Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 28th game of the season against the Bulls in Chicago are TAI’s Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) and guest Braedan Ritter (@BullsbytheHorns), who writes about the Bulls for the ESPN TrueHoop blog Bulls By The Horns. Also check this By The Horns game preview where I contribute answers to the very same questions that Braedan answers below.
[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 10 contributors over television screen: Rashad Mobley,John Converse Townsend, and Kyle Weidie. Oh, and you can now find our stuff on Google+. Go ahead and circle Truth About It.]
In terms of winning percentage and shooting, two kind of big things in basketball, this lockout-shortened season could be rock-bottom for the rebuild of the Washington Wizards. And in terms of record books and scoring, it is. They scored 64 points tonight against Chicago, a franchise all-time low, to 78 points for the Bulls. The previous Washington franchise low was 65 points scored in an away game against the New Jersey Nets on December 13, 2002.
The Wizards shot 31-percent from the field on Wednesday in Chicago, at least they shot 36.6-percent that night in New Jersey — and Michael Jordan and Larry Hughes were chucking up shots (14-34 FGs, 31 points combined) instead of Jordan Crawford and Nick Young (6-23 FGs, 19 points combined).
Speaking of Young and Crawford, their shooting and passing stats this year:
>Crawford is shooting 33.3% from the field
while averaging 17.9 FGAs per 36 minutes as well as 3.6 assists/36.
In the seeming eyes of fans, media, Internet trolls and bar room sports pundits, Ernie Grunfeld should lie awake in his bed at night, restless over what to do with the sixth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Wizards slipped two whole spots from where they finished the season to achieve No. 6 on Tuesday night, and the team president of basketball operations better put it to good use.
But it’s not all about this draft and this pick, it’s about the move behind the move which begets two more moves. Grunfeld should be up late into the evening, but not because he’s worried for his job, because he’s doing his homework. Because he and his team are adapting their creativity. Because he must be able to assess players beyond skills and exhaust trust in analysis to the statistical end. Because of course the pressure is still on.
A look across the NBA landscape yields a wide set of diverse circumstances: Aging dynasties, teams close to the next level, teams looking to rebuild, teams wondering where to go, and teams searching for how. Each of these situations must be ready to adapt to what will be a drastically different structure on the other side of the NBA’s pending labor issue.
With hype mounting for the 2011 draft, albeit a deemed weak one, as the last fun act of the league before the current CBA expires on June 30, beads of sweat may develop on Grunfeld’s brow due to the spotlight. But with a relatively secure position to manage the Wizards generally – likely for the next two seasons — it will be all about how Grunfeld can use a post-lockout environment to Washington’s advantage.
John Wall’s vision and speed are the main reasons Flip Saunders knew he would be drafted No. 1 overall by the Washington Wizards this past summer. Everybody else obviously knew it too, or there wouldn’t have been a Sports Science study done on him. Still, amidst all the Wizards’ struggles, it’s been easy to forget the positives of just how good Wall really is.
Wall has hit bumps in the road while learning the NBA game, but that’s certainly to be expected. His brief “rookie wall” can mostly be attributed to nagging foot, knee and left hand injuries. But after missing 12 games in a 19-game stretch from November 16 to December 22, Wall has appeared in 41 straight games since. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder last week, an incredible play from Wall as he blew past Serge Ibaka caught my eye and reminded me that hey, the Wizards may not be very good but at least we’ve got John Wall to watch.
Ibaka should be familiar with Wall. They were both at All-Star weekend, playing against one another in the Rookie Challenge. Wall ran the floor all night, recorded a Rookie Challenge-record 22 assists and helped JaVale McGee outdo Ibaka in the Slam Dunk Contest, despite Serge’s toy-snatching, role model-acting, free-throw jumping first round. And yes, Ibaka is quite an athletic player. He’s become a perfect fit for Oklahoma City’s youthful and energetic style of play.
For a quick sequence on March 14, as Wall sprinted with the ball past Ibaka, the Thunder big man probably wished he hadn’t been so eager to play defense. Maybe he should have let the rook roam free or wait for his teammate Russell Westbrook, who was having his way with Wall all game long. Instead, Serge took himself out of the play by getting spun around by Wall, and awakening fans inside the Verizon Center in the process. Good thing for Ibaka that Mr. Durant was there to hush the crowd soon thereafter.
As Kyle Weidie wrote yesterday, Lester Hudson has returned to D.C. from the South for his second tour of duty with the Washington Wizards. The injury of John Wall and the trade of Gilbert Arenas meant there was a void at the point guard position, and Hudson was a safe, logical choice. He was with the team from the Las Vegas Summer League in July all the way up until November 22nd, when he was cut in favor of Alonzo Gee.
Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was also a member of the Washington Wizards as an assistant coach in 2007, albeit briefly, if you can even call it that. It was announced by the team, but never official. Thibodeau agreed to be an assistant coach in charge of defense under then-head coach Eddie Jordan, then a few days later he stepped down and ended up with the Boston Celtics, where he was a part of their 2007-08 championship team. Allegedly, Thibodeau was under the impression that he would be lead assistant coach under Eddie Jordan, and when it became apparent that he would not be, he bailed.
Through the first six months of the 2009-2010 season, Hudson and Thibodeau saw each other just about every day, as the Celtics drafted Hudson in the second round of the 2009 draft. With them, he appeared in just 16 games, averaging 1.4 points in 4.4 minutes per contest. Still, as an assistant coach, Thibodeau got a chance to watch Hudson practice and battle Rajon Rondo on a daily basis, and apparently Hudson made quite the impression.
Here were Thibodeau’s thoughts on Hudson before last night’s game:
In his Washington Wizards debut, Rashard Lewis performed about as expected for a 31-year-old 3-point-shooting wing player who just got traded from a championship contender to a rebuilding team. In 22 minutes off the bench, Lewis scored eight points on 4-for-10 shooting (0-for-5 from 3) with three rebounds, one block, an assist, two turnovers and five fouls.
The biggest challenge for Flip Saunders is how to integrate Lewis into a team that’s also just welcoming Josh Howard back into the mix after offseason knee surgery. Saunders is not only getting to teach his young team — a lot — but he’s also getting to experiment.