The ever-turning world of the Los Angeles Lakers comes to the District tonight, fresh off an overtime loss in Detroit last night. You think Kobe and Co. will be motivated to take care of business? Otherwise, Washington’s Nick Young will be showing off in front of his hometown team, and former Maryland Terp Steve Blake will once again be returing home, in a sense. Hey, did you know that in the 2011 calendar year, the Wizards and Lakers did not play each other? That’s the first time the two teams have gone a year without a matchup since forever (dating back to when the Washington franchise was known as the Chicago Packers in ’61-62). Note: This happened because both WAS-LAL games in the 2010-11 season came in December 2010. The last time the Wizards beat the Lakers in Washington came on December 26, 2005… that’s like 2,263 days ago. For today’s 3-on-3, we have Andy Kamenetzy from ESPN Los Angeles’ Land O’ Lakers blog (@ESPNLandOLakers), along with TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20) and John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) The Lakers weren’t able to slow down Pistons PG Rodney Stuckey, who gashed LA’s defense for 34 points in a Detroit overtime win last night. It looks like an opportunity for John Wall to live up to his “Game Changer” moniker. What would have a bigger impact for the Wizards: 20-plus points or 10-plus assists from Wall?
[Remember when Nyjer Morgan, former Washington National and current Milwaukee Brewer, showed up at a Wizards game, in the tickets the team provided him, while wearing Warriors gear? We do. Photo: A. McGinnis]
The Golden State Warriors come to Washington this evening. And no, Andray Blatche, Kwame Brown is not playing to soak up boos from the D.C. crowd that might be otherwise directed toward you… because he is hurt. The Warriors announced in mid-January that Brown would miss around three-months of action due to surgery needed to repiar a torn pectoral muscle. Otherwise, between John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, there should be plenty of action and excitement to put the “U-N” back in ”F Street,” at least for this night. For today’s 3-on-3 we have J.M. Poulard (@ShyneIV) of ESPN TrueHoop blog WarriorsWorld.net, along with TAI’s Sam Permutt (@SammyVert) and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) The Golden State Warriors are rumored to be heavy suitors for JaVale McGee, with the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that they are more likely to pursue McGee in restricted free-agency this summer rather than through a trade this season. Golden State has David Lee tied up for 4-years, $57 million after this season; Monta Ellis for 2-years, $22 million (ETO for 2013-14); and Andris Biedrins for 2-years, $18 million (ETO for 2013-14) [salary info via Sham Sports]. Knowing they might have to give money to other young players in the near future, such as Stephen Curry, how much can the Warriors afford to offer McGee so that the Wizards don’t match?
Wizards wins are starting to feel like buying a $5 lottery scratch ticket and winning a dollar back.Hey, a dollar! I won! Yea, but I invested five. No, this feeling doesn’t involve tanking for lottery balls, as getting upset with wins that hurt chances doesn’t matter to me. Although, not relishing in the loss doesn’t necessarily mean my apathy toward the Wizards winning has nothing to do with the fact that it might help. Essentially, I want winning when it matters. This season, it doesn’t. That said, close losses due to low-IQ basketball plays or blowouts due to the absence of hustle are disturbances. Emotion is involved.
Then comes the difference between me having a rooting interest in the Washington pro basketball franchise, versus covering the team, versus the players and personnel who are stopping through at this point in time. Beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-98 on Saturday night was good for them, especially the players. Locker rooms after losses can be fractured, and it goes past what the media sees. Some of us have been apart of this on various levels. Winning unites in more unspoken words than a picture. Good-natured locker room scenes provide much needed boosts to morale, on top of being a reward for the hard basketball work.
The Washington Wizards since the All-Star break, now with one win and two losses, have put on more consistent displays of good basketball, especially the sharing part. The 26 assists against Cleveland is tied for the second most this season (21.7 assist average in the last three games, up from 17.7 before the break). Shooters are finding open shots, percentages are up (eFG% in last three games at 0.502, was 0.456 pre-All-Star break). Plus, partially thanks to Roger Mason and Mo Evans, they are making more 3-pointers — 27 team 3-pointers (12 from Mason and Evans) in the past three games represents 15.3-percent of the season’s total. The Wizards still show bad habits, drop packs of cigarettes on the floor as Randy Wittman says, and are still susceptible to being “fragile,” as Flip Saunders used to say.
Where they will go with the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, at San Antonio Spurs and at Dallas Mavericks as the next five games on the schedule (followed by four more games of a six-game road trip), we will see. But at least on this Saturday night, the pendulum of locker room moods, personality, and clowning swung to the home side of the Verizon Center. The Wiz Kids felt a little better about themselves, and that’s a good thing. They needed it. Six game losing streaks get old. But the suits, they can always be new, just as long as they don’t smell like cigarette smoke.
In going down 102-95 to an Orlando Magic team that appears to be suffering from mental fatigue due to uncertain cohesiveness, at least the Washington Wizards looked better at losing than they have in the past. Similar to the second half of the Milwaukee game, Randy Wittman opted to keep Nick Young and JaVale McGee benched in favor of a starting lineup of John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin. And while this unit struggled out of the gate, they did their jobs and stayed mostly within themselves.
Certainly there were mistakes. Furthermore, missed shots. All to be expected from young team making an earnest attempt while lacking size against a specimen like Dwight Howard and shot-makers who can be trusted to not disrupt the offense. Crawford caught fire with 14 points in the third quarter to go with four assists, giving him a hand in most of the Wizards’ 29 points scored in the period to Orlando’s 25. Once trailing by 17 points in the first half, Washington was down just 71-70 heading into the final 12 minutes. Unfortunately Crawford got cold in the fourth and went 0-for-6 from the field.
But John Wall picked up the slack. He scored 10 straight points for Washington after a timeout at the 10:27 mark of the last quarter when the Wizards were down 79-71. Wall capped his efforts with an assist to Mo Evans for a 3-pointer; it was a 13-4 run that tied the game at 83 with 6:56 left. But back-to-back threes by Orlando’s Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson after a Magic timeout at the 6:34 mark helped bury Washington. A long Nelson offensive rebound resulting in a Hedo Turkoglu 3-pointer that put the Magic up 100-91 with 1:32 left served as the dagger. But the point is that the Wizards fought, as a team, and with strong contributions from Booker, Singleton and a handful of others in addition to Wall and Crawford.
[We've posted this before, but why not again? ... Patrick Ewing enjoying a pre-game Pop Tart.]
On any given night, you can turn on SportsCenter and hear the names JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard. McGee gets mentioned for his dazzling dunks and puzzling basketball decisions, and Howard, with his looming free agency sprinkled in with 20 point/20 rebound performances, is equally good ESPN fodder. Even as the Wizards and Magic prepare to face off for the third time this season, the names McGee and Howard are very much in the NBA news cycle. McGee was benched during the second half of last night’s game against Milwaukee, and trade rumors with Howard’s name seem to be picking up steam. To get you ready for that and much more, Eddy Rivera (@erivera7) from the Orlando Magic ESPN TrueHoop blog MagicBasketball.net, and both Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20) and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from Truth About It, will give you three answers to three questions…
#1) Who has the tougher coaching job the second half of the season: Stan Van Gundy, who will have to endure “The Dwight Howard Situation” much like George Karl had to do with Carmelo Anthony last year? Or Randy Wittman, who is the coach of 7-27 team that has no shot of even sniffing the playoffs?
Numbers, stats and ratings that help define the Washington Wizards season thus far… John Wall’s ability to find offense at the rim (and finish); the Wizards’ ability, as a team, to shoot and pass to each other at certain points of the game; and Truth About It.net’s on-going DC Council 3-Star player ratings for each game.
JOHN WALL at the rim.
Wall’s offense is finishing at the rim, so let’s check on how he’s doing and who he compares to.