Wizards Game 3: Carmelo and Knicks put away the Wiz in the 4th

For the third game in a row, the Wizards found themselves locked in a tight game late in the fourth quarter. But the Wizards were unable to edge out the rejuvenated Knicks, marking the first loss of the year. Though the game was close throughout, the Wizards did not play particularly well. John Wall and Bradley Beal continued to carry the load, and Drew Gooden gave productive minutes off the bench with three putback tip-ins.

For the most part, the rest of the team struggled. Otto Porter finished with what a stat line that, if you missed the game, would look respectable, but he has shot poorly now in three consecutive games. Much of the Wizards ability to space teams out and run depends on the team’s ability to knock down 3’s. And right now, the only shooter that really worries teams is Beal. Maybe Otto is not a 40% 3-point shooter, like many optimists envisioned. He needs to be able to shoot over 35% though and knock down open corner 3’s – he had a couple against the Knicks with no one around that he missed.

The other two starters, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries, offered almost nothing. It’s inexplicable for someone Gortat’s size to only grab five rebounds. At least four or five times throughout the game, either Wall or Porter drove and dished to Gortat in the middle of the paint, only for Gortat to miss or get swatted by Robin Lopez. Meanwhile, it’s time to seriously consider whether Kris Humphries is destined to be a guy who beats up on backups. You know, someone whose energy is his best attribute, who grabs a bunch of rebounds and scraps around. It’s intriguing seeing him stretch his game out behind the arc, but it also just doesn’t seem right seeing him primarily line up 25 feet from the hoop on offense. He is most effective as a banger down low – a guy who makes a living on garbage points and tough rebounds.  Continue reading

Wizards Game 2: Barrage of 3’s in the fourth quarter propel Wiz past Buckss

For the second straight game, the Wizards played a subpar game and still managed to come away with the win. For most of the game, the Wizards looked lackluster on both ends of the court, but things started to click in the fourth quarter. Or shots just started dropping. Really, there is a difference between an offense firing on all cylinders and a team just getting ridiculously hot out of nowhere. It would be misleading to attribute to the fourth quarter offensive outburst to ‘pace and space.’ Some of the seven threes made by the team in the fourth definitely were a result of pushing the ball, but there were also several contested threes that you would never count on going in.

Regardless of the “how”, the Wizards are now 2-0 for the first time since 2005 – that seems like a long time even for the most cynical, jaded Wizards fans – and beat two underrated teams on the road. This was a gutsy win that, until the fourth quarter, seemed like a total no-show from the entire team. The Bucks got ahead to a 12 point lead midway through the first quarter and held a double digit lead for the remainder of the first. The first quarter was filled with much of the same sloppy play that plagued the Wizards in the season opener in Orlando. John Wall, despite the awesome numbers and clutch play, continues to jump the pass way too often. He did so six times in the first quarter, and those are the plays most frequently responsible for his turnovers.  Continue reading

Wizards Game 1: Wiz win season opener in dramatic final minute against Magic

For the first time in the Randy Wittman, there is intrigue and excitement over how the Wizards will play. All preseason long, the Wizards have promised a “Pace and Space” approach – something a little closer to what the Warriors dominated the NBA with last season. It is a shift towards small ball, surrounding arguably the fastest player in the NBA, John Wall, with three shooters and a big man. This, rather than the conventional lineup with two big men, Marcin Gortat and Nene last season, both of whom do not have range extending to the 3-point line. It’s a game plan that, ideally, utilize’s John Wall’s blazing speed better. When shots go up, the wings leak out and Wall races down court, putting constant pressure on defenses and opening up for 3-point barrages from Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and whoever else fills the wing.

For all of the excitement surrounding the Wizards’ new look in the preseason, the season opener in Orlando felt like a preseason game. Both teams were sloppy. Beal opened the game with back to back turnovers, and then Kris Humphries followed suit with a turnover of his own. Though sometimes out of control, Wall mostly steadied the team through the first quarter, responsible for 14 of the team’s first 16 points, with eight points and two assists. The Wizards sprinted ahead to an 18-9 lead in part to hot shooting from deep from Bradley Beal, who finished the first quarter with 13 points off of 5-9 shooting. But the quarter ended with the Wizards holding a single bucket advantage, as the Magic rallied behind their latest two lottery picks, Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja. The second quarter showcased a little bit of the good and bad of the “Pace and Space.” Kris Humphries, who for his career is 2-6 from behind the arc, hit a corner 3! That is a new dimension to his game, as he knocked down 10-28 3’s in the preseason. The other bright spot of the second quarter was newcomer Gary Neal’s productivity. The career journeyman has made a living in the NBA as a scorer, and he knocked in three baskets off the bench to keep the Wiz above water. It’s clear that it will take time for the team to figure out when to push the ball and when not to. The Wizards had seven turnovers in the half, and the increased pace coincided with recklessness. That is a symptom of playing fast, though John Wooden said: “play quick, but don’t hurry.” The Wizards look hurried getting the ball down floor, and it will take time before Wall and the rest of the team figure out when the break is not on. Continue reading

A not-so-serious attempt at finding the third best team in the East

Who is the best team in the East not named the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers? Does it even matter? (No.) Won’t the Heat and Pacers just end up playing each other in the Eastern Conference Finals? (Yes… Most likely). Could the third best team end up finishing below .500? (Let’s just stop asking questions before this gets depressing). In a landscape no longer featuring relevant Bulls or Celtics teams, the Heat only have one real challenger to the throne in the East: the Pacers. To make matters worse, no team has stepped up to the plate either as a worthy challenger. Most experts saw the Nets as a legitimate title contender this year with the arrival of KG and Paul Pierce. Or they saw the return of Derrick Rose as the return of the Bulls. Perhaps the last possible contender in the East coming into the year was the Knicks, fresh off a 54 win campaign. But quite a lot can happen in just a few months. Derrick Rose tears his meniscus, and suddenly we can forget about the Bulls. Tyson Chandler fractures his fibula, general J.R. Smith-ery takes place at an unimaginably high rate, and the Knicks stop raining 3’s every night, and suddenly we can forget about the Knicks. And in Brooklyn, Deron Williams struggles with ankle injuries, KG falls off a cliff, and Jason Kidd tries his best to coach, and suddenly we can forget about Brooklyn too–I think. Yet, they have shown brief signs of life in recent weeks. But to keep things simple, the Bulls, Knicks, Nets, and Celtics (who previously had been one of the Heat’s rivals, before entering tank mode) are irrelevant in the East. That leaves us with a hodgepodge of teams in the East that, many of whom came into the season in tank-mode. Teams like the Bucks, Sixers, Magic, and Bobcats (wait, they’d actually be the eight seed if the playoffs started today…), coupled with teams trying not to be in tank-mode, but suck enough to still be in tank-mode (see: Cavs and Pistons) are afterthoughts this year. So who is even left in the East? That leaves with three teams: the Raptors, Hawks, and Wizards.

The Suspects Continue reading

The Curious Case of J.R. Smith

Last night the Knicks benched their controversial clown of a sidekick J.R. Smith in a win over the title favorite Heat. Just one year ago, Smith took home the Sixth Man of the Year award, helping lead the Knicks to the second best record in the East. With an expiring contract though, just about every common fan could foresee the Knicks overpaying Smith. To the Knicks’ credit, they did not award him the type of 5 yr/$50 million type deal that many expected. They kept him in a Knick uniform for a price of $18 million over three years. By all statistical measures though, Smith is still one of the most overpaid players in the league. He’s followed up his career year in true J.R. fashion, shooting 42% from the field and 35% from behind the arc. Statistically speaking, Smith is one of the worst players in the league this year. His PER is below 10 at the moment (9.91 to be exact), when around 13 is average for the league.  Continue reading

Cavs Officially End the Andrew Bynum Experiment


At least the Cavs were smart enough to deal Bynum before having to pay him $14 million this year.

Sixty-nine days. That is how long it took the Cavs to cut ties with Andrew Bynum. Talk about poetic justice. The Cavs dealt Bynum to the Bulls for Luol Deng and three future draft picks. Coming into the year, the Cavs were a trendy playoff pick in the East. In retrospect, it’s easy to laugh at the sentiment for a variety of reasons. Perhaps, because the Cavs’ #1 pick Anthony Bennett looks like the worst top pick of all time. Or maybe it’s because Andrew Bynum contemplated retiring a month into the season. Or maybe it’s because Kyrie Irving is having his worst season as a pro. What do you get when you mix that all together, plus giving Matthew Dellavedova major minutes? A pitiful squad currently 13th in the standings in the East, ahead only of the Milwaukee Bucks, who arguably aren’t an NBA franchise and the Sixers, who decided to trade their franchise 23 year old All Star point guard for an 18 year old with a torn ACL. To make it even more clear just how bad Bynum has been so far, numerous NBA teams had recently expressed interest in trading for Bynum–so that they could cut him! It’s not clear exactly what the Cavs are looking to do from here. Building around Irving, Waiters, Bennett, and Tristan Thompson has been a futile, if at least amusing, attempt at winning games. It’s doubtful that Deng changes much this year. At the very least, Deng pushes Bennett closer to working at McDonalds, but beyond that, it is more about cap flexibility. Deng is in the final year of his contract, and it was no secret that Chicago had been trying to deal him before the deadline. On paper, a Kyrie-Waiters-Deng-Thompson-Varejao starting five doesn’t sound that bad–especially when there are only three teams in the East sitting above .500 (and one of them is Atlanta, at 18-17). But what are the Cavs trying to accomplish at this point? They are so far down the standings, doesn’t it make more sense to complete the art of tanking that they seem to have perfected ever since LeBron left? At this point, not even the most delusional Cleveland fans could envision LeBron returning home, so they can finally forget about that. Teaming up Kyrie with Jabari Parker would at least give the Cavs some reason for hope. Or if the Cavs are sick of having to wait for young players to develop, they could package their first rounder this year with Varejao and try to acquire a star. Continue reading