[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 34, Washington Wizards vs Atlanta Hawks; contributors: Kyle Weidie and Sean Fagan from the Verizon Center.]
[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 16, Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks; contributors: Rashad Mobley and Kyle Weidie from behind the T.V.]
[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 10, Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks; contributors: Adam McGinnis, Rashad Mobley and Kyle Weidie from behind the T.V.]
Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 10th game of the season against the Hawks in Atlanta are TAI’s Sean Fagan (@McCarrick) and guest Daniel Christian (@DChris_Hawks), who writes about the Hawks for the ESPN TrueHoop blog HawksHoop.com.
Wizards Starters (0-9):
Who knows? Randy Wittman indicated that he will change his starters, but will he have the balls to bench Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor? Can’t hurt at this point.
[The DC Council -- After each Wizards game: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the bench, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is over the table. Game 2 contributors: Gregg Cobert, Sam Permutt and Kyle Weidie.]
If it weren’t for the NBA lockout, I probably would’ve watched last night’s exhibition basketball game online just the same. It was either on a very small frame with fair resolution or via more disturbed pixels on a full computer screen blow up, but it was basketball. Basketball involving very good players. Namely, John Wall. It didn’t poetically go down-to-the-wire, but for brief spells, it was enjoyable to watch, even on that small screen streaming from the website of www.wkyt.com television station.
The Dominican Republic national team, coached by University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari, beat a team assembled of former UK disciples who are now locked-out NBAers 106-88 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Confusing connections? Certainly.
The Pros, a team name eligible to be sponsored by Bud Light in a college atmosphere, featured Wall, his former UK teammates Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins, along with Rajon Rondo, Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, and Nazr Mohammed. They started off with a burst of over-excelled activity, perhaps due to lockout inactivity. They’ve all played in other summertime Pro-AMs, but none of them like this, on a stage against legit, more consistent competition and in front of 24,000. Their desire to give the Rupp crowd a show was clear, but still with knowledge that it wasn’t going to be like their other individual forays into summer hoops, highlights of which courtesy of YouTube mix-videos.
The Dominican Republic team featured some pros themselves — Francisco Garcia, Al Horford, along with another guard familiar with Kentucky, Edgar Sosa, courtesy of time spent playing at the University of Louisville, with Garcia — and they didn’t come to tool around. The D.R. team had been working hard under Calipari’s tutelage for the last two weeks in Lexington. They preparing for international competition at the FIBA Americas tournament set to start in Argentina at the end of August.
When a key deadline trade goes down between a playoff team needing help and a non-playoff team needing to rebuild, most feel bad for the veteran going to the losing situation — Sasha Vujacic, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, Maurice “Mo” Evans come to mind from this season. The secondary consideration, partially because he’s going to that losing team, is the young player who would gladly trade riding the bench during a playoff run for a chance to suit up for a team going nowhere. Jordan Crawford got that and more when he went from Atlanta to Washington. He got off to a hot start with a new team that he wouldn’t give up on, even when hindered by a back injury. He got that treasured green light, which is rare, even for a lottery team. But what happens when that green light ends?
Crawford arrived in Washington at February’s trade deadline along with the 18th pick of the 2011 draft and a good veteran influence in Evans. In exchange, the Wizards gave up Kirk Hinrich (owed $8 million next season) and Hilton Armstrong. They also got the unexpected bonus of a money-saving buyout of Mike Bibby, who also came with Crawford and Evans from Atlanta. Because of a knee injury to Nick Young, he suddenly found himself going from the 12th or 13th man on the bench to full-time starter by his seventh game with the Wizards. He ended up starting his final 17 games in Washington, out of 26 total games with the team. The carefree Wizards bunch went a respectable 7-10 in those last 17 games, during which Crawford averaged 20 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists (to 3.1 turnovers), and 1.3 steals. Pretty impressive for the 27th pick of the 2010 draft.
Much more solid effort from the Wizards, let’s run down some bullet points on the Wiz Kids.
John Wall ran the show and set an early tone, getting five assists in the first quarter. He only got four assists for the rest of the game, coming short of a double-double with his 28 points. He really looked a lot more comfortable offensively, especially with his jump shot as the game progressed. It did not look deliberately nervous like against Orlando; he even hit a couple threes late in the game.More importantly, after starting 2-8 from the field, Wall hit us with a shot of cappuccino (what Ted Leonsis likened him too during an in-game recorded interview), and sparked his offense with 2:19 left in the third quarter. Including a free-throw Wall hit at the 3:01 mark in the third period , he scored the last 12 points of the quarter for the Wizards while Atlanta just scored six. The game was tied at 70 heading into the fourth.
Because of Wall, the Wizards stayed competitive. They were out-talented by the Hawks in the end behind efforts from Joe Johnson (25 points, but on 10-23 shooting) and Al Horford (an incredibly efficient 21 points on 6-10 shooting and 9-10 from the free-throw line). But Wall did live up to the “Game Changer” moniker the Wizards dubbed him with after the draft. With his 28 points, Wall got nine assists, only three turnovers, and five rebounds. Maybe we should open the Rookie of the Year award back up.
JaVale McGee stayed active, and that really needs to be what defines his game. He had a career-high seven blocks to go with seven points, eight rebounds, but five fouls and five turnovers. And I was just as curious as others as to why he wasn’t in at the end of the game to guard Al Horford instead of Yi Jianlian. However, it’s not like Yi did anything completely terrible (Horford hit a jumper in his face and went back door on him for a lob dunk in the last 2:19; Yi also sent him to the foul line with six seconds left) … Basically, McGee could have given up just as many points, but his length and athleticism can lead to more possessions.
The amount of possessions, mostly defense, that McGee still gets lost on is terribly frustrating. Plus, he really struggles in his ability to set screens. He picked up several fouls (and turnovers) by getting called for moving picks.
With Gilbert Arenas out and Kirk Hinrich forced to run the point, the Wizards’ offense really struggles. Some of this could be Hinrich, in that he’s not really an offensive threat (if he only was a more consistent shooter), and some of it could be what his teammates are doing. Point is, the team could really use the offensive threat of that Gilbert guy. Not to say that Hinrich won’t be running the point when Arenas is back playing and Wall is resting during a game, but you must wonder if the guy with the ball in his hands should be more of an offensive threat, and if Hinrich is best playing off of that.
Al Thornton looked great … and a guy motivated to keep his starting job. I’ve questioned Thornton a lot leading up to the season, but if he continues to make hustle plays and find offense closer to the basket, he’s going to get significant run. And mostly because those are things guys like Nick Young seem incapable of. Thornton had 24 points on 10-15 field goals to go with seven rebounds, four offensive.
Thornton took just four shots from beyond 16 feet and only made one of them. He made the two shots he took from 16 feet out. He took the remainder of his nine shots in the paint, making seven of them. Last year, 4.2 of Thornton’s nine field-goal attempts came from 16 feet and beyond.
Andray Blatche put up some numbers, but often didn’t look great in the process. He had 18 points on 9-19 shooting and didn’t earn a single trip to the free-throw line. He managed just seven rebounds in 34 minutes of play and had four turnovers. When he did manage to get into the paint on offense, he mostly shot fade-away jumpers. Blatche tried to post up a couple of times, but his actions are too slow and he’s not strong with the ball. Facing up right now doesn’t always benefit Blatche because he’s so out of shape.
Overall, his ultra-softness inside makes me really question whether the team should have signed him to an extension. John Wall may be the team’s savior … guess that would make Blatche like Angel Soft toilet paper. But for several more games, an unforeseen amount of time I supposes, we get to keep saying that Blatche is out of shape and that he’s “still young.” Great.
In terms of Blatche’s buddy, Nick Young, more than not, he doesn’t seem to have much contribution to the game. If he’s not scoring (because we know he’s not passing … he seems completely incapable of seeing the flow of the game develop, such as with about seven minutes left in the second quarter when Yi Jianlian was in perfect position to receive a pass on the re-post, but Young put his head down, dribbled a couple times and jacked up a shot). Young went 0-2 from the field with a block and a turnover in 11 total minutes.
Yi Jianlian had an okay game in that he hit some jumpers, but he only got one rebound in 24 minutes … pretty bad for the player I bragged could be the team’s best rebounder. You can tell he’s out there trying, and doesn’t look as lost as he’s been accused of in the past, but he’s also not the presence that one would hope a player of his size brings.
Ok, so we’ve scanned JaVale McGee’s barcode tat and concluded that on offense, when he tries to do things himself, he fares poorly. But when he plays with teammates, he excels. I’m slightly simplifying … yet combining both stats and my personal observations from watching him all year and coming to a more than reasonable conclusion.
Now, let’s scan again to see what we come up with for McGee from a defensive perspective.
It’s no secret that JaVale needs to gain strength. Some of that will come if he puts in the work. Some of that will come naturally as he fills into his long frame. He also needs to learn more discipline in realizing that he can play better defense AND still be an intimidating shot blocker while not being so ready to leave his feet.