Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 42nd game of the season at home against the Chicago Bulls are TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and guest Matt McHale (@bullsbythehorns), who writes about the Bulls for the ESPN TrueHoop blog Bulls by the Horns.
Wizards Starters (10-31):
John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
[A John Wall jumper, original picture via the Internets.]
“I never really had to use my jumper before,” John Wall told Kevin Van Valkenberg of ESPN The Magazine earlier this fall. ”I was so much better and faster than everyone, it didn’t matter.”
Welcome to the big leagues, Junior. Wall may have been the sixth-fastest player in NBA history to 2,000 points and 1,000 assists, but he’s not a top shelf NBA product. Not yet. ESPN’s NBA Rank project, which I participated in this season (here’s the full list of voters), ranked Wall as the 55th best player in the Association. He came in at No. 40 after after his rookie season.
Wall isn’t the fastest player, either. Not according to the 11th annual, and always entertaining, GM Survey on NBA.com. The survey asks every general manager (or team president) in the league to respond to 57 questions about the best teams, players, coaches, etc. GM’s are not allowed to vote for their own team or personnel.
The Washington Wizards talk about fourth quarter full-court pressure defense against Chicago, which helped make the 10 point loss a little more interesting, to say the least…
If anything, Randy Wittman has proven that he’s no Flip Saunders, past his own claims of the two being “polar opposites.” No, it’s not about wins and losses (beating the Bobcats twice? please), at least for the rest of this season. Yes, outcome is important and positive outcomes are nice, but ask a fan about winning or losing, and the Wizards can’t win. From moral victories to lottery losses to scoreboard reward, not many can be satisfied in this current state of four victories and 17 losses.
Wittman is willing to try more new things, starting Jan Vesely at the four over Andray Blatche for example. Or, down 78-63 to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night with nearly a quarter left to play, throwing a full court press after a Chicago timeout allowing Tom Thibodeau to insert M.V.P. point guard Derrick Rose back into the game. It’s not like Saunders didn’t reach deep into his bag of gimmicks, responsiveness from his players was clearly the issue.
“I was a little hesitant to really do what we did there in the fourth quarter,” said coach Randy Wittman at the end of the night, “because… [chuckles]… we hadn’t worked on it, but I said, ‘Let’s go, guys, we got one chance here to make this a ball game.’”
Washington responded immediately — with a unit of John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Nick Young, Trevor Booker, and JaVale McGee – racing to a 15-8 run in fewer than four minutes. Thanks to the pressure, the Wizards trimmed their deficit to eight points. A Nick Young three-pointer capped the comeback, with Wittman afterward stomping his feet all over the hardwood floor to remind Young to not bask in his offense, but rather to find the shooters and pressure as necessary. Chicago answered by finally breaking Washington’s full-court defense with ease, ending the Wizards run with a Carlos Boozer dunk, holding their lead at 88-78.
[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 21 contributors: Markus Allen (@mayminded), John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend), and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It).]
Derrick Rose had a tough Sunday against the Miami Heat. His team lost, and he missed two crucial free-throws with his Bulls down one point and 22 seconds left. He missed a potential game-tying jumper with three seconds left too. He took it kind of hard.
“I think of my legacy, I want people to think of me as being a clutch player,” said Rose before facing the Wizards in Washington the next night. “Someone that always comes through a majority of the time when they’re on the court, and yesterday it hurt a little bit, but I know it will help me in the long run.”
Rose was later asked if it’s hard to adjust, coming off a tough 97-93 loss like that on the road in Miami and into a road game the next night in another city.
Chicago Bulls in town, not the Charlotte Bobcats. Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton? Back for Chicago. Luol Deng? Out for a bit. Andray Blatche? Questionable. President Obama? Nope. The last time people expected Washington to lose this much (aside from pretty much all the time) was the Oklahoma City Thunder game. The Wizards somehow won that one. Chicago is favored by nine points on the road this evening. Should you get any ideas? Probably not. Chicago has the second best Defensive Rating in the NBA (97.4 points allowed per 100 possessions)… the Philadelphia 76ers are best (94.6 DRtg), and we all know how games against the Sixers work out for Washington. Nonetheless, let’s do the 3-on-3 drill… featuring Beckley Mason of HoopSpeak.com along with TAI’s John Converse Townsend and Kyle Weidie. Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Derrick Rose will be walking into the Verizon Center with the weight of Sunday night’s loss to the Miami Heat (partly due to his missed free throws) squarely on his shoulders. Not only will John Wall have to face off against a motivated Rose, but he’ll most likely have to face off again John Lucas, who had a career game against him on January 11 (25 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds — although backup Bulls PG CJ Watson, unavailable in the previous meeting between these two teams like Rose, is also back). Who has a better game tonight, Wall or Rose?
MASON: Rose has the better game because he’s the better player playing on the better team. Especially troubling for Wall, who struggles with turnovers in pick and roll sets, is that the Bulls play awesome, suffocating pick and roll defense. I think the only way Wall has the better game is if it becomes a real up-and-down contest.
TOWNSEND: John Wall has flirted with triple-doubles for the past month; the numbers might convince you that Wall will get lucky tonight. But then you remember that Wall’s career averages against Chicago are, well, average — 13.3 points and 4.3 turnovers. Reality sets in: It’s Derrick Rose, not Wall, with the No. 1 stitched on the back of his jersey, and it’s Rose who has learned to bend the laws of physics, and it’s Rose who wins the game.
Last night the Wizards won for the first time in nine months. Tonight, they try to win their first road game in 283 days, which is about nine months and a week, and which would also give Washington just their fourth road win in one year and nine months. And all and all, the Wizards haven’t won in Chicago in three years and nine months. Some oblvious gambling weirdo probably thinks Washington is due. In any case, the 1-8 Wizards play the 9-2 Bulls at 8 PM… Three questions, three answers with Rashad Mobley, John Converse Townsend and Kyle Weidie starts now…
#1) Chicago is tied with Oklahoma City with the best winning percentage in the NBA (.818, both 9-2), but they will also be playing in their third game in as many nights this evening, and M.V.P. Derrick Rose aggrivated a “turf toe” injury in a 111-100 win in Minnesota last night [UPDATE: Rose's turf toe is evidently bad enough to the point where he is likely out tonight and to the point where Chicago has signed former Wizard Mike James.]. Do the 1-8 Wizards, buzzing from their first win and a new starting lineup, even have a chance?
MOBLEY: I was too busy watching the Wizards win their first game to see the Bulls defeat the T-Wolves last night, but I did make it a point to read a recap from A Wolf Among Wolves. The Bulls jumped out to a lead, Ricky Rubio led a furious comeback, and then Rose shut it down. If Wall, Vesely, Booker and Singleton can bring that level of energy, perhaps the Bulls and a banged up Rose, won’t be able to muster a response after playing their third game in three nights.
TOWNSEND: Sure, the Wizards have a chance … until Tom Thibodeau’s defense punches them in the mouf. After the initial shock, the question becomes whether Washington can maintain its focus and counter. The Bulls will likely be standing on lifeless legs, a step slower in taking the floor on a third consecutive night, but the Wizards must again choose smart over swag to keep the game close. It won’t be easy: this year’s Bulls have allowed the fewest points (206) in their first three homes games since the start of the shot clock era.
Highlights of John Wall’s improved jump shot plus a mini-duel with Michael Beasley at “Clash of the Superstars” in Washington, D.C.
The NBA’s unofficial stand-in—this summer’s suite of pro-am games—have drawn basketball’s biggest names to the delight of frenzied crowds from Northeast Baltimore to Southeast Asia. The exhibitions have clearly meant something to the players, visible in celebrations after big plays as well as reactions to suspect officiating.
That wasn’t so much the case at Saturday’s showdown at Calvin Coolidge High School in northwest Washington, D.C. that featured John Wall, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Beasley, Jeff Green, Greg Monroe and Kemba Walker. Billed as “Clash of the Superstars,” the charity game had all of the star power but none of the flash; it was a sleepy affair that played more like the final run of a pickup game among friends—very little energy and even less defense.
Although the action on the court didn’t exactly rouse the sparse crowd, a few in attendance had high praise for Washington Wizards second-year point guard John Wall. I caught up with Goodman League commissioner Miles Rawls who talked about Wall’s “spectacular” summer, and explained that while pro-am competition doesn’t compare to the NBA, it’s still an important part of preseason preparation:
“You got to work on the summer stuff to get you ready for the season. His jump shot has progressed tremendously. The more I see him, the more he progresses; that’s the key thing, his jump shot. And I didn’t know he was that athletic, he’s athletic as I don’t know what. I see the progression and the work he’s been putting in. I’ve even seen the technique change on him. At first it was like a push shot, but now I see a lot of wrist in his shot. So whoever is working with him is doing a good job.”
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.