Monday, April 16, 2012

The Washington Wizards...A Franchise Going Nowhere Fast

For years I have been a Bullets/Wizards fan. Mind you in my early years I suffered through rooting for teams that had  Mitchell Butler, Ladell Eckles, Tom Hammonds, Harvey Grant (the lesser of twins), Larry Stewart, Michael Adams, and Pervis Ellison, who I couldn't stand, so yeah not house hold names but that was the roster we had. Then in 1993-94 I started really getting into basketball and by the following season I was sold on a team that had added Chris Webber to go with Juwan Howard and also had my favorite player at the time...Big Ghitza...Gheorghe Muresan. Add Rod Strickland and the outside shooting of Tim Legler and this team had playoff potential for years to come but, much like the Wizards teams of the mid to late 2000s, they managed to underachieve.

Those early 2000s teams saw the Wizards get THE Michael Jordan, first as an executive, then as a player, then as neither. The executive drafted Kwame Brown, in an overall underwhelming draft, and pulled a trade Wes Unseld would be proud of by sending young Richard Hamilton to the Detroit Pistons for Jerry Stackhouse. Not the Jerry Stackhouse that lit the league up when he entered with the 76ers tho. Of course this trade would work out, why not they always do when the Wizards trade youth for veteran leadership. Ben Wallace for Ike Austin..oh um...Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond...darn um...Rasheed Wallace for Rod Strickland..yeah not so much when you look at the end results for all those players after the deals.

Jordan did make one great move as an executive though, and its probably the only one he's made as a GM or owner, which was to unload Juwan Howard's seemingly unmovable contract to the Dallas Mavs and bringing back Etan Thomas and Courtney Alexander...veteran for youth and Thomas was actually a serviceable and reliable big man..when he wasn't hurt.

The early early/mid 2000s I loved if only because they team drafted my all-time favorite player, Juan Dixon, and Steve Blake, and even brought in Lonny Baxter, he of one semester at Springbrook High School..go Blue Devils. Unfortunately for me and him, despite Juan Dixon being a key member of the Wizards bench and winning a game for them in the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls he was not long for the team, despite two stints with the team. The mid/late 2000 teams were built around Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Larry Hughes (one year) then Caron Butler. Each year that they made the playoffs they had the look of a team that could go pretty deep yet they always seemed to lose to LeBron James and the refs Cleveland Cavaliers.

Significant injuries to Arenas pretty much crippled this team's playoff hopes and he never got back to being the same player, his alter-ego Agent Zero, then was involved in a terrible turn of events involving guns in the locker room and eventually, miraculously given his contract, traded. This trade taking place after Jamison and Butler had been moved by the trade deadline the year prior and so ended the Big 3 era and ushered in the John Wall era which has essentially just been a run into a wall.

The season started off terribly and I constantly referred to the team as the Izards, because they had no W's, or the Lizards, because they kept racking up losses. Coach Flip Saunders had named Andray Blatche a team captain, ballsy considering his work ethic and lack of maturity over the years, but Blatche had been trying during the lockout to get all the players to come to DC and practice so that they'd build some chemistry. Only a few players showed up and that may have hurt the team.

There's no doubt John Wall is talented. Before the Wizards received the 1st pick in the 2010 NBA draft I wasn't a big fan of his but once we got it I started checking some videos and was quickly sold on the kid. The problem now is he's not progressing. The lockout last off-season and the ridiculous schedule this year surely isn't helping his growth but it would have been nice if instead of running around the country in pick-up and charity games, though I can't blame him there, he had spent more time working on his jumper. The face of the franchise has about as consistent of a jumper as Rajon Rondo but can't compile stats nearly as identical regardless of the difference in talent each roster has. Add to it that while he's quick he's also very out of control on the break and will miss lay-ups regularly and can lose his composure which can completely take him out of a game mentally. Hopefully this off-season the team can get him to stay close to DC and work with whoever the coaching staff will be to work on his game.

Jordan Crawford stated he wanted to be better than Jordan. The kid has a big pair to make that statement, too bad he's going to be nothing but a role player for his career much like Damon Jones, Mike Miller, Jamaal Crawford and Quentin Richardson. JC is a streaky wing shooter, we had that in Nick Young, but he also has a weird jerky jump shot and take some awful shots at the worst opportunities. Until the coaches reign him in he's going to keep going that route...then again the coach is an interim one so he won't be listened to much.

As for Blatche? I've loved him since we drafted him, despite his stupidity and immaturity off the court and his self esteem issues on the court, thanks Eddie Jordan, he showed a couple year's ago when Jamison went down that he was on his way to reaching his potential. Alas it all slipped away. Every time he touched the ball at home this season the fans booed him and his performance warranted it or was a product of the fans reactions. Regardless he'd been out of shape, made comments speaking out against the coach in terms of getting the ball in the paint and then once he did he still settled or chose to take it out and take bad shots, and has since been shut down for the season. If the team can move him they'll be lucky but I fear his career won't end well and we're going to hear more about him with off-court issues once he is done.

Rashard Lewis. Overpaid, overrated, washed up, shut down, and soon to be amnestied. Yeah that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the forward that can't rebound, can't score and can no longer shoot.

Brian Cook and Mo Evans. Can't stand them, don't need them, next?

Roger Mason Jr came back after a few seasons away and hit some clutch shots in a few games this year. Now he's out having finger surgery, was released today and replaced by Morris Almond...Almond? Really? How about you bring Dixon back to at least put a few asses in the seats for these last few home games?

Chris Singleton has been as good as advertised on defense, better than expected on offense, but I fear he's settling for 3's he shouldn't be. Should be a viable option at SF in a role similar to Shane Battier.

Shelvin Mack has been a solid PG back-up. I haven't watched him much but he's played well when I have seen him. The same can be said for Jan Vesley. He's done some things right, some things wrong but he's still raw and hasn't had enough playing time for fair assesment.

Kevin Seraphin is a player that came in raw and while he still has a lot of room to grow he has been the best player on the team many nights, including that game against the Lakers which seemed to be his coming out party. I think he could be a very solid center option in a league lacking quality centers.

Nene is new to the team and injured and will probably get shut down for the year. I'll admit that I didn't care for the trade when we made it. Much like I did with the way fans felt about Arenas before he was traded, I was one of the few supporters of Nick Young and JaVale McGee. McGee is very talented but reckless. He tries to run fast breaks and makes stupid goaltending plays and has had a few other mental lapses but the potential outweighted them to me. This was a team that SUCKED and was usually getting killed every night and he at least brought some personality on the court. Young on the other hand was the same type of player as Crawford, a streaky shooter but more accurate, or so it seemed. He also could throw down some ridiculous dunks but much like many other players on the team he was very immature.

Finally there is Trevor Booker. He has been my loan bright spot for the team the past two years.The kid can jump out the gym, throw down some sick dunks, block shots and hustles. He just can't seem to stay healthy. I really hope the team doesn't decide to move him because it would just add to the mistake in the front office from over the years. If Wall can get taught, Booker stays healthy, and Seraphin continues to progress then those three players would make this team much easier to watch.

Right now they're just fucking awful though, I mean to the point I can barely watch any games. How many times has this team blown a 20+ point lead, usually in a half, this season? Its gotta be some kind of record. Every team gets lucky a few times a season and that's how you have to explain them beating the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the year. When the season started I thought the team could win 20-25 games. After they imploded in the opener against the New Jersey Nets I changed that to maybe 15 wins. After their first 5 games I thought they'd be lucky to win 5.

Of course not all the blame should be the players. In the mid-90s before the team played at the Verizon Center I read a story about how the players hated playing for Washington and how terrible the atmosphere was because Abe Pollin, then more like the Mr. Burns of the NBA, had training camp held at the gym at Bowie State University. The gym had no air conditioning, holes in the windows, broken showers and players were not happy. Once the Verizon Center opened I started hearing better things and when Arenas joined the team the free agent market at least had reason to look at coming here. Now the team is owned by Caps owner Ted Leonsis and we'll have to see what he does. His plan is to let his execs do their jobs since they have the basketball knowledge and he'll pay the money. The problem is he has the wrong guys in place but may not know it either because he's very loyal or not knowledgeable.

The front office has been a constant sore spot with Wizards fans. First it was former player Wes Unseld calling the shots in the 90s, then Jordan, now Grunfeld and he has lost a lot of player for comments he's made and for allowing Arenas to get away with a lot of the stuff he did during his time here, whether it was his call or Pollin's it happened. Fines and suspensions by the coach were overruled and that is just bad all around.

You also have to look at the quality of coaches we've had in DC since the mid 90s...Wes Unseld, Jim Lynam, Bob Staak, Bernie Bickerstaff, Jim Brovelli, Gar Heard, Darrell Walker, Leonard Hamilton, Doug Collins, Eddie Jordan, Ed Tapscott, Flip Saunders and now Randy Whittman. The only guys on their worth a damn is Doug Collins and Flip Saunders and Eddie Jordan isn't bad but his dog house killed so many players.

Maybe its poor management top to bottom, maybe its bad luck, maybe its the Curse O'Les Boulez. Whatever it is its still happening and it doesn't look like its leaving any time soon

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