Earlier today Wizards announced that they have resigned guard/forward Alonzo Gee. The Wizards had originally signed Gee on March 7 from the NBADL and he appeared in 11-games in which he averaged more than 16 minutes and a little over 7 points per game. The Wizards had signed Gee to a second 10-day contract but ultimately Gee elected to sign a contract that let him remain with the San Antonio Spurs for the remainder of the season. The Spurs, who recently signed Danny Green, elected to waive Alonzo Gee.
Unfortunately, Gee’s resigning meant that the Wizards had to create room on the roster and so Ernie Grunfeld also announced that the team had waived reserve Guard Lester Hudson. Hudson, who made a few exciting plays in the Summer League and during the preseason, appeared in six games with the Wizards. During that stretch he logged 26 minutes of play in which he contributed two points, six assists and one rebound.
I know it is only the Summer League and we have only seen two Wizards games. However, tonight the ESPYs were on and I have refused to watch that mess since its inception. So as I was watching the Clippers and Sofoklis “Big Boy Schorts” Schortsanitis take on the Bulls, the thought hit me… what conclusions, if any, could we draw from the Wizards Summer Leagues stats so far? I know this sounds crazy, but hell I had some time on my hands.
- To no great surprise the Wizards staff has stuck to its goal of getting John Wall, JaVale McGee and Trevor Booker better prepared for the season by getting them as many minutes as possible. And through the first two games, John is averaging a team high 30.5 MPG, JaVale is second on the team with 27.5 MPG and Trevor is close by with 26.0 MPG. All three players, who the team expects to be in the rotation this season, have been on the floor for more than 60% of the game.
Read the rest of this post here.
A few years ago, one could argue that the Wizards became the darling of the NBA. Under Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan the Wizards made the playoffs four years in a row and, as many of us who live in the DMV have heard much too often, they even had the best record in the East – prior to the 06/07 All-Star break. Hell, as recently as this season, the Wizards were a popular candidate to again compete with the best in the East.
However, today most in the popular press want to lead off their Wizards draft lottery stories by focusing on the infamous gun issue and use it to describe what prevented the Wizards from recapturing the glories of its recent past. More insulting still, they want to use it as a means to describe the Wizards franchise as a fatally flawed organization that no one would want to play for. And while that incident clearly, was a significant contributing factor, there were many other issues that plagued the team. And all of those issues in total, ultimately wrecked the 2009/10 Wizards season. (I highly recommend reading Michael Lee of the Post, Truthaboutit.net and Bulletsforever.com to get a broader perspective on all of the issues that undermined the 09/10 Wizards season.)
It is easier, however, to focus only on the more salacious and dysfunctional story of Gilbert and the guns. It is also easier to characterize the Wizards organization as the Raiders of the NBA or the Clippers of the East. And while the Wizards have not had the same level of success as it did in the 70s, it is not accurate to describe them in the same manner as the Clippers. It may shorten your copy to pretend as if the Wizards recent stretch of playoff appearances did not occur. Selectively focusing on a few facts tightens up the story, but it also serves to aggravate those of us who follow the team faithfully.
This post isn’t just about the way in which the franchise has been characterized. I also have issues with a number of story lines and/or recommendations that have been floated since the Wizards won the draft lottery. I have paraphrased and responded to some of my favorites:
The Wizards may trade the pick:
This thought is just insane and I will not waste any more keystrokes on this.
Winning the lottery means that the Wizards will/should trade Arenas:
There were multiple variations of this floated by many different journalists and “experts.” I believe this is a ridiculous claim and I will pick this up later in this posting. However, those who floated the idea have clearly not listened to the things that Ted Leonsis has said publicly. I believe that Gilbert Arenas will be (and should be) a Wizard next season.
Should the Wizards take Wall or Turner with the first pick?:
Most have said that the Wizards should draft Wall – and I am of that camp. However a few, including Tim Legler on ESPN, floated the idea that they should take Turner – even though he contradicted himself by saying that Wall would be the first pick. There are plenty of places on the net in which you can find stats on both players until you are warm and fuzzy, but here are a couple thoughts that jumped out to me:
- Magic Johnson who I believe is the best PG ever immediately stated that the Wizards have to take Wall because he will be a special player. I am inclined to believe that Magic has forgotten more about the position of PG than the majority of us have ever known. So his recommendation carries more weight for me than nearly every other person who is not named Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Sorry, Tim Legler that goes for you too.
- While Turner appears that he will be a very solid (if not special) pro, I give Wall credit for having to play the entire season with the label as “the man.” Just as importantly he did not fold or disappoint, while carrying that label and he outplayed most on his more talent rich team. Many did not start talking about Turner until some of his more amazing performances in March. I will continue to lean towards a person who had more pressure and performed consistently at a high level for an entire season.
Gilbert Arenas and John Wall can’t play on the same team or in the same backcourt:
I believe this opinion is based on feelings and not based in fact. Not only do I think that these two can and will play for the same team. I think that they will form an incredible backcourt.
First, let me point out that I believe that Gilbert will grow following his recent self-inflicted wounds. He is no longer the youngest guy on the roster, this last issue almost sent him to jail and nearly ended his career. I believe that this served as the wakeup call that he needed. I also believe that he will come back more highly motivated than ever.
Those who don’t think Gil can play with Wall clearly forget that Gil truly enjoyed playing in a two guard system with Larry Hughes. More pressure was put on him to score when Larry left and then he had to share the backcourt with combinations that included Daniels, Butler, and Stevenson (during the 05/06 and 06/07 seasons) – none of which struck fear in the competition. Adding someone as dynamic as Wall will provide Arenas with his best backcourt mate since Larry Hughes, while reducing the need for him to constantly handle the ball and run the offense. Just as importantly, it puts pressure on the competition to decide how best to match up with the two of them.
And for those that want to talk about Arenas’ knee injury and whether he had fully recovered, it is true that early in the season he had struggled, but much of that was fitting into a new system with additional responsibilities. Prior to the suspension, Gilbert was having a comparable season, Per 36 minutes, to both the 05/06 & 06/07 campaigns. In December Gilbert appeared to be rounding back into form and while his scoring numbers were in his normal range, more impressive was that he had superior assist numbers.
I don’t believe that Gilbert is going to come back and be a problem. I believe that he will be highly focused and motivated, and when you combine that with his already high work ethic and the stage is set for an extremely productive season. Pairing him in the backcourt with a talent like John Wall could create a tandem that you cannot find in the NBA.
One of the weaknesses that the Wizards have had is the lack of a true Point Guard. Well, with some poor play and a great deal of luck they have the opportunity to select a potential star at the position. I suggest they take the potential star and deal with any “potential” issues as they develop. Unlike many in the popular press, I don’t think there will be any issue between Arenas and Wall. Gilbert has proven that he is willing and able to adapt his play to fit with another talented guard.
It is true that the 09/10 Wizards again missed an opportunity to win three straight games, the fact is that this is a very different team than the one that began the season. So in this sense, a new, shortened season began for this team on February 18th. And with this hard fought loss – against the current 5th place team in the East on its home floor – this version of the team is 2-1 since the All-Star break (19-34 overall).
As I reflected on this game, I found myself feeling disappointed with the final outcome – which I thought was a strange feeling. Following all of the trades that Ernie Grunfeld made, with all of the new faces that were brought in, one would expect that this team would plummet, potentially giving the Nets a run for their money. However, the effort displayed over the first three games, has been the exact opposite of what one would have expected. I was disappointed because this team has changed my expectations of them. I expected them to win this game. And they nearly did.
The Wizards led after a stellar effort in the third quarter, but the Raptors captured the lead in the fourth after outscoring the Wiz 24-16. The Wiz did not get enough stops on the defensive end, had a few untimely turnovers and their inability to contain Jarrett Jack ultimately did them in. However, for a third straight game they brought a tremendous amount of effort, heart and grit. Three characteristics that this team has not always exhibited over the last two seasons. And these characteristics lead me to believe that if they consistently bring them into every game, they will win their fair share of games – at a minimum they will be entertaining and competitive. The Wizards new fond energy and effort is the reason that I thought they would pull this game out.
Yet, I admit that it is a strange feeling… I know. Following the trades, giving up as much “talent” as they did, and on paper at least, not receiving “equal value.” I expected to be watching the Wizards to see how many ping pong balls they would “earn.” Through three games their effort and, at times, execution have been impressive. There are times when it is easy to forget that the majority of these players have not logged major minutes together and in fact three of the players have been with the team for less than a week. They have their mental lapses – that is expected by players that barely know each other. They still have a few players – Dray and JaVale immediately spring to mind – that will reach at an offensive player, rather than cutting him off as he drives to the basket. (They desperately need to spend more time on this with these two players in particular.) But let’s face it, virtually all of the players they traded, with maybe DeShawn and Dom as the exceptions, played defense this way routinely. Now they have at least three players who are playing with effort on the defensive end and that effort can be and is contagious.
What Howard, Singleton and Ross lack when compared with Jamison and Butler on the offensive end, they have more than made up for by their effort and energy – particularly on defense. I would also point out that while on the surface this team gave up talented offensive players this team so far has been playing very well offensively. They have now had three straight games scoring more than 100 points. The last time this team did that was December 1 – 4, when Gilbert was still on the team. The point is that while they traded two gifted offensive talents, this team still has players who are capable of scoring points.
In the fourth quarter when the game unraveled a little and the Raptors took the lead, this team could have folded, but it didn’t. They had a chance late to potentially tie the game, but ultimately came up a bit short. The Wizards for three straight games gave great effort and played with heart. Over the last two seasons there have been countless Wizards games that were painful to watch. These last three are not included in that. Win or lose, if they continue to give this type of effort, I and many other people will look forward to watching this team play.
Tonight’s win increased the Wizards win total to 18. And while their overall record is still only a less than impressive 18-33, their overall effort was very impressive. For the first time, in quite some time they actually seem to be interested in playing defense. Consider that just a few weeks ago, this was a team that was crucified, and rightfully so, for its lack of defensive effort, or maybe more accurately in their lack of interest in putting forth an effort on the defensive side of the court. (Truthaboutit.net details one example in painful detail.)
In other sports, like the NFL, we glorify the teams that seem to not have the best talent at every position, but manage to routinely find the hungry overachievers that form the nucleus of a successful team. For example, how many Pro Bowl players do the Patriots and Steelers have each year, compared with other teams, but yet they are two of the most successful teams over this last decade. Believe me; I am not letting myself get carried away by a couple of games. I do not think that this team is going to make a miracle run to the playoffs – personally I rather they continue to play with energy and grit, while remaining in the lottery.
While not a perfect effort for 48 minutes, I was impressed with Nick Young diving for balls, players hustling back on defense, Josh Howard’s beer crunching attempt at a lose ball, the Wizards picking up their defense in the backcourt… THE BACKCOURT! I liked the fact that this new collection of parts – or as a commenter on Bulletsforever put it, “The Replacement Killers” – are hungry! They have something to prove and early into their tenure with the Wizards are playing like it. I can’t remember a player on the Bullets/Wizards over the last 15 years playing defense on the other team’s superstar like Al Thornton did.
And on the offensive end of the court they made shots. But just as importantly, they did not give up on plays and drift back up court, they actually fought for rebounds. They fought for rebounds even with a CRAZY small lineup on the court – who was their center??? That was the craziest lineup I can remember seeing, but it worked.
An effort like this, win or lose, is great to watch. However, it also elicits another emotion from me – anger. It makes you wonder why this team with Gilbert, Antawn, Caron, Brendan and DeShawn couldn’t play with this same type of effort. What could that team have accomplished if they truly played this hard? I got used to the other team winning all of the “hustle plays.” Today, the Wizards won those plays. For much of this season the Wizards pretended to play defense, today they actually played some particularly when it counted most. Could you imagine a Wizards team that actually held Carmelo scoreless in the 4th quarter?!?!?
Yes, this was a Nuggets team that just came off an emotional (and likely physically draining) overtime win against King Crab Dribble and the Cavaliers. But this is also a Nuggets team that is deep and has superior talent. The Nuggets were mostly playing against a collection of inexperienced young guys and cast-off role players. I hope the Wizards learned an important lesson today. If they play with this level of effort and passion, even as presently constructed, they can play with any team in the NBA (at least for the rest of this season).
For one game, I forgot that this was a 17 win team. It was fun to watch this team go out and compete. If they continue to play like this, I look forward to watching the rest of their games.
What these players offered tonight the Wizards need moving forward in 2010-2011. Ernie and the coaching staff need to figure out how many of these guys to keep (and at what price). But Thornton and Singleton in particular play with an edge that has been lacking in this team for quite some time.
Gilbert, I hope you were at home watching this effort tonight.
I have been watching and reading all of the coverage concerning the Wizards recent changes and decided that I would take the time to jot down some of my thoughts. In broad brush-strokes, I am glad that Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards finally decided to make significant changes. Now in hindsight it is easy to suggest that the Wiz could have probably received more in return IF they would have made changes during the summer and/or earlier in this season (before the wheels fell off). However, I do understand his thinking that with everyone coming back healthy this would be a good year to see if they could recapture what they had a few seasons ago. Sadly, it did not work.
I’ve enjoyed watching Antwan Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood and part of me is sad to see them go. I understand the issue that some have with the trades, that it appears that the Wiz – outside of getting below the luxury tax, significant cap space and prospects (primarily in the form of a couple draft picks, Al Thornton and the rights to a Euro player) – did not get equal value. I understand those feelings, but the Wizards were not in a position of strength and each of those players had a little baggage as well – for example Antwan’s age and the size of his existing contract.
The Wizards won 19 games last season and 17 games this season with the players that were traded (or are not currently playing) primarily leading the way, so the idea that they can not live without any of them is a false argument. And in fact, as many have pointed out, the existence of many of the traded players – and the size of their contracts – prevented the Wizards from adding the talent that they were lacking. This fact finally seems to be clear to Ernie and the Wizards brass.
Assuming Gil Arenas is back with the team next season, the Wizards have the ability to go out and add a significant piece or two in free agency, as well as some young talent with their draft picks. If ultimately the Wizards and Arenas part ways, then Washington will have even more cap space, but then the rebuilding process is likely even longer as it might be more difficult to convince two or more key free agents to come to Washington together.
For the remainder of this season I am looking forward to seeing the “Young Guns” prove that they can play in this league, consistently. One of the mistakes that I thought the team made last year, was not by letting them (in particular JaVale) play heavy minutes. The Wizards now have 31 games to determine what they have in the young guys on this squad.