Wizards at midseason? Still a question mark

 

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Coming into this huge season for the Washington Wizards, two underlying issues were on the agenda.  One, would they overplay their hand on the pursuit of Kevin Durant and will this team full of square pegs for round holes keep itself competitive in an improving Eastern Conference.

Lets answer the first question, the overplay.  Yes, the Wizards have stacked up all their chips in a grand attempt to woo DC native Kevin Durant to sign as a free agent this summer.  Do I believe it was the wrong strategy? I honestly don’t think so.  Currently as roster is constructed, there is the need for one more superstar to take the team to the next level, why not put everything on the table for this special talent, even if its a pipedream.  As we have seen for decades in the NBA, superstars win titles.  Thats just a fact.  The more talent you have on the roster, the better chance you truly have for winning major  hardware in June.  Now, I don’t believe that we will sign him because I think he will resign in Oklahoma City but its better to try (or atleast be in contention to try) than to not have a shot at all.

Secondly, for all of the funky positions that players on the roster have had to play this season either because of the injury factor (most missed games by injury in the league) or by roster construction, the new “Pace and Space” offensive system hasn’t worked the way we all envisioned it to.  Not having a true stretch big really hurts what the offense is supposed to accomplish.  Jared Dudley has done a yeoman’s job trying to be that guy, but at this point of his career, he shouldn’t be the main guy opposing defenses have to acknowledge on that end of the floor.  Guys like Otto Porter and Kris Humphries have tried to stretch the floor but as of today are not able to do that on a consistent basis.

 

As I stated earlier, the injury bug ravaged this team in the first half.  Brad Beal started off the season on fire averaging over 20 points per game and becoming that guy we all wanted him to be, but again a stress fracture in his leg caused him to miss 20 games and is now on a minutes restrictions.  If that wasn’t enough, Nene missed 19 games himself.  Add off season pickup Alan Anderson to the injury heap as he has not seen the floor this season.  Multiple games missed by Drew Gooden, Humphries, Porter, and Gary Neal has given coach Randy Wittman very little to work with at any given moment.

 

It has taken a yeoman’s effort from our resident All-Star John Wall for this team to hover around the .500 mark at this point in the season.  During the first month of the season, Wall was, for lack of a better term, lackluster.  After some self reflecting, he came out in December and played the best basketball of his life and earned December Player of the Month in the Eastern Conference, the first for the Wizards franchise since 2006.  Wall also won Player of the Week for the week of January 17th as well.  Without his stellar play, this team would be competing wit the likes of the Lakers and Sixers for the #1 overall selection in the next draft.

 

All in all, this team, when healthy, can make a run for the playoffs.  Four games out of the divisional lead isn’t an insurmountable lead but something needs to change.  Whether its using one of the pieces on the roster for an upgrade or what.  The inconsistency is killing the fan base.  There is starting to be an apathetic feel for the team and that shouldn’t be the case because the team is still growing.  But lethargic losses to the likes of the Lakers, Blazers etc are causing this team to become an afterthought in its own city.

 

 

Gilbert Arenas….

"For the Good Times...."

I know it had to be done….I know that after the Gun Incident that this day was coming.  It happened, I understand WHY…doesnt mean I am happy with it.  I guess for the future for the franchise its a good thing woo woo woo but f*ck that! Right now, TODAY, the best basketball player that has ever  laced it up for the Bullets/Wizards franchise  in over 30 years is finally an Ex-Wizard.  The move makes me feel bad in my stomach, because the outsiders only see what’s good for the basketball team (and honestly, that’s the #1 goal) BUT being a Lifetime Washingtonian, and more importantly a lifetime INNER CITY Washingtonian, this cuts deep, man.

Being a lifelong fan of Washington sports teams, its like a bad relationship.  You stay around, through all of the good (very little) and all of the bad (LOTS of it) for awesome fan moments…and for my sake, NO one player brought as many awesome fan moments for any of our franchises than Gilbert Arenas did before the unfortunate circumstances of injuries and stupidity (the gun charge) but I’m not going to dwell on that.  I’m only going to dwell on the good times and there were plenty.

As we watch tonight’s game (I’m typing this as I watch the pregame show) your going to see more than half of the Verizon Center cheer for the opposing Miami Heat. Do I blame them? ABSOLUTELY NOT because this franchise has not given the fans a reason to cheer. At one point Gilbert DID THAT for us. Sold out crowds and genuine excitement throughout the city…there was actually a point where you could HONESTLY put Gilbert and his stats/clutch play alongside with the Kobe’s, DWade’s and LeBron’s of the world and it wasn’t looked down upon as just being fans. Gilbert SINGLEHANDEDLY resurrected “Clippers East” into Must-See-TV. The term DAGGER by Steve Buckhantz was made popular BECAUSE of Gil!

Back to the Inner City Fan aspect for a moment, I am a PROUD product of SE Washington DC. Being that I tend to see things a little differently than most fans/media etc…a different POV.  Ive sat on the sidelines of Barry Farms basketball courts of the Goodman League every summer and have seen the best of the best ball in “The Gates” and there was no one player that drew as much excitement/cheers than Mr Arenas.  Ive seen that man come down “The Gates” alone, while there are people from this town scared to step FOOT in, he would come down, sign EVERY autograph, pose for EVERY picture, give out hundreds of free tennis shoes/jerseys/toys for the underprivileged youth without fanfare.  The only time you saw major media down there was to see him AFTER he was injured.  The same man also took in a young man into his home as an adopted son when the boy lost his whole family in a fire.  A man who gave his money to schools throughout the area with his “Gilbert Scores for Schools” initiative plus COUNTLESS of other ventures that go unreported….and its all gone to the waste side because all people want to remember is the gun incident, and that is so sad to me. He did so much MORE and SHOULD be acknowledged for such.

Personally and selfishly, I wanted him to stay a Wizard and a WASHINGTONIAN because I wanted him to redeem himself ala Michael Vick.  He deserves his 2nd chance, he’s going to get it now in Orlando with a chance to REALLY compete for the NBA Title so I’m happy for that. He was once the most beloved sports figure here since Joe Gibbs….in hindsight, the Redskins WISH they had an athlete that could connect with the fans the way Gilbert did with us, that’s probably why there is a slight discord with the Team in Ashburn.  For all the faults, people always LIKED Gil and somehow could see through all of it and see a genuinely nice guy…I’ll miss you Gil and I’m not the only one who will either!

AGENT ZERO FOREVER!!!!!

Thanksgiving Eve….

As I sit here developing a newfound hatred for my boy Steve Blake as he hits dagger 3’s for the Lake Show, I just watched 2 pretty good basketball games featuring My Wizards and My Kentucky Wildcats.

 

First, my Wizards pulled out a tough, comeback victory vs the Philly Sixers.  At one point they were down by 17, and as you all know, this Wizards team just isnt equipped to make these type of comebacks on a regular basis.  BUT for some reason, this team, for all of its obvious flaws, shows resiliency when they bring maximum effort. Javale McGee has played with renewed fervor the past week or so, had 24 pts and a career high 16 rebounds. He now leads the league in blocks…imagine when he learns not to jump for every pump fake…sky’s the limit.  John Wall returned from his 1st NBA injury and had 20 pts off the bench and hit 3 crucial free throws with 3 seconds remaining to send the game into OT.  Big 3 pt shots in OT from Gilbert Arenas and the actual game winner from Nick Young gave the fans at Verizon Center a reason to go home with a smile on their faces.

 

Secondly, this was my 1st opportunity to watch my Kentucky Wildcats play a legit Final Four contender early in the season in the Washington Huskies.  Highly touted freshman Terrance Jones had verbally committed to Washington but Coach Calipari used his “mojo” and got Jones to commit to the more awesome school.  This game was apart of the Maui classic but it was played with the intensity of a NCAA Tournament game.  He already has a pro body, he’s the prototypical Small Forward that NBA scouts will drool over next June.  He played a solid game but the star of the game was 2010’s #1 rated Point Guard prospect (also a Wildcat) Brandon Knight who was scintillating and sensational throughout (word to Dick Vitale even though Bill Raftery called the game on ESPN LOL).  My Cats are stacked again with 1 and Done freshman, hopefully this year we can hit some jumpshots and free throws when it really matters in March!

2010-11 NBA Preview – The Eastern Conference

I will start this preview by stating the Miami Heat will not win the NBA title THIS season.  It takes time.  With that being said, its plenty of other stories in the NBA this season that are worth the price of admission (or price of the NBA Season Pass).  Lots of players changing cities, impact rookies (plus 2009 #1 Overall selection Blake Griffin) and even some rule changes will bring a new flavor that I believe the league has needed.

 

Lets start 1st with the Eastern Conference.

Boston obviously should win the Atlantic Division with ease, but they showed last season, they dont really care about having the most wins in the NBA, but just being prepared for April/May and they are fine.  If Doc Rivers is the coach I think he is (which is MUCH better than Mike Brown was in Cleveland), he will find the PROPER way to use Shaquille O’Neal, which is limited minutes and increased minutes when playing the big dogs.  I believe each team in the Atlantic Division should improve, not by much (unless NY ends up with Carmelo Anthony THIS season instead of next season…shout out to LaLa if you catch my drift).  The Sixers have a new (old) coach in Doug Collins and still have a weird mix of “talent” so I expect them to be major players at the trade deadline.  You dont draft Evan Turner 2nd overall to have him be a backup to Andre Igoudola.  The Nets made one of the best offseason moves ever, they moved out of that awful Meadowlands/Izod Center and moved to Newark to the Prudential Center which will make the experience of watching them better for the fans in attendance.  Brook Lopez is a Top 10 center in the league, I absolutely love what 2nd year forward Terrance Williams gives you in his all around game and look for a healthy Devin Harris to be a factor this season.  The Knicks signed Amare Stoudamire and have a bunch of solid role players, will Raymond Felton be the answer at point guard? We shall see.

 

In the Central Divsion, I guess Chicago is the frontrunner but thats basically by default. This team is lead by budding superstar Derrick Rose and made a couple of shrewd moves this offseason highlighted by scooping Carlos Boozer from Utah.  The only serious challenger to the crown would be the Milwaukee Bucks.  Andrew Bogut is back and Brandon Jennings is in year 2 of his development.  The key to the team to me is John Salmons and can he continue his solid play on both sides of the ball.  Cleveland….well, we know what happened there so we wont speak on it….and Detroit…..Joe Dumars should be fired for spending all of that free cap space 2 seasons ago on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.  Indiana just may be that team to move up the ranks.  Picking up Darren Collison to lock down that point guard spot was HUGE and the continued development of Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansborough and 1st rd pick Paul George will give Pacer fans a reason to be optimistic about the immediate future.

 

In the tough Southeast division, you have 2 heavyweight franchises, 2 other playoff teams and my Wizards.  In Orlando, they know what they are, they are just hoping that whatever they think they are, is good enough for a return trip to the NBA Finals,  I still believe they need more dynamic play from the 2 guard position (paging Vince Carter) to ultimately win the Finals but there isnt any reason why they couldn’t get there.  Miami is one season/stud post player away IMO but as the old saying goes “Rome wasnt built in a day” but please believe they ARE trying to build Rome or a facsimile LOL.  Being able to bring in LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller in one offseason has to be the greatest coup in NBA History.  You now have 2 of the best 3 players together in Bron and DWade, and 3 of the top 15 when you add Bosh (Im not as high on Bosh as most people but he’s the best 3rd option in basketball hands down).  One thing that team sports constantly show us that it takes time to gel and Miami isnt any different.  They will win 60 games but honestly who cares?  This team is only gonna be judged by postseason success as it should so I really dont care what they do during the season, what I want to see is in the 2nd rd of the playoffs…when the series is tied 2-2, and Miami is down by 1 with 15 seconds left with the ball….who facilitates the offense and who takes that gamewinning shot?    The Bobcats are a pretty solid team but they will venture into that “Middle of the Road” playoff team area which is basically a no-man’s land of opportunity sad to say.  Atlanta is in that same boat because they have mortgaged their future into Joe Johnson, who was an absolute no-show in the playoffs last year.  If that guy is the Go-to Guy on your team, you have no shot….sorry.

 

Lastly, my Washington Wizards……where should I start…..well last season, anything that could have gone wrong, did and THEN some so I wont go back and relive that awfulness.  What I will  state is that because of that awfulness, we lucked up and won the draft lottery in a year where there is a TRUE franchise changer, and that franchise changer goes by the name of John Wall.  The Front Office has basically moved on from the Gilbert Arenas business and went all in into The John Wall Brand and rightly so.  He is the prototype Point Guard of the Future in the NBA today. He is ultra quick, ultra athletic, very long (pause) and has the ability to become a lock down defender once he learns the NBA game….picture Rajon Rondo’s body type with Derrick Rose’s ability together.  With that being said, I actually like some of the moves Ernie Grundfeld made this offseason.  I love the Hinrich pickup (although I wanted Rudy Fernandez), I love the drafting of Trevor Booker because this team is not tryin to make one deep run like last season’s moves showed, this team needed a new focus and that new focus is being young, dynamic and TOUGH, which Booker will eventually bring.  Our post play is going to leave something to be desired but in the end, we are going to see where the hearts of Javale McGee and Andray Blatche are because they are going to see the bulk of the playing time so its on them to improve daily and act like they want to be a player in the league.  I see us winning about 30 or so games which would put us back in the lottery and hopefully we can strike lottery gold 2 years in a row…its happened before, why not us?

Redskins Open Camp, John Wall Dazzles, as does Strasburg

Hello everyone,

I have been asked recently why I havent blogged recently, I honestly can’t give them an honest reply so for that I do apologize, but I have time right now so I am going to dabble into a bunch of topics that intrigue me in the Sports world today.

First and foremost, our Washington Redskins opened 2010 Training Camp today and all everyone can talk about is that Albert Haynesworth failed his “conditioning test’. Am I the only one that doesn’t really give a sh*t? I mean really…at this point all I care about is this:

1. Is he gonna be on the roster?
2. If so, will he be in shape by Game 1 vs Dallas

Besides that, why are we wasting time on this? I think we all know why…because its the Redskins and this brings ratings. We have so many other stories to talk about for the next 6 weeks such as a NEW coach in Mike Shanahan along with another new staff, brand new QB in Donovan McNabb (who automatically becomes the best QB the Skins have had since Joe Theismann…if you don’t believe me, just look it up), and FINALLY some competition battles in a variety of different positions such as RB, TE, WR, OL, and S just to name a few. Its gonna be nice to finally see some meaningful preseason games for a change. One thing I never fully grasped as a Skins fan is that if a team sucks (and we have in the grander scheme of things for almost 20 years), how come there are never any position battles in camp? I mean going into last year, there were NO battles for any starting positions except for Safety and the only reason it was a battle there was because of the untimely passing of Sean Taylor. Every other position was stamped Day 1 of Training Camp. HUH?!?!?! How does that type of thinking even make sense?? That type of culture just breeds complacency and our record last year certainly demonstrated that fact. I can not wait to see how new Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett finds new ways to maximize 2nd year pro Brian Orakpo’s full potential. Another double-digit sack season seems like a great goal to strive for. Stay tuned Skins fans…it should be a fun ride this year.

Now, on to our Washington Wizards. They completed a pretty successful Summer League stint in Las Vegas with a 4-1 record but nevermind that, everyone wanted to know what would Wunderkind Point Guard John Wall bring to the table. What he brought is what people have been enamored about for 3 years it seems, supreme athleticism, leadership, and a feel of the game just like a point guard. He is obviously a work in progress (turnovers, jump shot etc) but he showed that he has definitely improved his midrange game and his on the ball defense.

He also seemed to have a great rapport with C Javale McGee, who with his excellent Summer League performance actually earned a spot to try out for the USA World Championships team (he was eventually cut earlier this week). Trevor Booker is going to bring what he has always showed, that toughness and grit that Wizards teams have lacked since Ben Wallace (shout out to all my BULLETS fans LOL). I liked what Cartier Martin and Lester Hudson also brought to the table and I think they should both receive an invite to training camp in October. Hell I think one or possibly both players could win a job on the team if they dedicate themselves to playing tough perimeter defense.

Also during this offseason the Wizards have picked up veteran combo guard Kirk Hinrich, former lottery pick Yi Jianlian, veteran big man (albeit a disappointment) Hilton Armstrong and just resigned Josh Howard for 1 more season coming off ACL surgery. The Wizards have about 5 million or so of cap room remaining so they may try to pick up a veteran big man for the cheap or just save the space for next season, either way this team should at least be exciting next season even though the wins wont come in bunches just yet.

Speaking of the Wizards, and being as though I have attended approx. 100+ games in the past decade at the Verizon Center, I was f*ckin APPAULED about the ESPN Outside The Lines report of the failing grade The Phone Booth received in its review. Now granted, it IS Chinatown and yea, its gonna be SOME poor reviews, I get that…but 100% of vendors having some sort of MAJOR violations is f*ckin retarded IM SORRY! Ted Leonsis has his work cut out for him cleaning this mess up, but in his defense, it’s not HIS doing and with his track record, I expect things to be corrected swiftly.

Lastly, Stephen Strasburg….I mean, what more can I say that hasn’t been said already?

He has been better than advertised if that’s possible with a 5-2 Record, 2.32 ERA , 75 K’s and only 15 walks. That my friends, in one word, is DOMINANCE. He should really be 7-1 which makes it all the more impressive because the Nats bats havent given him much run support in his starts. Unfortunately, he was just placed on the DL for precautionary reasons due to inflammation and a stiff right shoulder. Cause for concern? I don’t think so, people have to realize this is a kid that is doing something that most human body’s just aren’t trained to do. Being sore is apart of the process, now if this becomes a problem in later years YES be concerned, but right now, lets not make a big deal out of this, we want this guy here for 10 years and not just 10 starts.

See you guys soon….thanks for reading!

Wizards strike gold…win Draft Lottery…What next?

John Wall??? Evan Turner??? Trade Down??? Package pick for multiple players/picks?

What a quandary the Wizards are in….a GOOD one for a change. Doesn’t it feel good to truly have options Wizards fans? LOL

Now, if you didn’t know, I am an unabashed Kentucky Wildcats fan (sue me LOL). Now being as such, I am a huge proponent of drafting the player that has been pegged as the #1 overall selection in this draft for 2 years, that my friends, is John Wall. If you could have seen me in my bedroom as I watched the Lottery on TV….this is the only way I can describe how I felt at that moment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIutgtzwhAc (0:18 second mark). Now after calming down and coming down off my Cloud 99, I have now looked at this situation thoughtfully….YOU STILL DRAFT JOHN WALL!!!!!

I mean honestly, to me, its a no-brainer. 1st and foremost, I love Evan Turner, I really really do. I believe he will be a multiple time All Star but right now, this Wizards franchise needs a new “face” for lack of a better term. The last season was THE worst ever for this franchise, our best player locked up for pistol play IN the locker room, Caron “The Snitch” Butler traded along with Brendan Haywood and Antwan “The Consumate Professional although I dont play any defense” Jamison also being traded to Cleveland. As much as this city loves a reclamation project (ie Marion Barry), I just dont believe Gilbert Arenas can be “the face” of this franchise even if he’s still apart of it being virtually untradeable because of his contract.

If you’ve never watched a college basketball game, one thing that you notice when watching John Wall play, he’s a star point blank. You know when you see it…stars kinda exude confidence thru the screen somehow…they have “it”….and John Wall has “it”. He has all the physical tools you want your future point guard to have. He’s ultra quick with the ball, long armed, great athlete…reminds me of a more athletic Rajon Rondo, and he’s not really a pure point guard ala Steve Nash….and is automatically the best defender at the point guard position even if Gil remains and he’s a work in progress there.

Obviously being only 19 years old, he’s a work in progress but isn’t everybody? He’s a below average outside shooter but you can always improve there if you work hard in your craft and he’s a gym rat so I have no qualms that he wouldnt become at least a serviceable jumpshooter. Again, look how great Rondo is right now and he’s still a below average shooter, its more qualities in being a great point guard than shooting. Lastly, I believe he is a leader of men. As much as I love Gil, he just isnt a true leader. He’s stated it before in the media, turned down captaincy…so why force him to be that person. Wall on the other hand, seems to relish the fact of being THE Man…THE Leader…OUR Leader….Ladies and Gentlemen, your future #1 Draft Pick, from the University of Kentucky….John Wall.