When the final obituary of the 2011-12 Washington Wizards season is written, the opening night collapse vs the New Jersey Nets must be highlighted for its symbolic importance. On the surface, it seems silly that first contest of a 66 game schedule would have such significance, but after the Wizards blew a 21 point lead to the Nets that evening, the self-proclaimed “Captain,” Andray Blatche, complained about his role in the offense. The blowout losses immediately piled up, the head coach was soon fired, two starters were shipped away, another (Blatche himself) was shut down for being out of shape, and now here we sit in early April and the Wizards have only 12 wins with 11 games remaining. Washington handled the Nets 108-89 easily in Nene’s debut, and Deron Williams was tossed for arguing with the refs. I doubt tonight’s match up will produce any of those interesting storylines from the previous two match ups, but it will be Washington’s last game in New Jersey ever with the Nets moving to Brooklyn next season. For tonight’s Wizards-Nets 3-on-3, we have Justin DeFeo (@justindefeo) and Chris Hooker (@chrishooker9) from the ESPN TrueHoop blog, Nets Are Scorching and Truth About It’s Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Washington and New Jersey have cap room to make free agent splashes along with a potential high pick in a loaded NBA draft. What team would you rather be and why?
DEFEO: I’d rather be the Wizards for the sole reason that their “cornerstone” franchise pieces are not going to be unrestricted free agents, as that’s the situation the Nets are facing. The Wiz also don’t have the pressure of moving to a brand new major media market, like the Nets have which I fear is making the Nets front office look for grand slams at every turn, instead of singles.
HOOKER: As bleak as the future is for my team, I’d still rather be the Nets. We may have struck out on some big name superstars, proven we don’t have capable Plan B’s and been a headache to watch over the years, but there is still some hope. Brooklyn is coming for real this time, we have a top-tier point guard and, whether or not they fall flat on their face, ownership is definitely committed to winning. The possibilities are endless, regardless how likely I think they are.
[Versus the Wizards, Deron Williams takes the double screen and dribbles in an 'S'
around the hedging defense as the four rolls and options open at the hoop.]
The ball screen defense of the Wizards against the New Jersey Nets was sub par, to say the least. Also, Deron Williams is good. Nothing new.
“He just comes off pick and rolls good, and if the big is not there to show or help, he can pick you apart any type of way,” said John Wall when asked what made Williams so hard to defend. “He started making tough, contested shots, and when an All-Star player like that starts making tough, contested shots, there’s nothing you can do.”
[Editor's Note: What was formerly the "Rundown" in the preseason is now 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. For the season opener, in addition to my first-hand game coverage, we have two guest contributors, Gregg Cobert and Sam Permutt. More on both of them at the bottom of this post. -Kyle W.]
The Washington Wizards open the season at home versus the New Jersey Nets this evening. Seems weird that it’s already here. Even after all that lockout deliberation, it kind of crept up on me. It’s a quiet December 26 Monday in D.C., and that has something to do with it. But I’m now more realizing that tonight is like a starting gun, once this game is played there will be no looking back. Three questions from Adam McGinnis, new dad Rashad Mobley, and myself, Kyle Weidie… and three answers from those same people. This is 3-on-3… Leggo.
Adam McGinnis: Kris Humphries was noted as the most disliked player in the NBA by Forbes.com, and was booed relentlessly in his preseason debut at Madison Square Garden. How do you think Wizards fans will treat him in the season opener?
McGINNIS: Kim Kardashian’s well documented record of public manipulation should bring the brunt of public contempt on her, not a random NBA forward like Kris Humphries. However, Team Kardashian’s campaign to make Kim the victim and Humprhies the evil one is showing prosperous signs. J.J. Reddick, Lebron James and Kwame Brown are all opposing players that the Wizards home crowd loves to boo (sans Blatche of course); Humphries’s situation lacks the circumstance of those three, so I seeing Wiz fans ignoring his existence.
MOBLEY: Humphries will certainly be booed, but only because D.C. fans saw New York Knicks fans do it first. This, of course, is assuming tonight’s Verizon Center crowd will be large enough to summon that type of emotion.
It seems that the Wizards lost a tough 127-119 double-overtime game to the Los Angeles Clippers last night. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch live, and unfortunately, the DVR was not set to record that much extra basketball. Still, that won’t preclude me from studying the portions of the game I was able to record tonight.
“They’re hurt in there,” Flip Saunders told the media after the game. It can’t hurt for too long, however, because not one of the remaining 12 games on the season will be easy. And the 17-51 Wizards need three more wins so as not to tie franchise records for losing futility in an 82-game slate. Getting to 20 wins is, however, unlikely.
It’s conceivable that Washington’s 98-92 win over the New Jersey Nets at home last Sunday will be their last of the season. Sure, they’ll have good chances to score Verizon Center wins over Cleveland (April 1) and Detroit (April 5), or even their second road win in the last game of the season versus the Cavaliers (April 13), but why not throw a bit of pessimism in the bag with optimism and realism?
Because as much positivity that was pumped after that good win over the Nets — as it should be — there were also some glaring issues, ones that have been seen many times before, which really must come to a halt before the team can proceed with winning in the future. The same issues likely kept the Wizards from winning against the Clippers, even though they hung tough til the end. So let’s start with JaVale McGee versus the Nets…
Gilbert Arenas’ tenure as a Washington Wizard, on the court and off, will be remembered in a variety of ways. Some long ago formed a set opinion of him, even before the gun incident. For others, that incident tainted his legacy in D.C. forever. Some choose to mostly remember the fun Gil, the one who hit game-winning shots, led his team to wins, and blogged in a fun manner about it all. Still others, such as myself, continue to digest the meaning of his time with the team, and all the extras.
It’s been done before to certain degrees and from certain angles, and yet there is still plenty of time to further contemplate Arenas and the Wizards. But tonight, as Gilbert makes his first return to Washington as a member of the Orlando Magic, it’s time to look back upon his last official act as a Wizard — his last game against the New Jersey Nets on December 16, 2010 — and how the curiosity of his actions, and subsequent loss, is somewhat fitting, also representing just a small decomposing piece amongst the last ruins of a construction project that ultimately failed to get past the second round of the playoffs. We can’t all be champions, and that’s okay … and which is why we seek memories of good and bad otherwise.
The deal wouldn’t have occurred without the approval of Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, who had been adamant since the summer that Arenas wasn’t “going anywhere.” Leonsis shot down a rumor a few weeks before, expressing support for Arenas.
The New Jersey Nets had a road record of 3-16 going into last night’s game against Washington, and although that is not quite as bad as the 0-17 road record the Wizards are sporting, it still is not something to be proud of at all. Avery Johnson might not have been able to coach his team to a successful road record, but prior to the game, he laid out a blueprint on how it could be done:
Each game brings countless stories, instances and things to digest. The Wizards’ 97-77 win over the New Jersey Nets on Friday night was no exception. Surely you’ll hear about the team learning from a battle between buffalo and lions shown to them by Flip Saunders, or about Rashard Lewis’ compete game (16 points on 5-11 shooting, 3-6 from three, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals, a block and zero turnovers), or about Nick Young tying his career high five assists, or John Wall’s nine assists to zero turnovers, or JaVale McGee’s five blocks in the first half (six on the night), or the Wizards’ jovial pre-game routine and loose attitude in the midst of losing. Anything of the sort, in multitudes. But I’m here to talk about our friend Andray Blatche.
It’s a simple game … or at least it can be. And for all the transgressions we may point out about Blatche, and deservedly so, sometimes you got to point out the good things he does. And maybe we should get extra excited about Blatche doing the simple, little things. These are the small victories with him … something to believe in (even though, let’s be honest, at this point there’s no reason not to believe that the feeling could be fleeting). Nonetheless, through roller coaster haircuts and radio air-clearings with Mike Wise, let’s take a look at couple photos I took during the Wizards-Nets game that highlight something rather simple from Mr. Blatche.
Blatche certainly seems to be setting a good screen here … he doesn’t have a reputation of always doing so, at least according to Gilbert Arenas’ departing critique of the Wizards’ big men. But then again, who can believe what Arenas says?
With 9:15 left in the fourth quarter, the Wizards were in the midst of an unlikely comeback against the sloppy New Jersey Nets. It wouldn’t be enough, but this play gave the Washington faithful hope that Gilbert and Hinrich’s heroics would be enough to put them over the top.
I like this play for the Wizards because it came out of structured early offense. Washington doesn’t really have the personnel to get consistent high percentage looks against set half-court defenses. However, during the secondary break, the semi-structured moments between the fast break and a called play, the Wizards’ athleticism and speed can be effective. This particular secondary break “set” came off of a free throw situation, so it’s almost certainly something Flip signalled from the bench to get a quick bucket.
The play itself is a relatively simple action that isn’t all that deceptive. However, because the Nets are in transition, they are out of position just enough to yield an open three when Hinrich attacks the middle of the paint.