When Washington and Toronto matched-up in Canada last Friday night, Amir Johnson of the Raptors came off the bench to score 18 points and grab 13 rebounds in a 106-89 win over the Wizards. ”They’re making him look like an All-Star,” someone probably said, also noting that this Washington franchise has seemed peculiarly deft doing so over the years. During my time following the team since 1990, nights like Johnson’s certainly don’t seem like an anomaly. But just how good is Washington at making otherwise mediocre opponents look like All-Stars? And how does Washington compare to other teams?
Since Johnson is the subject, I wanted someone who has scored at least 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds off the bench. Certainly a guard could look like an All-Star with 17 points and 8 assists off the bench, as would a non-starter scoring 25 points in a reserve role (ignoring other stats), but I eliminated them for this particular exercise. Also, you could certainly have a no-name starter put up All-Star stats, but assuming he’s starting with other quality talent, his success is somewhat dimmed. A bench player it is.
The player’s team has to win the game. Because All-Stars, or at least All-Star efforts, always are victorious, right? (No, not right, but just another factor of elimination for this post.)
Continued success in team sports is achieved through sacrifice; the best squads accept this, understanding that individual achievements must sometimes be tabled for the betterment of the team—roll tape of Michael Jordan deferring to Steve Kerr in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals.
When great players are unwilling to make sacrifices, Jordan has confessed, individual goals and accolades are even tougher to achieve. So why do the stubborn Wizards, selfish by self-description, refuse to play team basketball? The better question asks what can be done to change their approach.
The answer might surprise you: ramp up competition for individual rewards.
Andray Blatche is out 3-5 weeks with a strained left calf muscle, Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman announced prior to tonight’s game. In the locker room a couple hours before facing the Chicago Bulls, John Wall spoke with the media about life, for the time being, without ‘Dray.
Q: How do you replace Blatche’s points?
WALL: “Look for Jan [Vesely], Book [Trevor Booker], Kevin [Seraphin], and each of those guys to step up in that role and play the four position… Just do the best they can. We’re not telling them to be ‘Dray [Blatche], but just be the player they is and do the right thing to help us out. You’re going to lose a lot of points from ‘Dray, but you can bring out the assets on the defensive end with the other guys. So they can still help us.”
Q: How does the offense change without the skill set Blatche provides as a big man?Read more »
[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 20 contributors: Adam McGinnis, Rashad Mobley and Kyle Weidie.]
[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 19 contributors: Sam Permutt, John Converse Townsend and Kyle Weidie.]
I have a confession to make: I have booed Andray Blatche. I’m not proud of it, but it happened.
It was a Friday night, and the Washington Wizards, coming off an improbable 105-102 win over Kevin Durant and the Thunder, were hosting the Denver Nuggets. Having won just two games all year, the wretched Wizards were good for a cheap punchline or two every few hours. But they weren’t just the butt of jokes; all-knowing pundits smelled blood in the water and gnashed their teeth in response — even those who had previously supported the Wizards.
“So they don’t have that much talent,” said a presumably well-layered Michael Wilbon on the Scott Van Pelt Show; the very same Wilbon who once maintained the Wizards were on the right track to march deep into the playoffs.
Advice? “Be yourself,” said Randy Wittman after winning in his Wizards head coaching debut on Wednesday. But did the Wizards players need a new voice? “I’m just here,” said Nick Young, while teammate Andray Blatche’s response was, “I can’t honestly say that we needed a new voice, we just needed… somebody to actually check us like Wittman did.” And the erudite JaVale McGee? “Whatever [Ernie Grunfeld] explained was the reason why he fired Flip, was the reason that he fired Flip.”
The Wizards? They still don’t know what they want, or who they are, or if their new coach is going to slap the proverbial taste of nicotine out their mouths. It’s like the rest of this season is an in-game training camp. The Wizards were already a statistically fast-paced team under Flip Saunders… Screw that, says Randy Wittman (paraphrasing here)… I’m going to run you guys even more. And at that… John Wall, the fastest athlete? Well, I’m going to call him out for conditioning (along with Nick Young) and sub them back into a game really, really late during a blowout. ”Be hard on the leader and the rest will follow,” is presumed to be Wittman’s interim idea, as I wrote on ESPN’s Daily Dime about this latest new change with the Washington franchise.
The Wizards said WHAT? Well, that’s what they said. Randy Wittman, Nick Young, John Wall, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Rashard Lewis speak on it in the video above.
[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 18 contributors: Adam McGinnis, Arish Narayen and Kyle Weidie.]
Washington Wizards power forward Andray Blatche has never been considered a high riser, but he is a legit 6’11″ with super lanky arms. This season Blatche’s subpar vertical is more noticeable than ever, and he consistently struggles to finish from close range. According to HoopData.com, Blatche is shooting a career-low 58-percent at the rim (31-53). Against the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night, he attempted a season-high nine field-goals at the basket, but missed four of them. This is why Andray’s one-hand power slam last Sunday on Jermaine O’Neal of the Boston Celtics created so many “Woah, did that really just happen?” reactions. Enter opposing power forward Tyrus Thomas of the Bobcats and his 469 career blocks. You’re probably getting a feeling where this is headed.
Thomas tallied nine swats against the Wizards last night, five of them came at Andray’s expense. Thomas’s block party on Blatche sparked cascades of hometown boos upon the maligned Wizard, a commonplace in the Verizon Center these days. Even though Blatche ended up with a solid performance — 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and only one turnover while sitting out the entire 4th quarter in Washington’s 92-75 victory — most fans will remember how ‘Dray looked like a 45-year old trying to jump, not a 25-year old.
Thomas nearly recorded a triple-double, which impressed Charlotte head coach Paul Silas. The NBA veteran who played in 1,254 career games and coached 828 then referenced a famous one-liner of a former GOP Presidential contender when talking about Thomas’ night:
“I thought it was 9, 9, 9 on this thing right here [final box score]… talk about Herman Cain, but it was actually nine, nine, thirteen. He scored thirteen points and nine blocks and nine rebounds. That is pretty awesome.”
This won’t be any easier for you than it is for us.
What you are about to read is a hypothetical conversation between a representative of the player personnel management of the Washington Wizards and of the San Antonio Spurs. Those representatives could be Ernie Grunfeld and R.C. Burford, they could be anyone. Their roles are, however, played by Kyle Weidie of Truth About It.net and Tim Varner of TrueHoop Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell. Their conversation is about Andray Blatche.
MONDAY, JANUARY 16
[The Spurs are currently 9-3, having beaten the Phoenix Suns at home by 11 on Sunday; the Wizards are 1-11, having lost to the Philadelphia for the second time in a row on Saturday.]