["What he did? Told them he cut his eye ... in sparring." -Wu-Tang Clan, Bells of War]
I kept telling myself, evenTweeting, when Miami was looking like unstoppable beasts for all but about seven minutes of NBA Finals game two, “Is Dallas the type of team you don’t want to let hang around?”
Of course they are. The Mavs are a unit well-versed in veteran composure, lest they would have had a seven game series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. But Miami isn’t Oklahoma, in so many senses.
Late in the game, after countless amazing dunks with little defensive resistance, Miami finally pulled away and took an 88-73 lead on a Dwayne Wade three. After nailing the shot near Dallas’ bench, Wade held his follow through and slowly walked toward his own bench, as Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had called a timeout. LeBron came over to give Wade celebratory chest jabs.
When a key deadline trade goes down between a playoff team needing help and a non-playoff team needing to rebuild, most feel bad for the veteran going to the losing situation — Sasha Vujacic, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, Maurice “Mo” Evans come to mind from this season. The secondary consideration, partially because he’s going to that losing team, is the young player who would gladly trade riding the bench during a playoff run for a chance to suit up for a team going nowhere. Jordan Crawford got that and more when he went from Atlanta to Washington. He got off to a hot start with a new team that he wouldn’t give up on, even when hindered by a back injury. He got that treasured green light, which is rare, even for a lottery team. But what happens when that green light ends?
Crawford arrived in Washington at February’s trade deadline along with the 18th pick of the 2011 draft and a good veteran influence in Evans. In exchange, the Wizards gave up Kirk Hinrich (owed $8 million next season) and Hilton Armstrong. They also got the unexpected bonus of a money-saving buyout of Mike Bibby, who also came with Crawford and Evans from Atlanta. Because of a knee injury to Nick Young, he suddenly found himself going from the 12th or 13th man on the bench to full-time starter by his seventh game with the Wizards. He ended up starting his final 17 games in Washington, out of 26 total games with the team. The carefree Wizards bunch went a respectable 7-10 in those last 17 games, during which Crawford averaged 20 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists (to 3.1 turnovers), and 1.3 steals. Pretty impressive for the 27th pick of the 2010 draft.
When LeBron James complains about fouls, it’s not about his size, as he would gladly have you believe. Neither is it about there being a presumed double-standard from imposing basketball specimens like himself and Dwight Howard. Sure, there are reasons to take notice, but let’s be honest, it’s about politicking through the gladly willing media.
Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra after Wednesday night’s game versus the Wizards:
“He absorbs a lot more contact than people realize. He’s big and tough enough that he shrugs it off. But you go in there and see him in the locker room, and he’s got ice on pretty much every part of his body.”
So do 5’11″ guards who live in the lane. So do a lot of NBA players. It’s a tough game. And when someone like LeBron, who has the sixth highest usage rate in the NBA at 31.4-percent, gladly uses his abnormal physique to gain an advantage, it certainly is going to feel like he’s being handled more physically, at least to him. But it’s all relative.
On Tuesday night, the Miami Heat went to Cleveland and were soundly defeated by the Cavaliers, 102-90. LeBron James had a triple-double with 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Dwyane Wade had 24 points and Mike Bibby chipped-in 23 points–his most as a member of the Heat. Unfortunately, Chris Bosh (10 points, four rebounds and a team-worst plus/minus of minus-24) was a non-factor, and the Heat allowed the Cavs to shoot 55-percent from the field and 52-percent behind the arc.
After the game, Heat coach Erik Spolestra was not at all pleased.
We (I/you/us/them) have found cause to critique JaVale McGee to a high degree this season. It’s just when you combine immense talent and potential with a seeming unwillingness to learn and/or an inability to grow in basketball IQ, the way of the world is done an injustice without an honest assessment.
So, when McGee finally does “put it together,” also known as when he stops doing stupid things (like JaVale’s dribbles), you’ll appreciate how much he’s grown even more. All of this could be a bunch of bull to make myself feel better about my criticism. It also could be an “it is what it is” situation*.
The Wizards want JaVale McGee on that line, they need him on that line. They need him to get better because in totality, his improvement this season has been a slight disappointment. But rebuilding time is time afforded to go through these frustrations. So it’s all good … as long as McGee kicks butt this summer.
He’s done a lot better lately. One day he could be consistently amazing to watch. Oh the day dreams. Although, his mere five rebounds in 36 minutes against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night stands out from the 15.3 boards he averaged in the previous four games (on the road against the LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz). The quality of the opponent should be considered, but McGee still made his presence felt against the Heat, in the form of sweet, sweet blocks.
There were times last night when it seemed like the torso and arms of recent Wizards D-League call up Othyus Jeffers formed into a mouth to gobble up missed shots in mid-flight. I imagined the ball clenched by massive teeth, unable to be relinquished, but somehow spit out cleanly to continue play, Wizards possession. I wasn’t hallucinating.
My mind was curious about the perception. How exactly was the unassuming stature of Jeffers — listed at a very generous 6’5” and weighing in at a 200 lbs. that unfairly masks his strength — able to gulp down rebounds so commandingly against the juggernaut Miami Heat?
DVR has made me selfish against real-life action. I wished I was at home watching the Wizards play the Heat on television and not sitting baseline taking photographs. No, I wouldn’t really give up one of the best seats in the house, but that didn’t keep me from wanting to quench instant gratification with a film study in the art of rebounding.
Jeffers finished with 15 points on 6-7 shooting and eight rebounds, both career highs, in 29 minutes off the bench against Miami. The bad guys, or bandwagon drivers, beat the Wizards 123-107, but the game was much more competitive than the score indicates.
Before San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich led his team against the Washington Wizards on Saturday night, and as his players were coming off an uncharacteristic loss to the Philadelphia 76ers the night before, I asked him if it was a situation where he’d rather play the very next night.
“Exactly. That’s always one of the great things we all talk about in the NBA, because another game’s coming pretty quickly. Even if it’s back-to-back, you’d rather get to the next game and play and forget the one you just were so horrible in,” the coach said.
After getting poked and prodded like worn leather by the Spurs, the Wizards found them in the same situation, on a flight to Cleveland not only with the motivation of ending a 0-25 road record on the season, but also with the bad taste of poor effort spread on their breakfast toast. The Australians call it vegemite.
Well, they did it. February 13 was long ago marked as a facetious scenario for the Wizards to get their first road win — against Antawn Jamison, in front of a Cleveland crowd previously ingrained to boo the Wiz a little more than other teams, and with a nice number like 25 straight road losses, 26 dating back to last season. With life’s little symmetry in tow, of course Washington won 115-100 on Sunday evening. Ted Leonsis should be dancing, but we’ll get him doing the “Dougie” for another reason.
“My responsibility is to help craft a team that is a winner and is built to last. We have to make an environment that is great for our fans and for our players and for our partners. […] I have been unabashed in noting that we have to rebuild around our core of young players. We will suffer though a lot of pain but we will be stronger for it. The rebuild will take along [sic] time for us to get to where we want to be – an elite team. Building a truly special team has lots of risk – in any fashion imaginable.”
[UPDATE: Or not ... seems like the President won't be in attendance now, and Arenas has likely been traded to Orlando for Rashad Lewis. "Great."]
The Miami Heat make their way down to D.C. from New York to play the Wizards tonight. I imagine the atmosphere will be slightly different from Madison Square Garden, in terms of expressed fan affection for the home team. Surely many will be showing up more so to boo LeBron James, the energy from which, however, could certainly lead to more cheers for the Wizards. Then again, I will be curious to see how many adoring screams there are for LeBron and Dwyane Wade reigning down from the rafters. Seems like there will be plenty in this city of transient sports fans.
Actually, I imagine the scene at the Phone Booth will be crazier than MSG. Ted Leonsis has already warned that “lots of dignitaries and VIPS” will be in the building, and that means President Obama, as evidently the Secret Service has been making security preparations at the Verizon Center this morning. Oh, and with all the trade rumors swirling, it could be Gilbert Arenas’ last game in a Wizards uniform. Right now, according to the Washington Post’s Michael Lee, he’s still expected to suit up for Washington this evening.
To describe the buzz of emotion that will be going on in the Verizon Center as a circus doesn’t really do it justice — it certainly takes all the attention away from Josh Howard’s potential season debut, in the least. But to get a bearing on the incoming team that will actually be playing basketball against the Wizards, I turned to ESPN TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz, who has been embedded covering Miami for ESPN.com’s Heat Index. And away we go…