece on another team? (A good example of this latter option is the hypothetical McCollum-Gordon swap laid out by Jonathan Tjarks earlier this month.)

The only decisively correct path to success is to fire Ernie Grunfeld and put in place a general manager with a cohesive long-term plan, but why waste time on fantasies? Let’s instead explore a few different routes the Wizards could take. The Wizards’ performance in the days between now and the February 7 trade deadline will play a significant role in determining the immediate future, and unexpected occurrences (e.g. Victor Oladipo-type injuries) could throw a wrench into plans.

For now, here are four potential options:

Option No. 1: Stay the Course/Go All-in

This is the likeliest scenario, unfortunately. Ted Leonsis recently emphasized a refusal to tank — as everybody has correctly pointed out, no owner will ever, especially midseason, condone the intentional losing of games — but the repeated mandate to simply make the playoffs is the most telling element here.

If the stated goal is to make the playoffs, in a league in which roughly 53 percent of the teams make the playoffs, you’ve already given up. Leonsis has contradicted himself regularly since buying the Wizards more than eight years ago (emphasis mine in all cases below):

  • He declared in October 2010, “We are in this together – to improve your experience at Verizon Center and to build championship-caliber teams that will make all of us proud” and “I am always cognizant of that, no matter how many changes we have made or may make, I will believe in the wisdom of our crowds.”
  • He stated before this season began, “We need to raise the expectations. We have to make the playoffs. I’d like us to win 50 games. I’d like us to go to the Eastern Conference Finals.” … “If you are patient and work hard and are committed to continuous improvement then you can win a championship.” … “No excuses.”

Yet here we are, locked in a perpetual state of mediocrity. Years have gone by and the Wizards have nothing resembling a “championship-caliber team,” there has not been “continuous improvement,” and the expectations have remained the same for several seasons. Leonsis is certainly not listening to “the wisdom of [his] crowds” pleading for the dethroning of Ernie Grunfeld. (Look at his mentions.) All that’s left now is another offseason riddled with excuses about a litany of injuries hampering the team—and tall tales about how they were right there.

And because every other element of the cycle has remained the same, so too will the step that comes around each year in early February: The Wizards prepare to cast off another future asset in favor of winning a few more games this season, sneaking into the playoffs, getting thoroughly beaten while running their best players into the ground, and doing it all over again.

Will that asset be Troy Brown, the first-round draft pick who, despite an injury-free season, has played just 190 minutes, and that’s after a recent uptick in playing time? Here are three relevant facts:

  1. Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, the team’s only other first-round draft picks since Bradley Beal, played 319 and 671 minutes in their rookie seasons, respectively. Each of them has been criticized for developing slowly;
  2. Only 14 players were drafted ahead of Brown last year, but 39 rookies have played more minutes than Brown has this season;
  3. The Wizards have played 1,176 first-half minutes this season; Brown has played a grand total of 53 first-half minutes this season (that’s less than five percent!).

Will that asset be a future first-round pick? After all, the Wizards are currently burdened with all of their future first-round picks.


Sidebar: Washington traded its 2017 first-round pick at that year’s trade deadline for several months of Bojan Bogdanovic. The result was Washington losing in the conference semifinals for the third time in four years, and Brooklyn drafting Jarrett Allen. Allen was given plenty of opportunity to develop (1,441 minutes as a rookie) and looks like a rising star. He had 20 points, 24 rebounds, and 3 blocks for the Nets in a win earlier this month; the last Wizards player to record at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a game was Pervis Ellison in 1992.


Will that asset be a future second-round pick? Probably not, as the Wizards won’t have their own second-rounder until 2023.


Another sidebar: Sam Vecenie of The Athletic put out a 2019 mock draft this week in which the Hornets, using the Wizards’ second-round pick, are projected to select UNC’s Cameron Johnson. Johnson is a 6-foot-8 forward shooting 46 percent from 3-point range and averaging 15 points per game against one of the nation’s toughest schedules. The Wizards won’t get to use that pick because they traded it (and other picks) away to draft Kelly Oubre, who they have since traded away. They traded away their 2020, 2021, and 2022 second-round picks in a pair of deals that sent away Jodie Meeks, who had exercised his wholly unnecessary player option, and brought in Sam Dekker and $1.5 million. This future-sacrificing cycle will harm the Wizards for years.


Those are the only assets that really fit into this category. More on Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Tomas Satoransky, and Thomas Bryant in a moment. Considering the Wizards probably won’t move on from Brown this early in his career, when his value is minimal, expect to say goodbye to another future first-round pick at a time in which the Wizards, already in salary cap hell, desperately need cheap players for the coming years.

Option No. 2: Swap Complementary Stars

This is the McCollum-Gordon swap. The only piece Washington has that it can afford to lose, because it will still draw something of significance, is Otto Porter. Porter’s value has dropped since he signed his max contract, and this year has been disastrous so far, but he’s shown flashes recently as five of his eight best scoring performances this season have come in January.

Shipping Porter out now makes as much sense as anything, but it’s unclear what a team would be willing to give up for him. Half the teams in the league have been linked to Porter over the years, and Shams Charania reports the Jazz are currently interested. Derrick Favors seems like the likeliest target in this scenario, if the Wizards are indeed hoping to pick up a replacement third option and continue down the Wall/Beal/[insert third option] path. But if a Wall/Beal/Porter trio isn’t contending for an Eastern Conference title, it’s hard to envision a Wall/Beal/Favors trio doing much better.

There have also been rumblings of the Mavericks having interest in Porter, but Dennis Smith doesn’t make sense as a target as long as John Wall is on the roster. Harrison Barnes works on a salary level, but that’s not exactly going to rally the Wizards’ fans.

Aaron Gordon or Nikola Vucevic from the Magic could make sense. Orlando isn’t exactly known for prudent team-building, so maybe they botch that trade, but I’m still not sure Porter is a big enough asset for either of those players.

In theory, swapping Porter for another fringe star that doesn’t quite fit in his current situation makes a lot of sense. In practice, it’s tough to find a good match.

Option No. 3: Retool for Next Year

This is probably the best option, the one that best combines pragmatism and immediate fan gratification. In this scenario, the Wizards sell off their expiring contracts of any value: Identify teams looking to win now and offer them Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green, and Markieff Morris in exchange for draft picks or young players on rookie deals.

That list could also include Tomas Satoransky and/or Thomas Bryant. In a perfect world, the Wizards would clear Ian Mahinmi from the books and figure out a way to keep both Sato and Bryant. In a more realistic world, the Wizards will extend qualifying offers to both players, both players will receive offer sheets from other teams, and the Wizards will be unable to afford either player, losing them for essentially nothing. If Washington can’t figure out a way to clear room to re-sign either or both of them this summer, the best remaining option is to sell high now.

More than anything, the Wizards need young, cheap talent. Trading a veteran for draft picks would not only save money, but it would clear room for Brown — the only player on the roster that matches the description of young, cheap talent — to develop this season.

If the Wizards still believe John Wall will recover fully from his nagging injuries and be the player he was a couple of years ago, and they are prepared to face the immediate future with a Wall-Beal-Porter trio, they’ll need to build around that core with young talent, not veteran mercenaries. With Oubre already in Phoenix and no guarantee of keeping Satoransky or Bryant past this season, the pool of young talent is painfully shallow.

The Wizards could cut their losses now and clear the way for their only young player on a long-term deal. Stop this business of playing Beal nearly 40 minutes per game, and let Troy Brown play 20-30 minutes per game. While you’re at it, give Sam Dekker and Devin Robinson more playing time and see if you have anything there.

If this front office really cares about tangible success and continued improvement, as the team’s owner claims to value, it will accept that a down year is worth the sacrifice if the payoff is multiple 50-win seasons down the road. Option No. 3, when executed correctly (and with a little luck), results in a roster next season that looks like this:

  • A Wall-Beal-Porter core
  • Troy Brown either as sixth man or starting alongside Porter
  • A lottery pick (ideally in the top 10) coming off the bench
  • Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard both on expiring deals
  • Some combination of Satoransky, Bryant, Robinson, Dekker, and other young players you picked up in 2019 trade deadline deals for Ariza, Green, Morris, etc.

A word on the top-10 pick: I’ve seen many people disregard the value of this, as the 2019 draft is considered extremely top-heavy. I’m not holding out hope for Zion Williamson, or even R.J. Barrett or Ja Morant. But here’s a glimpse at what players currently projected to go in the late lottery are doing:

Highlights don’t tell the whole story, and these prospects all have flaws. But there is plenty of talent available in the entire top half of the first round, and forsaking that option has the potential to cripple a team. Even if you don’t get a star, you can absolutely get a fourth or fifth option as a rookie.

Oh, and you can definitely get a star. Here are some players that were drafted with picks 8-15 in the past decade: DeMar DeRozan, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Andre Drummond, C.J. McCollum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Devin Booker, Dennis Smith, and Donovan Mitchell.

Option No. 4: Blow It All Up

This won’t happen, because Leonsis is stubborn and President Grunfeld wants to keep his job. But here is the total rebuild, swing-for-the-fences option.

John Wall is probably untradable for at least six more months, and teams will want to see how he looks on the court again before taking on that contract. While he’s out, the Wizards could sell high on Bradley Beal right now. Beal is playing some of the best basketball of his life and would fetch a decent haul of young assets.

The Anthony Davis trade request throws another wrinkle into this situation. It’s unlikely Davis gets moved before this deadline, as New Orleans should wait until July to see what offers matriculate. But if the Pelicans receive an offer that blows them away and pull the trigger, there will suddenly be a handful of teams who have already come up with packages of young talent and picks, but, with Davis moved, no asset to trade for. Beal won’t command the same return as Davis, obviously, but he’s a young star under team control for two more seasons after this one.

And here’s the best-case scenario, if the Wizards went this route: Trade Beal for young players and/or draft picks now and let Porter get a few games as the top guy. If he plays well and demonstrates an ability to thrive as the featured player in an offense — or even if he just inflates his numbers quickly and baits another team into thinking he’s better than he is — the Wizards could pick up additional future pieces to jumpstart a rebuild.

That leaves Washington with Wall (out for the season), Satoransky, Brown, Bryant, whatever players you get in the two above trades, and an island of misfit toys on expiring deals. That team won’t win many games, further solidifying a quality draft pick, and it will give Sato, Brown, and Bryant more exposure and opportunity to develop. It also clears a huge burden off your payroll, allowing you the ability to sign Satoransky and Bryant to an extension in the offseason.

So, what then?

Imagine if the Wizards stumbled into a top-three pick and picked up, say, R.J. Barrett with their own first-rounder. Then they added another mid-round pick in 2019, which they turn into, say, Bol Bol. Now you have John Wall passing to a potentially elite wing on rookie deal and an athletic freak of a center who can hit spot-up 3s. Add to that mix Troy Brown, Satoransky, and Bryant, plus a few more first-rounders coming in 2020 and beyond, and you might have something.

Maybe Wall doesn’t want to stick around for the rebuild, which is feasible. Let him show he’s healthy, then flip him for a Dennis Smith or a Lonzo Ball or a Frank Ntilikina. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, it’s more exciting and carries infinitely more upside than what you’re doing now.

This last option, again, is just a pipe dream and will never happen. And many fans, including Aaron, would prefer to win 45 games and make the playoffs every year instead of starting over. And that’s fine.

But Options Nos. 2 and 3 are out there, and a creative front office would come up with countless more options.

The Wizards do not have a creative front office, so they will take Option No. 1. The Wizards will likely make the playoffs, Ernie Grunfeld will likely keep his job, and the future will remain bleak in Washington for years to come. But hey, it’s fun to think about a world where that isn’t the case, right?

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So Much Winning: The Warriors Sent a Message in D.C., On and Off the Court http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/so-much-winning-the-warriors-sent-a-message-in-d-c-on-and-off-the-court.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/so-much-winning-the-warriors-sent-a-message-in-d-c-on-and-off-the-court.html#respond Fri, 25 Jan 2019 16:55:25 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56464

After the Warriors beat the Lakers on Monday night to close out the NBA’s Martin Luther King Day slate, the team spent the night in Los Angeles. The team flew out of L.A. on Tuesday afternoon, giving the players a day off before their game against the Wizards in D.C.

Golden State practiced at the Wizards practice facility Wednesday afternoon, and, since they had a bit of extra time, allowed their players opportunities to work on other business and philanthropic endeavors. Kevin Durant, for example, used his time to open up his Durant Center in Suitland, Maryland, which is designed to give kids from Prince George’s County extra resources and support to better prepare them for college. And Stephen Curry attended a movie screening of “Emanuel” at Howard University—it’s a documentary that Curry produced about the mass shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Last year the Warriors celebrated their 2017 NBA Championship after the All-Star Break by taking a group of students from Kevin Durant’s hometown to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. While the gesture was symbolic, and the team definitely received a sense of fulfillment that they could not have gotten by rubbing elbows with Trump, one can only guess the kind of distraction that came from the media coverage surrounding the team’s open opposition to the White House (and its policies).

Before the team got to Washington, I was curious about what they had planned for this trip. So I reached out via email to the Warriors’ public relations director, Raymond Ridder, and inquired about any team plans to celebrate their championship in some unique way, as they had done the year before.

Ridder thanked me for my inquiry and insisted that the team did not have any celebratory team plans for D.C.

BUT WAIT!

Logan Murdock, a Warriors beat reporter for the Bay Area News Group, found this photo of the team meeting with President Barack Obama on the Instagram of a team security guard. He posted it on Twitter, inciting a political wave. As it turns out, that meeting was supposed to remain private and the team official ended up deleting the post . . . but as we all know, “once it hits the internet, it’s forever.”

Steph Curry was the one who set up the meeting with Obama, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, and even though the Warriors did not publicly want to be in the political spotlight this week, they are very much aware of the things that are going on in this country—from the government shutdown to the war of words between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Trump.

Steve Kerr is very encouraging of his players to speak out publicly, but has also made a point of emphasis that they be informed before firing off (hot-)takes:

“The thing we talk to our players about is if you’re going to speak, make sure you’re well versed on the subject. If there’s something you’re passionate about, learn about it and speak about it, absolutely. If you’re not well versed on it, it’s probably not a good thing to say anything about it. You’re going to back yourself into a corner.” Kerr said the Warriors talk about current issues occasionally.

The presidential election dominated one practice day.”Sometimes, we’ll show stuff on our film session that might be funny or poignant. It’s not a daily occurrence. But what’s going on in the world is something we do address as a team,” Kerr said. “I like that our players are vocal and thoughtful.”

Pelosi was in attendance at the Wizards game, and was in the hallway outside the Warriors locker room after they defeated Washington 126-118. She was excited to take a selfie with her favorite player, Steph Curry. Some of the Warriors players looked excited to see her, too, and offered her words of encouragement like “Great job,” and “We’re rooting for you,” and “Stay strong.”

On the court, Golden State was not distracted at all, as they won their ninth game in a row, taking full advantage of a Wizards team overplaying the 3-point line. The Dubs scored a season high 70 points in the paint.

For a team that could be categorized as the most political team in all of professional sports, the Warriors understand the nature of how news coverage works—and tried their very best to not become the story in D.C. Even so, Curry and Co. gave a message of discontent for the current sitting president and, at the end of the day, the world heard them loud and clear.

 

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Wizards Win on MLK Day to Boost their 8-Seed Odds http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/wizards-win-on-mlk-day-to-boost-their-8-seed-odds.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/wizards-win-on-mlk-day-to-boost-their-8-seed-odds.html#respond Thu, 24 Jan 2019 15:47:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56457

[Photo: Nick Wass/Associated Press]

Don’t look now, but the Wizards have a winning record. In their last 10 games—they are 7-3. And on the heels of Ted Leonsis’s edict to the world that “the team will never, ever tank,” Washington is convincing themselves (and others?) that this season is not a lost cause.

The Wizards picked up their first win since being across the pond, dominating Detroit from start to finish. After beating the Knicks in London in a back-and-forth affair, Washington was able to hold the Pistons to just 87 points, their lowest allowed point total of the season and used a balanced scoring attack to control the pace of the game. With this win the Wizards not only tied their season series with the Pistons, but also closed the gap in overall record with Detroit and find themselves just two games back of the eighth and final playoff spot. Washington is now 21-26, while Detroit is 22-26 after picking up a win later in the week.

There were seven Wizards who finished the game with double-figures and did not have to rely on Bradley Beal to shoulder the offensive load. After the game, Beal commented on how the balances scoring attack is a sign of growth for the team:

Timely, since Beal did not shoot the ball particularly well (4-12) from the field, but what he did was initiate the ball movement on the offense by making the extra pass when the Pistons defense would send multiple defenders his way. In years past, Beal may have been more inclined to force the issue, and take some bad shots, but he is showing the growth as a player by incorporating his teammates.

Scott Brooks took notice of how Beal was not playing selfish and commended his All-Star player after the game:

“If you’re hunting for shots and if you’re all about shots, you’re going to have a lot of bad nights and you’re going to get frustrated, your teammates are going to get frustrated with you. But Brad plays the right way. He competes and he gives us a chance every night. It’s not about him getting shots–there are going to be some nights he gets 12 and a lot of nights he gets 25. It all kind of balances its way out. He knows when he steps on the court he’s one of the best players on the floor.”

The teammate that took the most advantage of the extra shot opportunities was Otto Porter, who led the team in shot attempts with 15. Porter has been as aggressive he has ever been since coming back from a knee injury that caused him to miss 10 games earlier in the season. Part of the reason why Porter is getting so many open looks is because he has come off the bench since his return from injury and it gives him an opportunity to take advantage of lesser caliber players. Within the Wizards team construct, Porter is normally an ancillary option who primarily scores as a spot-up shooter, but in his new role, Otto is asked to be the focal point of the offense on the second unit. Not only is Porter having more confidence in himself, but his teammates have more confidence in him as well.

“With his firepower coming off the bench, the advantage goes to us,” fellow Georgetown Hoya teammate Jeff Green says. “He’s been shooting the ball very, very well. We need that from him night in and night out, and he’s been giving us that. We’re going to look to him when he comes in the game and we’re going to continue to use him to our advantage coming off the bench.”

The Wizards have to be the first team in NBA history to have a player on a $100-plus million contract coming off the bench and regardless of how they got here, it behooves them to take advantage of the mismatches that it can cause. Porter was going to work on smaller defenders in the post, while also rising up and shooting on late closeouts on the perimeter. There were multiple situations where Porter found himself backing down the much smaller Reggie Jackson and used his size new newfound turnaround jumper to his advantage. At this point, with the Wizards playing their best basketball of the season, there is no reason for the team to make any lineup changes and Otto Porter will continue to come off the bench for the foreseeable future.

The Wizards now have a 57% chance of making the playoffs according to FiveThirtyEight and at those odds, it would behoove the team to stay on the course that they are on.

Honoring the Late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

The Wizards relish the opportunity to play on Martin Luther King Day, and head coach Scott Brooks and players were all happy to celebrate the man who led the way in the Civil Rights movement:

Welcome Gary Payton II

The Wizards made an official announcement before the Pistons game about the signing of G-League player, Gary Payton II, to a 10-day contract. Payton is the son of basketball Hall-of-Famer Gary Payton and not to be confused with Gary Payton, Jr., who is his brother. The Oregon State product has spent a lot of time bouncing back and forth between the G-League and the NBA over the last few seasons, and will use this 10-day stint to try and earn a permanent roster spot with the Wizards. Smart money says that Payton may not be around long, as the team was obliged to add a 14th player to the roster due to mandated league rules.

And, uh, Payton received a not-so-ringing endorsement from Scott Brooks before the game when he was asked why they ended up signing him: “We had to add a 14th player and he fit a position of need.”

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A Reminder of When Things Were Different http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/a-reminder-of-when-things-were-different.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/a-reminder-of-when-things-were-different.html#respond Sun, 13 Jan 2019 23:26:00 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56448

[Photo: AP Photo/Nick Wass]

Things weren’t always this way. There was a time, not long ago, when a matchup against the Toronto Raptors on a snowy Sunday afternoon in January would be appointment television for the average Wizards fan. A double overtime nail-biter? That’s must-watch television (NFL playoffs aside).

This was a surprisingly fun ending to an exceptionally mediocre first 40 minutes, a throwback to when Wizards-Raptors games were things people looked forward to. Jake Whitacre’s recurring bit about the Wizards sweeping the Raptors in the 2015 playoffs remains amusing, but it lacks the luster it once possessed now that the two franchises are soaring in opposite directions.

Bradley Beal had a monster game, playing 55 of 58 minutes and dropping a huge line of 43 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Trevor Ariza came within a rebound of his own triple-double, and Otto Porter added 27 points on a wild 44 bench minutes. All good and exciting things, sure, but in the end, the Wizards fell for the third time in as many tries to the Raptors, dropping to 18-26 while Toronto improved to a league-best 33-12.

If the season ended today, the Wizards would finish with the sixth-worst record in the league and the Raptors would have home-court advantage through the playoffs. Ted Leonsis and Co. will bill this as an “epic clash” against one of the top teams in the league, with the Wizards coming up just short despite playing without their star point guard. Sure. Continue to delude yourself.

Remember When?

In the years immediately following Trevor Ariza’s initial departure from Washington, the Wizards and Raptors were talented young teams battling for the right to lose to LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals. There was reason to be optimistic about the Wizards’ future, reason to think the backcourts of John Wall and Bradley Beal and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan would go head-to-head for years to come.

The miasma of Ernie Grunfeld lingered then as it does now, of course, but optimism was abundant.

That’s all changed — for the Wizards, at least. All the Raptors have done is developed and grown and refused to settle. They’ve taken calculated risks. The Wizards have remained complacent, mitigated all potential out of fear of taking risk, and, more crippling than anything, settled.

Players get complacent sometimes in games, or seasons, even careers. When fans get complacent, it’s supposed to inspire change. In the case of the Wizards (and the local football team, for what it’s worth), it’s only inspired more of the same. Continuity.

I’m 27 years old. I’ve never witnessed an especially good Wizards team. That season right after Ariza left, when Paul Pierce ripped the Raptors’ hearts out in the postseason? That was the first time in my lifetime that Washington’s franchise won at least 45 games. The Wizards’ big three carried an average age of just 22 years that season, and the signing of Pierce the offseason prior seemed to suggest impactful players across the league were finally starting to take the Wizards seriously.

But cracks were always present, and they deepened in the coming years. Randy Wittman was retained for another year, which precipitated a drop to 41-41. Over the course of 24 months, Grunfeld traded a first-round pick and five second-round picks in deals that netted Kris Humphries, Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre, and Trey Burke. (The second-rounder for Humphries never conveyed — it was eventually used on Aaron White.) Despite a weak bench and a young, unproven core, the Wizards gingerly went all-in.

Even during that 41-41 season, which was filled with frustration and disappointment, there were countless reasons to watch the Wizards play. They had so much youth and potential, and it was exciting to see the future of the team develop. There was genuine curiosity as to how they would handle the adversity of a down year. There was constant demand for Randy Wittman to be relieved of his duties, which naturally led to the fantasies of what a modern, progressive coach might be able to do with this collection of talent. And if nothing else, John Wall was a highlight machine.

All of those reasons to watch are no longer viable. The core youth has turned: Wall is 28, out for the season with yet another leg injury, and his contract is among the league’s most daunting; Porter still shows occasional flashes of what he could become, such as his Sunday performance, but he’s now 25 years old, remains far too inconsistent, and looks much like the player he’s looked like each of the past three seasons.

Beal, as he has repeatedly in the past month, showed Sunday why he is the team’s best player — with or without Wall on the court. The Wizards trailed by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter, and by more than 20 for much of the middle portion of the game, and Beal’s monster fourth quarter was the catalyst for Washington’s comeback. But his growth simply can’t make up for the complete lack of youth on the roster, Porter’s gradual development, and Wall’s value cratering.

While it’s fun and nostalgic seeing Ariza in a Wizards uniform, the reckoning will come soon as he’ll leave again in the offseason and Washington will be left with nothing. Meanwhile, the Wizards have a total of four sub-25 players on the roster (now that Kelly Oubre is in Phoenix): Troy Brown, Thomas Bryant, Devin Robinson, and Sam Dekker.

Brown is sitting on the bench in favor of players such as Chasson Randle, even in blowouts, reminding fans of Otto Porter’s rookie season and Kelly Oubre’s rookie season. For a team in salary cap hell with minimal cheap, young talent, the last thing Washington can afford to do is bring first-round draft picks along slowly.

So what reason is there really to watch? Beal and Tomas Satoransky are fun to watch, and Thomas Bryant has been a pleasant surprise. Ariza is forever easy to root for, though he doesn’t have the same juice he had in his first stint. Scott Brooks is regularly out-coached, the top-end talent of the opposition is typically better than Washington’s, and the opposing bench is almost always better than Washington’s.

The crowd is rarely into the game, and empty seats dot the lower level. There’s no real reason to be optimistic for the future, because the team has exhausted most of its potential and all of its money. The general manager should have been fired a decade ago, and there’s little reason to believe he’ll be fired this time around. What’s worse, he’ll probably have the opportunity to make an attempt at a season-saving, future-mortgaging trade ahead of the deadline that further cripples the franchise.

This is where we are now, and we’re in the early stages of this phase. It could be years before the Wizards are either relevant or fun again. For one day, it was exciting to watch the Wizards again. But much like the next few years will look, they came up short in the end.

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Wizards 113 – Bucks 106: Sato Is Freed…Again http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/wizards-113-bucks-106-sato-is-freed-again.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/wizards-113-bucks-106-sato-is-freed-again.html#respond Sat, 12 Jan 2019 14:10:32 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56441

Sato has clearly been freed. You can all stop calling for his freeing.

— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) January 12, 2019

One way or another, the Wizards were going to be tested against the Milwaukee Bucks.

If Giannis Antetokounmpo (who was listed as doubtful before the game) had played, the  John Wall-less Wizards would have been tasked with beating a team with a an MVP candidate and the NBA’s best record.  Without Giannis, the Wizards’ challenge would be to maintain focus and not suffer a letdown against a team that was still formidable (going into last night the Bucks were 2-0 without the services of Giannis).

Giannis did not play, the Wizards only trailed for a grand total of 42 seconds, they won the game, and at least for one night they passed the proverbial test—especially Tomas Satoransky.

In 35 minutes of play, Sato scored 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, six turnovers (a mere afterthought tonight) and he dished out 10 assists.  The 10th assist, which gave him the triple-double, came via a play that Bradley Beal called, which resulted in an alley-oop.  After the game, Beal told the media that late in the fourth quarter, he was on a mission to get Sato his first triple-double:

I’d been trying to get him a triple-double for a minute throughout the game. A couple plays down the stretch you probably seen I was under the basket telling him to throw it, and the wouldn’t throw it. But eventually we got to an easier play, he didn’t want to turn the ball over, and I understood it, so we ended up calling that play, which we get that once or twice a game, so I had to get him his first and I’m happy he got it.

Sato, along with the rest of the Wizards starters, was both accurate and aggressive with his offense in the first quarter.  He hit four of his five shots including one 3-pointer, and had nine points by the time the quarter ended. He sat out the first 3:14 of the second quarter, and 58 seconds after he re-entered the game, Jeff Green found him wide open for a 3-pointer shot to give him 12 points.  The first third of his triple-double was complete.

When a reporter asked Green whether he was surprised at Sato’s ability to score, he chuckled and said, “You didn’t see it last year? The guy can score man, he’s a player. He belongs here and he’s showcasing it now”.   Scott Brooks agreed:

It’s constantly been telling him, ‘Hey, you’re really good at two things: spot-up threes and your floater. Never pass either one of those up.’ As the years have gone by, he’s taken those more consistently and he has to keep doing it. He’s been good and he’s been improving every year, and that’s what you want your players to do.

Sato’s offensive game has improved but he’s always been adept at passing the ball, so his assist total was hardly surprising.  But even though Sato grabbed 11 rebounds earlier this year against Atlanta, his career-high 12 rebounds against the Bucks represented just his third double-figure rebound game as a member of the Washington Wizards.

Immediately after the game, all of Sato’s colleagues crowded around him and heaped him with praise, hugs and adulation.  Once they left the court, the Wizards continued to show him how happy they were with this performance, but they doused him with a little something different:

 

When asked whose idea it was to pour water on him after the game, Sato quickly blamed on it on Ian Mahinmi.  “It was Euro on Euro crime, ” said Satoransky.

Given that Satoransky also displayed this level of skill last season while John Wall was hurt, only to see Scott Brooks and Ty Lawson usurp his playing time in the 2018 playoffs, it would be easy and understandable for him to be bitter and/or cynical regarding the attention surrounding his triple double.  But to his credit, Satoransky, while appreciative of the elusive milestone that he had achieved during last night’s Wizards victory, maintained his humility–something he had demonstrated throughout his brief NBA career.

Brad [Beal] had one before and for a shooter, it’s tough to get it. I’m more around organizing a team and I think I had a lot of numbers from the beginning. Everything was flowing down for me, rebounds, assists, shots. You always have more opportunities when you have a good start.

And now, some closing word from my TAI colleague Adam Rubin, who has been on the #FreeSato bandwagon for quite some time:

 

 

 

 

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Why the Wizards Shouldn’t be “Tanking” the Rest of the Season http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/why-the-wizards-shouldnt-be-tanking-the-rest-of-the-season.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2019/01/why-the-wizards-shouldnt-be-tanking-the-rest-of-the-season.html#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 14:34:00 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56429 In the world of sports, the word tanking is used to describe the act of giving up, losing intentionally, or not competing.

Specifically in terms of team building, “tanking,” as we are to understand it, is a team’s intent to do less than everything it can to win. It is a concerted effort over several months (and perhaps several seasons) by a team to not be as good as it could be. It is considered cheap, disingenuous and dishonest, the byproduct of a flawed system where a team can be—and often is—rewarded for being bad and where deliberately losing is thereby a strategic decision in an attempt to get the best prospect possible.

By no means has the Wizards’ 2018-19 season gone as any of the players, coaches, or fans expected before the year began, but that does not mean that this team should pivot to tanking.

There are three key reasons as to why this Wizards team, now 16-24, should be putting their best foot forward for the rest of the season.

The first reason is that they’ve already lost a lot of ball games this year when they were technically trying as hard as they could. According to one prognosticator’s predictive measures, they have a good chance at losing a lot more of their games:

Washington will not be favored in many games for the rest of the season, nor should they be considering how the team has fared this season. The Wiz already have the sixth-worst record in the entire NBA, and that position (were the season to end today) would give them a nine percent chance of landing the number one overall pick in the draft. There is almost no conceivable way that the team can do any worse than sixth-worst, considering the teams that are behind them in the standings.

Even if the Wizards make the playoffs, they will be so low of a seed that it almost guarantees them a selection in the top half of what some experts consider to be one of the most talented draft pools in recent memory. That first-round pick has immense value. It can be used to improve the team’s future with a young player, or maybe even used as a trade chip and aggregated into another deal to get Washington the third star player they have been chasing for the last few years. (Of course, one could argue that this whole process of tanking or not is a circular argument considering the fact that Ernie Grunfeld is still calling the shots.)

Another good reason why the team should not tank this season is because this current crop of players is significantly different from the expected rotation coming into this season. They deserve a shot at trying to reach their full potential as a group.

After beating the 25-14 Oklahoma City Thunder, 116-98, the Wizards have pulled to within three games of the Charlotte Hornets for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. Making the playoffs (something more than half of NBA teams do) was not the publicly stated goal when the season started, but it basically is now. Expectations for the team have obviously shifted after their five-time All-Star, John Wall, was diagnosed with a bone-spur in his left heel and advised to have surgery, effectively ending his season. Even if the goalposts have once again moved mid-season due to circumstances beyond their control, the Wizards should totally strive for a playoff appearance . . . even if they are to get knocked out in the first round. This team needs to push the limits of what they can do without John Wall.

Wall’s absence opens the door for Bradley Beal to further establish himself as one of the dynamic guards in the NBA, allowing him to not only grow as a ball-handler and distributor but to also assert himself as a leader within the organization. Last season Beal showed what he can do while Wall missed 41 games due to a knee injury—and the “Everybody Eats” Wizards showed the NBA that they could win without Wall. But as the season progressed, that edition of the team began to struggle and drastically faded going into the playoffs, barely winning the 8-seed even with Wall’s return. The rest of this season is essentially a case study in evaluating whether Beal can be a number one option on a winning team.

Beal is not the only player that the Wizards need to be evaluating for their long-term prospectus. Otto Porter has missed 12 games this season—the Wizards were just 4-8 in that span, so clearly his presence puts them in a better position to win. Otto being able to rotate at the forward spots with “3-and-D” specialist Trevor Ariza affords the Wizards versatility in the front court, and the positive results are already beginning to show.

Beyond the regulars, Washington’s roster is filled with mercenaries, such as Thomas Bryant, Jeff Green, Sam Dekker, Chasson Randle, Ron Baker, and Dwight Howard—they are all playing their first season in Washington and are not currently under contract for next season.

Bryant is steadily proving himself as a versatile NBA big man who can play in the paint and also stretch the floor. The former second-round pick is proving to be a god-send as a flyer the team took when they claimed him off of waivers from the Los Angeles Lakers. In the big win against the Thunder, Bryant showed he has the resiliency to come back after being dominated by the physically imposing Steven Adams. It is safe to say that the Wizards will have Bryant in their future plans as he hits restricted free agency this summer—the question is just how large of check Ted Leonsis will have to cut to keep him.

Jeff Green is what he is as an NBA player at this point, so the Wizards essentially know what they have with him. The rest of those players who are going to be free agents this summer are essentially auditioning for an opportunity to be one of the many low-value contracts that the Wizards will be forced to sign this summer because of the majority of their salary cap dollars being tied up into just four players. With nearly half of the season left, Washington has a chance to see how these rotational players can fit playing next to Beal and Porter.

The Wizards will actually have to make decisions on Chasson Randle going forward for the rest of this season on Janurary 10, when players with non-guaranteed contracts can become guaranteed if they are still on the roster. Randle became just the second player this season to have a plus/minus of plus-30 in less than 18 minutes of game action.

Smart money says that Randle will be here to stay for the rest of the season, as he has carved out a role as backup point guard behind Tomas Satoransky. The Wizards already made the decision on Ron Baker’s roster spot when they waived him, well ahead of Thursday’s deadline. Baker played 43 minutes as a Wizard and failed to record a single point, making his presence a little bit of a mystery for the team, especially when he was playing in front of rookie Troy Brown. Baker has never been a good basketball player in the NBA and for Brooks to afford him immediate playing time is definitely a cause for concern in terms of his ability to evaluate players.

Brown has been the topic of much discussion surrounding the Wizards in recent weeks as the fan base has been clamoring for the 15th overall pick in the draft to get playing time, but it has been clear that Scott Brooks does not think that Brown is ready to positively contribute to winning ball games at this juncture in his career. (Team officials said as much before the season, when he was drafted, which didn’t do Grunfeld’s selection any favors with fans.) Brown showed flashes during Summer League and more recently in limited game action, but with Otto Porter’s return to the lineup, Brown’s opportunities will be hard to come by. In this particular instance, Brooks may not be wrong to further develop his rookie: Porter’s return to the lineup takes the Wizards rotation up to nine players on most nights and leaves Brown standing when the music stops in this game of musical chairs.

Finally, evaluating Scott Brooks as a coach over the second half of the season may be as important a reason as any to not tank.

Washington has put themselves in a position where they cannot fire Brooks because they do not have an assistant coach on the bench who is even qualified to take over on an interim basis. Barring a full blown mutiny from his players, Brooks will get to see out his season, and contract. Brooks has worked diligently to bring this team into the new age of basketball by having his players play a more analytical style, which includes taking more 3s and shots in the paint. This season, the Wizards are taking 33.0 3s per game on 89 shot attempts, meaning 37 percent of their shots are 3s. Last season the team took 85.6 shots per game and 26.5 of those attempts were 3s for a rate of 30 percent.

That is a very macro view of how Brooks is running this team, but where he needs to show marked improvement over the rest of the season is how he manages the team in-game. There is much that needs to improve from Brooks in terms of managing rotations and play calling, and he has already begun his experimentation process. For the third straight game since Porter returned from injury, Brooks elected to bring the forward off of the bench—and he insinuated that Porter may continue to come off the bench for the foreseeable future.

Brooks has found a five-man unit that he likes in Satoransky, Beal, Ariza, Green, and Bryant—that unit leads the Wizards in minutes played together at 153, despite Ariza only being with the team for less than a month. The ability to have a starting unit that is productive without Porter allows for Brooks to solve two of his major issues coming into this season: finding ways to get Porter more shots and increasing the bench productivity. Porter coming off the bench allows him to be the focal point of the second unit offensively, thus drastically increasing the bench’s ability to score the basketball.

NBC Sports analytics expert Tom Haberstroh has a theory that, in Wall’s absence, the Wizards may have accidentally found the third star they were looking for all along:

“We also might see a different Otto Porter now that Wall is sidelined. In the 121 minutes that Porter has played without Wall this season, he has played like the star they envisioned, averaging 19.6 points, 8.3 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 38.9 percent from deep, per NBA.com tracking. Those numbers shrink to 13.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 47 percent shooting with Wall on the floor.”

The Wizards have an opportunity to feature Otto Porter more and Bradley Beal is welcoming of Porter getting up more shots on the court. “Who else is gonna shoot the ball? S***, that’s the way I’m looking at it. You’ve gotta shoot the ball, ” Beal said to reporters after the Wizards win against the Thunder.

Of course, teams will adapt to Washington’s newfound lineup choices and the onus will once again be on Brooks to adjust accordingly.

Ted Leonsis proclaimed before the season that there would be “no more excuses” for the Wizards this season, and while Wall’s absence may have tempered expectations, there is still enough talent here for the Wizards to make a playoff push. Anything less should be an indictment on Brooks, the players, and of course the team’s president for life. Such an indictment should force Leonsis to re-evaluate whether Brooks is the coach of the future, whether the roster needs a shakeup, and whether Ernie deserves to be the puppeteer pulling the strings for the 284th year.

Or maybe, just maybe, this team is already tanking—they just don’t know it yet.

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John Wall is Dunzo — Here’s What His Injury Means for the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/john-wall-is-dunzo-heres-what-his-injury-means-for-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/john-wall-is-dunzo-heres-what-his-injury-means-for-the-wizards.html#respond Mon, 31 Dec 2018 03:29:23 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56423

[Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty]

Talk about a not-so-super Saturday. The Washington Wizards sent out a press release with news, an injury update, about the team’s biggest star.

“Wizards guard John Wall will undergo a debridement and repair of a Haglund’s deformity and a chronic Achilles tendon injury in his left heel. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, WI, next week on a day to be determined. Wall is expected to return to full basketball activity in approximately six to eight months.”

Yikes.

Yiiiiikes.

So, what does this all mean for the Wizards now and in the future, considering that Wall’s $170 million supermax extension kicks in next year? Will the injury spell disaster or will the Wiz soldier on (and could they be better?).

Sean Fagan, Rashad Mobley and Adam Rubin—three members of the Truth About It gang—react.


Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)

With the news that John Wall is to undergo foot surgery (with a predicted 6-8 month recovery time), a Wizards’ season that was officially “lost” is now dead and buried with #WizardsTwitter leaping to scoop that extra shovel of dirt on the grave. The take machine is revved up and firing on all cylinders, with varying camps debating whether the Wizards should actively tank and, of course, how this is the ideal time to renounce the services of Ernie Grunfeld. There’s even a smattering of criticism directed at Wall.

But what really chafes at the underside of this writer’s chassis is how the injury itself was announced, another in a line of #SoWizards pronouncements that leave an observer of the team raging in mute silence at an organization that can’t communicate with its supporters except to assume that they have the IQ and emotional intelligence of a toddler.

Instead of a straightforward announcement that Wall was visiting a foot specialist and might need the requisite (and nausea-inducing) surgery, it was leaked to Candace Buckner at WaPo that not only was Wall consulting on whether the surgery was necessary but that he had been dealing with this injury for YEARS.

And just like that, the Wizards perform a tidy little magic trick and flip the narrative towards “we could’ve X, but injuries” and further cover up their own mess by saying that Wall has been gutted through the injury for longer than anyone’s known and the best thing for him is to finally take care of his body.

Nevermind the fact that if this injury has been around for years it means:

  • Ernie once again gave a favorite son a mega-max extension despite the the existence of a pre-existing injury;
  • The Wizards allowed Wall to gut through last season and drag them into a hopeless position as the 8th seed (once again with this existing foot condition);
  • The Wizards once again willfully obfuscated the health of their players, which leads me to believe that the medical personnel in the Vault basically heal everything through the miracle of duct tape.

In the next few weeks, you will probably hear from the Wizards’ brass on how this setback shouldn’t affect your opinion of the franchise and how one has to “stay the course” and how injuries cannot be predicted. But Wall’s injury is just the latest in what seems to be a catastrophic litany of injuries that appear to afflict the Wizards more than any other franchise. They purchase players on the open market, who immediately develop debilitating conditions, they sign players to long-term contracts who break down like a Ford Focus leaving the used car lot. Meanwhile the players they let go suddenly seem to have a new lease on life. Nene—famously encased in ice for most of his tenure on the Wizards—regained spryness on the Rockets, and three-time champion Shaun Livingston still operates and thrives on Golden State.

The calendar has yet to turn to 2019 and the Wizards season is already over and their best player is once again on the shelf. In truth, it could be almost any other Wizards season.

★★★

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20)

When I initially heard that John Wall would be missing the remainder of the season due to foot surgery, I literally said aloud to no one in particular, “This is Gilbert Arenas all over again!”

Apparently, that was a popular sentiment to have.

Then, as most Wizards/Bullets fan are wont to do, I immediately started thinking of season-salvaging scenarios that would soften the blow of Wall’s absence, and I have no problem admitting that I did a damn good job of this. Initially. But then it became painfully clear that trying to extract even an ounce of goodness out of this season or next is the equivalent of me trying to put a fitted sheet on my bed. One part of the bed will look immaculate, but only at the expense of the other side of the bed, which will be left looking rumpled and just flat out messy. Allow me to explain.

Let’s say the Wizards choose to tank their way into the lottery and get a chance at one of the impact players in the 2019 NBA Draft. The fate and playing time of that player would be left in the hands of Coach Scott Brooks, and any trades before or after this draft would be written, produced and performed by Mr. Ernie Grunfeld.

The other option for this season involves the entire team rallying around Bradley Beal. Let’s say Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and Dwight Howard all return to peak form (!!), and that core, combined with the newfound confidence of Tomas Satoransky, Troy Brown, Chasson Randle and Thomas Bryant, buoys the Wizards into the playoffs. They would realistically be a 6-, 7- or 8-seed. The Wizards would still most likely lose in the first round the way they did last year, and Ted Leonsis would inform Wizards Nation that the team was going to stay the course, because a healthy Wall would be back next season to save the day.

The last scenario I cooked up in my head involved trading Wall, Beal or Otto Porter, but again, that reconstruction of the roster would be overseen by Mr. Grunfeld. These scenarios, combined with the former Wizards beat writer J. Michael indicating that Wall’s foot problem was a long time coming (or a long time lasting), is simply depressing—like this damn fitted bedsheet I still can’t get a handle on affixing.

I suppose there’s an outside chance that Ted Leonsis could decide that this season was his breaking point, relieve both Brooks and Grunfeld of their duties, trade Beal, Wall or Otto, and finally convince the fans that a Sam Cooke-type change is gon’ come. But that’s crazy talk right?

★★★

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)

The nightmare scenario is that John Wall’s season-ending surgery provides cover for Ted, Ernie and Brooks to write this season off as an unfortunate series of injuries and run it back again with the same group. After all, that’s what they did last year.

The Wizards began the 2017-18 season almost as listless as they did this season with a handful of uninspiring losses. The season was already spiraling downward before John Wall underwent surgery after playing 37 games.

Nevertheless, the Wizards blamed their disappointing season, which ended with a first-round playoff exit, on Wall’s injury and spent the off-season making cosmetic changes to the roster. After Dwight Howard came on board, Ted called this the deepest roster of his tenure and declared 50 wins or bust.

It’s important to remember this history, because the Wizards ownership and front office seem destined to repeat it. Ted and Ernie seem to be the only ones who do not realize that this Wizards core has run its course.

John Wall’s injury does provide an opportunity to re-assess the short-term and long-term prospects for this team but there is very little evidence that Ernie is up for the task. The win-now trade for Trevor Ariza was the latest example that management still believes this team is one or two pieces away from contending in the East.

On the bright side, the lowered expectations for this season may nudge Scott Brooks to give more minutes than he otherwise would to the young guys on the roster who he clearly does not trust. With only five players under contract for next season, it would be helpful to find out if Troy Brown could be a rotation player next season and if Devin Robinson is worth continued investment.

Others have suggested that Washington should pivot to tanking in the wake of Wall’s season-ending injury. But they already have the sixth-worst record in the NBA. One could argue that Scott Brooks has already been tanking with some of his no-offense lineups. It’s unclear how much lower they could go—short of a Bradley Beal shutdown.

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The Wizards Finally Freed Troy Brown and He Did Not Disappoint http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/the-wizards-finally-freed-troy-brown-and-he-did-not-disappoint.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/the-wizards-finally-freed-troy-brown-and-he-did-not-disappoint.html#respond Sun, 30 Dec 2018 16:45:54 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56409

(Photo Credit: Kelyn Soong Washington City Paper)

Before the Wizards took on the Hornets, Scott Brooks answered a myriad of questions about the health of John Wall and how his injury and extended absence would impact the team. In the midst of answering questions about who would replace some of Wall’s minutes, Brooks declared that Troy Brown Jr. would play.

This wasn’t the first time Brooks mentioned that Brown would be granted minutes in the regular rotation, but there was a sense of desperation in the air that led assembled media members to believe this was the game when Brooks would actually turn to the team’s first round draft pick.

Coming into last night’s game, Brown Jr. had only played 102 total minutes on the season, the majority of which came in garbage time of many of the team’s blowout losses.  But last night, the rookie from Oregon came into the game and scored a career-high nine points (all in the first half) and in the process earned the adoration from the fans who had been clamoring in person and on social media for him to play. #FreeTroyBrown had become a real thing on Twitter, as Wizards faithful failed to see the logic in Scott Brooks replacing the traded Austin Rivers’ minutes with Ron Baker over Brown despite the former not scoring a single point in his Wizards tenure. The frustrations never seemed to get to Brown, who let his play do the talking on this night.

First came a dunk on a beauty of a cut to the basket. Then came a driving layup, followed by a made three pointer. Brown moved on the court with fluidity and looked as if he belonged.

“He’s excellent. Today was evidence of being ready when your name is called.” said Beal postgame when asked about how he was able to help his rookie prepare to make his first meaningful contributions of the season.

Brown’s feel for the game was what initially made him a target of the Wizards front office and coaches in June, and last night  he finally seemed “ready” enough for the coaches to trust him. Scott Brooks had basically insinuated that the team was being patient with Brown, allowing him to hone his skills with the team’s newly minted G- League affiliate in order to gain the proper experience to get him ready to contribute in the big leagues. “Give coach [Jarell] Christian and their staff, the Go-Go credit. They work with him a lot,” said Brooks post-game.

Brown has played in six games with the Go-Go averaging 18 points per game on 49-percent shooting from the field and 34-percent from the three-point line. He has learned how to play on the next level, as well as the dedication and professionalism it takes to be an NBA player. The team would have Brown flying across the country to play or dress in games with both the Wizards and the Go-Go. Sometimes he would have to be prepared to play three days in a row, even flying into D.C. on the same day once in order to be on the Wizards bench just in case.

Instead of being bitter about his lack of playing time, Brown stayed positive and looked to the veterans on the team for words of wisdom, while emulating their attention to detail and made sure to give his vets credit after the game “I’ve been working hard for a very long time. Just watching them out there and being able to get that experience. Talk to John, talk to Brad, talk to Jeff and just pick their brains so that I can see whatever they’re seeing and then go out they and execute on what they’ve been telling me.” Brown has been a visual learner so far in his NBA career but he’s also gained–albeit in a limited capacity– the tangible experience of being on the court and getting better. “It’s just all about getting reps, being able to go down there and have an impact and make plays, do the little things down there and be able to come and execute it up here. To come out here and play with that same confidence, it helped me,” Brown said as he got his first taste of a post-game media scrum.

When asked if the coaching staff had come to him and told him he would be playing tonight, Brown said no, but he treated his pregame routine as if he were going to be playing. During the locker room media availability before the game, Bradley Beal came back into the locker room after his pregame routine and sat in the chair in front of his locker to regroup. At that point, Brown, who had an extra pep in this step, walked out of the training room towards the locker stall directly next to Beal. Beal looked at him and asked “Are you ready?” Brown replied “You know it.”

The calmness with which Brown replied made it seem as if the moment was not too big for him, and in fact, he was ready. Brown stepped in as a more than competent ancillary role player and his contributions helped the Wizards break their losing streak with a much needed win. The circumstances surrounding Brown finally getting his opportunity to show the Wizards what he can do on the court were not ideal, but as Beal said “the team has to have a next man up mentality,” well call up number six from Las Vegas, Nevada because he’s in line and prepared to seize his opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bulls 101 – Wizards 92: A Bad Loss to a Bad Team http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/bulls-101-wizards-92-a-bad-loss-to-a-bad-team.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/bulls-101-wizards-92-a-bad-loss-to-a-bad-team.html#respond Sat, 29 Dec 2018 05:22:28 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56401

Wizards lose 101-92. Now 13-23.

Not the worst loss on the season, but few will sting more considering the upcoming schedule and the potential that John Wall won't be back for a bit.

— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) December 29, 2018

The glass half-empty camp would have guaranteed a loss by the Wizards to the Bulls on Friday night, and with good reason.

Even though the Wizards were playing the 9-25 Chicago Bulls, surely they’d be hard pressed to win a home game shorthanded: John Wall was out with a sore foot–a foot that will require closer examination by a specialist in the near future. Markieff Morris was out with upper back/neck stiffness, Otto Porter missed his ninth game with a right knee contusion and Bradley Beal played, albeit through illness.

A loss in these circumstances, even though no player would openly admit it, could simply be chalked up to injury.

The glass half-full gang would scoff at the notion of a so-called injury loss. They would point to the Bulls’ putrid record and their recent and very public discord(s) and expect the Wizards to gut out a close victory.

In fact, before the game Coach Scott Brooks–who was known as as a scrappy backup player during his 11-year career–indicated that backups and rarely used players should thrive, not cower, from these big moment opportunities:

“You always want your entire roster as a teammate and as a coach it’s no different, but when you do get opportunities these guys have been preparing and they’re waiting and they wanted these opportunities and tonight they’re gonna get a great opportunity.

“When you’re undermanned, sometimes, somebody pops up that you don’t think was ready or you don’t think that they will be able to handle the pressure of doing it. Tomas (Satoransky) was that guy last year. He saved our season basically.”

Coach Brooks felt like someone other than Bradley Beal would adopt the carpe diem mantra and lead the Wizards to victory, but nothing of the sort happened. Beal, taking 27 shots (he made 13), turned in yet another All-Star performance with 34 points, five assists, seven rebounds, and two steals in 38 minutes of play. But the rest of his teammates shot just 21-for-58 (36%) and scored 58 points.

Yes, Chasson Randle, as Coach Brooks pointed out after the game, hit some timely shots from the 3-point land, and yes, Thomas Bryant, as he’s been wont to do in Dwight Howard’s absence, provided energy and rebounding.  Sam Dekker only scored six points, but he too appeared spry and active on both ends of the floor. But it wasn’t nearly enough, although Coach Brooks seemed to disagree. “Guys played hard, no complaints there. We just couldn’t find any shots that fall consistently for us in the first half and even in the fourth quarter,” Brooks said after the game.

To his credit, Beal’s bar for success was a bit higher than his coach’s, and his postgame comments reflected that sentiment. “We still gotta win the game. It doesn’t matter how many guys we have out. We have enough in here to win. We gotta win and I gotta do a better job of leading and making sure we do that,” Beal said.

While the Wizards were unable to squeeze a dynamic performance from their backup players, the Bulls actually had a player step up in timely fashion and his name was Robin Lopez–the same Robin Lopez who was schmoozing with Wizards’ mascot in the layup line before the game.

With 8:59 left in the fourth quarter, Zach LaVine was on the bench due to a 30-minute restriction imposed by the Bulls training staff, and both Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, who had 17 and 12 points respectively at the time, were on the bench with four fouls. The score was 79-76 in the Bulls’ favor, and ideally one of the Wizards players not named Beal would have chipped away at the lead. Instead, Robin Lopez took over.

First he nailed his second hook shot over Ian Mahinmi (he hit the first one in the latter stages of the third quarter) to put the Bulls up 81-76. The next time down the court, the Wizards decided to help Mahinmi with Lopez by sending Satoransky to double-team. The Bulls swung the ball around and Shaquille Harrison ended up with a wide-open 3-pointer to put the Bulls up 84-76.

Coach Brooks decided he seen enough at this point, and he re-inserted Thomas Bryant in the game for Mahinmi, but it didn’t make a difference. Lopez hit two more unorthodox hook shots to put the Bulls up eight points.  Markkanen, LaVine and Carter Jr. re-entered the game with a bit of a cushion, and the lead never dipped below five points after that.

John Wall is definitely out for the Wizards’ Saturday night game against the Charlotte Hornets (who will also be playing their second game in two nights), but there is still a chance that both Otto Porter and Markieff Morris will return to their starting roles. If they can provide their normal contributions, and if one of the Wizards reserves can provide the boost that was sorely missing against the Bulls, perhaps the bad taste of this bad loss will be forgotten.

But for now, the Wizards dropped a home a game against an inferior team, and they are 4.5 games out of the eighth playoff spot. The glass half-empty crowd won this round.

 

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Washington Wants to Win, Unsure How to Night After Night http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/washington-wants-to-win-unsure-how-to-night-after-night.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/washington-wants-to-win-unsure-how-to-night-after-night.html#respond Thu, 20 Dec 2018 06:03:29 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56392

[Photo: Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle]

The Houston Rockets hit an NBA record 26 3-pointers against the Wizards, with Michael Carter-Williams of all people burying the final shot from deep. But Washington lost this game between the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter. At the 1:30 mark of the first, Chasson Randle entered the game with the Wizards down one point, 25-26. Immediately after entering the game, Randle fouled Chris Paul to put him on the free throw line, unwittingly starting a chain reaction. By the time that Randle checked out at the 10:15 mark of the second quarter, about three minutes later, the Wizards were down 28-40 and Randle was a minus-11. No, the run Houston went on was not completely Chasson’s fault, but to expect a G-League player to come out and competently defend future Hall of Famer Chris Paul and Co. is incredibly naive from head coach Scott Brooks (more on him at the bottom).

Washington has so many moving parts with the revolving door that is their roster for the season, but one thing has remained constant in Scott Brooks’s overall tenure as Wizards coach: he has never figured out to properly stagger John Wall and Bradley Beal so that the Wizards can limit the minutes that they play without either of their All-Star guards. If anything, Brooks should take note from the opposing team’s coach on this night, Mike D’Antoni, who has his rotations down to a science—the Rockets did not play a single second of basketball without Harden or Chris Paul till the game was in hand and they ultimately rested the two stars in the fourth quarter.

Harden and CP3 looked like the dynamic back court which was able to lead the Rockets to an NBA-best 65 wins last season, and they got additional help from their teammates who chipped in with 15 made 3-pointers in their record setting performance. Wall did not look particularly right in the two-game road trip and one can only wonder if the bone spurs in his foot that gave him so much trouble two weeks ago in Cleveland flared up (and prohibited him from competing like he did in that 40-point performance against the Lakers on Sunday). Wall was not explosive, nor careful with the basketball, and was not able to hit from the outside, either. The seven turnovers Wall committed helped the Rockets get out in transition, and his lack of attentiveness on the defensive end did little to slow Houston’s players on the perimeter or the glass.

Joining Wall on the low-effort team was Markieff Morris, who strayed far too much from the paint despite playing the majority of his minutes at center. Morris only grabbed five rebounds and added five points, and contributing little else positive in this game. One of the barometers for the Wizards’ success this season has been the play of Morris, who had been playing fantastic basketball since moving to the bench, but was clearly off against Atlanta and Houston. The Rockets were able to expose Keef’s size disadvantage against Clint Capela by constantly putting him into pick-and-roll situations, which allowed Capela to draw so much attention at the basket that the Rockets were able to pass the ball around the perimeter with impunity and knock down open 3 after open 3.

Houston was able to stretch the Wizards new defensive “weapon,” Trevor Ariza, by having him chase through screens all night. Ariza is savvy enough as a defender to correctly read a few of those plays, and added three more steals to the six he had in Atlanta. But while it is evident to see the difference that Ariza will make on the defensive end for the Wizards, even if he mostly closed out wide-open Houston shooters, the “3-and-D” wing struggled mightily with his outside shot. Ariza was only able to connect on one of his eight 3-point attempts.

Bright spots for the Wizards on the night included activity and energy from Thomas Bryant and Sam Dekker, who finished with 12 and 15 points respectively on a combined 12-for-14 effort from the field. Scott Brooks has mentioned all season about the need to have players who will play with energy and effort—these two are likely it.

As far as head coaches go, Brooks has not been terrible as the Wizards lead man, but he certainly has not been the transformative leader the team anticipated when they offered him a five-year, $35 million contract. Questionable rotations aside, he’s been rigid and failed to express the sort of creativity that’s celebrated in other head coaches, such as Brad Stevens or Quinn Snyder. Arguably more concerning, his reputation as a guy who can develop young players seems to have been slightly exaggerated given the fact that there is almost no discernible growth in the Wizards young players since Brooks took over.

When the Wizards traded away Kelly Oubre, 23, to acquire Trevor Ariza, 10 years his senior, they put Brooks and the rest of the team on notice that the organization intends to win this season (something they’ve trumpeted for the previous five seasons). If the team fails to get out of this rut, it will be an indictment on the players, Scott Brooks, and especially Ernie Grunfeld. The team has exactly 50 games left to figure this thing out, and can probably win 30 of those games to reach .500 for the season. That may be enough to squeeze into the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and save some jobs, but at this point such an outcome is just more of the same. And simply not good enough.

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Wall Dominates and Dekker Shines as Wizards Upset the Lakers http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/wall-dominates-and-dekker-shines-as-wizards-upset-the-lakers.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/wall-dominates-and-dekker-shines-as-wizards-upset-the-lakers.html#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 14:15:52 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56379

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Washington. Washington won 128-1110. (AP Photo/Al Drago)

John Wall saved his best game of the season for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, helping the Wizards snap a four-game losing streak with a 128-110 victory. Wall scored a season-high 40 points and recorded 14 assists as he was able to control the tempo of the game from the very beginning.

This was a vintage John Wall performance, because his elite athleticism was on full display with drives to the basket against a Lakers defense that tried multiple defensive fronts to attempt to slow Wall down. In the third quarter, the Lakers unveiled a box-and-1 zone defense which relied on ball pressure at the top of the key from a single defender, while the other four players played zone. After the game, Wall was surprised that the Lakers resorted to that type of defense which he said he hadn’t seen since high school.

Wall made it a point of emphasis to be aggressive early and often:

“Just being aggressive, just trying to get downhill and attack the basket. I was kind of disappointed in how I played in Brooklyn [on Friday] – not being aggressive. When I’m aggressive, it makes it easier for us offensively – getting guys shots and getting myself into a rhythm.”

Wall’s attack-mode mindset not only afforded him easier shots, it also opened cutting lanes for his teammates to take advantage of the spacing on the floor.

The main recipient of all the attention drawn by Wall’s attacking the basket was newcomer Sam Dekker, who made his Wizards home debut to the tune of 20 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the field. All but one of his field goals came from within three feet of the basket and the Wisconsin product knew coming to D.C. meant he would have to find his offense off of Wall and Beal by being active and cutting to the basket. Wall praised Dekker for his ability to seamlessly come in and make an impact by cutting to the basket.

“He does a great job like Otto [Porter] does,” Wall said after the game. “Whenever I have the ball attacking and penetrating, he’s a great cutter. We were just talking about it. Whenever you have and opportunity to be aggressive, he’s a guy that’s cutting and trying to do the little things…those are the type of guys you need on your team.”

Dekker said that he honed his skills cutting to the basket during his tenure at Wisconsin under famed head coach Bo Ryan:

“Definitely college. In high school I was a guy that had the ball in my hands all game. I get to Wisconsin, and it doesn’t matter who you are, you have to learn how to play within a system. So I learned how to cut, read defenses, find an open bubble somewhere. Came to the NBA and found that works, especially playing with a guy like James Harden in Houston – he’s going to find you. Him and John are very similar in that way. John likes guys that cut [and] Brad likes guys that cut because they get so much attention. When you do that, you get a lot of easy buckets. I didn’t do anything special tonight, those guys set me up and I was able to make it work.”

The ability of Dekker to impact the game without having the ball in his hands is something that the Wizards have sorely needed this season and his willingness to accept that role did not go unnoticed by Coach Scott Brooks, who raved about his new wing option:

“I think that Jeff [Green] and Sam [Decker], they did a great job of playing off one and another. And Sam is a great cutter. That is what I am finding out. I didn’t really know everything about his game, I still don’t. I’m assuming that he is going to be able to shoot threes better than he did. But he’s got the ball, he cuts to the basket, he moves the ball, he plays hard, he brings energy, he plays with the proper respect for the game. That is what I love about him, he always seems to be prepared. He doesn’t have to turn the switch on, it’s on.”

A common gripe from Wizards stars this season has been the friction that comes from players not being able to play or understand their roles. It is still early, but so far Dekker understands what he has to do in order to be successful next to Wall and Beal.

Speaking of Beal, he scored 25 points and hit four 3-pointers to open up the floor for Wall to score or dish the basketball. While Beal was happy with the way the team competed offensively, he was even more satisfied with how the team was able to defend the Lakers, especially LeBron James, commenting afterwards about how they were active as a team at making sure LeBron was not able to go off on them:

“I think we did a good job of making it difficult on him, showing him a lot of bodies, active hands, making sure he wasn’t getting his own misses and putting them back quick and just making a difficult for him. He loves to pass just being able to do both, it’s all the extra effort on the defensive end, and I think we had it tonight.”

The Wizards were able to hold LeBron to just 13 points, albeit on the second night of a back-to-back for the Lakers. But considering his history of dominating performances in D.C., this containment shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The Wizards played well, and, for at least one night, allowed the fanbase to breathe a sigh of relief and get optimistic about what the new Wizards roster can accomplish in the remaining 52 games. Perhaps there is still time for them to be the team they (and owner Ted Leonsis) perceived themselves to be before the season started.

 

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WIZARDS TRADE ROUNDTABLE: Sending Oubre Down the River, Welcome Back Ariza http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/wizards-trade-roundtable-sending-oubre-down-the-river-welcome-back-ariza.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/wizards-trade-roundtable-sending-oubre-down-the-river-welcome-back-ariza.html#respond Sun, 16 Dec 2018 01:15:38 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56372 [AP Photo/Alex Brandon]

Kyle Weidie
@Truth_About_It

Kelly Oubre Jr. could’ve been the future but was likely part of the problem, which is also part of ‘the problem’.

On draft night 2015, the Wizards sent their 19th pick (Jerian Grant) to the Knicks, the Knicks sent Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks, and Atlanta sent their 15th pick (Oubre) to Washington, as well as netting two second round draft picks from the Wizards in return. Fresh out of Kansas, Grunfeld’s selection creeped out of left field but seemed to tease with overly youthful and untamed 3&D potential. When the Wave Papi was locked-in, he could guard anyone from Isiah Thomas (when he was good with the Celtics) to trying his best to check LeBron. Sure, he was/is foul prone, but that’s part of being a defensive pest.

That also wasn’t all Oubre did to be a pest. This season in particular he hogged the ball — contract year ego, of course. And he always had a penchant for putting his head down for drastic, unwarranted, reckless and fruitless charges to the rim. His 3-point form looked great but his percentages did not progress, nor did his court emotional IQ. Oubre was stylish, he was a goofball, he was corny. Kelly’s a card and that’s OK — for any of us.

But this trade — should come as no surprise for no one under no condition — is of a one-track, near-term, chase the playoffs like a dog to a car mindset. Austin Rivers was a throwaway and Trevor Ariza is basically a throwaway. Ariza won’t be in Washington next season and he probably doesn’t want to be a Wizard now. And Oubre, just 23 years old and unlikely to be re-signed by cap-strapped Wizards had they kept him, is now someone else’s potential or problem. And all the Wizards got (or gave) was the experience.

But Ariza is back to be the microfracture surgery to Washington’s ground-down joints under the Grunfeld Regime. He’ll make the team better (and let’s also be honest about the Rivers/Oubre addition-by-subtraction part of the equation). But Ariza won’t save the day and he won’t save the defense. It’s pointless to ask but what’s next?

  • Trade Evaluation: Sidestep (vs. Forward or Backward)
  • Grunfeldian Level: Midrange (vs. Extreme Facial or Layup)

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Sean Fagan
@McCarrick

This time, it only took the Washington Wizards and Ernie Grunfeld becoming the laughingstock of the League to complete one of his patented “shuffle the deck chairs” moves. Did you expect anything different?

A few weeks before I made a joke to this site’s founder that the Wizards would make a play for Trevor Ariza, because not only was he a surplus of goods on a Phoenix team that didn’t want pay his salary, but Ernie needed to make a play for the eighth seed in order to save his job. To me it looked like the ideal the “paint around the edges” trade that Grunfeld has been making for years, just nudging the Wizards into the realm of competency if not anywhere near contending in the Eastern Conference.

“Nah,” he replied, “Ariza is strictly West Coast, and he is also pretty washed at this point.”

Let it be known that “washed” has never stopped Ernest Grunfeld before.

By acquiring Ariza, the Wizards managed to rid themselves of one seeming malcontent (Austin Rivers) but also parted with frustrating yet eternally promising Kelly Oubre. It is patented Wizards logic: trade young for old, trade promise for that short burst of relevancy that Ariza shoots straight into your veins. But never try to develop a player internally if he is anything less than a 5th pick because the Wizards will take that potential and set it on fire before your very eyes.

In what amounts to a dumpster fire of a season — where the Wizards are without a starting center, the stars are sniping at each other, and the head coach looks like he is part of a daily hostage video — there was a brief window where the Wizards could have traded one of their “big” three and actually started the process towards building the next incarnation of the team.

Instead, we are here, once again shortsightedly mortgaging the future because the Wizards have never had a toy they couldn’t break, have never found a young career they couldn’t set back by years, and are steadfast in employing an individual who seems intent on scorching the earth and salting it thrice over before admitting that perhaps the NBA has passed him by and that whatever “fans” of the team mutter his name like an expletive.

This trade is the danger of letting Grunfeld remain head of the Washington Wizards. It is disingenuous, myopic and self-serving. It is Wizards’ basketball and I for one am not entertained.

  • Trade Evaluation: Backwards (or backpedaling like Arenas on defense)
  • Grunfeldian Level: Extreme Facial (like Wall getting his s^*$ rejected)

=======

Conor Dirks
@ConorDDirks

“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that… Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.”
Endgame, by Samuel Beckett

The Wizards traded two second round picks and the No. 19 pick in 2015 to move up and select Kelly Oubre, a semi-underachieving forward at Kansas under Bill Self (which is kind of a Bill Self specialty) who had loads of potential but just as many questions. Turned out the kid had a killer personality, and played the game as violently as you might hope for a player on a team thrashing against its own denouement.

He was a bad shooter until he wasn’t, and then he was again. He fouled on every play as a rookie, improved enough to get deployed on the perimeter for the Wizards as they fought through the East, and then got sucked into whatever it is the Wizards do on defense these days. He looked like a French mime juggling a trio of penguins every time he drove with the ball, until he looked confident, until he looked just a little fearsome. And more than every so often, you knew he could do anything a basketball player might be able to do. Even if he couldn’t do it all now.

In contrast to Otto Porter (“Who?” is my knee-jerk reaction whenever I hear his name), Oubre never passed up a shot. Sometimes, that manifested in joyously big games, with Kelly’s trademark grin seasoning every windmill dunk or shot-put 3-pointer. Sometimes, that manifested in frustration, with Oubre trying to shoot through an extended long-ball slump with teammates open and calling for the ball.

If this sounds like a eulogy it’s because these Wizards are fucking dead. The trade is part of that, but it’s really just the logical next step in the death throes of an inane management philosophy. The Wizards stopped trying to reinvent themselves after Porter’s first good season. Now, all they do is package up potential, ship it to their opponents, and take back players, like Bogdanovic, Ariza, Miller, Foye, and others who will never move their needle beyond the 5th seed in the East. And that’s the best case scenario.

Saying that the Wizards won’t be able to afford Oubre next year admits that he’s a player worth keeping around, or at least trying to get creative enough to retain. But it also doesn’t jive with what Washington got in return for Oubre. If you think he’s valuable enough to get a deal Washington can’t match, surely he’s more valuable than a half season of washed-up Trevor Ariza.

Maybe you think Oubre is good enough that the Wizards can’t match the offer he gets, and that he’s not as good as Porter, so the choice is between Otto and Oubre. For reference, Porter’s salary will be $27,000,000 next year. The market for Oubre suggests that he won’t command anything near that. Is Porter, who is in the midst of a godawful season, worth the difference in their skill level? Why not trade Porter and actually clear up your cap problems, rather than deal Oubre and kick the can down the road into the maw of the infinite clown once again? In the alternative, if Oubre is affordable, he’s a good bench player to have.

Maybe you think Oubre isn’t good. Well, in some ways you’d be right. But it’s a short-sighted point of view for a player who is only 23, and has shown the ability to improve (and, sometimes, regress) aspects of his game. He was viewed as a project when he was drafted. What does that mean if it doesn’t mean being patient?

Wizards fans are so fucking used to this nonsense that they’ll all develop their lines and forget that other front offices find creative ways to get what they want, and don’t lay down and die when their entirely foreseeable cap problems obstruct their plans.

  • “We couldn’t sign him anyway.” Sure you could if a few trades got made and the bid on him wasn’t too high.
  • “He was a bum.” That’s reductive, and in complete contrast with #1, so make sure you’re consistent!
  • “We already have Otto.” First…do we? I kid. He exists, of course. Who are we talking about? Right, Otto Porter. Does he still play for the Wizards? Sure, yes. He does. But these two players are not mutually exclusive. They’re fairly different! And anyone who thinks they know what Oubre would fetch on the RFA market is kidding themselves and playing directly into the kind of Grunfeldian resignation that makes this a miserable basketball market. Fucking try something for once. Christ.

In short, the Wizards traded away a great kid for a great guy. Trevor Ariza is smart, funny, competent, and in some ways a polished version of half of what Oubre optimists think he could be. Ariza isn’t interested in driving off the dribble (Oubre’s biggest area of growth this year), but he’s a reliable corner 3-point shooter that fits very well with John Wall. Ariza will have some good games. And then he’ll leave over the summer and the Wizards will be totally fucking broke, with all of their money tied up in Wall, Beal, Porter, Mahinmi, and poor Troy Brown Jr.

Challenge yourself to look at the bigger picture. It’s grim, but necessary work. At some point, the Wizards need to rebuild. And it has to be through BIG trades that materially change the makeup of this team, or through the draft. If you go through the draft, you have to pick smart, develop well, and then either flip a few of those assets with a max player for an upgrade to one of your “stars.” Or find the right roles for the players you draft on the team you have.

Kelly Oubre had a place on this team. And this trade is worse than pointless: it sucks.

  • Trade Evaluation: Backwards (Ernie furiously chewing gum while saying “yeah, yeah, yeah, Marshon, yeah”)
  • Grunfeldian level: Extreme Facial (Snorting tooth dust)

Media Day, Washington Wizards, Truth About It, 2015, NBA, Verizon Center, Adam McGinnis, Kelly Oubre, GMan

=======

John Converse Townsend
@JohnCTownsend

Ernie Grunfeld is trying to run things back. Trevor Ariza is a Wizard again in D.C.

How the [redacted] did we get here?

In 2010, Grunfeld moved his $111 million mistake, Gilbert Arenas, to the Orlando Magic for Rashard Lewis.

“This trade allows us to continue to rebuild around our core group of young players and provides financial flexibility as we move forward,” Grunfeld said at the time. “We’re thrilled to have been able to accomplish those goals while also getting back a two-time All-Star in Rashard Lewis, who brings us versatility, 3-point shooting and a veteran presence.”

Lewis offered neither versatility nor 3-point shooting. He was traded two seasons later, along with the No. 46 pick, for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.

“We are pleased to add two more solid pieces as we continue to build our roster with a balance of proven veterans and the core of young talent that we have developed,” Grunfeld said the time. “Emeka’s defensive presence and rebounding ability will combine with Trevor’s versatility to add new dimensions to our frontcourt, and both players fit in very well with the type of team-first culture that we have been working to establish.”

Remember that the 46th pick was acquired as part of a three-team trade that sent ‘well-developed’ and ‘exemplary team-first’ players Nick Young and JaVale McGee as far away from Washington as possible (Denver at the time).

Okafor played his last full-ish season in the NBA, and was traded a year later, while Ariza played two solid years, including a career year in 2013-14. Grunfeld then let him walk (and maybe Trevor wanted to walk).

Now he’s back. But in exchange for Kelly Oubre, who is playing the best basketball of his life, and Austin Rivers, a player Grunfeld signed as a second-unit savior summer.

“Acquiring Austin gives us another versatile, experienced player who provides scoring and playmaking,” Grunfeld said at the time. “He is coming off a career year and his ability to create offense for himself and others will help our second unit and allow us to play a variety of lineups throughout the season.”

None of what he said about Rivers, who’s best strength is jab-stepping and driving right, came to pass. And Oubre wasn’t a simple draft pick: he cost the Wizards two second-round picks and the 19th overall selection, Jerian Grant.

In a roundabout way, the Wizards traded Gilbert Arenas’s beard to rent the 2018-19 version of Trevor Ariza (he’ll be 34 and an unrestricted free agent next season).

Eras have come and gone, head coaches, too, but the Wizards under the influence of this team president, and his championship “plan,” have not changed. Predictable also-rans.

Grunfeld, shielded by so many secret extensions, is trying to run things back. But the open truth is this: He’s out of ideas.

  • Trade Evaluation: Backwards (con gusto)
  • Grunfeldian Level: Apotheosis (wake up, Leonsis)

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Adam Rubin
@LedellsPlace

I will focus less on the individual players in the trade and more on what the trade itself tells us about the current mindset of the Wizards’ front office (and ownership). Namely, they are living in fantasy land.

It’s true that the team needs leadership, Austin Rivers was not playing well on the court or playing nice off it, and the Wizards had no intention of re-signing Oubre. However, renting Trevor Ariza to help stabilize the locker room for four months does nothing to help the team’s long-term prospects. The Wizards are in salary cap hell with only five players under contract next season. With the possible exception of Tomas Satoransky, Oubre was the only player on the roster who could command a draft pick or a rotation player on a multi-year contract in return. Washington got neither.

This team is headed for disaster this coming summer and every move they make (or don’t make) should be singularly focused on the future. NBA.com’s David Aldridge reported that the Suns will look to flip Kelly Oubre and there is a robust market developing for his services. So, it’s possible we will soon find out what other offers were out there for one of the Wizards’ only tradeable assets.

Which brings us back to the big picture. The Wizards are perpetually in win-now mode. That team-building concept was defensible when Gilbert/Caron/Antawn were running wild and Wall and Beal were ascending up the ranks of NBA’s best back-courts. But that’s not where we are today. The 11-18 Wizards are at the bitter end of a six-year run with this core. Trading a young asset for an expiring veteran contract only prolongs and exacerbates the inevitable rebuild.

This move only makes sense if you are trying to save your job or you are trying to grab some playoff revenue sharing. For the rest of us, it’s just more of the same.

  • Trade Evaluation: Sidestep
  • Grunfeldian Level: High (He outdid himself by figuring out a way to give up two second round picks in this trade even though the Wizards had none to offer)

=======

Bryan Frantz
@bfrantz202

Is this the Grunfeldiest move of all of Grunfeld’s moves? You take your only young, affordable asset, pair him with an offseason mistake, and swap them for a washed-up veteran, in a clear attempt to pull out a few extra wins and salvage what is already a lost season.

Prior to this offseason’s moves, I opined that Washington had five assets on the roster (not including draft picks): Wall, Beal, Porter, Oubre, and Satoransky. On the afternoon of Saturday, December 15, the Wizards are down to probably one asset: Beal. Wall’s pending monster contract was always going to be tough to trade, but his play this season has made it nearly impossible to trade for value — did you even see ESPN suggest a Wall and Troy Brown, Jr. for Enes Kanter trade?

Porter has been awful this season, with even his few outbursts having minimal impact on the team (Washington is 5-4 when Porter scores 15 or more points). His value is rapidly fading, and the longer the Wizards wait to move him, the worse the return will be. Satoransky has become the kind of piece that you’ll get little on the return for, but he’ll turn into a key role player on a contending team that uses him correctly.

And Oubre, the only Wizards draft pick between Otto Porter and Troy Brown who was still on the roster, is now gone. The return on that fifth asset? A veteran wing who will be gone at the end of the season.

Everybody else is covering the many negatives to this trade, and they’re all very correct. Here’s all I can say for possible silver linings: First, I love Trevor Ariza and there are many, many players Ernie could have traded for that I would be less inclined to root for; Second, shipping out Austin Rivers is the correct thing to do and theoretically opens up minutes at point guard for Satoransky (and maybe minutes at the 2 or 3 for Brown?).

Here are, of course, the counterpoints: You basically traded Marcin Gortat and Oubre for half a season of Ariza, who will likely do just enough to help you get a worse draft pick and get humiliated in the playoffs; the Wizards still have to fill a roster spot, and they’ll almost definitely use that on a veteran guard who will take the minutes Satoransky and Brown should be getting.

I just want to point out again that Washington currently has zero players on its roster drafted in the years 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. There are only five Wizards draft picks on the roster: Three came in the top three overall picks of their respective drafts, one didn’t play in the NBA for several years and now is given the middle finger by the head coach at every opportunity, and the other is on pace to be the next Kelly Oubre.

  • Trade Evaluation: Backwards (like where the team is going, fast)
  • Grunfeldian Level: Elite (like the Raptors swapping DeRozan and Poetl for Kawhi and Green — except the exact opposite of that)

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Shorthanded Wizards Take Care of Business Against Struggling Hawks http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/shorthanded-wizards-take-care-of-business-against-struggling-hawks.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/shorthanded-wizards-take-care-of-business-against-struggling-hawks.html#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 05:10:59 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56359

(Photo credit Kevin C. Cox Getty Images)


The Washington Wizards entered their game against the Atlanta Hawks a bit shorthanded. John Wall had to leave the team for personal reasons (presumably to fly back to D.C. for the birth of his first child), Jeff Green was out with back spasms, and Dwight Howard continues to recover from back surgery. Considering the Wizards have not fared well against inferior opponents, this could have been a difficult test for Scott Brooks and his team, but Bradley Beal led the charge in “Everybody Eats”  fashion to secure the victory.

Entering the starting lineup to replace Wall was Austin Rivers, who has been barely serviceable as a rotation player for the Wizards on most nights. The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner made waves through Wizards Twitter before the game when she tweeted that Brooks announced during his pregame media availability that Rivers would be starting at point guard.

TAI’s own Adam Rubin had the perfect response to this report:

Thankfully, the coach’s pregame edict was just talk, and Tomas Satoransky was appointed to bring the ball up the court for the majority of the night. And he led the team to a type of play that was eerily similar to the stretch of games he started last season while Wall was out for 41 games due to knee surgery. Sato finished with 14 points and seven assists in a season high 38 minutes, but more importantly he ran the team in an efficient manner which kept the ball moving. The Wizards as a team dished out a season-high of 35 assists.

Washington’s lone All-Star who played, Bradley Beal, led the way in the assist department with nine, but he also contributed 36 points to lead the charge. Beal’s much improved ball-handling skills allow him to not only free up space for his jump shot, but also drive the ball downhill towards the basket. On the season, Beal is taking 22.9% of his field goal attempts within three feet of the basket, and he’s connecting on 76.6% of those — both career highs for him as a player. In Wall’s absence, Beal has found a himself in the role of a distributor and scorer, which is something that he and Wall need to better balance when they share the floor.

In the front court, Washington was led by Thomas Bryant who finished with a career-high in points (16) and rebounds (9). Bryant continues to be the perfect example of controlled energy on the basketball court, as his constant movement is a catalyst for many of the good things that happen to the Wizards on the court. This team spent the first month of the season getting off to slow starts, and Scott Brooks complained about lack of effort. But in a limited sample size, Thomas Bryant in the paint has eradicated both of those issues and blossomed.

Otto Porter finished with a team-high 11 rebounds, while also chipping in 20 points. Porter is finally finding his rhythm as a scorer is seemingly more aggressive with his own shot. One of the things that Otto did not do in this game was pass up many open looks when the ball came to him. Instead he was ready to catch and shoot, and although he only hit two of his nine attempts from 3-point range, the aggressive style will certainly serve him much better than the passiveness that has plagued him this season.

The shorthanded Wizards bench managed to score 36 points, lead by Kelly Oubre’s 19 points on 5-for-10 shooting. Oubre continues to excel on the road this season boasting road splits of 46% shooting from the floor and 38% from beyond the arc, while only shooting 37% from the floor and 20% from 3-point range at home this season. These splits go against what is normally expected from role players and they are certainly something to monitor over the course of this season. Balancing out Oubre’s scoring was a steady performance from Markieff Morris, who scored 12 points of his own.

In what should have been an opportunity for the Wizards to play Troy Brown Jr. some meaningful minutes, turned into a second half battle after the Wizards allowed 45 third quarter points from the Hawks, who cut a 23-point halftime deficit to five points. This caused Brooks to leave his starters in the game for a lot longer than he probably intended. The Hawks only have five wins this season, but that win total is the result of a lack of talent, not effort. John Collins and Kent Bazemore led the way with 26 and 22 points, respectively, and they both helped the Hawks to rally back into the ball game. Once the Wizards started protecting the basketball and stopped allowing the Hawks to take advantage of those miscues, they were able to cruise to a relatively easy win.

Since the Wizards started out the season 2-9, they have a record of 9-5, which is a winning percentage much closer to what this team expected to be when the season began. They are finally figuring out how to play better with one another, and Scott Brooks is doing a better job of coaching up the players, putting them in better positions to succeed, and being more flexible with the starting lineups. The arrow is seemingly trending upwards for a franchise that has experienced much drama this season already.

Saturday will be another test for this team to prove to their doubters and themselves that this trend is for real, as they take on another struggling team in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Wizards’ Stars Don’t Dim in Big City’s Bright Lights http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/wizards-stars-dont-dim-in-big-citys-bright-lights.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/12/wizards-stars-dont-dim-in-big-citys-bright-lights.html#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 14:09:23 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56343 Insider tip: If you want to experience a celebrity sighting in NYC, avoid the marquee matchups. Avoid the Lakers, Warriors and Celtics and instead circle your calendar around the dregs of the league and contact your local ticket reseller accordingly. Because if one thing is true it’s that New Yorkers love their bread and circuses. Even more so, they relish even odds of their beloved Knickerbockers winning a tilt. (The Wiz were 2-point faves on Monday night.)

Such is the case that you had such luminaries as Cam’ron, Pete Davidson, Darryl Strawberry, Bernard King (traitor), and Saquon Barkley on hand to watch the Knicks try to upend a Wizards team that has veered from completely dysfunctional to borderline competent over the course of the last two weeks—all narrated to the smooth tones of Clyde Frazier.

To their credit, the Wizards played the part of Generals to perfection during the first half of the game. The ball didn’t move, the Wizards steadfastly refused to defend the perimeter and Enes Kanter had his way on the interior with the Wizards “bigs.” Add in the spicy little moments that have thrown up red flags through the season (John Wall bitching at the refs, Beal leaning too hard on the hero ball, confusing rotations) and you could almost hear the New York crowd baying for blood in the background as Frazier intoned: “And the Wizards seem…um, content to keep things in the half-court. They don’t want to run.”

Everything was poised for the happiest outcome. The Garden was rocking, Tim Hardway Jr., was cooking from downtown and you could smell the roasting hashtags about Wizards #EffortTalk all the way from Herald Square.

Then the Wizards played the best damn quarter of basketball they have the entire season.

Let’s encapsulate it.

https://twitter.com/NBCSWizards/status/1069777308624531456

It wasn’t just Markieff Morris who was throwing it back all the way to 2016, every single member of the Wizards squad suddenly and unexpectedly had out of body experiences and started playing in such a way that Ted Leonsis could cut a highlight package and sell it to season ticket holders. There was Kelly Oubre picking pockets and yamming it in the face of Kevin Knox, there was Otto Porter (pulse included) raining hell from the arc, taking an elbow to the chops, shaking it off and getting back into the game. Tomas Satoransky sacrificed his body the entire quarter, flinging himself after loose balls and ragdolling himself at the legs of Knicks defenders.

And above it all were Wall and Beal, imperious, conducting the entire quarter perfectly. Wall’s jumper suddenly wet and his passing vision cured of myopia, with Beal cruelly dissecting the Knicks’ younglings from long range. The duo even threw in their patented (and overchoreographed) jump dap which they haven’t had a chance to break out since we elected the last President. All told, the Wizards erased the nine-point advantage that the Knicks held at the half and went on a 20-4 run which was only slightly spoiled by a taunting penalty called on Beal for hanging on the basket.

But it wouldn’t be drama without the possibility of heartbreak, and the Wizards did all they could to undue the success of the third quarter within the fourth. Scott Brooks, mad scientist that he is, decided the best way to fix the Wizards success was with a healthy dose of Austin Rivers, who almost single-handedly shot Washington out of the game. Oubre hoisted himself on his own petard, consumed by his own hubris and began taking the low percentage shots that have infuriated onlookers all season. Most depressingly, the Wizards were bullied on the boards (they lost the battle 55-38 on the night) as we can see from this key sequence where the Wizards haplessly watched the Knicks play volleyball for over 30 seconds.

And yet, despite every effort to be #SoWizards, the Wizards triumphed despite their myriad faults. One even got the first DAGGER of the season.

https://twitter.com/NBCSWizards/status/1069787778286796802

It’s your choice what you want to take from this game. You can either hope that the Wizards found their lightning in the bottle during the third quarter and can use that energy to scratch and claw their way back towards .500. Or you can look at the other three quarters and say that this was business as usual and even bad teams will fumble their way to a few wins over the course of a season.

I, for one, am just happy that New Yorkers headed to the subway disconsolate, without their pound of flesh.

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