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Simmer Up Now?: Washington Wizards Season Preview

(Check out our season preview from the District by our resident Zardos fan, AO.)
Starting Five: PG John Wall, SG Bradley Beal, SF Martell Webster, PF Nene, C Emeka Okafor
Key Bench Players: PF Trevor Ariza, PG Eric Maynor, F Jan Vesely, F Otto Porter, F Al Harrington
Notable Offseason Additions: Harrington, Maynor, Porter (#3 pick in 2013 Draft)
Notable Offseason Subtractions: None
FACT OR FICTION: There’s stability in Washington.  Does it matter?
FACT. Ernie Grunfeld is betting his last chips on YES.  Take a look again at the notable offseason subtractions:  No one.  Everyone who mattered, from a statistical or locker room standpoint, is coming back.  Any NBA fan worth his salt knows that the Wizards aren’t betting on theIR year end record of 29-53.  What they’re letting simmer is the .500+ ball they played with John Wall in the lineup, and the hope is that the simmer carries over to this season and begins to boil.
What’s that you say?  A watched pot never boils.  Well actually, it does.  Try it some time.  It will eventually boil, I swear.  The key ingredient is patience.  And four things that Grunfeld did this offseason exercised that virtue to the fullest:… Read more...

How Much Worse Could the Wizards Get? Finding Hope in the District

Yesterday, I started an e-mail chain with my man AO, the greatest (and only) Washington Wizards fan I know. At the time, the Wiz were mired in a 0-12 start, by far the worst in franchise history. Without young point guard John Wall and mostly without productive center Nene, the former Bullets stood amongst the league’s most disappointing teams with even the most modest of expectations. 

In a seemingly everlasting attempt to make a die-hard hoop head feel better about his seemingly perpetually terrible team, I e-mail AO with vibes of positivity. What I got was clairvoyance from a NBA sage. Check out our first exchange:

KOBEsh: The Washington Wizards are 0-12, and looking like far and away the worst team in the NBA. Without former number 1 overall pick John Wall and new center Nene for most of the season, the Zardos have struggled in nearly every conceivable way. They’re not atrocious defensively, thanks to the efforts of offseason imports Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, but offensively, this team looks absolutely lost. They’re last in total points, points per game, points per 100 possessions, field goal percentage and those are just the categories they’re dead last in
Though Wall is scheduled to come back any time within the next month or so, but at this point, there’s really no rush to get him on the floor. Thus…there are so many negative things to say about the Wizards–you don’t have to google far to find them–but we’re going to do something a bit differently on MAMBINO. Let’s keep up the positive vibes the District has been nuturing lately, from the loins of RGIII to the bat of 12 year-old superstar Bryce Harper.

AO–looking ahead towards the end of the year, which of these are you thinking is the next (and first) Wizards win? And why?
AO: I think we win tonight, at home versus Portland.  The main reason being the guys in the locker room are absolutely fed up, enough to even call one of the vaunted “players only meetings”.  I guess 0-10 wasn’t enough for that meeting, but 0-12that calls for emergency measures.  

We’ve been right in all but 2 games, with most of them coming down to the final few minutes with the score near equal.  We’ve even had multiple shots to win games at the buzzer (Bradley Beal, Jordan Crawford, AJ Price). I think tonight, we look across the court and see a Portland team limping into DC with a 2-5 away record. We see a rookie poing guard, albeit a good one, who has been prone to inconsistency early in his career. Aldridge is knicked up. Most importantly, they are a pretty benign offensive team. That means we can keep the game ugly and close. And this time I think we finally make a couple of timely shots down the stretch, grab a W, and get the 500 lb. gorilla off our backs.  

Mere hours later, AO the Great Sage was correct, and the Wizards came out as a pathetic 1-12 team, rather than an outright disgrace at 1-12 after a victory at home against the Blazers. Not bad. Still, the following questions pertain. 

KOBEsh: You might have just answered the question, but do you feel like this team is actually “0-12” bad? (Editor’s note: “1-12” bad). What do you feel should be their actual record?  

AO: I don’t think they’re 0-12 bad, but they’re pretty damn close. Something like 2-10 makes a little more sense. They easily could have won one of the two Boston games or the road games at Atlanta or Indiana. Whatever though: coulda, shoulda, woulda. They’re 0-Read more...

Steam Clean Your Rugs: Washington Wizards Season Preview

(This Washington Wizards preview is from frequent MAMBINO advisor, but lamentably infrequent contributor AO. This manliest of men grew up a true hoophead, unfortunately stricken with a love for his local District basketball organization. I always pull for the Wiz, just so this long-suffered, but extremely dedicated fan can hold his curled head up high)

Starting Five: PG John Wall, SG Bradley Beal, SF Trevor Ariza, PF Nene, C Emeka Okafor

Key Bench Players: SG/6th man Jordan Crawford, PG AJ Price, F Jan Vesely, F Trevor Booker, F Chris Singleton, C Kevin Seraphin,

Notable offseason additions: Beal (3rd overall pick), Ariza, Okafor, Price, G/F Martell Webster

Notable offseason subtractions: F Andray Blatche

You know when you move into a new place and the landlord tells you the rugs have just been steam cleaned?  Yeah, you know that smell.  Well, that same, crisp, brand new smell is emanating from the Verizon Center in the nation’s capital, the home of YOUR…Washington Wizards. 

This season is all about new beginnings, which is kinda funny because this is the t-shirt I was handed at last year’s home opener.  New traditions, eh?  Not so much.  Last year was thoroughly influenced by some of the hold overs from the Agent Zero era – the very same that left a despicable mark of pranks, immaturity and a “I’m young, rich and creative, so let’s get online and show the world how creative I am!!” attitude.  Three characters from the aforementioned Gilbert era were still around midway through last year.  Now, going into a brand new 2012-13 NBA season, they’re all gone.  In a last minute deadline deal, GM Ernie Grunfeld stealthily got rid of Javale McGee and Nick Young, and in return got a solid veteran in Nene, his arthritic knees be damned.  Then, this off-season the last domino fell: Andray Blatche was amnestied. With him gone, the page could finally be turned. I could not be happier to say: that attitude has officially left the building. The incomprehensible stupidity finally can be put behind us, and the team can focus on an important question: how to win basketball games. 

It’s really nice to be able to talk about the Wizards in an on the court context.  Going into the 2012-13 campaign, while minimal, there are some expectations around the league for the Wizards to make a jump.  When you’re an annual bottom dweller, this may not be hard, but some are even talking playoffs. The main reason is the aforementioned purging coupled with the veterans Grunfeld brought in not only to teach the youngsters but push them to compete. While writers around the NBA blogosphere mostly criticized the Ariza/Okafor additions for clogging cap space over the next two years, I saw it as a bold move that said “we are ready to start winning ball games”.  We’re no longer throwing out a team that has built-in excuses.  Youth is not an excuse when you start 3 veterans in your front court.  Okafor, Ariza and Nene should anchor a front court to go along with what many perceive to be the teams future–its young but potentially dynamic backcourt.

You all know about John Wall.  And yes, he deserves his own paragraph, so I’ll oblige.  The Pope is entering his third year in the league and coming off a decent year but one where he didn’t make any progress from his rookie year:

2010-2011: 16 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 8 apg, 4 TO
2011-2012: 16 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 8 apg, 4 TO

You read that right: his numbers were exactly the same.  I don’t blame him much, mostly becRead more...

Burning Question #9: Can John Wall be the next Derrick Rose?

Why is this even a question?

I’m not much of a college hoops guy; not because I don’t enjoy any game of basketball anyway I can get it (well…maybe not every way), but because I just don’t have enough time in my life to fit in another league of athletics. Especially when that league predicates most of it’s drama from the poor play that disguises itself as “passion”. But that’s a post for another day. This is all to set up that I didn’t really know who John Wall was when he came into the NBA. I definitely knew him for this. But otherwise, I caught a few Kentucky games his freshman season, and certainly saw his play in the NCAA Tournament. Mostly, I just knew how good he was supposed to be. I had digested all of the hype and with the rash of young teenage players that had come into the league READY in recent years, I expected a debut to the same effect.

Wall had great numbers his rookie season, throwing up 16 points a game, along with 8 assists and 4 rebounds. Even against the background of nearly 4 turnovers a game, as well as 41% shooting from the field, Wall had a great statistical freshman campaign by all accounts. He made the All-Rookie 1st team and finished 2nd in ROY voting, next to Blake Griffin. However, something wasn’t quite right. For all of the success he had on paper, Wall missed 13 games due to injury and looked as if an even more explosive performance was impatiently waiting behind a veil of injuries. The Pope supposedly struggled all season with foot and knee problems, limiting the explosiveness he had reportedly had in college. Many people, including those here at MAMBINO, expected Wall to come out as a rookie and more than likely, lead his team to low-playoff seed contention just as Derrick Rose had done his rookie year.

Similar to Wall’s situation last year, Rose came to a young, but talented team filled with players like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Ben Gordon, along with vets John Salmons and Brad Miller. Little was expected from a Chicago team accustomed to losing, but Rose changed the culture with his dynamic play and fierce competitiveness. Without warning, the Bulls were playing the 2nd seeded Celtics in round one of the Eastern playoffs, legendarily playing 7 overtime periods total in 4 games.

Wall disappointed last year, but only against the loftiest of expectations.

How will this play out?

The following is a much better informed report from former NYisMecca blogging great, AO. My man is one of the last remaining Wizards fans that was not shot directly in the heart by Gilbert’s very real bullets that nearly shattered the franchise. He proudly carries the flag of the district despite years of disappointment and a rising crime rate that has no connection with basketball, or this post, except for the fact that I’m an asshole for needlessly pointing it out. Here is how he sees the upcoming season playing out:

The tale of the 2012 Washington Wizards will be spun around a narrative of youth, mistakes, and the Rise of the Pope John Wall. Before getting to Wall, there are actually other youngsters on the squad worth getting excited about. In fact, last year’s draft alone produced three (Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack) who should be getting some burn this year. Add those guys to Nick Young, the much maligned (by me) Andray Blatche and Javale McGee and we should see some exciting and head scratching up and down play from Flip Saunder’s squad.

We are currently entering year 2 of owner Ted Leonsis’ three year rebuilding pla… Read more...