Truth About Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Sun, 25 Jan 2015 22:02:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Opening Statements: Wizards at Nuggets, Game 45 Sun, 25 Jan 2015 20:57:59 +0000 [Ed. Note: This is the first TAI contribution from Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur), Washingtonian, Gonzaga High and Morehouse alum, and follower of the Washington Wizards.]

Washington Wizards vs. Denver Nuggets

The Wizards and the Nuggets will both try to avoid matching their longest losing streaks for the season of three and six games respectively. The Nuggets are a franchise at a crossroad, not good enough to maintain relevancy in the deep Western Conference, but also not bad enough to stay in contention for a Top 5 draft pick. The Wizards, on the other hand, have the luxury of being one of the top tier teams in the Eastern Conference, but need to get focused for a very difficult stretch of games before the All-Star break.

These next two games against the Nuggets and Lakers are critical must-wins to assure at least a .500 record on their current four-game road trip—they’re also the only two non-playoff teams the Wizards will face until Brooklyn in D.C. on February 7. The Nuggets are not going to roll over for anyone, and with their floor general Ty Lawson returning to action from his recent DUI arrest, this should be a competitive game for the Wizards. Denver is coming into Sunday night’s game with the 12th ranked offense in the NBA, averaging 101.6 points per game, and should be a formidable test for a struggling Wizards defense which has been outscored in the second half in each of their nine last losses and in 14 of 19 games overall.

One of the Wizards’ major problems over this stretch has been the inconsistent play from their wing bench players. Rasual Butler has cooled down in the month of January, watching his points per game drop to 7.7 (39.2 FG%) after a healthy 11.6 points per game (47.6%) in the month of December. Coach Randy Wittman keeps trying to incorporate Martell Webster into the rotation at the expense of Otto Porter’s growth and development. Wittman has also tried to infuse a little more youth into the second unit by shifting his substitution pattern and allowing Bradley Beal to run with the bench mob in the second and fourth quarters. Beal, however, has struggled this season as a secondary ball-handler having increased his turnovers from 1.8 per 36 minutes last season to 2.1 per 36 this season.

Like Paul Pierce said back in December: “We have to build ourselves on great habits.” Sunday’s night’s game against the Nuggets needs to serve as a building block for getting back on track and finishing strong.

Stopping by TAI today is Justin Faudree (@SmoothsHoops), contributor to the ESPN TrueHoop blog Roundball Mining Co. Let’s get Rocky Mountain…

Teams: Wizards at Nuggets
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
Television: CSN/NBATV
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 3 points

#1) With the Nuggets being on the outside looking in of the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff hunt and currently on a five-game losing streak, how different will this current roster look after the February 20 trade deadline?

@SmoothsHoopsThat’s really impossible to judge because no one knows what the franchise’s plans are moving forward. Everything is very much a mystery. Does ownership and management still feel the team is good enough to contend? Would that make a coaching change more likely than a roster rebuild? What players would be available should a full rebuild be their chosen path? Do they think any player is untouchable? I don’t know the answer to any of those questions because I don’t see a coherent vision or plan. There have been rumblings the team is floating Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo in discussions. If they’re willing to part with Lawson, it would appear no one is off the table.

I would say Lawson and Afflalo are most likely to be playing for another team by February 20. The second tier would include Wilson Chandler and/or Danilo Gallinari and Darrell Arthur. The third tier might be Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson. The Nuggets are kind of stuck with no good way out. Lawson is good, but most playoff teams already feature point guards as good or better. Their assets are difficult to pin down. Who might want what Denver is offering? I don’t know.

#2) DMV native Ty Lawson has been in the news for the wrong reasons this past week, but is slated to return Sunday against the Wizards.

Does this type of negative story, combined with his active Twitter personality (anointed the Social Media MVP by Bill Simmons in his latest trade value column), detract from the impact that Lawson is having on the court as the leader of the Nuggets and the de facto face of the franchise?

@SmoothsHoopsIn my opinion, no. Lawson is still Denver’s best player. Regardless of what happens with him off the court, he will always be their best player. And while he may be the current face of the franchise, he is most likely not its leader. I believe Danilo Gallinari’s steady resolve occupies that role—even while he’s been injured. The negative publicity of this story is nothing new for the Nuggets. There’s been negativity surrounding this team since Masai Ujiri walked and George Karl was fired. Nothing can detract from what is already a difficult situation.

#3) One hundred and thirty games into his coaching career, Brian Shaw has a win-loss record of 54-71 and has had a bottom 5 ranked defense as far as points per game allowed in both years of his tenure. Do the Nuggets fans attribute this to a rebuilding effort or are there growing concerns about Shaw’s effectiveness as an NBA head coach?

@SmoothsHoopsI believe Nuggets fans are concerned about both of those things. Sure, Brian Shaw might not be the best coach. But how good is his roster? Is the roster good enough to be coachable? Should they really be winning more games? It’s impossible to differentiate where the problems begin and end. My guess is it’s a little of both. The roster needs a serious influx of talent (as can be seen by what may or may not be returned in potential trades) and the coaching may not be up to snuff if and when the rebuild is complete. But like I said above, no one knows what’s going on with the Nuggets. There is no easy fix. Where would you even begin?

#4) Rookie center Jusuf Nurkic has been quite impressive in 31 games of action this year and a PER of 17.1, ranking him second amongst all rookies. Do the Nuggets think they have found a hidden gem with this mid-first round pick?

@SmoothsHoopsYes, I think they believe to have found a hidden gem. They likely wouldn’t have traded Timofey Mozgov if they thought otherwise. And no one can blame them. Nurkic has been the team’s most (only?) pleasant surprise this season.

#5) One of the weakness’ that I see for the Wizards is the lack of depth on the wing. The Nuggets are a talented roster with multiple assets to trade (Afflalo, Chandler, Galo, Foye.) Would there be any interest in former No. 3 overall pick Otto Porter to complete any such transaction?

@SmoothsHoopsWhen pondering any such trade scenario, it’s best to look at the contract of the player returning. Seeing how Otto is owed $15.1 million over the next three years, I find it very hard for Denver’s front office to rationalize such a trade—unless a third or fourth team was involved to cushion the blow of some of Denver’s larger contracts. According to the ESPN Trade Machine, a Chandler-for-Porter straight-up swap would not work, as it takes the Wizards over the luxury tax. The Nuggets are in no place to be adding salary. However, they did just that in trading Nate Robinson for Jameer Nelson. So what do I know? Anything with Denver would be difficult to accomplish. The best answer is there are no easy answers.

]]> 0 DC Council 44: Wizards at Trail Blazers — Aldridge, Just What The Doctor Ordered Sun, 25 Jan 2015 18:51:57 +0000 Truth About’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Game No. 44: Washington versus the Portland on the Oregon National Historic Trail.
Contributor: John Converse Townsend from a fourth-floor walk-up in Brooklyn.


“It doesn’t change shit.” That was Marcin Gortat’s response to the news that LaMarcus Aldridge was going to skip surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and suit up against the Wizards.

“We got to be ready to play,” Gortat continued. “He’s just one player—he’s really good but we’re going to go at him.”

That was nice and good, but Aldridge isn’t just the “straw that stirs the Blazers’ drink,” as Chris Lucia wrote in the Opening Statements, he’s the shot of MiO that ‘changes everything.’

The Blazers big man had a big game. Aldridge scored a game-high 26 points, leading all players with 16 in the second half, and went 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

Nene did a decent job crowding him from the opening tip, but his defensive know-how wasn’t enough. Aldridge hit shots and drew whistles all night and didn’t seem at all bothered by his bum left thumb. Nene fouled out in the fourth quarter, frustrated, scowling. And no other Wizards player was prepared to be the game-changer on defense, which was obvious to everyone watching: “Gortat really has no chance,” laughed the Blazers broadcast crew.

“I’m not into the rah-rah story,” Aldridge said post-game. “I just wanted to come back and play. I wanted to test it out at home, and versus [the Wizards] because I felt they were a physical team and if I could play against these guys that would be good. And I was OK.”

Understatement of 2015? Perhaps.

Here’s a definitive statement: There’s no way that the Wizards would have lost this game with Aldridge in a suit.



Washington Wizards



Portland Trail Blazers


Nene Hilario, PF

28 MIN | 7-11 FG | 1-3 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 15 PTS | +4 +/-

Nene is the best defensive player on the Wizards, but he still couldn’t contain LaMarcus Aldridge, a world-class basketmaker. Aldridge got off to a red-hot start, scoring eight points on his first seven attempts and, as you read above, stayed busy till the final whistle.

Nene’s best play of the game didn’t even count. He sold a corner 3 with a shoulder shrug, removing Aldridge from the equation entirely, and raced to the hoop for a big dunk. The problem? The shot clock expired before the ball went through the hoop. Turnover.

His worst play was fouling Myles Leonard in the right corner with 68 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Leonard made all three free throws to extend the Blazers’ lead to six.

Paul Pierce, SF

30 MIN | 7-10 FG | 3-4 3FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 19 PTS | -1 +/-

Pierce hit a walk up 3 to open the night, then a pull-up jumper from the top of the key, then swished his next look. He tried some slightly suspect jab-and-heaves from the midrange area as the game went on, but he’s made a career out of those looks, so he gets a pass. Strong showing, just not enough.

Marcin Gortat, C

31 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | +3 +/-

For the second game in a row, Gortat failed to win a single trip to the free throw line. And although he rebounded fine, leading all Wizards, he’s become entirely dependent on handouts from John Wall on offense and made too many mistakes on defense: leaving his feet on pump fakes and not tracking the roll man with enough interest.

John Wall, PG

35 MIN | 10-17 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 1 STL | 3 TO | 25 PTS | +4 +/-

Twas a tale of two halves for John Wall. In the first, he did a nice job of distributing, penetrating well and dumping the ball off to his frontcourt players for easy buckets. The floater was working for him, too: the highlight was a high-arcing push-shot to end the first quarter, giving the Wizards a 30-18 lead.

The dribble-drive action that worked so well in the first half wasn’t there in the second. Neither was his jump shot. Worse, and especially frustrating: Wall only attempted two shots in the paint in his 35 minutes.

To cap off a very average second half, he double-teamed LaMarcus Aldridge on an inbounds play, leaving Lillard wide-open from the top of the arc. Lillard buried the shot—as you’d expect—to extend the lead to seven points with under three minutes to play. Later, after the Wizards gave up an offensive rebound to Portland with 17 seconds to play, Wall let 10 seconds come off the clock before fouling Lillard. Dagger.

Bradley Beal, SG

32 MIN | 7-15 FG | 1-4 3FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 2 TO | 16 PTS | -4 +/-

Bradley Beal, early in the first quarter, outran the entire Blazers squad for a transition dunk. Portland’s color commentator Mike Rice mistook him for John Wall. Not sure why Beal doesn’t flash that speed more often…

Another thing: He has a bit of a habit of picking up his dribble too early on drives, making shot attempts in the paint much more difficult than they have to be. This tendency also leads to more midrange jump shots than you’d ever like to see—in one stretch during the second quarter, Beal ended three possessions with midrange Js as the Blazers’ second unit was making a comeback.

Sad Panda misread screen action a few times, got caught up, and allowed West Matthews to have clean looks at the basket. This happened late in the game too, unfortunately. “All day, I’m gonna make that shot,” jabbed Matthews after one swish.

(Five of Matthews’ seven made field goals came from 3-point land.)

Kris Humphries, PF

19 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 STL | 4 PTS | -12 +/-

Humphries got absolutely scrambled by a Thomas Robinson dunk in the first quarter. I’m not sure he ever recovered because he missed open looks and was often out of position on defense and late on rotations. Rough night.

Martell Webster, SF

19 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 5 PTS | -7 +/-

He ran round. He hit one 3, his second of the year. He also air-balled a wide-open 3 from the corner.

Rasual Butler, SF

16 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -3 +/-

Made a nice pass to referee Violet Palmer.

Kevin Seraphin, C

17 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 PTS | -1- +/-

The first real taste of the #KSLife came on the defensive end. Wild, right? He blocked a driving layup by Chris Kaman. That wasn’t a harbinger of a show-stopping night, though. On the possession where the Blazers took their first lead of the night, Seraphin doubled Wes Matthews for absolutely no reason, allowing LaMarcus Aldridge to have a wide-open shot from the top of the key—Humphries recognized the error but couldn’t make up enough ground to disrupt the shot.

His only made field goals were a pair of long 2s in the fourth quarter. That’s unacceptable because the second unit is entirely driven by Andre Miller post-ups, which didn’t work at all, and Serabot stuff. The Wizards desperately needed more.

Andre Miller, PG

13 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -9 +/-

Steve Blake made Andre Miller look slower than usual. Blake also broke The Professor’s ankles with an in-and-out move, finishing the play with a layup and a mean mug.

Miller did make a nice pass or two, but he is not John Wall.


Let’s remember the good Vines.


]]> 0
Key Legislature: Wizards 96 at Trail Blazers 103 — Washington Wilts Under Long-Range Barrage Sun, 25 Jan 2015 16:54:50 +0000 Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 44 versus the Trail Blazers in Portland, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick) from the East Coast.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Sean Fagan.

When the Wizards offense is firing on all cylinders, it is easy to get behind Coach Randy Wittman’s philosophy of taking “open shots,” which may rely heavily on the derided long 2 but can effectively grind down the opponent if the Wizards adhere to Wittman’s mantra of locking down on defense. Against Portland, it appeared for most of the night that Wittman’s “old school” basketball was going to get the better of Portland’s “bombs away from behind the arc” approach. Washington took a 55-45 lead into the half with the offense shooting at a tick over 50 percent. Everything for the Wizards was working. John Wall couldn’t miss from the field and was distributing the ball with aplomb, Nene was holding his own against LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, and Bradley “Sad Panda” Beal appeared to have been rejuvenated by the cool air of the Pacific Northwest, attacking the basket and being aggressive on both sides of the floor. It was the best possible performance that Washington could have asked for against a strong Western Conference opponent, and yet it wasn’t enough.

Despite their best efforts, the Wizards were done in by Portland running one of those crazy newfangled offenses that relies on chucking it from deep and letting their two stars (Aldridge and Damian Lillard) get to line and convert free throws. With 4:28 left in the fourth quarter and Washington leading 84-81, the Portland offense started to punch holes in the Wizards defense. Wesley Matthews (noted Wizard killer) drilled a 3 with 4:08 remaining to pull the Trail Blazers within one. After Nene missed a contested hook shot, Portland went right back to the well with Matthews, who hit another 3 and put Portland in front for good at 87-85. The Wizards would valiantly stay within striking distance, but the stake was driven into their heart when Nene fouled out of the game with 1:07 remaining by contesting backup center Meyers Leonard’s 3-point attempt. Leonard converted all three of his free throws.

The sum total can be read as such: Portland went 13-for-31 from 3 and went 20-for-20 at the free line. The Wizards shot 5-for-15 from 3 (including Paul Pierce’s 2,000th) and were 11-for-14 from the line. Washington executed better, ran their offense almost perfectly (they ended up shooting almost 49% from the field, while Portland shot 40%), and still ended up losing the game. The blame should not be focused on a missed Nene free throw or Martell Webster’s air-balled 3 from the corner, but on the sole fact that no adjustments were made in the offensive scheme to counter a well-scouted offense that is solely predicated on long-range shooting. The Wizards escaped earlier this month with a win against Houston (a team that, like Portland, also shoots 3s in bunches) and it took a Herculean effort from Beal to pull out that win against the Rockets. Wittman is going to have to go into his bag of tricks and tweak something, because while the Wizards are fully capable of beating most teams with their current offensive set, they will nine times out of ten find themselves coming up short against a team that understands that three points is more than two.

]]> 0
Opening Statements: Wizards at Trail Blazers, Game 44 Sat, 24 Jan 2015 16:18:18 +0000  




UPDATE: So, it seems that LaMarcus Aldridge is going to hold off on surgery to fix a torn ligament in his left thumb and will play versus the Wizards tonight. What say you, Marcin Gortat?

After beating the Spurs and Bulls in back-to-back games (after getting destroyed by the Hawks by 31), the Wizards since don’t exactly find themselves in a position backed by confident bragging rights. They got handled by the Nets by 20, in Washington—probably the most embarrassing loss of the season to date. They beat the Nets (in Brooklyn) and 76ers as perhaps expected, but then got out-clutched by the OKC Thunder this past Wednesday

Now Washington embarks on a four-game Western Conference swing. Ten out of their next 16 games will be on the road. First up, Portland. The Blazers have been hit with a bout of bad luck. They lost their lead star, LaMarcus Aldridge, for 6-to-8 weeks, then lost two games in the row (one to the Celtics in Portland), and have already slipped from the 2-seed to 3-seed in the West. After facing the Wizards this evening, Portland will play seven out of 10 on the road. The Blazers also might be without Nic Batum (wrist sprain, doubtful) and Chris Kaman (leg contusion, questionable) against Washington; centers Robin Lopez and Joel Freeland are currently out for an extended period of time.

Meanwhile, the Wizards are fully healthy but struggling in a search for consistency. They don’t have time to feel bad for Portland. Besides, Damian Lillard still exists. John Wall’s adidas buddy just might be good enough to beat the Wizards on his own. The Wizards have won two of their last three games in Portland (remember Jordan Crawford’s game winner, for olde tyme sake, which happened just over two years ago) and four of the last six versus the Trail Blazers overall.

Stopping by TAI today is Chris Lucia (@chrislucia_be), staff writer for the SB Nation blog, Blazers Edge. Let’s dive into the Q&A.

Teams: Wizards at Trail Blazers
Time: 10:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Moda Center at the Rose Quarter, Portland, Oregon
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 4 points (as of Saturday morning)

#1) LaMarcus Aldridge is out 6-to-8 weeks with torn ligament in his thumb. Total bummer.

The Blazers have scored 108 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court, 2.7 points above the team average, which is a team-best. So who rises to the prophecy of the next man up cliché?

@chrislucia_beTotal bummer is right. Aldridge is the straw that stirs the Blazers’ drink, so to speak. Most of the offense runs through him and his teammates find many of their open shots due to how much opposing defenses have to account for the 6-foot-11 power forward who can shoot 20-footers like they’re layups.

Realistically, there is no “next man up” behind Aldridge. So far, there’s not a single player on Portland’s roster that coach Terry Stotts can put in the starting power forward spot and be comfortable with in big minutes game-in and game-out. He’ll have to adjust his playing rotation to suit the matchups the team faces on a nightly basis.

Dorell Wright can stretch the floor and create a bit of offense, but he’d get roasted in the post by a traditional power forward. Thomas Robinson brings the energy but sometimes the passion he plays with can be as big of a detriment as it is a benefit, and Victor Claver has seen some time at the four spot lately, as well. I’d expect to see Meyers Leonard starting once Robin Lopez and/or Joel Freeland return from injury in the next few weeks. He’s got the size, athleticism and the shooting range to best replicate what Aldridge does offensively—compared to Portland’s other options right now, at least—but Stotts needs him right now to back up Chris Kaman at center.

So for now it’s going to be either Wright, Robinson or Claver at the power forward spot depending on the specific matchup. I’d anticipate Robinson starting tonight against Washington to go against Nene, but at this point, it’s a toss-up until we see how Stotts’ rotations unfold in the coming weeks.

#2) The Real Plus-Minus stat ranks NBA point guards as follows:

  1. Curry
  2. Lowry
  3. Paul
  4. Lillard
  5. Westbrook
  6. Wall
  7. Teague

You’re not starting a branding new team with one of these point guards, you’re adding them to an already veteran laden team … in the Adriatic League. Rank who you would choose.

@chrislucia_beHmmmm… So, who would I choose to add to a veteran Euroleague team? Lillard, Curry and Paul’s shooting range would dominate overseas where the 3-point line is shorter. Although Lowry, Westbrook, Wall, and Teague could all do a ton of damage by getting into the paint and kicking out or finishing at the rim among smaller frontcourt players.

I think my order would go something like this, though it would ultimately change depending on the talent around them: Curry, Lowry, Lillard, Paul, Wall, Westbrook, Teague. Really, though, you can’t go wrong with a single one of these guys, and you could even include players like Mike Conley, Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe or Ty Lawson, too. Point guard is such a stacked position in the NBA right now, it’s crazy.

#3) Aside from Lillard for sure (and maybe LMA), which two players do you most envision on this Blazers team three seasons from now, 2017-18 (and touch on LMA’s unrestricted free agency status this summer if you would like, i.e., is he a five-year max player?

@chrislucia_beAldridge is 100 percent, no doubt a five-year max player. Would I be cautious to give $110-plus million to a guy who turns 30 in July? Sure, but it’s not my money. Also consider that Portland isn’t likely to ever attract a player of his caliber via free agency, so they have to keep the homegrown talent around, and Aldridge is top 3 at his position and arguably the best power forward in the game right now. Blazers fans are hoping that his production doesn’t tail off as he advances further into his 30s—à la Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, etc.—and that he’ll remain free of serious injuries in the long-term. Paying a guy like that $22-ish million a year isn’t going to look too bad if/when the salary cap goes way up in the next couple years, either.

Lillard’s sticking around, and I’d be surprised if Wesley Matthews didn’t get a long-term deal from Portland this summer. Batum and Lopez won’t even be 30 by 2017, so I think Blazers GM Neil Olshey will also try to find a way to pay them to stick around.

Continuity is a buzzword right now in NBA circles, but it’s pretty justified. Look at the top teams in the league right now and you’ll see that most of them have minimal roster turnover (at least in the starting lineup) from year-to-year. If Olshey can find a way to keep Aldridge, Lillard, Batum, Matthews, and Lopez in Portland, 2017-18 would be their fifth year together as the core of the team and they’d all be in their late 20s or early 30s. I’d imagine Olshey and team owner Paul Allen will try to figure out a way to keep this core in tact as hard as possible.

#4) What’s the story with Nic Batum? According to one metric (eFG%), he’s having the worst shooting year of his career by far—45.8%, which is 6.4% worse than his previous career-low in 2012-13.

@chrislucia_beWell, yeah, Batum isn’t shooting nearly as well as usual, and it’s inspired a vocal minority of Portland fans to sound off about how Olshey should flip him right now while he still has perceived value across the league.

Personally, I find that a bit reactionary, short-sighted and under-informed. Batum has spent his summers for years playing with the French national team, he suffered a knee contusion in November then aggravated the same knee injury and messed up his shooting wrist a few weeks later in a game against the Bucks when Larry Sanders sent him to the floor on a hard foul. Batum has been tired and banged up all year, so it’s no surprise that he’s not able to score consistently at his career levels.

I’m not worried about him long-term, and I think when fans in Portland focus solely on his lower shooting percentages, they’re not taking into account everything else he does on the court, which is initiate the offense, grab rebounds, and consistently defend up to four different positions effectively. Yeah, you’d like to see Batum hit his open 3s—and eventually Stotts will need him to do that—but he’s clearly playing through pain right now.

If he’s still shooting like this after the All-Star break and into the playoffs when the team will need him most, I’ll be much more worried. Until then, though, I think Batum deserves the benefit of the doubt.

#5) Thomas Robinson, son of D.C.—there were talks of the Wizards being interested in drafting him in 2012. Thankfully, they got Bradley Beal instead … and definitely not Dion Waiters.

But with T-Rob, who’s been on three teams already by this his third season, what has led to his comfort zone in Portland? He numbers are better than previous, how close is he to performing to a fifth overall pick levels?

@chrislucia_beIt’s probably important to note that Robinson was more of a financial casualty when the Rockets traded him to Portland the summer before last, when Houston GM Daryl Morey was clearing all the room he possibly could to acquire Dwight Howard.

That said, Robinson certainly hasn’t lived up to his billing as a No. 5 draft pick and that was made clear back in October when Olshey declined to pick up the (roughly) $5 million team option on the 23-year-old power forward for next season.

Robinson may not ever be a full-time starter in the NBA, but his athleticism, hustle and effort—particularly on the glass—can turn the tide of a game in Portland’s favor pretty quickly. He plays his best in front of the home crowd, for sure, when he can feast off the energy in the Moda Center. Being behind Aldridge in the rotation has probably helped stabilize Robinson’s outlook. He’ll never be a big minutes guy for the Blazers by virtue of him backing up the best power forward in the game, but he can be a rotational player who can provide a spark offensively and come through with big rebounds. Robinson’s energy can ignite the team on the defensive end, though it can also go both ways.

I’d say he’s comfortable here because there’s really no question what his role is and Stotts seems to run his bench rotation as a meritocracy, so Robinson knows what he needs to show in practice and in limited court-time to stay on the floor.

]]> 0
Chicks Dig the Midrange Ball: A Kris Humphries Story Fri, 23 Jan 2015 16:45:29 +0000 [original image via GQ]

[original image via GQ]

You’ve surely seen Kris Humphries. Somewhere between bro and brah, reality and TV, boxers and briefs, the land of 10,000 lakes and the Potomac River, swimming and basketball, Uber rides and ‘fashion’, the midrange and the 3-point line.

These days he’s no longer an ‘item’ athlete; he’s looking to avoid controversy. Doubt Humphries would come first in any “most disliked player in the NBA” surveys today. Out of the ashes but perhaps still in a cocoon, this bird (and/or butterfly) has a flight path with two destinations: the midrange to drop jumpers and the glass to snatch boards.

“That’s what he does (rebound). I told Humphries that’s the reason he got paid—it wasn’t that jump shot.” This is what Paul Pierce said with coatings of facetiousness after Humphries pulled down 20 rebounds against the L.A. Lakers in Game 17 of the season. Or maybe the future Hall of Fame veteran actually believed what he said. Maybe Pierce’s mind has changed since. What matters is that he was wrong.

Ernie Grunfeld, Tommy Sheppard, and staff knew exactly what they were doing when they pegged Humphries as a free agent target this past summer. Once Trevor Booker signed a partially-guaranteed two-year, $10 million contract with the Utah Jazz, the Wizards moved fast to sign Humphries for cheaper—three-years, $13 million, with a team option for the third year.

It was hard for Washington’s front office and coaching staff to lose a player like Booker—a home-grown draft pick—but statistics played a large role in shifting their equation to Humphries. In losing Booker Washington would be losing presence and muscle, that’s for sure. To their surprise, and to the chagrin of Wizards fans, Booker has found a 3-point shot in Utah—1-for-10 from deep over his first four NBA seasons in Washington, 14-for-39 (almost 36%) so far this season with the Jazz.

Instead, the Wizards will more than take what they have in Humphries, who also provides presence—different than Booker’s but speaking to the soul of the team nonetheless. Also, Humphries is a full two inches taller with almost three more inches in wingspan. Booker—bless him and his cereal—was often vertically challenged in the restricted area. Humphries is a better rebounder than Booker (10.5 rebs per 36 mins. to 8.9), turns the ball over less (1.3 TOs per 36 mins. to 2.3), and is a better free throw shooter (74.6% to 62.9%). These metrics are some of the reasons why Washington, in essence, chose Humphries over Booker, and why the Wizards’ choice has a slight edge in defensive presence. Humphries’ Defensive Real Plus/Minus of minus-0.65 ranks 51st* amongst NBA power forwards; Booker’s minus-1.26 ranks 60 (*minimum 20 minutes).

But all of that is merely icing. The ultimate difference, contrary to Paul Pierce’s belief, has been Humphries’ jump shot. Half the time, it’s good every time. And it has been somewhat of a revelation, and it has given John Wall a true stretch-4 (not named Drew Gooden) who’s also smart enough to find seams in the offense that Optimus Dime creates with his speed.

On 2-pointers from 15 feet (about free throw line distance) to the 3-point line, Humphries is shooting 50 percent (67-134) through the first half of the season. This ranks fourth in the NBA (minimum 75 attempts) after Kevin Love (56.6%), Dirk Nowitzki (51.5%), and Al Horford (50.5%). In comparison, Booker is shooting 34.4 percent on 2s beyond 15 feet. Sometimes it’s better to be a reliable threat from an area that the defense gives you instead of an occasional gimmick—not all midrange jumpers are bad, provided the players who are taking them are open and can make them, and not launching with abandon.

“He’s got a really good jump shot,” Boston coach Brad Stevens told me when his Celtics last came to Washington. “I’m not as familiar with his time in Brooklyn, other than just watching some tape. But when he got there you could tell he’s got a good 15-to-17-foot jumper and I think he’s expanded it even more.”

From a TAI analysis on Humphries when he signed last August:

Last season (in Boston) 36.7 percent of Humphries’ field goal attempts came from beyond 16 feet but inside the 3-point line. In his prior 245 games with the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, only 18.4 percent of his shots came from that range (just under his career average of 18.7 percent).

Humphries 16 Feet to the 3-Point Line, FG%:

  • With the Nets: 35.2%
  • With the Celtics: 42.6%
  • With the Wizards: 49.2%

Humphries just keeps getting better from 16 feet to the 3-point line (note that I used 15 feet as a starting distance above by means of the free throw line; breaks its data into the “16-feet < 3-point line” range).

Also: thanks a lot, Rajon Rondo and John Wall.

Wall has assisted on 44 Humphries field goals over their 615 minutes together. Rondo dropped 43 dimes to Humphries in just 415 minutes last season. (Yes, Wall is a much better scorer than Rondo and this year’s Wizards team has more overall options than last year’s Celtics.)

Credit Stevens for helping condition Humphries’ game, too.

“He’s told me that he wasn’t as used to playing in hand-offs and those type of things, and we asked him to do all that and I thought he did a really good job,” said Stevens. “And when Witt (Randy Wittman) called [last] summer and we talked about Kris, I had nothing but great things to say about him. I hope that it continues to be a great relationship for all of them because he certainly seems to be playing very well for them.”

So far, so good. You can check Vines of Humphries conducting dribble hand-offs with Bradley Beal and with Martell Webster.

“Looking at Coach’s offense, the bigs handle the ball. You’re running a lot of dribble hand-offs, you’re getting shots in a flow,” Humphries told me about his tutelage under Stevens. “So for me it was like, ‘OK, I really got to improve my shot and work on it.’ And I feel like I got a lot better playing with different aspects of my game—handing the ball, seeing cuts, all those kind of things.”

Seeing cuts? For sure. This Vine shows Humphries finding the space (with some credit to Otto Porter for the screen) as Andre Miller initiates offense from the post. Don’t leave him open either, Dirk Nowitzki. Humphries has even pulled out a shoulder shrug after making a jumper this year; perhaps he was as baffled as we were as to why Taj Gibson left him so open.

In a Wizards offensive set that I’m particularly fond of—putting a shooter in each corner and letting John Wall and Marcin Gortat work the high screen-and-roll—Humphries has found a knack for finding space in the defense along the baseline, acting as a safety valve for when opposing defenses are able to negate both Wall and the roll man as options. This Vine shows that; also note how deceptive Wall is when he makes this pass. The moving diagram of this action can be seen here via

But what about 3-pointers? Should Humphries learn to launch them like Trevor Booker?

He went 2-for-6 from deep his rookie season, 2004-05 in Utah. He shot 17-for-50 his one season at the University of Minnesota. Over 10 NBA seasons since, he’s 0-for-17 from deep, including 0-for-4 with the Wizards.

“Umm… You know what? I think some guys you do (ask to extend their range), and maybe in the corner, but I think that his comfort level is just inside the line,” said Brad Stevens.

What say you, Kris? Do you 3?

“I work on it all the time. My 3-ball’s wet, it’s just not something we’ve needed on this team right now,” he said, in essence dropping the mic on the interview process and exiting the locker room.

Is that so? Well, Nene has been feeling spry lately. Maybe one day we’ll see the 4-man in Washington’s offense hitting a long ball as the trailer on the break or when planted in the corner. Or maybe Kris Humphries can just keep doing what he’s been doing; his marriage to the Wizards seems to be working so far.



]]> 2
Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Thunder 105 — Westbrook Ponies Up in Overtime Thu, 22 Jan 2015 15:43:06 +0000 Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 43 versus the Thunder in D.C., via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Conor Dirks.

With just under four seconds remaining in overtime of an incredibly competitive game, the Thunder inbounded the ball to Russell Westbrook. The plan, according to John Wall, was to deny the inbound pass just enough so that Westbrook had to catch the ball moving away from the basket and toward halfcourt. But Bradley Beal was overzealous and came out too far, enough that Anthony Morrow, the passer, initially looked for another recipient for the inbound. Morrow faked a pass toward the basket and away from Beal and Westbrook’s positioning battle. Beal froze for just a second, Westbrook looped back around towards Morrow, and caught the inbounds on the run with Beal already left for dead in his wake. Westbrook sped past a sealed-off Paul Pierce (and the other three reaching Wizards), and converted the layup with relative ease. He then rode an imaginary pony past the Wizards bench while Marcin Gortat gripped the sides of his own face in a suddenly familiar agony.

Everyone had their own take, all without the benefit of a second look:

Randy Wittman: “I don’t know if Brad went for a steal or lost his balance, I don’t know. Westbrook jumped into the backcourt, which is fine, but now you got to make him catch the ball in the backcourt. I don’t know for sure, like I said, I haven’t looked back on the tape yet, but somehow he got free and Brad was on him. He had a full head of steam to the basket.”

Paul Pierce: “Truthfully, I am not even sure. We are playing so fast right now. I just saw Westbrook coming down the middle. I was the guy right there. I had an opportunity to step up. I felt a little push (from Steven Adams) but there are no excuses. Maybe I could have fouled him or prevented him.”

John Wall: “We tried to deny them the ball, and had the opportunity where we denied them too far to half court. We have to try and make them catch the ball out and come back to the basket.”

Russell Westbrook: Just get a shot. Try to find a way to get a shot in. My job is to try to attack the basket and that is what I tried to do.”

Kevin Durant: “I was going to try and end the game myself, Coach Brooks drew up a great play—Russ ran to the halfcourt line and they threw two at him and he was able to get free. Coach said whoever catches the ball be aggressive, so it wasn’t just a play for me, it was a team play and Russ made a phenomenal move, and Steve cleared the lane for him as well. Big win for us.”

Now that we’ve raked the moment over the coals of a soggy, amateur campfire, it’s time to move on. This game was ugly, but not as ugly as ESPN analyst Hubie Brown indicated. The two teams combined to go 13-for-59 on 3-pointers. The Wizards alone went 1-for-7 in the first quarter. And, aside from Gortat’s 3-point attempt, that was … encouraging? Yes, encouraging  (as an airball can be). Pierce and Beal both missed wide-open looks, and they looked to the naked eye like they were attempts that could, if the need should arise, be replicated.

As surly as you like, Randy Wittman asserted after the game that while the Wizards have to be better at getting to the line “especially when we aren’t shooting the ball well.” He was, as evidenced by his strong reaction to a fair question about Wall drawing more free throws, only speaking generally, and definitely not about John Wall on the ill-fated, barely worth mentioning final “possession” of overtime, in which Wall caught the ball far from the basket with 0.8 seconds remaining and fired up a desperation shot.

Part of it is getting to the line, but free throws are a symptom of the greater virtue of driving to the basket with more regularity. The Wizards don’t have many capable ballhandlers, and even secondary ballhandler Bradley Beal doesn’t have a great handle, yet. It’s a weakness, but an aspect of the game that has to be remedied come playoff-time, when the ability to get to the hoop for an easier look (also a great way to open up shooters from 3) could be the only way to break down a playoff defense.

The long road to those rocky final seconds started off smoothly enough. Nene specifically was brilliant. Early in the game, the Brazilian backed down Serge Ibaka once, twice, faked a shot, and while Ibaka was up in the air, Nene tucked neatly underneath, stretching his arm to the hoop for a layup while Ibaka crashed clumsily down to make the basket an and-1. After the first quarter, though, the offense flatlined, with Wizards whiffing on layup and long-ball alike. Spectacular plays died on the table with a fumble or a failure to keep concentration long enough to finish through contact. With the Wizards in a supreme slump, some timely Paul Pierce layups in the third quarter (by way of his typically crafty footwork) kept them resembling an NBA offense.

Down seven points with under five minutes remaining, Wall and Pierce connected to go 4-for-7, with two of those 3-point answers by Pierce. Wall had a chance to win the game in regulation, but the final play was another quiet disaster, a snow globe of a play, where Wall and his defender were hermetically sealed off from the rest of the court. They swayed left, they swayed right, and an isolation shot was taken with two seconds left in the fourth quarter—air ball. These deflating plays rarely work, don’t feature any movement by Wall’s teammates, and feel expressly like giving up.

But as Topper Shutt, local weatherman, pointed to a photo of Kevin Durant in a Wizards jersey and made the universal signal for “I beg you” during a schtick on the arena’s big screen, and the discomforting cheers crashed into the pixels making up Shutt’s face, I realized that nothing even mattered anymore.

I called on the Earthmother, and bid her welcome me into the soil, far from the devices and buzzing of modern life. The Wizards played on, but they played on in a world changed. A world where the idea of ‘Topper’ begging Durant to “join us,” to essentially “run home, Jack!”* all over the Thunder in the middle of a professional** basketball game exists. The image was burned so far beyond my retinas that it may have created additional neon circuitry to a brain in an already overburdened corpus begging to just sleep already. And in that sleep of death, what wins may come!

Things will get better, though. The season marches on. But hot damn, that Kevin Durant is a hell of a player.

*”Hook” is a good movie.

**At least, it had been professional up to that point.



]]> 0
DC Council 43: Wizards vs Thunder — Durant and Westbrook Flash, Wiz Kids Crash in OT Thu, 22 Jan 2015 13:00:17 +0000 Truth About’s D.C. Council:
Grading Washington players from Game No. 43: Wizards versus the OKC Thunder in D.C.
Contributor: Kyle Weidie from the Mt. Pleasant/Columbia Heights.


It was a grinding affair. An awkwardly grinding affair. Like the doughy but confident underage kid who snuck into an Irish bar with a dance floor (yes, those exist, at least in America), roaming around, bobbing his head to Top 40 hits, occasionally stopping to awkwardly peddle his dancing wares (in his mind, a mating ritual) lest he look too awkward standing still. The scene, as dark and murky basement dance floors are wont to do, featured obscured talent just worthy enough to serve as a distraction.

We’re talking about last night’s Wizards basketball game versus the Thunder, right? I think so.

The thud of missed shots acted as the bass. The cheap courting of the other team’s star acted as the screeching treble. Nothing sounded right. At least the competition, available at a minimum, served as a nice backdrop.

These are two good teams, Washington and Oklahoma City, and their overtime battle was an exhilarating rug burn, leaving the Wizards shrugging their shoulders at the cross roads of ‘They have superstars who can just wake up ready for the catwalk’ and ‘We are a team trying to escape bone-headed plays on a wobbly ladder of consistency.’

The Wiz Kids, not all fully injected with Paul Pierce’s gusto, tried to skip some rungs, and that ultimately led to Russell Westbrook skipping around and Kevin Durant supremely satisfied that he could give his hometown a show.

The Wizards attempted 10 more uncontested field goals than the Thunder but only made five more of those shots.

The Thunder attempted 12 more contested field goals than Washington and made seven more.

In most worlds, that doesn’t work out for the visiting team. In Washington’s world of unfamiliar basketball relevance, without protection of throat-slashing stars who will dunk on the nub where a head once stood atop a neck, it’s amounts to a beta dog licking its wounds and searching through grass and dirt for sustenance while gazing at the backsides of an alpha: not exactly seeing the feast of meat and bone hanging from a mouth and leading to a satisfied stomach, but knowing that it’s there nonetheless.

The gist? Westbrook and Durant combined for 66 points on 22-for-51 from the field. Washington’s starters not named Nene combined for 56 points on 21-for-60.

But hey, basketball.


Oklahoma City





Nene Hilario, PF

34 MIN | 9-14 FG | 6-9 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 24 PTS | 0 +/-

Nene made a last-resort jumper off great ball movement on the first offensive possession for Washington. (I still need to find that stat for his field goal percentage after knocking down the first attempt from distance.) But on this night, Nene didn’t rely on his jumper: 10 of his 14 attempts came at the rim and he made eight of them. Looking as comfortable (and spry) as he’s ever been, he took it to both Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams in the post, mostly Adams. There was one devastating move where he pivoted the New Zealander out of his shorts. He scored nine of his points in overtime, when Washington’s offense finally managed to get movement and action with high ball screens. This more than made up for airballing a corner 3 and then missing two free throws within 40 seconds midway through the fourth. There were also a play, maybe two, where Nene was uncharacteristically out of position on defense. It was that kind of night all around, but also, Nene was the only Wizard who truly showed up.

Paul Pierce, SF

37 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | -2 +/-

Pierce started the game by jetting past a sleeping Kevin Durant on the baseline and dunking on Anthony Roberson. He then missed six 3-pointers, looking short on many his shots—to the point where Hubie Brown had to say something. Pierce did other things while he was cold from the field, keeping his team warm like the sweater of an old grizzled sailor, eating rebounds like biscuits, de-robing Durant a couple times. He knitted them a mitten, grabbing an offensive board and put-back, then followed that with a cutting layup midway through the third quarter. Pierce knitted another mitten with some heroic 3s in the fourth quarter (being super wide-open and at the top of the key also limited miles on old legs in the equation). Pierce didn’t get much of a chance to do anything in overtime, other than allow himself to get sealed (perhaps illegally) by Steven Adams on Westbrook’s game-winner.

Marcin Gortat, C

37 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -5 +/-

After that one, Marcin Gortat needs to have amnesia that would stun a psychiatrist (and Bradley Beal). It was quite the forgettable evening. He…

  • Air-balled a 3.
  • Once settled for a missed jumper as Paul Pierce yelled “Dunk on him!” (Him being Steven Adams.)
  • Got somewhat ignored by the offense, perhaps with good reasons, but certainly to the chagrin of Hubie Brown.
  • Incited groans from the crowd after missing a bunny.
  • Got buried alive by a Slim Reaper.

A tiny bit of positive: Gortat logged three blocks—one came versus Durant, there should have been at least one more.

John Wall, PG

44 MIN | 6-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 13 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 18 PTS | +5 +/-

As has often been the case with All-Star John Wall, the point guard, he started the game measured with the efficiency of an overachieving manager at a plastic spork factory who likes to make sure all his employees feel special. The Wizards’ offense looked smooth in the first quarter, scoring 31 points despite going 1-for-7 from 3. But then sometimes and later on, Wall tried to take all the credit, but mostly missed jumpers. He tied his season-high (previously set in OKC) with six 3-point attempts, making two (which is also how many he made in OKC).

So, a B-minus is generous considering that Wall missed a “hero” jumper toward the very end of regulation and that he seemed apathetic toward Washington’s chances, down 3 in overtime with 0.8 seconds left, placing himself so far away from the basket that his only choice was a desperation heave.

Bradley Beal, SG

42 MIN | 5-21 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | -6 +/-

Beal got some plays run for him early, investigated some forays to the basket, is still not confident enough, nor capable, to drive on the B/W Parkway alone.

Let’s put it this way: Beal pretty much sucked worse than Dion Waiters. But, unlike Waiters, he doesn’t come across as an arrogant basketball ignoramus, and he did other things to involve himself in the game—such as air-balling a 3-pointer but hanging around the basket to receive a pass off a Paul Pierce-gathered offensive rebound for a dunk.

Beal’s forgettable performance turned disastrous when he misplayed the final defensive possession in overtime, allowing himself to be distracted by the concept of Russell Westbrook’s conceptual fashion when the gambled for a conceptual steal. No dice, said Russ, the alpha dog. He won the night and Beal went back to chewing on post-game bamboo. At least he admitted it: “I got caught ball watching.”

Kris Humphries, PF

19 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -2 +/-

Humphries hit one shot, a jumper from the short corner, and he played nice help defense on Westbrook at one juncture … but that ultimately led to a Nick Collison bucket, and no one wins when Nick Collison scores. Not totally sure why Humphries gets a ‘B’—the nine rebounds were cool, I guess.

Otto Porter Jr., SF

7 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | +4 +/-

Can’t be missing those wide-open baseline jumpers like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming paddleboat in shin-deep, lukewarm water, Otto. Body almost got snatched by Kendrick Perkins on a routine play, too.

Rasual Butler, SF

25 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +5 +/-

Butler must have some sort of karma. As Hubie Brown was bragging about him over the ESPN broadcast, he sat in the lane on defense, seeing ball and man, and picked off a pass for the steal. Butler, fully aware and dedicated to John Wall, then sprinted up the court with his point guard and ultimately received a pass for the dunk.

Karma, however, stops at Kevin Durant.

Butler’s efforts to defend him were valiant—Durant went 3-for-5 with eight points with Butler in the defending area. Two of those makes, 3-pointers, came in the fourth quarter. And it was nothing that Butler did or didn’t do, it’s just with guys like him, guys like Durant smell blood, and all the karma in the world is no match for teeth sharp enough to cut bone.

Kevin Seraphin, C

11 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -2 +/-

Kevin Seraphin, out of any Wizard, represents the ups and downs of life. He started his game with an offensive rebound and impressed (Hubie Brown and me) with his composure. On a couple possessions Seraphin was very Nene-like from the high post, moving the defense with hesitation and the threat to pass before attacking the basket.

As goes life, Seraphin got dunked on by a New Zealander, almost got eviscerated by a Durantula, and followed a nice step-back jump hook against Kendrick Perkins by getting his shot blocked by the sour-faced one on the other end. C’est la vie.

Andre Miller, PG

9 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -7 +/-

The Professor almost had a nice maneuver against center Steven Adams and almost scored at the rim. Washington’s offense was otherwise a man with the shakes trying to cut a pea with cheap diner silverware on a cheap porcelain plate when Miller was in the game.

I wonder what Nate Robinson’s spirit animal is. Just a little bit.




]]> 0
Wizards vs Thunder in 99 Tweets — (And Not One Mentions ‘Kevin Durant’) Thu, 22 Jan 2015 05:07:20 +0000 #WizardsTwitter said WHAT?! Here’s the rundown, Twitter-style, via Storify, as hunted and gathered by the editors at TAI into this here blog post. Thanks if you happened to take part. The Subject: Wizards vs Thunder, Game 43, Jan. 21, 2015.


[via @recordsANDradio]

[via @recordsANDradio]

Washington Wizards 103
vs Oklahoma City Thunder 105 (OT)



]]> 1
Opening Statements: Wizards vs Thunder, Game 43 Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:06:29 +0000 Washington Wizards vs Oklahoma City Thunder - Jan. 7, 2013

We’re here to talk about Kevin Durant. The opponent. The enemy. A pox on all basketball infidels against Wizards nation who covet a human with a celestial aura in a uniform representing the midwestern United States, i.e., the Oklahoma City Thunder blues.

Thunder? Wizards, the kind that wear hats and wield wands, shit thunder, I imagine … if they wanted to.

Kevin Durant is back, and damn near shitting thunder himself. Some even picture him as a wizard of sorts. In 17 games, Durant is shooting a career high 55.2 percent from the field overall and a career high 44.7 percent from the 3-point line. He’s attempting about one less 3 and about three less free throws per game compared to last season.

Therefore, Durant’s 41.1 points scored per 100 team possessions this season is not a career high and ranks dead last amongst the 15 times in NBA history that a player has averaged over 41 points per 100 possessions (accomplished by seven different players, Durant twice—per

Durant’s throwing lightning bolts in Oklahoma City, why would he ever want to leave?

Well, there could be a variety of factors—teammates, small market economics, Seat Pleasant, MD.

After beating the Heat in Miami on Tuesday night, the Thunder are 13-5 in games Durant has played this season, 16-8 since he made his debut on Dec. 2, and now 21-20 overall. Their winning percentage with Durant would be good enough for the third seed in the West. But, because of injuries to Durant and Westbrook to start the season, Oklahoma City is three games back of the 8-seed Phoenix Suns with 41 games left.

Plenty of time. More than enough time. Hell, 528 days from now—when Durant can potentially start negotiating a new contract with a new team—is enough time for his current team to win two NBA championships, cementing his legacy forever in the Sooner State (and perhaps making him never ever want to leave).

Sure, LeBron returned “home” (near Akron, OH) after winning two championships in Miami. But that decision was partially driven by guilt from him leaving home in the first place. Durant doesn’t have that guilt. He can simply love and be loved from afar.

Tonight, Kevin Durant is the enemy. He’s here to take down the Washington Wizards.

Here’s to John Wall—the real Wizards MVP—taking down the other team instead.

Joining TAI today is Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry), OKC Thunder beat writer for The Oklahoman, who will discuss how Thunder fans ain’t trying to study how Wizards fans are trying to study their MVP.

Let’s Easy Money, Sniper…

Teams: Wizards vs Thunder
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia
Television: ESPN/CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 1.5 points

#1) The frenzy of Kevin Durant maybe, possibly, potentially returning near home to play professional basketball one day cannot be denied.

(Such is/will be a ‘topical’ column of Dan Steinberg in the Washington Post on Wednesday.) Personally, it makes me a tad uncomfortable—Wizards fans working themselves into a lather when the sporting landscape can change so quickly, and when it might simply be unrealistic, i.e., Durant seems much more down-to-earth than most stars and certainly seems capable of appreciating and loving “home” as much as ever while not playing for the NBA team in proximity.

I’m too embedded, and thus too exposed, to the whole ordeal. What’s the general feeling in OKC? Is it more out of mind, out of sight (until 2016), or is there genuine (and/or increasing) concern that he’ll bolt?

@DarnellMayberry: I don’t get the sense that the majority of people in Oklahoma are overly concerned with Kevin’s looming decision. From what I gather, most Thunder fans are much more concerned with their team making the playoffs this year in the short term and winning a championship in the long term. There certainly is a vocal minority that has a tendency to want to connect every win and loss, every trade and free agent signing and every penny spent versus penny not spent to whether Kevin will or will not stay. But most people in Oklahoma seem to be level-headed about the whole thing. They’re enjoying what they have while they have it and worrying about 2016 when it gets here.

#2) From a distance, Oklahoma City needs to make a significant, perhaps risky move to solidify contention and emerge out of a packed and competitive West. Team brass seems to recognize this by trading for Dion Waiters and going after Brook Lopez. How important is it that OKC adds another piece? And if not Lopez, then who?

@DarnellMayberryI don’t necessarily agree that the Thunder needs to add another piece. I certainly don’t agree that OKC needs to make a significant or risky move. When healthy, this is a team that, in my opinion, is the most talented team in basketball. The Thunder has journeyed to the conference finals three out of the last four years with the core that it has. Talent is not the problem. Of course, that has been a popular opinion since the team traded James Harden. But injuries derailed this team’s progress in each of the past two postseasons. The talent was there. Health simply was not.

Injuries aside, it’s things like inconsistency, poor discipline, attention to detail, trust, or lack thereof, and style of play that have held the Thunder back. Not a shortage of talent. In my opinion, the move for Waiters and the rumored Lopez deal have been misunderstood if not misportrayed. From everything I know about this team, its history, its stated plan and its patient philosophy for getting there, neither the Waiters move nor the rumored Lopez deal were desperate deals in an attempt to “win now.” Instead, they each represented examples of how the Thunder has long been shrewd and opportunistic when it comes to player acquisitions and other transactions that both maximize assets and improve the roster in the present as well as in the future. Seven years of searching for and pouncing on those opportunities when the time is right, while avoiding the knee-jerk or short-sighted transactions, is in part what has built this roster into the versatile power that it is. No reason to change now.

#3) The Internet continues to be the Wild West. And in the rapidly escalating economy of sports, we are at a crossroads in terms of player access—an inundation of (new) media; how said media (of all types) uses quotes for click-bait in hyper competition; and players themselves at times skirting the middlemen/people (if you will) and interacting directly with fans via social media.

This is, of course, a lead up to Russell Westbrook’s recent “antics,” if that’s what they are called.

Being a writer on the Thunder beat (who, yourself, has had “interactions” if you will, with Kendrick Perkins), what’s your take from 30,000 feet? And what did you think Berry Tramel’s column in response? (Would you have done the same thing?)

@DarnellMayberryI can’t believe the sports world has spent so much time and energy talking about one grown man telling another grown man “I don’t like you.” That’s my take. The whole thing was overblown in my opinion. Was it unusual? No doubt. But that wasn’t the first time Russell delivered a chilly postgame interview and it won’t be the last. We’ve known for years that Russell isn’t particularly fond of the media. He just provided confirmation. As for how Berry handled it, there’s more to the story. Russell had been supplying canned, concise answers for the previous week and a half. In practices and after games. Berry was the guy who finally decided to ask Westbrook what was up. That’s the background that most people don’t know. It had little, if anything, to do with Berry. He just happened to be the guy who came along and asked a surly star player a legitimate question that he didn’t like. And here we are. I thought Berry’s blog after the fact was fine. He attempted to shed more light on the subject and I thought he “executed” extremely well. I’m not sure what I would have done in that situation. But thanks to Berry, and the professionalism that he’s displayed throughout, I now have a pretty good blueprint.


TAI’s Conor Dirks pens a “TrueDC” piece for,
Grown-ups too: Wiz mature into contenders.” Go read it.

The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg wrote a column on the whole #KD2DC thing.
I was quoted in it. Go read it.

Westbrook to Durant Oop





]]> 0
Optimus Dime Gives You Wings: High Fliers with John Wall Tue, 20 Jan 2015 17:38:14 +0000 Optimus Dime is just different.

I’m talking about Johnathan Hildred Wall, Jr.

Wall, the most popular All-Star guard in the East (as of the most recent release of voting numbers), is averaging an NBA-best 10 assists per game this season, after leading the Association in total dimes in 2013-14. And, despite spending his first few years on the court with selfish and generally clueless “co-stars,” Wall’s 2,550 career assists through 300 games rank ninth all-time.

However, to really appreciate Wall’s impact on the offensive side of the ball (his improved defense is a topic for another day) you have to look past the traditional statistics.

[photo via @LedellsPlace]

Before we get to that, we have to touch down in Houston, Texas, home of the so-called future of the NBA.

Thanks to Rockets GM Daryl Morey, “the mad scientist of analytics” as described by Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry, the future looks a lot like James Harden, perhaps “the most important player in the world.” Goldsberry writes:

“Morey loves his players to shoot 3s, but there’s more to it than just deciding to take more long-range shots. The act of generating 3-point offense has just as much to do with playmaking and assisting as it does with actually knocking down those shots; 84 percent of the league’s triples (and 96 percent of its corner 3s) are assisted.

“In other words, any team hell-bent on shooting more 3s needs to be a team looking to create more 3s. And when it comes to generating those long-range buckets for teammates, nobody is as prolific as Harden.”

Harden, as of this morning, is leading the league in corner 3-point assists (73). John Wall is No. 2 (45).

You can’t help but give a lot of credit to Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale, a Hall of Fame power forward who, like Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman, was battle-tested in an era of sharp elbows and hand-checking. “[McHale] doesn’t necessarily see the game through our analysis, but he’s very smart, and he believes in a lot of things that our analysis says how the game should be played,” Morey told’s Beckley Mason last year.

While McHale would rather his players only attempt layups and dunks, he’s also “learned to stop worrying and love the 3-pointer.”

Randy Wittman, on the other hand, well … his heart is set on something entirely different.

[photo via @swedendc]

At Wizards practice the other week, TAI’s Adam McGinnis asked Wittman for his take on why the Wizards take the second fewest 3-pointers per game (15.5), despite leading the league in 3-point percentage (38.9%). And why his Wizards take the second most 15-19 foot jumpers per game (the least efficient shot in the game, statistically speaking).

“You take what your defense gives you is what you kind of say and when there are opportunities we look to take them,” Wittman said. “We shoot a high percentage but we don’t have a lot of guys who shoot them … if that makes any sense to you.”

(It doesn’t. Even the Wizards best marksmen, Bradley Beal—the kid with the Jesus Shuttlesworth release—being one of them, don’t get enough looks from 3. That’s by some ancient, twisted design. Wittman’s system maximizes neither potential nor possessions. As Chris Towers of CBS Sports pointed out on Twitter, Ray Allen never took fewer than 35.7% of his shot attempts from 3; Beal isn’t even at 32%.)

“You’re not going to get, I think, the same as when you have the 4 (position)—or like we played [against the Atlanta Hawks]—the 4 and 5 shot 3s,” Wittman continued. “So you have five guys capable of shooting 3s, you’re going to have more 3-point attempts. We don’t have that. It’s basically our 1, 2 and 3 (positions) that shoots 3s for us. So our attempts are going to be down.”

Which leads us back to the point. John Wall isn’t just another great player—and he is great. He takes a blue-collar, screen-setting, midrange shooting, brick-laying offense, and makes it competitive. The Wizards are 13th in Offensive Rating, scoring 104.2 points per 100 possessions. (Not to mention the fact Wall ranks top 10 in Real Plus/Minus, which takes into account defensive performance, because that’s for a separate story.)

The secret? Turning Has-Beens, Once-Weres and Whatevers into dangerous weapons on the wing. Career-years are just part of the ticket.

I took at look at three Wizards wing players of the past few seasons and their production in several key categories, with and without John Wall: 3-point percentage, 3-point attempts per game, corner 3s per game, field goal percentage, points per game, and Player Efficiency Rating.

[Note: The following set of player-specific data is accurate as 6 p.m. EST on Jan. 17, 2015.] 


The Rundown: This former sixth overall pick out of high school joined the Wizards as a seven-year pro (and very fringe free agent) who’d only once started more than 60 games in a season. Webster was a solid but unwanted 3 & (so-so) D guy. He wasn’t even guaranteed a spot after training camp. (Did I mention the back problems?)

Pre-Wizards Career Numbers

3P%: .373
3PA: 3.23
Corner 3PA: 1.37
FG%: .415
PPG: 8.4
PER: 11.4

The Optimus Dime Effect: With John Wall jump-passing the Wizards into respectability, Webster displaced incumbent starter Trevor Ariza and set career-highs across the board. GREEN font from here on out indicates an improvement, RED is a lower mark. 

Numbers between 2012-14 with Wall*

3P%: .407
3PA: 4.55
Corner 3PA: 1.83
FG%: .438
PPG: 10.55
PER: 12.70

*does not include the handful of appearances in 2014-15


The Rundown: Trevor Ariza flew into D.C. from New Orleans with Emeka Okafor, in exchange for Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick. He immediately, publicly, became Team President Ernie Grunfeld’s third-favorite “winning spirit,” a big-name starter at small forward in media guides in early 2012-13, despite never being much more than the harmonica player in a bluegrass band: a regular salary dump with one shining moment as an NBA Finals hero.

Non-Wizards Career Numbers (including 2014-15*)

3P%: .259
3PA: 2.42
Corner 3PA: 0.867
FG%: .438
PPG: 9.27
PER: 13.76

The Optimus Dime Effect: John Wall’s end-to-end speed and Ariza’s willingness to chase the play combined to be a potent one-two punch. Ariza became a “rainmaker” from the corners. TAI Boss Hog Kyle Weidie summed up the 2013-14 season: “To put it simply: Trevor Ariza fucked around and had a career year.” All hail Lord Threeza.

Numbers between 2012-14 with Wall

3P%: .386
3PA: 4.7
Corner 3PA: 1.93
FG%: .437
PPG: 11.95
PER: 14.90

*This season, in Morey’s Magic Kingdom, Ariza is attempting more than 2.5 corner 3s per game
attempting more than seven 3s per game, a new career-high. Percentage is down, however.


The Rundown: Butler was OUT OF THE LEAGUE in 2012-13. He made a return in Indiana last season, appearing in 50 games, starting two. He averaged 2.7 points per game.

Pre-Wizards Career Numbers (since 2004-05)

3P%: .360
3PA: 3.05
Corner 3PA: 1.21
FG%: .394
PPG: 7.11
PER: 9.99

The Optimus Dime Effect: For a little while this season, Wizards watchers weren’t sure whether Rasual Butler would ever miss a shot again. Currently third in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage. Nearly half of those makes behind the arc are assisted by Wall.

Numbers This Season with Wall

3P%: .465
3PA: 3.5
Corner 3PA: 1.62
FG%: .475
PPG: 9.80
PER: 14.5

Optimus Dime makes the game look easy. Shoot, Paul Pierce has seen an uptick in 3-point percentage playing with Wall. The Truth is shooting nearly 40 percent from 3 on the season. If he finishes the season above that 40-percent mark, it’d be just the fourth time he’s done so in his 17-year career.

Commentators and analysts, in describing Wall’s impact, like to say that “he makes other players better.” H.M.O.P.B. is one of the most used platitudes in basketball—generally a stale way to talk about a player who commands attention from defenses, or covers up his teammates’ mistakes. But in Wall’s case, it’s on point.

Even NBA know-it-all Zach Lowe recognizes the game-changing ability: “John Wall is fast-becoming one of the NBA’s smartest assist men,” said Lowe on Tuesday in a Grantland video feature about Wall’s roundball IQ and his deceptive set-up play.

“Manu Ginobili has been suckering dudes with [the no-look jump-pass] for years. We call Manu crafty, but chalk up John Wall’s assist numbers to his ridiculous speed and athleticism. That has to change. Wall is a hoops intellectual. He’s operating one step ahead of defenses. He knows how they’ll respond to every dribble and manipulates them to create the best possible shot for teammates. The corner 3 is his game of choice.”

John Wall isn’t perfect. “Wall’s electric play sometimes carries risks,” explains TAI’s Conor Dirks. (Remember, he led the league in turnovers last season.) But those risks are out-weighed by the good Wall brings to the table. He’s the complete package as a point guard: he’s big, physical, fast, team-oriented, humble, and a pass-first professional with X-ray vision. Wall, this year more than ever before, is a nightmarish talent to game plan against—his jump shot is no longer a cheap joke.

What’s most impressive, however, is that Wall, almost singlehandedly and against the grain, creates 3-pointers and corner 3-pointers in an offensive system where all things are considered—except for any method for to increase open looks from beyond the arc.

He’s the real deal, folks. And the Washington Wizards, under his command, are enjoying one of their best seasons in franchise history. They currently have the most home wins in the Eastern Conference (18)—and Wall’s averaging better than 18 points, 10 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2 steals per game in the Phone Booth. They’re winning close games (6-1 record in games decided by 3 points or less). They’re hanging with tough opponents (8-10 vs. teams .500 or better) and beating some of the best the West has to offer, including Harden’s Rockets. They’re also running bad teams out of the building (21-3 record vs. teams below. 500).

“We’re a team that can compete. We can compete with the best,” said Wall during a recent West Coast road trip.

James Harden might very well be the future of the NBA. But, right now, Optimus Dime gets my vote for MVP.


[Photo via @Joe_Bohnerman]

[Photo via @Joe_Bohnerman]

]]> 1
DC Council 42: Wizards vs 76ers —  One of These Teams Isn’t Rebuilding Tue, 20 Jan 2015 16:53:50 +0000 Truth About’s D.C. Council:
Grading Washington players from Game No. 42: Wizards versus the 76ers in DC.
Contributor: Sean Fagan from the Verizon Center.



To go on record, the grand Philadelphia experiment in “targeted” tanking is most likely going to end in failure. There is a fine line between rebuilding and being designed to lose and the 76ers fall into the latter camp, a bizarre experiment by a new-age GM who is seeking to rig the system. The problem is, despite the brilliance of the ploy, it is doing incalculable damage to the players already suiting up for Philly, especially those such as Nerlens Noel who are intended to be building blocks. These players are not developing and the way the entire team shut down during the third quarter reminded me of the “bad” Wizards, with Andray Blatche hoisting ill-advised jumpers and JaVale McGee attempting to drive the length of the floor. The 76ers haven’t displayed the same level of boneheadedness as those Wizards, but one can only wonder at the lasting damage that “intended” losing will have on the team and its fan base.







Nene Hilario, PF

18 MIN | 4-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +11 +/-

Nene seemed to have a bit more in the tank for an afternoon game, as he took whichever nameless 76er power forward was thrown at him and bullied said person on the block whenever the chance presented itself. However, Nene could have ascended to heaven on the night and it still would not have been as impressive as … NENE 3-POINTER! That was the story of the game.

Paul Pierce, SF

22 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | +9 +/-

At one point late in the third quarter Paul Pierce was so alone behind the arc that he look almost bemused that no 76er made an effort to close-out. Left alone with his thoughts, he had a full five seconds to write a haiku, plan his evening’s formal wear and made a point to call Mark Blount. He then hoisted his trey and made it.

Marcin Gortat, C

29 MIN | 9-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +16 +/-

Marcin was a tad disparaging of the 76ers’ frontline following the game, noting that the Wizards had an obvious advantage in size and that it should be expected that the Wizards would overpower a crew of small pints. Gortat himself was engaged in a fascinating battle with rookie Nerlens Noel, who gave Gortat a good game, but appeared flummoxed whenever Gortat decided to rip out his version of the “Dream Shake.”

John Wall, PG

29 MIN | 4-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 10 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 11 PTS | +19 +/-

John Wall appeared to be having the most fun of any Wizard, tearing off crossovers that left 76ers flatfooted, assisting to wide-open teammates and basically letting others carry the offensive load. Wall got rest for the entire fourth quarter, which will only benefit him when he faces off against Russell Westbrook on Wednesday.

Bradley Beal, SG

23 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +5 +/-

With the exception of a tomahawk jam, Big Panda looked more like a Sad Panda as he floated in and out of the offense and took a number of plays off. While the result of the game was never truly in doubt after the Wizards opened up a 20-point lead, it was a bit disconcerting to see Beal basically zone out until the bench replacements checked in for the fourth quarter.

Kris Humphries, PF

25 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +20 +/-

Like a cog in the machine, Humphries logged his minutes and did what is normally expected of him: tallying a nice rebound total and chipping in a half bushel of points. The 12-foot jumper continues to both giveth and taketh away, but with the starters sitting for a majority of the second half … who else gon’ shoot?

Otto Porter Jr., SF

26 MIN | 4-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +26 +/-

Randy Wittman praised Otto’s “improvement” in the game and the stats would tell you it was a solid effort. However, it was rather awkward, like watching a baby giraffe run across the savanna. Porter had one inadvertent assist, one inadvertent layup and one inadvertent steal, which is the perfect hat-trick of unintended circumstances.

Kevin Seraphin, C

19 MIN | 7-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +19 +/-

If Nene’s 3-pointer was not the story of the game then the story was the small moment in the third quarter when Kevin Seraphin missed a shot and then crashed the boards to grab his own rebound for a put-back. This is not to discount Seraphin’s effort or his efficiency, but the 76ers had already packed their bags at that point to go home.

Randy Wittman

Wittman was all smiles following the game and did his best to praise a moribund 76ers team that “took one from New Orleans” before breaking out into #CoachSpeak about how “you can be beaten on any given night.” True enough, but one can only imagine what type of address the media would have received had the Wizards managed to kick away a game against a team “designed” to lose.



]]> 0
Key Legislature: Wizards 111 vs Sixers 76 — Basketball Rebuilding Liberty Cracked in D.C. Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:56:58 +0000 Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 42 versus the Sixers in D.C., via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Conor Dirks.

In the game’s opening moments, both the Wizards and the 76ers looked overwhelmingly out of sorts. With five minutes left in the quarter, Washington held a sparing 11-10 lead, overwhelmed by a glut of turnovers and missed shots. And then, without warning, the dam broke. By the end of the quarter, after John Wall, Marcin Gortat, and Rasual Butler all took turns driving the engine of Philadelphia’s destruction, the Wizards were up 27-14. The rest, despite valiant forays by the Sixers into the deep roads of an insurmountable lead, was cake.

After the game, the always-candid Marcin Gortat downplayed the significance of the victory:

“Well, let’s just be honest and not cocky: They were just smaller guys and not really experienced, and John [Wall] was distributing very well, and I was running really well today. So we were just using opportunities.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Sixers coach Brett Brown, who marveled with some degree of envy at the disparity in size and maturity displayed by the Wizards:

“It was times you look out at the floor, and you saw a bunch of men. You saw a physical, big, playoff-hardened team. They are strong at each position, and they’re physical at each position. And there are times sitting on the bench realizing just the difference in experience and maturity.”

There’s a certain basketball amorality to Philadelphia’s structure, a skewered structure that resembles something built by an observer of nature, rather than a participant. The franchise’s assets float without gravity, melt into formlessness, mean nothing. That it’s all on purpose, and built broken based on the extension of logic to a place of radical extremity, makes it compelling, even if it’s often hard to enjoy.

If the Wizards were once “bad by design,” the Sixers are undesigned by design. And, ultimately, I’m glad the Wizards beat the hell out of them, for four quarters, in almost every way possible. Gortat followed up his revenge game against Brook Lopez by going 9-for-11, with one of those two misses being a quickly recovered bunny placed back up in the basket immediately thereafter. While Gortat insisted that he, personally, did not need the rest afforded by the blowout (indeed, he claimed he’s good for 48 minutes, every game), Randy Wittman was pleased that, during the “dog days” of late January, prior to the All-Star break, his more aged players (most notably, Paul Pierce and Nene) could take a deserved seat and let the likes of Otto Porter and Kevin Seraphin bring the team home.

This game was over by the end of the first quarter, but that doesn’t completely discount the labor of keeping a lead. Wizards players played hard beyond a point at which it would have been excusable to indulge.

Among Washington’s starters, Wall was the only player to shoot under 50 percent, but his shooting wasn’t the concern. At 3.8 turnovers per game, and with five turnovers in this contest, Wall’s electric play sometimes carries risks. Against teams like the Sixers, five turnovers is just a head start in a race against an elementary school kid, but against real competition, even a high assist total won’t offset the loss of momentum and free transition points that turnovers offer for the opposing team.

On the other side, Michael Carter-Williams, previously a thorn in the Wizards side, was an awful 2-for-13, with five assists and four turnovers. Coach Brown, probably more hopeful than correct, opined aloud that, if you rewound time a few years, John Wall would look a lot like today’s MCW. And there are similarities, to be sure. But there’s also a reason that Wall was drafted first overall, a reason that’s being borne out as Wall enters the MVP conversation: his speed, talent, and size make him, as Brown described it, “something elite.”

Before a rematch on Wednesday against Kevin Durant’s Thunder, winners of what was a game in the bush, at least, for the Wizards during their prior Western road trip, a challenge wasn’t necessary; that’ll come soon enough. While aspiring to parity, the league still features teams like the Sixers. And contenders beat them, badly.




]]> 0
Wizards vs 76ers in 70 Tweets — Washington Keeps Philly from Daydreaming Tue, 20 Jan 2015 01:15:03 +0000 #WizardsTwitter said WHAT?! Here’s the rundown, Twitter-style, via Storify, as hunted and gathered by the editors at TAI into this here blog post. Thanks if you happened to take part. The Subject: Wizards vs 76ers, Game 42, Jan. 19, 2015.

John Wall’s MLK Day Shoes.

[via @CMillsCSN]

[via @CMillsCSN]

Washington Wizards 111 vs Philadelphia 76ers 76



]]> 0
Opening Statements: Wizards vs 76ers, Game 42 — Lining Up Washington After 1st Half Mon, 19 Jan 2015 16:28:35 +0000 Washington Wizards vs Philadelphia 76ers


Half of the season is gone for the Washington Wizards—41 games proving who they are, 41 games left to prove who they want to be.

They’re 28-13 (.683), owners of the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. They’ve played 22 games at home (17-5) and 19 on the road (11-8). At one point Washington had played the easiest schedule in the NBA, then they picked up some tough opponents. Now it’s just fourth easiest.

The Wizards rank in the top third (or so) in the league in several key categories: Defensive Rating (7), Offensive Rating (13), Assist-to-Turnover Ratio (7), Rebound Percentage (4), Effective Field Goal Percentage (8). Low rankings in Free Throw Rate (23) and Turnover Percentage (21) serve as detriments.

Washington’s over/under on wins was set at 50 before the season. Their winning percentage says their on pace to win 56. More intensive statistical projections indicate the Wizards are on pace to win 49 games.

Are the Wizards underrated, overrated, or just rated? They seem faintly capable of improving on their own merits, perfectly capable of staying afloat, and potentially crashing with a significant injury or two. Team brass will make a move to increase chances of late-season success or provide insurance at some point. At their core, the Wizards are in a strong position, but they are also inexperienced and tend to spite themselves.

As they prepare to start a second-half push, which, mentally, won’t happen until after the mid-February All-Star break but technically happens now, Washington has a laundry list of needed improvements—no doubt. The 28 games after the break will define Washington, the 13 games before the break could set their ceiling.

Limiting turnovers is something Washington can completely control. Getting to the free throw line is tougher, but attainable. A more efficient offense can be inspired by improvement in both areas—along with continued focused defense, as we are ever reminded—but this team, in its strategy, must swing toward multi-faceted offensive options being the key advantage.

Whether they’ve met them or not, expectations for Washington have been set. They should be competing for an Eastern Conference championship. There’s probably plenty of heart and veteran experience to go around, but whether the Wizards can be tactical enough remains to be seen.

Line ‘em up.

Nine lineups have played 40 or more minutes on the season. As expected, the starters are the best lineup—John Wall, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce, Nene, and Marcin Gortat are plus-12.4 per 48 minutes; this is the second-most used lineup (260 minutes).

The most-used lineup (278 minutes) featured Kris Humphries in place of Nene with the first team. That five is minus-0.7 per 48 minutes. Humphries had been the second coming of Darius Songaila for Washington, but much better. Still, the 13.1-point difference between having Nene with the starters over Humphries speaks volumes of Nene’s value (and how lineup data really reflects cohesion).

Lineups where Humphries is paired with Gortat, Wall and Beal—along with either Rasual Butler (66 minutes) or Otto Porter (40 minutes)—yield positive impressions: plus-5.8 and plus-6.0 per 48 minutes respectively.

The worst five-man unit that Washington uses quite frequently: Andre Miller, Beal, Butler, Humphries, and Kevin Seraphin (47 minutes). They are minus-13.3 per 48 minutes.

If it’s offense that Washington needs, they might want to turn to a lineup featuring Wall, Beal, Butler, Nene, and Seraphin. Of the lineups seeing 30 or more minutes together (13), they sport the best OffRtg: 117.1.

Defensive lineups: I’ll let these numbers speak for themselves (ranked by DefRtg):

  1. 70.2 (36 mins) — Wall, Beal, Butler, Nene, Gortat

  2. 88.8 (175 mins) — Wall, Temple, Pierce, Nene, Gortat

  3. 94.1 (260 mins) — Wall, Beal, Pierce, Nene, Gortat

Only eight NBA trios hold opponents to under 93 points per 100 possessions, and the Wizards provide four of those combinations. Ranked by DefRtg:

  1. 91.7 — Pierce, Nene, Gortat

  2. 91.7 — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut

  3. 91.8 — Curry, Harrison Barnes, Bogut

  4. 92.2 — Wall, Nene, Gortat

  5. 92.2 — Wall, Pierce, Nene

  6. 92.4 — James Harden, Donatas Motiejunas, Dwight Howard

  7. 92.6 — Darren Collison, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins

  8. 92.8 — Wall, Beal, Nene

[Stats via and]

Teams: Wizards vs 76ers
Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 14 points.

#1. Philly Freeway.

Philadelphia has won four out of their last eight games (wins coming against Cleveland, Brooklyn, Indiana, and New Orleans; losses coming against Milwaukee, Atlanta, Toronto, and Detroit). They sport an 8-32 record and are NOT the worst team in the NBA. That honor goes to the Knicks, then the Timberwolves, and then the 76ers. The over/under on 76ers wins set by Bovada before the season was 15.5. Philadelphia has played the fifth toughest schedule to date, so there’s a solid chance they can break their betting ceiling.

#2. Fat Joel.

The 76ers, who had the second worst NBA record last season, slipped to the third pick in the 2014 draft. Perhaps a blessing in disguise, center Joel Embiid, whom many figured could have been the top pick, slipped to third. Going into the draft, there were injury concerns with Embiid, so Cleveland was figured to be picking between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker with Milwaukee landing the player who was left over (which ended up being Parker). Nabbing Embiid as a consolation prize had its potential flaws, especially since Philadelphia drafted center Nerlens Noel the year before.

Now, reports are surfacing out of Philly that Embiid has let himself get fat while sitting out with a foot injury, ballooning up to 300 pounds, getting in arguments with the team strength coach, and being sent home from a recent West Coast trip.

Remember fat John Wall? That turned out to be no big deal. Then again, fat big man are another story. From Kevin Duckworth to Andray Blatche, Washington could probably offer Philly some words of warning, such as PUTTING CHEESE WHIZ ON CHEESESTEAK SANDWICHES HAS TO BE ONE BIG JOKE, RIGHT?

#3. B/W Party-way.

Let’s hope the Wizards have a full boat of energy today. Seems that Bradley Beal and John Wall hosted a party last night—Beal was inviting people to “Come through !!!!” at midnight. Monday holiday games with a 2 p.m. start could be just as much a trap as Sunday games, in which the Wizards are 9-20 over Wall’s career with the team.




]]> 0
DC Council 41: Wizards at Nets — Bigs Carry Load on Bridge Out of Brooklyn Mon, 19 Jan 2015 09:33:23 +0000 Truth About’s D.C. Council:
Grading Washington players from Game No. 41: Wizards versus the Nets in Brooklyn.
Contributor: Kyle Weidie from the District of Columbia.


A Wizards 99-90 win over the Nets on Saturday was the greasy, post-hangover breakfast that helps slightly cure the ills of Friday night, when a 22-point loss to the very same team happened. The win was still not an ideal arrangement for Washington’s body of work to date, 41 games into a 82-game regular season—they need to treat the temple better (although 28-13 isn’t bad). In this battle, they simply had the larger temple in the front court, and just enough fire from everyone else to see where they were going.

Kevin Garnett came out cooking on the midrange grill from Brooklyn while the Wizards investigated effectiveness (and ineffectiveness) of long jumpers. Would it last? Good question, but a 26-23 first quarter was the start the Nets needed—their defense was able to complement ball movement from the Wizards that didn’t really pop. Brooklyn held their own in the second quarter, too. Joe Johnson was more engaged, giving Bradley Beal trouble with his size, so Randy Wittman started sending double-teams. Jarrett Jack kept the problems he generally gives to Washington consistent, showing nice pick-and-roll rapport with Mason Plumlee in putting on the pressure. But the Wizards’ big man depth—speaking about Kris Humphries and Kevin Seraphin—each scored five in the second quarter to help keep Washington down just one point at half. That duo still struggled on defense, however, and the Wizards were minus-3 over their 15 minutes together.

The third quarter changed the game for Washington. John Wall, Beal, and Wittman’s play-calling, had helped establish Nene from the game’s beginning. But more importantly, Nene helped establish himself. Nene scored eight points in the period after intermission (seven in the first half, 20 on the night) and helped turn the tide once the Nets had built a seven-point lead in the third. Defining moment: Marcin Gortat made the extra cross-court pass to Beal for a 3 on the right wing, but he missed. Nene positioned himself for the offensive board, secured it, and strong-armed the rim with a dunk. Wall next displayed his ability to make needed plays with a floater. Brooklyn called timeout but it was too late at that point, Washington’s starters clicked just enough, winning the quarter 27-19.

Seraphin grabbed attention with seven points in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of a slow-footed Brook Lopez. But it was Nene’s steadfastness on the evening and bounce-back energy from Gortat, who was embarrassed on Friday night, that dug Washington out of the trenches. Nene, Gortat, Humphries, and Seraphin combined to score 55 of their team’s 99 points.

The Wizards didn’t walk out of Brooklyn triumphantly. Instead, they crawled out a ditch with necessity to return home. While totally acceptable, this team continues to search for ways to stand up.

Let’s grade.







Nene Hilario, PF

28 MIN | 8-12 FG | 4-8 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | +8 +/-

Touch of gray beard Nene put the Wizards on his shoulders Saturday. Well, not too much, say his internal monitors of wear-and-tear and what they will allow. Sometimes you wonder if Nene is too methodical, too plodding, too much of an assessor, but then you realize that’s what makes him so great. He’s got a balanced game—sure he’s a diva, but he doesn’t need to conduct himself as athletes usually do when craving attention. Nene knows his body best, and on Saturday he did a great job at using it to shield ball from defender as he maneuvered in paint. He puts more value in demoralizing an opponent than he does on his fingers. His barely elevating, rim-assaulting dunks can’t be kind on the digits, but the way he pauses after a monster dunk nicely rubs in his presence. Is Nene intimidating the opponent? Who knows. Whatever he needs to keep himself going is the real answer.

Paul Pierce, SF

26 MIN | 2-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 7 PTS | +4 +/-

Pierce was relatively ineffective against his former team, but sometimes his mere presence, even in missing threatening shots, is enough. Would’ve been nice for him to make more 3s (2-6), even if those two make came at the right times. Of course, worth noting that Pierce’s 38.7 percent from deep this season is his best since 2009-10 (41.4%) and the seventh-best percentage of his 17-season career. Appreciate the veteran, but hope that he’s careful (perhaps taking MLK Day vs the 76ers off). Pierce had more of an old man game on Saturday, and not the good type but in a ‘dribbling the ball off a foot turnover’ and ‘tripping Gortat in offensive transition’ type.

Marcin Gortat, C

32 MIN | 5-6 FG | 0-2 FT | 16 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +10 +/-

It was an appropriate recovery for Marcin Gortat—give him a gold coin, replace the rubber mallet with an actual hammer, oil up the machine. He mechanically worked on the glass in the beginning—Gortat is damn athletic, so no reason not to rack up tip-backs, 50-50 rebound saves, and sprints past Brook Slowpez. Gortat’s jumpers can be a confidence-building delight for all, as long as he does the willing passer thing (which he is so good at*) and allows those jumper chances to come only as an offensive release valve and not via a first-touch look.

* Stats Only: Washington’s assists per 100 possessions rate is second-best with Gortat on the court—19.5, second to Bradley Beal’s 19.7 (min. 100 minutes played).

John Wall, PG

36 MIN | 5-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 11 PTS | +10 +/-

One of the skirmishes that helped define the competitiveness of the game was John Wall’s inability to stay in front of Jarrett Jack (who scored 22 points on 18 shots with eight assists but also five turnovers; Jack had 26 points on Friday night). While it’s true that the second line of defense could help more in certain situations, television’s Phil Chenier once called out Wall after an open complaint about such—he gambled wrong, it was his fault. The handful of times that Wall couldn’t staying in front of Jack—even without the threat of a screen—along with getting beat on a back cut, hints that Wall, for whatever reason, wasn’t as engaged on defense as he can be, especially when Wall is in a more marquee match-ups. But, seeing as he is the better player than Jack, he won this battle, although Wall’s 24 total points (25 shots), 12 assists and six turnovers over the back-to-back set versus Brooklyn (along with the 1-1 draw) doesn’t really make a convincing case.

On Saturday, Wall still managed the game fairly, pushed the pace early, got teammates involved as necessary (especially Nene), and displayed bursts of his jet engine late in the game to help put Washington just over the top.

Bradley Beal, SG

39 MIN | 5-12 FG | 5-6 FT | 9 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +13 +/-

Playing against the herky-jerky Joe Johnson, Beal displayed some of his own hesitation and stop-and-go moves on Saturday. He missed some open jumpers early, took some unideal shots, but made some buckets in smooth baby panda hair manners. His command of offensive spacing is slowly increasing, Beal just needs to keep that 3-point line in mind. He made one long 2 with his toe on the line, and later had to be reminded by Nene to further space the floor (and still almost got caught inside the 3-point line before making a nice extra pass to Pierce, who hit a 3). Most impressive was Beal’s display of his known complete game: rebounds (9), free throw trips (5-6), and dimes (8)—two to Pierce for 3s, two to Nene, and the rest to four different Wizards.

Kris Humphries, PF

19 MIN | 6-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | 0 +/-

Humphries came off the bench tipping in free throw misses and soon after was rewarded for running with John Wall by getting a lob pas for a dunk. Then came the jumpers. More jumpers. MOAR JUMPERS! He hit from 19, 19, and 20 feet before missing another 19-footer that was somewhat of a heat check. Humphries is shooting an amazing 50 percent on 2-pointers beyond 15 feet this season (67-134).

Otto Porter Jr., SF

9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4 +/-

Literally all he did was slinky himself a rebound and stumble onto an assist. Otherwise, I’m not sure Otto actually played.

Rasual Butler, SF

23 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +5 +/-

Rasual came off a screen for a jumper early in the second quarter—when you’re Washington’s offense and you have a guy hot for the season, run plays for him. Butler hit a crazy moonshot 3 to end the third quarter and put the Wizards up seven. I would like to see, per sports science, how quick Butler’s release is compared to a Kyle Korver’s. Butler got a slashing bucket late in the fourth quarter, making Brooklyn respect him. He was just what was needed.

Kevin Seraphin, C

16 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -1 +/-

Feed Seraphin. This is very important. He has such great touch; is getting better at taking his time on offense; and has un-learned playing next to the likes of Blatche, McGee and Nick Young. And, contrary to popular belief, is willing to make the extra pass. Seraphin is also confident on offense—sometimes too confident—but it has to be built somehow and on occasion, who else is going to shoot, Jordan Crawford?

The skills of #KSlife were on display in Brooklyn and he helped charge the game-winning stretch in the fourth quarter. On 2-pointers beyond 15 feet this season, Seraphin is third best on the team (44.7%). Better yet, he’s killing the NBA on hook shots within nine feet of the basket, leading all 42 players who have attempted 25 or more at 75.6 percent. The next four behind him: Thaddeus Young (67.9%), LaMarcus Aldridge (63.6%), Amar’e Stoudemire (63%), and Roy Hibbert (62.5%). Even better, you could audibly hear Seraphin talking on defense over television. Time to admit: Seraphin is pretty good, sometimes.

Andre Miller, PG

12 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -2 +/-

Andre Miller tried his best by not attempting a single shot.



]]> 0
Key Legislature: Wizards 99 at Nets 90 – Victory for the Tragically Unhip in Brooklyn Sun, 18 Jan 2015 21:37:48 +0000 Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s) for Washington Wizards contest No. 41 versus the Nets in Brooklyn, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick) from his home in Brooklyn.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Sean Fagan.

When jokes are made regarding Brooklyn, they are often directed towards the the borough’s own puffed-up sense of self-worth, its little brother inferiority complex toward the island of Manhattan, or its complete obsession with the newest craze (hand-crafted mayo), or digging up some relic of the past and passing it off as trendy (16th century bonnets). These passions have a shelf life of about two months before the newest “shiny” makes its ascent, and if you were caught wearing a bonnet in Bushwick right now you would probably hear someone snicker “soooo 2013.”

What applies to the borough in turn applies to their “new” sports team, the Brooklyn Nets, who have gone from bright young thing to yesterday’s news in what seems like a matter of moments. The Barclays Center, for all of six months, was a place to see and be seen. Now, Jay-Z has sold his shares and no longer choreographs performances, the overspending Russian owner is bailing, and team itself is so VERY 2013—still trotting out Joe Johnson, Deron Williams (currently injured), and Brook Lopez as it’s “stars.”

However, once having the aura of hip is better than having no aura at all, so it was not surprising that lower level tickets to see the Wizards could be obtained for less money than it takes feed two people at the trendiest vegan restaurant. The Wizards still don’t have that “must-see” factor that Brooklynites cherish above all else, and they certainly did not see an uptick in their “it” quotient after the Nets blew them out in Washington on Friday night after a soooooo 2013 performance from Lopez (26 points, 3 mighty rebounds).

Thus, it was rightly fitting that it was the unhippest of Wizards players who were responsible for taking control of Saturday night’s game against the Nets in the fourth quarter and sending the beanie-wearing, tattooed crowd home unhappy. With 8:28 left in the game, Lopez completed a Nets comeback to tie the game at 81-81 after a made free throw attempt. The Wizards looked listless, the Barclays Center actually had a bit of buzz to it, and the game looked like it was about to tilt on its axis.

Which meant, obviously, it was time to shine for Kevin Seraphin & Co.

Seraphin began his reign of terror with 8:07 left on the board, converting one of his beloved hook shots that drive viewers insane. This was followed by a reverse layup by the mothballed Rasual Butler, another layup by Seraphin, and capped by a Kris Humphries dunk with 6:06 left on the clock to put the score at 89-83, Wizards. This was enough of a cushion that Washington could live or die at the free throw line with Nene and go on to win 99-90. All told, Brooklyn’s efforts were brushed aside by a guy who likes posting pictures of his pets, a veteran on the fringes of the NBA, and a player who is still judged by the masses by who he divorced rather than any particular skill on the basketball court. Also, midrange shooting and rebounding. (Hopefully Humphries rebounded with someone more midrange.) It was tragically unhip, borderline comical, and very much the Wizards.

Much of this season has been spent developing a narrative where John Wall is forced to be considered a premier point guard by the media, Marcin Gortat achieves internet fame for existential proclamations, and the Wizards are considered “real” because a free agent of Paul Pierce’s caliber chose to join them. But it will be the uncool things that decide the fate of the Wizards’ season—Randy Wittman’s janky offense, Seraphin’s midrange jumpers, and Humphries’ defensive positioning. These are the things that need to work for the Wizards 70 percent of the time if they want any sort of postseason success.

Washington will face the slash-and-burn rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers in D.C. on MLK Day, and the ever-conversational Oklahoma City Thunder team at home next Wednesday, before embarking on a four-game road trip versus Portland, Denver, Los Angeles (Lakers), and Phoenix.

Washington will close out January against the Toronto Raptors at home—the Wizards have won just one game (which went into triple-overtime) out of their last six meetings with the Raps. The next test is the best test.



]]> 0
Opening Statements: Wizards at Nets, Game 41 Sat, 17 Jan 2015 21:38:59 +0000 Washington Wizards vs Brooklyn Nets

I’m not a fan of pie. Cobbler, apple, cherry: on the tongue of a man with no taste for such things, it’s just sugar and grain. I’m told others enjoy such things. Unless it’s humble. No one likes that mess. Still, sometimes a bad taste in your mouth is as effective as a textbook. The Wizards are heading to Brooklyn, where at least one good kind of pie (pizza) is made well. With a blowout loss to a bad team burned into their collective subconscious like the appearance of a poison dart frog in a fever dream, the “need” for a win is palpable.

Still, the season is long, even when expectations quicken it with urgency. Chicago was blown out by Utah on January 7. Toronto lost to Detroit on January 12. Atlanta has really never lost and never will again, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Just as it’s only right to excoriate the Wizards for an awful effort that in a sense negates one of two good wins against San Antonio and Chicago earlier this week, it’s right to appreciate the possibility suggested by Paul Pierce (who looked downright embarrassed on the bench at the end of the game) that “maybe this will be a wake-up call for the rest of the year.”

Especially for players like Bradley Beal, capable of elite play but content to let any given defense on any given night turn him into an average player, these nights are too necessary, for now. Criticizing consistency on a suddenly excellent team seems unwise, but Washington, when you compare performance in wins versus losses, is one of the five most volatile teams in the NBA.

The sun is shining on the Brooklyn Nets after last night, so I asked the TrueHoop Network’s David Vertsberger (@_Verts), editor-in-chief of Brooklyn’s Finest, some questions as we size up tonight’s repeat opponent.

Teams: Wizards vs Nets
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 5.5 points.

Q #1: Brook Lopez has been the talk of the town, or towns, this week, offered up in trade rumors as a possible casualty of Brooklyn’s renewed interest in cost reduction.

And then he made Marcin Gortat look like the Polish Machine was worth a dime on every dollar, working Gortat inside and out (and sometimes Nene, too) en route to 26 points. Why, exactly, does Brooklyn want to trade him?

@_Verts: Because those games have become rarer and rarer by the season. I’m tougher on Lopez than most, but the gist of it is he’s an overpaid low-post five that doesn’t hit the open man and is an underwhelming defender and rebounder with health concerns. Playing his same position is Mason Plumlee, who has a bright future.

Q #2: Lionel Hollins and Randy Wittman walk into a bar. What’s a good shot for each of them?

Wait, don’t answer that one. They both drink Liquid Steaks. Let’s start here: If you had to pick, after they sober up, who do you want coaching your team?

@_Verts: That’s tough. Both are very traditional in their basketball mindset, with defense coming first and 3s somewhat being considered a gimmick. I’m going to go with Wittman only because he makes some fantastic in-game facial expressions that Hollins simply can’t compete with.

Q #3: The Nets may have sold their future down the river, but they seem interested in clearing out the boat traffic. Who from this current team can be a permanent fixture?

@_Verts: Remember that Plumlee guy I mentioned? He’s got the potential to be a solid starter, which is more than I can say about any other young Brooklynite. Great roll guy to the rim, improving rebounder and has all the athleticism. Not that he has much competition in the “young guy to build around” on this team, but there’s a lot to like about him.


]]> 0
Key Legislature: Wizards 80 vs Nets 102 — Two Teams Entered, Two Wholly Renewed Teams (Hopefully) Emerged Sat, 17 Jan 2015 18:18:44 +0000 Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 40 versus the Brooklyn Nets in D.C.,
via Chris Thompson from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Chris Thompson.

In his post-game presser (a mercifully short and refreshingly frank affair) Randy Wittman’s usual post-loss grumbling—about effort, focus, intensity, sharing the basketball, respecting the game, walking to school in two feet of snow, the simple pleasures of a blue-collar existence in pre-Cold War America (probably)—seemed closer to the mark than usual. That’s not necessarily to say his assessment of the component pieces of Friday night’s blowout home loss was any more thorough or sincere than other, previous assessments which, invariably, have taken a similar shape. It’s possible every loss, in Wittman’s eyes, is the result of a breakdown in intangibles, and it’s equally possible he’s just not willing to talk much about the tangible parts of a loss. We did not have a credible plan for attacking the heart of Brooklyn’s defense. Too close to home? OK, try this on: Our guys didn’t respect the game or our opponent.

So, he said the usual things, but, whether by some coincidental blast of truthfulness or an equally coincidental alignment of boilerplate assessment and observable reality, he more or less described to everyone’s satisfaction what had just taken place. Leaving aside the fact that Washington really didn’t seem to have much of a plan for opening up a Brooklyn defense that seemed determined to wall off the paint (testing, incidentally, Wittman’s “take what the defense gives you” philosophy), the Wizards really did seem to enter the game unfocused and incapable of mustering the energy to will into existence a respectable performance. This was evident from the very opening moments of the game, when Mason Plumlee seemed to get his fingers on every missed shot at both ends, often in situations where, had anyone boxed out with even modest commitment, young Plumlee would have been yards away from the rebound.

It’s hard to look at anything that happens in one NBA game—aside from, say, Trevor Booker’s once-in-a-lifetime buzzer-beating volleyball move from last week—and believe that it falls far enough outside of what is common as to be genuinely telling in one way or another. Here’s what I mean: the Wizards came out flat after a series of tough opponents, Brooklyn played with more energy, and, in a relatively lifeless arena, the Wizards suffered an embarrassing loss, but one that is otherwise no more significant than any other. That’s a perfectly fair way to look at it. After all, 16 playoff teams will play 656 home games this season, and most if not all of them will give away similar games. Simply by virtue of the NBA season being very long, anything that happens in one game is likely to be repeated in other games. Depending upon how you look at it, this is either to the NBA’s credit or its great detriment: no one regular season game is all that important.

But, of course, part of Wittman’s post-game assessment, and echoed later by Paul Pierce—gracious and humbled in defeat but eager to get the hell out of the building—suggested otherwise: the notion that “good” teams don’t lose like this. While careful to give credit and respect to the victorious Nets, Wittman made this point very clearly: a team that hopes to be elite, that hopes to be a legitimate contender, does not lose in this fashion to such an opponent.

And so the question becomes this: How much of Washington’s story is written by this single loss? If it’s true that a contender does not lose a game like this, can we now say that the Wizards are not a contender? Isn’t that, in fact, what Wittman has now told us? He was not interested in waiting around for any follow-up questions (and who can blame him?) but such a statement, presented as an essential truth of NBA basketball, finally coagulates into an existential quandary. Have we learned what the Wizards are not?

The glass-is-half-full way of answering this says what we’ve learned, really, and hopefully, is what the Wizards were not. Before the clock struck midnight Friday the Wizards were a solid team capable of doing good things but also not a contender. They were, as of Friday night’s final buzzer, a team who does lose like this, and that was a critical flaw. Free of the context of 656 regular season home contests, divided up in some combination of great wins, narrow wins, narrow losses, and disheartening losses (in which games just like this one are bound to happen to perhaps everyone) it may be possible to see the Wizards as two distinct teams: one which entered Verizon Center solid and fun and hopeful but also capable of Friday night’s awful display; and another one, embarrassed and humbled, hurrying to dress and make a flight to what Pierce described as a “must-win” Saturday rematch in Brooklyn, having learned whatever it is that is learned from such a defeat that renders it and its kind permanently an artifact of this new Wizards team’s pre-birth.

That, then, is the test. If each tomorrow presents each NBA team with a chance at redemption and reinvention, the Wizards can emerge from Friday night’s humiliation strengthened by whatever lessons were learned and become the contender they thought they were. Maybe that step along the path is only taken in this particular, painful way.


]]> 0
DC Council 40: Wizards vs Nets — Shot Down on ‘Singles Night’ Sat, 17 Jan 2015 15:35:20 +0000 Truth About’s D.C. Council:
Grading Washington players from Game No. 40: Wizards versus the Brooklyn Nets in Washington.
Contributor: Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis) from the Verizon Center.



Photo credit: Monumental Network


I have been channeling Marcin Gortat by staring at my white(ish) walls for hours, trying to come up with some type of crack analysis to summarize what I witnessed on Friday night and it’s been a struggle. It reminded me of the awful lockout-shortened season where our Wiz game reviews consisted of repeatedly saying the same snarky things about Washington’s shortcomings. “Oh look, Rashard Lewis is still terrible.”

My Twitter feed from the evening gradually turned into despair. Fortunately, this is only one loss and the Wizards have a chance for some payback tonight in Brooklyn. But I am not going to sugar coat that putrid display of basketball and if Wiz fans in attendance want a refund for financing that miserable entertainment, they have legitimate beef.

The Nets had lost seven games in a row and the mood in their locker room before the game was dour. Brook Lopez went from maybe sitting out due to a potential trade to dominating Washington’s entire front line. He had 25 second-half points. Meanwhile, Washington had their worst offensive outing of the season, scoring just 80 points. The Wizards were favored by 10 points and lost by 22.

You can write off previous blowout losses in Toronto, Cleveland and Dallas as losing to talented teams on the road. It happens often in the NBA, but to get waxed at home to a poor Nets clubs is perplexing. Labeling it “disappointing” doesn’t seem harsh enough.

In (dis)honor of “Singles Night” in the Phone Booth, that horror show deserves one big #ByeFelipe but first, let’s document the atrocities with player reviews.


Brooklyn Nets





Nene Hilario, PF

24 MIN | 2-7 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 6 PTS | -16

Nene couldn’t finish at the rim and repeatedly made poor decisions with the ball—he finished with a game-high four turnovers. His defense against Lopez was OK, but Brook scored on every Wiz big, including the Brazilian.

Paul Pierce, SF

25 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -21

Pierce made a few 3s versus his former team and seemed to enjoy every conversation with Kevin Garnett at the free throw line. His defense was suspect and he made little impact on this game, finishing with a plus/minus differential of minus-21. Pierce is an outspoken leader of this team, and often criticizes the Wizards when the play poorly. Last night’s slopfest is a case where Pierce should ease up on ripping other teammates and point at least one finger at himself.

Marcin Gortat, C

25 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -7

During individual warm-ups before games, Marcin Gortat always works on his post moves with assistant coach Roy Rogers. Before the Nets contest, I watched Gortat struggle with finishing against Rogers. It got so bad that John Wall started to talk good-natured smack to Gortat. It foreshadowed a miserable night for the Polish Machine. His offense was fine, but he played some of the worst defense in his Wizards career. He rotated poorly, committed silly fouls, and was not his usual, formidable self around the rim. Lopez punked him in the second half.

John Wall, PG

31 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 13 PTS | -24

John picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter, forcing him to sit down early. That totally threw off his game and he never was able to get into a flow. His point guard counterpart, Jarrett Jack, poured in 26 points and many of those buckets were with Wall guarding him. Wall isn’t necessarily a takeover scoring guard, but he does have the ability to beat his man off-the-dribble for offensive opportunities. He arguably is the only Wizard with this trait and he needed to be more selfish in the third and fourth quarters.

Bradley Beal, SG

26 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | -16

Big Panda was plagued by foul trouble, contributed only seven points on eight field goal attempts and bolted from the arena without talking to the media. There is a tendency among some Wiz fans and pixel pushers to overreact on Beal’s off nights—I would pump the brakes on this but it is time for Beal to concede publicly that the best backcourt in the NBA resides in the Bay area.

Kris Humphries, PF

19 MIN | 5-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -1

If we were throwing out backhanded Player of the Game honors for this misery, then Humphries would be the winner. Twelve points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes are solid numbers. I still miss Trevor Booker, but I will concede that the Humphries signing has worked out in Washington’s favor.

Otto Porter Jr., SF

22 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -10

Coach Wittman decided to give Otto some run after a few games without action. Porter made a few good cuts and, for the most part, held up on perimeter defense. However, his shot was way off and his frail #Slenderman frame is hurting his effectiveness.

Martell Webster, SF

7 MIN | 0-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -9

Martell barely played but I just want to use this space to let people know that Webster is releasing a music album in the spring. I interviewed him about it on Friday morning and hope to have report up soon. Martell was very open about his creative inspiration, talked about finally establishing a relationship with his father last year, and his goal seems to be to humanize the life of an NBA player. And from what I have seen of his freestyling, the guy has some talent.

Rasual Butler, SF

19 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | +2

Anytime the Wizards play on a Friday, I am good for a “Casual Friday” jeans comment after a positive play by Rasual. He had one, but misfired on all of his 3-point attempts. There are signs that he is becoming a slight liability on defense when matched up on the wing—something worth monitoring. The role of “Hot & Butter” is to provide offensive spark and be a main scoring option on the second unit. Under those terms, he failed.

Kevin Seraphin, C

17 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | -9

It has always been the same routine with Seraphin: he teases you with highs and then brings you back to reality with lows. This is the real in #KSLife. The social media maven was a key factor in the Wizards’ win over the champs on Tuesday, but he threw up a dud on Friday night. He was indecisive on offense, lost easy loose balls and was completely clueless on defense. Instead of throwing an outlet pass to Wall, Seraphin took off on a full-court dribble and the Wizards were luckily able to call a time out before disaster struck. This sequence produced JaVale McGee flashbacks and Wittman screamed in Seraphin’s face about the dumb basketball play. This crap performance should be erased from his hard drive quicker than all of his Snapchats.

DeJuan Blair, C

7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1

Blair checked in, ran around a bit and gobbled up a few boards. Nothing he showed will remove him from his role of the very last man on the Wizards totem pole.

Andre Miller, PG

14 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +3

The Professor provided one of the few highlight plays of the evening for Wizards by ending the first quarter with a high-arching bank shot. His plus/minus of plus-3 was the best by a Wizard player.

Randy Wittman

Just roll the tape from post-game presser:

“We had no focus, no energy, no urgency, lack of respect for your opponent and the game, and that’s what happens. Lesson learned, hopefully.

“We came out like all we had to do is show up and we got what we deserve. That’s exactly what we deserve. For our guys to continually talk about being or becoming an elite team, if you want to become an elite team, you don’t lose games like this. You beat a San Antonio and a Chicago in a back-to-back then come home and lose by 22 to team that had lost seven in a row.”


]]> 0
Wizards vs Nets in 80 Tweets — Sleepwalking Step Back in Blowout Loss to Brooklyn Sat, 17 Jan 2015 14:59:34 +0000 #WizardsTwitter said WHAT?! Here’s the rundown, Twitter-style, via Storify, as hunted and gathered by the editors at TAI into this here blog post. Thanks if you happened to take part. The Subject: Wizards vs Nets, Game 40, Jan. 16, 2015.

Just Your Classic #WittmanFace.

[via @recordsANDradio]

[via @recordsANDradio]

Washington Wizards 80 vs Brooklyn Nets 102



]]> 0