I managed to catch up with LeBron James in the visitor’s locker room before tonight’s Wizards-Heat game. He had plenty to say, on topics ranging from the Orlando Magic, to Justin Bieber, and even Yao Ming.
His most interesting answer was just one word — two letters. When asked if winning games will ultimately change people’s perceptions of both LeBron and the Miami Heat, LeBron responded:
Well, I guess not everybody loves a winner. What can he do? What should he do?
[As it turns out, Hakim Warrick's monster jam on Yi Jianlian at the end of the first half was a sign for things to come for Washington in the second half.]
There was a battle for momentum toward the end of the second quarter during Sunday night’s Wizards-Suns game. Steve Nash had just penetrated the lane (as he did with ease all night), and dished off to Hakim Warrick (again, as he did all night) for a thunderous slam, and there were just four seconds left on the clock. John Wall then took the ball, ran down the court and launched a shot from just inside the three-point line.
After Wall’s attempt went in off the glass just before the buzzer, Channing Frye looked in disbelief and then ran towards the locker room. Wall briefly looked at the crowd, tapped his chest twice, and then he too ran off the court. His shot had cut the Suns lead to three points, and momentum seemed to be firmly on the Wizards’ side.
In the first 90 seconds or so of the third quarter, it seemed like the Wizards were up to matching the Suns’ intensity. Jason Richardson and Channing Frye both scored off passes from Nash, but the Wizards countered with scores of their own courtesy of two free throws from Wall and a dunk from Alonzo Gee. At that point, the Wizards were still within three points.
But then the Steve Nash show really started to kick into full gear. The Wizards could not keep pace and things began to get out of hand. Nash was either scoring or dishing on every basket, and each of Phoenix’s other four starters (Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Richardson and even Earl-freaking-Barron) scored within the first six minutes.
[Steve Nash lures John Wall with a back dribble, then changes pace to attack the open lane while keeping the ball away from JaVale McGee with two hands before sliding in for a layup.]
This Wizards team is hard to dissect, and I don’t mean “take apart,” as Steve Nash did on Sunday evening on his way to captaining his Suns to a 125-108 victory.
The Wizards are hard to dissect in the sense of separating individual parts to determine why the team continues to lose in the worst of ways (and win by the skin of their teeth). Anything and everything could go wrong on a given night.
On offense, in general, the team wastes too many possessions with bad shots. Pretty simple to conclude that they could use a lot more discipline in this regard. On defense, it comes down to focus and will, something several Wizards have major issues with. When you combine the overall effect that has on the team with the stylings of the two-time MVP in Nash, you have a recipe for the Suns to have their way with the Wizards.
On Thursday, June 17, Andy Rautins (G, Syracuse, 6’4, 195 lbs.) worked out for the Washington Wizards along with Chas McFarland (C, Wake Forest, 7’0, 245 lbs.), Kevin Palmer (G/F, Texas A&M-CC, 6’6, 205 lbs.), Dexter Pittman (C, Texas, 6’10, 290 lbs.), Terrico White (G, Mississippi, 6’5, 213 lbs.) and Darington Hobson (G/F, New Mexico, 6’7, 205 lbs.) (Note: Hobson actually did not work out for the Wizards because he tweaked his ankle). Get the run-down on Rautins and check his post-workout interview video below…
Another guy who also worked out on June 17th that I didn’t mention above is John Wall. But he was all by his lonesome for an 11 am session, Rautins started with the rest of those guys around noon.
By the time I arrived at the Verizon Center just after 11 to catch a glimpse of the end of Wall’s workout, Rautin’s name had already become a punchline several times over.
Why is Gilbert Arenas always so ready to give up a foul after he or his team commits a turnover?
Why is Caron Butler always shuffling/switching his pivot foot when he catches the ball, leading to a travel?
Why are the Wizards entrenched in bad communication, often running into each other on pick and roll defense?
This team is surrounded by a lot of questions, these are just some examples. The quandary of this bad Washington Wizards team won’t simply be resolved by ‘when Mike Miller becomes healthy’, ‘when Gilbert Arenas gets his mentality back’ or ‘when Flip Saunders is able to reign in his players to properly run his offense’.
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.
Well, the Wizards certainly played better against the Suns than they did against Indiana last Friday. But this time, they simply lost to a better team. It’s another day, another loss … the Wizards’ fourth in a row with their record now standing at 2-5. One would hope that this doesn’t become routine, but that didn’t keep members of the media from groaning “feels like last year” as they made their way to the media room to wait for Flip Saunders’ press conference.
Of course, I wasn’t operating under an “official” media capacity last season, but I can imagine letting out a sigh, shrugging my shoulders, and wondering what to ask Saunders as I did on Sunday. But this isn’t like last year. There isn’t a sense that losing is inevitable. This team conveys a strong belief that everything will come together with time, health … and more trust on offense.
The Wizards started against Phoenix not necessarily lacking energy, but were plagued by defensive mismatch problems … a theme that’s not unique to this one game. While Fabricio Oberto concentrated on Amar’e Stoudemire, Brendan Haywood had to worry about Channing Frye and his three-point shooting, spreading the court ways. Frye finished 4-8 from deep.
Haywood seemed to have trouble moving his feet fast enough to cover all the offensive looks from the Suns. At times, the spinning and turning Haywood was doing on defense looked to be some sort of interpretive dance in the paint. The Wizards center was curiously limited to 11 and a half minutes in the first half, but finished the game as a rebounding (10) and shot blocking (5) presence in his 32 total minutes.
Price, the current Atlanta Hawks shooting coach, may still be right for Cleveland Cavaliers fans, but that’s far from the case for Wizards/Bullets fans.
A reminder of how the Cavs fleeced former Bullets GM, John Nash (from this May ’08 post):
In late September of 1995, distinguished Washington Bullets GM, John Nash, took a risk and traded the 12th pick in the ’96 draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers for an aging Mark Price. Someone needed to fill the hole left by a departed Scott Skiles and Nash didn’t feel that Mark’s brother, Brent Price, could adequately distribute the ball to the likes of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Rasheed Wallace, Ledell Eackles, Calbert Cheaney, Tim Legler, and Gheorghe Muresan.
Pre-Wizards-Suns Game, UNC vs. Clemson The end of the 1st overtime in the Clemson-North Carolina game: With about 1.2 seconds left, game tied, the TarHeels tried to float a pass from a side-out on the opponent’s side of the half-court line. Clemson got a steal under the UNC basket and the Tiger player threw the ball to the other end, a shot attempt. Now, I’m not sure if he got the shot off on time…..they didn’t show a replay. But the referee, upon seeing that the ball was falling short of the basket, snatched it off the first bounce.
I know this about the game of basketball: If a shot, or rebound, goes off someone from the defending team and into the basket, it counts. I’ll go on to assume that if the ball bounces off the floor hard enough and by chance goes into a basket, that counts for points as well. So, what’s to keep me from thinking that a shot taken from the opposite basket, which leaves a player’s hand before the buzzer, and is not touched by any other player on the court, should count if it bounces off the floor and through the net?
Basically, should the referee have caught that ball? —-