The Wizards' 'Hustle Man'
McGuire's Contributions Go Beyond the Box Score
Friday, March 6, 2009; Page E03
OKLAHOMA CITY, March 5 -- Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Dominic McGuire were summoned into interim coach Ed Tapscott's office for a brief meeting after the Washington Wizards lost, 88-83, to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
All four players were drafted by the Wizards and are being relied upon more this season as part of their development. But while Young, McGee and Blatche have displayed spectacular flashes during this disappointing 14-47 campaign, their inconsistency has led to maddening moments of frustration for Tapscott.
McGuire arguably has less natural talent and rarely produces jaw-dropping moments, but Tapscott said his reliable energy and effort on the floor is the reason he will make his 37th consecutive start against San Antonio on Friday.
"He gives us something every night," Tapscott said. "He's one of those guys that you've come to depend on for all of the intangibles and all the small things that make for a good effort. I'm delighted with what he's done up to this point."
Given the chance to get consistent minutes, the 6-foot-9, second-year forward has discovered and embraced his role as a hustler and defensive stopper.
"I'm trying to get better every game," said McGuire, who had four points, eight rebounds and six assists against the Thunder. "That's the biggest thing, getting a chance to show my versatility and show people that I belong here and I can play in this league."
McGuire is averaging just 4.1 points and 5.1 rebounds this season, but his impact is not always going to be felt in the box score. In the past five games, however, he has filled the stat sheet in the hustle categories. Over that stretch, McGuire has averaged eight rebounds, five assists and 1.6 blocked shots. He rarely looks to score, but he has posted two double-doubles and is averaging eight points during the span.
"What he brings, he's sort of DeShawn Stevenson Jr. for us," Tapscott said. "He takes the toughest matchup defensively. He just keeps coming on every possession and brings a multitude of non-scoring skills to the team. Every guy on the team wants the ball, but somebody has to be able to play without it, and he can play without it and have an impact. You need guys like that."
Although McGuire has an awkward-looking jump shot and isn't a skilled ballhandler, he has influenced the team with his passing and by cleaning up the crumbs. He led the Wizards in assists the past two games, handing out a career-high nine against Atlanta on Monday.
"He's been the hustle man, getting rebounds, dropping dimes, being like a tiny Lamar Odom out there," Young said. "He's been playing well since he got the starting position. Coaches were like, 'Go,' and his eyes lit up. They kind of gave him a little more leeway to do what he does out there and it's showing."
McGuire started the season praying that he would just be a part of the rotation, but he got limited action in the first 25 games. He averaged two points and 2.9 rebounds in 11.8 minutes and never got off the bench in three of those games. But after seeing how much McGuire had improved last summer in Las Vegas, Tapscott didn't hesitate to call on him when Stevenson asked out of the lineup Dec. 23.
"It was an easy decision," Tapscott said. "At the time, I was preaching to the team that I wanted to get better defensively. You can't preach one thing and then put an offensive player in the lineup and undermine your own words. I trusted him."
McGuire has even impressed Antawn Jamison, who hasn't held back his criticism of the Wizards' young players this season.
"He's unbelievable," Jamison said. "He's a guy who's finding his niche. He doesn't care about scoring. He cares about making basketball plays and winning games, whether it's rebounding or defending. The most important thing is he plays smart basketball. He has a high basketball IQ. For us, it's been a tough season with injuries, but he's one of the positives that came out of this. He's a guy who can be part of this rotation for years to come and a guy we can depend on as well."
McGuire has been playing with plantar fasciitis for almost a month, but he said he would fight through it until the season ends.
"I'm not trying to give up this spot right now," McGuire said with a laugh. "If I have to go out there on one foot, I'm going to try to do it as long as it's not hurting the team. It's nothing that's going to keep me from playing hard or make me sit out any games."