As the clock crept past 1:30 a.m. and the Wizards game drew to a close (you get very contemplative sitting alone in your living room at 1:30 a.m. on a Wednesday night watching a Wizards-Clippers game), a few things occurred to me:
- As little of an effort as the team made against the Portland Trail Blazers, their performance against the Clippers just 24 hours later was pretty impressive. That’s especially true when you look at who the Wizards put on the court, the disparity in experience and talent levels between them and the Clippers was glaring. John Wall was the only Wizard who would definitely start for a solid NBA team right now and only one or two others (McGee and maybe Booker) would be rotation players. While the Clippers are still lottery bound, they field a star (Griffin), an almost-star (Gordon) and two solid players (Williams and Kamen). Despite that disadvantage, the Wizards gutted it out until the second OT. Contrast that with their lack of execution and effort in games against the Blazers, Thunder, etc. I think maybe the players have started to tune out Flip Saunders.
- Jordan Crawford and John Wall were really clicking, imagine what they could do once they fix the holes in their game (Wall: jump shot and free throws/Crawford: shot selection and ball handling). In the long run Crawford may be a sixth man (he’s a little undersized for a shooting guard), but for the time being he’s pretty exciting to watch.
- JaVale McGee played well, he was active on the glass, was an efficient scorer and stayed out of foul trouble. He’s third in the league in blocks, but there is still room for improvement in his shot-blocking approach (see his defense on Eric Gordon’s three-pointer in the first OT), which should be a scary thought for the rest of the league. He also showed signs of developing some post moves. If he stops taking 15-foot jumpers and learns to use his length to his advantage he will be tough to defend in the post. The mental mistakes are just brutal though, and that includes any time he dribbles the ball outside the lane. At least once every game McGee decides he is going to start dribbling down the court with no plan for what he is going to do with the ball. Either Flip is a worse coach than we all think and doesn’t tell him what a stupid idea that is, or McGee just doesn’t listen to him. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on the coach.
- I strongly disagree with Jason Reid’s column arguing for trading Andray Blatche. It isn’t that I’m a huge Blatche fan, I’ve been hard on Blatche for his many mistakes, both on the court in in his interpersonal relationships, but right now the Wizards don’t have a PF better than him on the roster (Booker may eventually get there, but he’s not ready to be the first or second scoring option). Furthermore, there is no way the Wizards would get something as valuable as he is. Instead, the Wizards could draft a power forward with our lottery pick (four of the top eight rated players are PFs) or draft a small forward there and wait to use the Hawks pick (probably in the late teens early twenties) where we could get a solid PF prospect later in the first round (five PFs are ranked in the rankings between 20 and 25). Regardless of who they pick it’s going to take a season or two for them to develop. The Wizards should wait and trade Blatche from a position of strength, he’s got good trade value over the long term. (Please don’t panic Ernie.) The Wizards are finally in a position as an organization where they do not have to make trades out of desperation.
- As if the Wizards season wasn’t difficult enough, the NBA schedulers did them no favors. They sent the Wizards from Portland to L.A., L.A. to Denver, Denver to Oakland and Oakland to Salt Lake City, before heading home. That’s five games in seven days and four games in games days, each in a different time zone (not counting the flights back and forth to the west coast). I get that the team travels more comfortably than the rest of us - Nick Young isn’t going to be crammed in to the middle seat in coach between a morbidly obese man with a seat belt extender and a woman that smells like cabbage - but the NBA can still do better.