[This is Part One of a two-part post on Washington Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld looking back at his almost 25-year tenure making player personnel decisions in the National Basketball Association. Part Two can be read here.]
“I told you I was going to get
the best brains in basketball.”
[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 74, Washington Wizards vs. Chicago Bulls; contributors: Dan Diamond and Adam McGinnis from the Verizon Center, and Sean Fagan up I-95 in Brooklyn, N.Y.]
[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 65, Washington Wizards vs Phoenix Suns; contributors: Kyle Weidie and Adam Rubin from the Verizon Center.]
[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 59, Washington Wizards at Minnesota Timberwolves; contributors: Adam Rubin and Kyle Weidie from behind the television screen.]
It’s as if everything was set up just so that Steve Buckhantz could “Amen” Jordan Crawford… bless him. And that’s exactly what happened in the post-game after Steezus dropped the gift (and GIFs) of a buzzer-beating road win against Portland.
First, you had Crawford scoring 10 points over the first five and a half minutes of the fourth quarter (he had zero in 10 minutes of run entering the period). Then he missed a layup… and then a 3-pointer. Mike Prada of Bullets Forever tweeted: “There’s no rule that says you have to keep in the guy who scored 10 points earlier in the quarter. I would take Crawford out.”
And surely not many could argue. Especially after Crawford was the one responsible for giving Wes Matthews a good look from deep to tie the game at 95 with eight seconds left. And with a chance to win, the Wizards originally looked to get the ball to Nene in the post, it seemed, but the Blazers clogged up the play, had a foul to give and used it.
With just over three seconds left after the stoppage, there was no time to chuck the ball to Brazil in the post. Instead, this happened from Detroit:
John Wall won’t start against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night and his minutes will be limited. How much? Randy Wittman wouldn’t say before the game. But that doesn’t mean Hawks Coach Larry Drew isn’t worried about the Wizards superstar. At the top of the opposing coach’s mind when it comes to Wall:
“Whenever you play on the road, the one thing you try to eliminate is momentum plays, and [John Wall] is capable of doing that, even if he’s just in the game for a short stretch of time. It can be a short stretch that can change the tempo and rhythm of the game.”
Thusly, via TAI’s Adam McGinnis, John Wall does the “cookie challenge” in less than 60 seconds…
[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 16, Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks; contributors: Rashad Mobley and Kyle Weidie from behind the T.V.]
[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 atmosphere at Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University on Tuesday evening was certainly exciting. Washington Wizards fans gathered in long lines for a free event featuring an open scrimmage, Wizards Girls dancing, Wale rapping, little kids shooting hoops, and to catch glimpses of their new basketball team. When the doors finally opened, people rushed into the arena, trying to score a prime seat as the George Mason band rocked Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
Those anticipating a quality basketball performance, however, were likely disappointed, as John Wall, Trevor Booker, Nene, and Trevor Ariza sat out due to various injuries and were merely spectators during the unremarkable hour-long scrimmage. New assistant coaches Don Newman and Jerry Sichting led the White team against a Sam Cassell and Don Zierden-coached Blue team. Head Coach Randy Wittman looked on, rotating from sideline to sideline all evening and never afraid to get his point across at any moment. Both Kevin Seraphin and Chris Singleton received the brunt of audible displeasure from their coach.
Bradley Beal struggled getting open, Martell Webster knocked a few shots early but then kind of disappeared, and Jan Vesely still has major issues with fouls. Emeka Okafor was a force on defense, but his offensive post moves were lackluster; Seraphin, on the other hand, continued his interior scoring prowess, although at times he let himself get pushed away from the basket by Earl Barron. Also, Jordan Crawford’s shot selection opened the door for critics.
“He don’t have no pressure, he’s not the savior. He’s a beast under pressure. But he don’t have no pressure. We want Bradley Beal to come in and be Bradley Beal. We’re not telling him to come on and lead us into the playoffs. We want him to come in and make some jump shots, play some solid defense… go from there.”
—Sam Cassell, July 2012 Summer League
Cassell’s statement diffuses expectations, but it’s true. Bradley Beal is just a piece. The Washington Wizards now have several nice pieces, but none of them are saviors. Not even John Wall.
Wall is the face of the franchise — every team needs a face — and maybe Beal’s face will shine next to Wall’s on the top billing one day. But the Wizards don’t have a star. Not a single All-Star on the roster. Not yet.