The Washington Wizards have great things going for them. Their new-look, vintage style uniforms, guard John Wall is set as the team’s leader, loaded up with some new pieces (making the team stronger on paper) and they look great at practice.
After witnessing the team’s first two preseason games against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Wizards pick up where they left from last season—displayed a lack of interest one night, fought hard the next.
Short or normal length of an offseason, the Wizards could easily be judged as a team with tons of work to develop into a challenger for a playoff possession in the Eastern Conference.
However, due to the landscape of the Eastern Conference, half of the squads are contenders for the NBA title: the 76ers, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and the Orlando Magic. It appears that the Wizards’ chances of competing to win in their conference are hopeless for any type of a positive turnaround anytime soon.
But is there hope for these young Zephyrs?
Wizards head coach Flip Saunders stated that Wall and guard Jordan Crawford are “popcorn guys,” meaning that when they smell popcorn from the stands, they get pumped.
Well, the Verizon Center may need to order an extreme amount of extra popcorn so these Wizards can stay fully charged.
Unfortunately, the Wizards’ organization was unable to draw interest from elite NBA players. Attracting star power may change soon, depending on how well Wall performs as a leader and as a team player.
“I just want to be the best player I can be,” said Wall during media day.
Wall has the talent to be one of the most recognizable guards in the NBA, but in order for him to excel, his teammates must play as hard as the franchise’s star player.
What has haunted the Wizards last season, and times past, was lack of effort and selfishness. No one on the Wizards’ team consistently portrayed a willingness to sacrifice himself for the team—in terms of playing defense, crashing the boards for rebounds (defensively and offensively) and being aggressive at attacking the boards.
The Wizards’ big men, center JaVale McGee and forward/center Andray Blatche, both displayed a lack of willingness to attack the basket and play in the paint, consistently. Instead, they both preferred to run in transition, where there’s less contact and play away from the basket. And no team around the NBA respected them and the Wizards’ post play as teams attacked Washington with ease.
The lack of defense played by the Wizards last season should change this year with the additions of centers Hamady Ndiaye and Ronny Turiaf, rookie forward Chris Singleton and forward Trevor Booker. These players have no problem with bumping and grinding with the big men of the NBA, especially the East. Ndiaye, Turiaf, Singleton and Booker should help relieve, better yet, free up McGee and Blatche so they could play more comfortable.
Rookie forward Jan Vesely is not a physical player, whether is fine, but his transitional game is great, as he can run the floor well standing at 7’0,” and will be successful on his occasional one-on-one drives to the basket when he recognize no back door help.
The unselfish play mainly fell on the perimeter players, as last season and in times past. The Wizards’ perimeter players would make as average of 3.5 passes on each possession, before setting up any offense, and fired away. On each half-court possession, the players should rotate the ball at least five times.
With the additions of veteran guard Roger Mason and rookie guard Shelvin Mack, the Wizards’ backcourt should be more stable.
Forward Rashard Lewis and guard Nick Young will be mysteries this season. Instead of being viewed upon as being major contributors for the Wizards, they ultimately may just be trade bait.
This abbreviated NBA season of 66 games may favor the young, but talented Wizards, as they will catch some teams off guard.
Clearly, if the Wizards continue their woes of displaying a lack of effort and selfishness on a nightly basics, there will be no hope for Washington in the near future (with no elite free agents wanting to come to D.C.), and this short season will be—forever.
The 2011-12 Washington Wizards predicted record: 26-40