[Editor's Note: Truth About It.net photographer Adam Douglas brings another edition of "Under The Hoop" -- because Wizards games aren't just about basketball, they're about the whole fan experience, and Adam brings you that experience from up close with pictures and commentary. The below post is from last Friday's game against the Chicago Bulls.]
How about we talk about some basketball for a change? I mean, that is why we all are here, right? Seems like nothing but bad, non-basketball court related Wizards news to talk about lately. Well, aside from the impending Ted Leonsis takeover. But let’s get back on the court and talk some roundball!
Oh wait … the Wizards are in the midst of a 13-game losing streak, the worst in franchise history and the third time such a streak has occurred.
Today the Wizards signed Shaun Livingston to a 10-day contract. Yes, that Shaun Livingston. The once Magic Johnson-esque prodigy who devastatingly injured his knee in just his third season in the NBA. On February 26, 2007 at the 8:10 mark of the first quarter, Livingston went up for a fast-break layup and came down awkwardly on his left leg, tearing his ACL, PCL, MCL and lateral meniscus. He also dislocated his patella and tibia/femoral. Ridiculously painful sounding doesn’t even come close to describing. Seeing it happen is even worse. I’m not going to even link the video.
But get this weird, connected sh*t. Not a week after Livingston’s injury, on April 4, 2007, Gilbert Arenas originally injured his knee against Gerald Wallace and the Charlotte Bobcats. Guess who Livingston’s then team, the Los Angeles Clippers, were playing on his fateful night. You guess it, the Charlotte Bobcats.
It would be really weird if Howard suffered his recent knee injury against the Bobcats and not the Chicago Bulls. However, guess who checked in for Livingston after he got hurt? Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell. Exactly. Weird sh*t.
The Washington Post’s Michael Lee first tweeted almost a week ago, “Interesting angle w/Crittenton suspension. He could become a viable/valuable trade chip by Feb. 18 since a team won’t have to pay him.”
I seriously contemplated whether I should ever watch the Wizards-Suns game. It’s not like I didn’t know the 121-95 outcome or was unable to witness the Wizards constructing a Brick City that would make Redman proud. Instead of dedicating my Saturday night life to the Wizards at home, I ventured out in the D.C. snow to meet some friends at a bar for drinks, darts, and sports on TVs. Between the activities, I couldn’t concentrate on watching the Wizards much, but the futility was made crystal clear in the glances I was able to get.
This team has no moxie. With the persistent problem back-to-back games pose, there’s ever-increasing skepticism and little hope that they will ever change course for the better. There are a ton of excuses for why this team is falling way short of expectations, a lot of them seem to stem on more time and patience. But how do you get a team to play with energy and focus like they care?
So, I put my blues collection on shuffle and spent the better part of my Sunday watching the Wizards-Suns with focus … and boy did I learn a lot about this team. I was able to capture the essence of the game in the nine frames below, but I’ll have much more to come in the future about the less desirable aspects of the Flip Saunders’ team.
On Thursday, the members of the media were treated to a spirited match of one-on-one between Sam Cassell and Nick Young … well, “spirited” only really reflects one side of the battle, obviously coming from the entertaining Sam I Am.
I didn’t see every possession, but as it’s been reported before, the old man still has it.
The game of one-on-one was of the casual variety that you usually see pro or college basketball players play … mostly jump shots induced by a variety of moves that serve no real purpose of ‘getting to the basket’ productivity.
Young did get his shot to fall a couple times. But for the most part, Cassell was getting the best of the kid with some veteran trickery, craftily adjusting his shot near the basket and using some below the waist leverage to gain an advantage on defense, especially when Young was trying to go up for a shot.
Not only was Cassell talking smack to Young, but he managed to get Brendan Haywood involved as well. At point point after a Young miss, Cassell said something in Haywood’s direction to the effect of “Can’t finish … This is the Wizards … Good first half team, but can’t finish.”
Success of the Wizards is contingent upon the court leadership of Gilbert Arenas. This is not a ground-breaking concept. Despite looking “back” in Dallas, he’s still rusty, and he and the team have a good deal of the development “process” to go.
Nothing could have more exemplified this than the first quarter in Atlanta. As I wrote in the previous game post, Arenas had eight points, one turnover in the game’s first 6:20 and one point, five turnovers in the remainder of the first half. When the offense started to get sloppy, Arenas did not exert control on this situation to calm his team down.
A large part of the problem was that Arenas was breaking a lot of plays to drive to the basket. Yes, it’s true that you want Arenas to be aggressive, in particular because it would wear down Joe Johnson. However, that has to come more in the flow of the offense than it did tonight. Arenas kept calling his own number instead of letting the offense run itself and then dumping the ball to another scorer. The rest of the players were often not prepared for Arenas’ decisions and didn’t get in position to defend in transition.
The strive to achieve more balance is new to Arenas. It’s gonna take some time. All Wizards fans can do is have faith that the experience of Flip Saunders will work to correct these issues and the desire of Arenas to be a better player will make him wholly receptive to the process.
Last night’s 90-89 win against the Sixers in Philly got a bit goofy toward the end. After the game, Flip Saunders said, “That’s what they call a learning experience,” which sort of means, ‘We better not pull any of that B.S. during a regular season game.’
What exactly did Flip see? Well, let’s start with JaVale McGee.
One thing JaVale McGee CAN’T do is finger-roll
I almost knew it was going to happen when I saw McGee snag a loose ball with a tie game, around 16 seconds left, and an open court with only one man to beat.