The Washington Wizards are a mess. They can team worse than they are, but the only one is the Charlotte Bobcats. They’ve, in brief times, competed against good teams, but always lose. They’ve given the Oklahoma City Thunder an anomaly to everyone’s surprise. They’ve gotten demoralized by teams very good, good, and mediocre, the LA Clippers working to migrate from good to very good status in their 107-81 blowout win over Randy Wittman’s team on Saturday night.
Washington has youth making lesson-learning mistakes, but they also have youngish mid-range veterans who continue to not “get it.” JaVale McGee, for instance, has more minutes of on-court development over his career than the likes of Ryan Anderson, Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Jordan. Yet those players, picked after McGee’s 18th position in the 2008 draft (21, 24 and 35 respectively), have developed into more indexed team intelligence for their franchises.
Jordan Crawford, age 23, is in the second year of a career that could go in a number of directions. Right now on a team like the Wizards, most of those don’t show a ton of promise, but there are glimmers. Nick Young, age 26, continues to show why he’s just another in a long line of capable NBA scorers who can’t do much else. In his fifth NBA season, he helps his team embody this quote said by Wittman after the loss to the Clippers:
“You have to read the situation and what they’re doing and not just play the play that’s supposed to be… they take this away, we’ve gotta do that. I don’t think we did the second part of it. They took this away and we just went ahead and tried to do it anyway.”
[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 23 contributors: Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis), Arish Narayen, and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It).]
Players and coaches are programmed not to admit overconfidence publicly, but in the crevices of their locker room or practice courts, the Wizards and Raptors have to be looking at tonight’s game and thinking to themselves, “We are definitely winning.” In their last three games, the Wizards defeated the lowly Bobcats, came close to defeating the Orlando Magic (they aren’t playing well now, but they still have Dwight F. Howard), and the Chicago Bulls (arguably the best team in the league). Facing the Raptors, a team that gave the Wizards their first victory this season, would seem to be an easier task. The Raptors were just thoroughly whipped by the Celtics in Boston, just one night after being whipped by the Hawks in Toronto. They have to be thinking that their confidence can and will be restored against the lowly Wizards — a team they already have extra motivation to defeat after losing in Washington on January 10th. Before we see which franchise can take advantage of the other, Ryan McNeill (@ryanmcneill) of Hoops Addict, TAI’s Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis) and yours truly, Rashad Mobley (@rashad20), will go 3-on-3 starting right now.
#1) During his six-year tenure as president/GM of the Toronto Raptors, Bryan Colangelo enjoyed some success before the departure of Chris Bosh, but since then, he has been criticized for his draft failures, the Raptors’ lack of a defensive mindset, and his puzzling free agent signings (most recently Jamaal Magloire and Anthony Parker). During his nine-year tenure as Wizards team president, Ernie Grunfeld is credited with building playoff teams during the Gilbert Arenas era, but since then his moves (or lack thereof) have the Wizards mired in something worse than mediocrity. Both GMs are now asking their fans to trust in the development of their young players, and to be patient with the rebuilding process once again. Which GM deserves to be relieved of their duties?
McNEILL: Maybe I’m being a homer, but I’m voting for Grunfeld. Besides lucking into John Wall with an easy pick, what has he done to warrant trust during his time in Washington? Colangelo was burned by Bosh, but there isn’t anyone surrounding the team who honestly thought he should have dealt him before that summer. Even the drafting of Bargnani is looking “safe” considering his development and how that draft class is now shaking out. Again, this is a homer pick, but consider Bosh was in place, and LaMarcus Aldridge (2nd pick after Bosh in 2006) was a redundant piece, so the only other player who might have been a better fit is Rudy Gay. So, sorry, I’m not buying the argument that five years with Brandon Roy (6th pick) is better than the decade Toronto will get with Bargnani.
MOBLEY: I want to say Colangelo, because those rabid, supportive Raptors fans have watched Vince Carter and Chris Bosh lead the franchise to the playoffs, and now they have to watch Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon lead them to the lottery. But Grunfeld is trying to rebuild the Wizards franchise into a contender for the third time in nine years, and everyone who started with him from Gilbert Arenas to Eddie Jordan to Flip Saunders is gone. The official rebuild will begin when he follows suit.
Twenty-two games, one-third of the season, is over for the Washington Wizards. To say the least, it’s been tough on this rebuilding team. And to stress that “team” part, let’s see which combination of players has been working the best together, and which combinations haven’t.
According to BasketballValue.com, 177 different five-man units have seen action for the Washington Wizards this season. 177 sounds like a lot, but only 54 of those units have seen more than five minutes of court time together, so this post/results will focus on those, i.e., no need to include units such as John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Roger Mason, Rashard Lewis and Jan Vesely, who have seen a total of 0.03 minutes on the court together.
Five units have seen 31.75-percent of the total action. Those five units are:
Wall – Young – Lewis – Blatche – McGee (10.44% of court time, 110.25 minutes)
Look, Dwight Howard has long known that he does not want to be a member of the Orlando Magic past this season, so does it matter that his current team is in such disarray, losers of four games in a row with Howard calling out his teammates for effort? Probably not. In fact, it likely prompts GM Otis Smith even more to make a move, but it doesn’t make him any less desperate. (Read: this painfully drags on for Orlando up to the March 15 trade deadline… Have a fun next six weeks Magic fans!) So with Baby Dwight wanting a cure-all change of venue, but not able to cure-all as Superman himself, his team takes on the lowly Washington Wizards tonight, with Howard likely preparing to be as proud as a schoolyard bully (Orlando is favored by 10 points). This 3-on-3 drill prior to possibly just one of Howard’s last 23 games in a Magic uniform includes Nate Drexler (@natedrex) of TrueHoop Network blog MagicBasketball.net, along with TAI’s John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) and yours truly, Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Which stat is more surprising? That the Washington Wizards have a higher offensive rebound rate (ORB%) than the Orlando Magic (0.261 ORB% compared to 0.259 for Orlando; league average is 0.264)? NOTE: WAS eFG% = 0.442, 29th in NBA; ORL eFG% = 0.495, 9th in NBA)….
OR, that JaVale McGee is shooting worse on free-throws than Dwight Howard? (McGee is at 0.433 this season, 0.600 for his career; Howard is at 0.460 this season, 0.592 for his career.)
DREXLER: This is tough, because neither of these surprise me all that much. I suppose JaVale getting out sniped by Dwight from the charity stripe takes the cake, though. Look, when you have two bigs who shoot 60-percent and below for their careers, no amount of badness should catch you off guard, but McGee is getting close to 30-percent land! The biggest surprise of all is that no matter how hard I try to convince myself that JaVale McGee has star potential it just isn’t so. Guy sure is athletic, though. Why is it that athletic guys can’t shoot free throws?
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).]