Washington Still Searching For First Win

After losing the season opener on the road in Cleveland, the Washington Wizards entered their two-game home-and-home series with Boston with a playoff mentality.

Yes, it’s incredibly early to mention playoffs, but the Wizards know if they want to turn that corner, they can’t start the season 0-3.

The Celtics are a perennial contender and measuring stick of toughness in the NBA. After the Wizards’ home opening loss against Boston, both the team and coach felt missed opportunities ruined their chances down the stretch.

The Wizards got off to a very slow start that game and found themselves down 18-2 midway through the first quarter. The starters managed only one first quarter field goal before the second unit came in and mounted a comeback.

When asked about the slow start, Wizards coach Randy Wittman said, “You wonder if the sun will ever come back up again.”

With Wall and Nene sidelined, Coach Wittman said that the team needs a go-to player and “someone we can play through.”

Reflecting on the sub-par showing in their first two games, Martell Webster and Bradley Beal called the second game against the Celtics a “must-win,” but a few nights later, the Wizards went to Boston and played a game almost identical to their previous contest: again the starters got off to another slow start before the second unit came in and closed the gap.

One thing noticeably different was the play of rookie guard Bradley Beal. After scoring a mere 10 points in the first two regular season games of his professional career, Beal has elevated his scoring numbers in the last two contests. Beal was frustrated following the home opener, where he only scored two points, and admitted he has to be more aggressive so opposing defenses see him as a threat when he’s on the floor. He answered his own call next game in Boston with 16 points. Friday night against Milwaukee was Beal’s best showing as a pro to date. Finishing with 22 points and two steals, Beal was solid on both ends of the court. With the Wizards missing key players due to injury, teammates and coaches have all pushed Beal to be more aggressive offensively, and he’s gradually adjusting to his role.

As a whole, the starting lineup has been inconsistent, often going long periods of time without scoring. If it weren’t for consistent defensive efforts, the Wizards wouldn’t have been “in” any games at the end. As the team awaits Wall and Nene’s return, and the offense continues to find their way, the Wizards must rely on defense and timely scoring. Coaches are teaching young players to be composed in late game situations and counting on veterans to balance out potential mistakes along the way.

Though the current roster has yet to register a win, the Wizards have a good mix of players. Former Georgetown coach John Thompson likes how coachable this year’s Wizards are. And we all know that hasn’t been the case in recent seasons in Washington.

In The Scrum With Bradley Beal

I caught up with Wizards’ third overall draft pick Bradley Beal at Media Day. Beal talked about what he’s hoping to get out of his rookie season, the team’s missing Wall and Nene, and how he’s adjusting to life in DC.

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In The Scrum With John Wall

I caught up with Wizards guard John Wall at Media Day. Wall talked about being ruled out of training camp, what he’s been doing since, and how the team will fair in his absence.

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John Wall Photo Shoot:

In The Scrum With Emeka Okafor

I caught up with first year Wizard Emeka Okafor at Media Day. The veteran center spoke about his health and how John Wall’s injury effects the team going into training camp.

 

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In the Scrum with Nene

I was able to catch up with Wizard F/C Nene at Media Day. The veteran big man spoke about his health, how John Wall’s injury effects the team going into training camp, and his Olympic Experiences.

 

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In The Scrum With Trevor Ariza

Following my time John Wall, I was able to catch up with first year Wizard forward Trevor Ariza at Media Day. Ariza talked about what he can bring to the team from a leadership standpoint and John Wall’s injury.

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In The Scrum With Martell Webster

I caught up with first-year Wizard Martell Webster at Media Day. Webster answered questions about his health, why he chose the Wizards, and the buzz surrounding the team in the wake of John Wall’s injury news.

 

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In The Scrum With Kevin Seraphin

I caught up with F/C Kevin Seraphin at Wizards Media Day. Seraphin spoke about the buzz surrounding the team in the wake of John Wall’s injury news and his experience playing with the French National Team in this summers’ Olympics.

 

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In The Scrum With Jordan Crawford

I caught up with Wizards guard Jordan Crawford at Media Day. He answered questions about his style of play, the arrival of rookie Bradley Beal, and what John Wall’s injury means to him and the team.

 

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In The Scrum With AJ Price

I caught up with newly acquired guard AJ Price at Wizards Media Day. He spoke about John Wall’s injury and the competition at guard going into training camp.

 

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In The Scrum With Shelvin Mack

I caught up with Wizards guard Shelvin Mack at Media Day. He answered a few questions about his Summer League struggles and the new found competition at the guard position with John Wall being ruled out of training camp.

 

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In the Scrum with Jannero Pargo

I caught up with PG Jannero Pargo at Wizards Media Day. Just arriving in town after agreeing to terms with Washington, Pargo talked about his opportunity to contribute in the wake of John Wall’s injury.

 

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In The Scrum With Cartier Martin

I caught up with G/F Cartier Martin at Wizards Media Day. He spoke about the buzz around the team going into training camp and his possible role this season.

 

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Wizards Sign Martell Webster

Last night, the Washington Wizards landed seven-year NBA vet Martell Webster.

The shooting guard/small forward was one of the last high school players drafted in the lottery. Webster was selected sixth overall by the Portland Trailblazers in 2005, and was the highest draft pick assigned to the D-League until Hasheem Thabeet, the Memphis Grizzlies number two overall pick, took that honor in 2009.

In addition to not living up to his expectations as a high lottery pick, the six-foot-seven swingman has endured a somewhat injury-plagued career. Playing only five minutes in the 2008-09 season, Webster missed the rest of the year after he hurt his left foot. Nagging injuries have kept him sidelined more often than active.

In 2010, Webster was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for draft compensation. Webster’s time in Minnesota was short–lived; he never seemed to find his niche with the team.

When healthy, Webster’s a streaky shooter who occasionally registers eye-popping scoring numbers. Best known for his deep three-point range, Webster’s career highlight came against the Utah Jazz in 2008 where he finished with 26 points, 24 of them coming in the third quarter.

By signing Webster, Washington continues to add depth to their bench without having to spend a lot of money to do so. Webster, with recently signed guard AJ Price, will compete for minutes in the backcourt.

Although the consistency hasn’t been there in the past, the Wizards know if Webster can stay healthy, he’ll be a great addition and a formidable outside shooting threat.

Washington Wizards Summer League Recap

The Washington Wizards wrapped up their 2012 Las Vegas Summer League schedule, finishing 3-2, with mixed results after almost every game.

The mix of young and more experienced players helped the team maintain their level of play when starters were given a rest. At times, it seemed the backcourt couldn’t dribble the ball against the press. Atlanta applied a lot of on-ball pressure to the Wizards’ ball handlers and they did not respond well.

The NBA is a copycat league, and this became the blueprint for upcoming opponents facing Washington.

Shelvin Mack struggled with making the right decisions. It’s clear he’s still adjusting to the point guard position, having played off-ball the majority of his career at Butler. Every so often, Mack picked up his dribble too soon and missed open teammates on plays he didn’t orchestrate. He consistently struggled to find the right time to look for his offense, reset the team, and move the ball. These things can be taught, but it takes experience and time, and the Wizards can’t afford to wait for these developments. John Wall needs a seasoned backup if the Wizards want to become a more complete team.

Bradley Beal played well in his first few games as a Wizard. He led the team in scoring and was competitive on the defensive end throughout the week, averaging 18 points and five rebounds in five games. Though he did not have great assist numbers, Beal displayed an ability to set up a play and run an offense when needed to.

Beal was a calming presence on the court for the Wizards. Whenever their opponents gained momentum, Beal asserted his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, forcing timely turnovers and getting to the foul line.

One apparent flaw is Beal’s fatigue with his long-range shot. The third overall pick, known as a formidable three-point shooter, shot several air balls from deep. Maybe he’s still getting used to the NBA three or playing consecutive games, but Beal needs to be in the best shape of his life to make it through an 82-game season playing high minutes.

Jan Vesely’s hard work so far this offseason was visible in the four games in which he played. Vesely hustles and gives all out effort — unfortunately, this leads to mistakes when he is not playing under control. Since the end of the regular season, his outside shot has improved leaps and bounds. Vesely often spotted up for mid-range shots and was able to knock them down with surprising frequency.

The former sixth overall pick is still a work in progress, but if he applies the same work ethic he has on his shot to the rest of his game, he’ll be a solid pro for years to come.

Tomas Satoransky, Washington’s second round selection from the Czech Republic, is another interesting project. The former teammate of Vesely’s has a lot to like about his game, but he is a ways away from contributing at the NBA level. Early on, Satoransky couldn’t adjust to the speed & athleticism of the NBA game. In subsequent games, he grew before our eyes, pushing the ball in transition, finding teammates all over the floor. Satoransky’s signature moment so far as a Wizard came when drove down the lane and dunked over 12th overall pick Jeremy Lamb.

Second-year man Chris Singleton was a terror on defense, as expected. Ball handling and dribbling drives was the focus of his game, from a distance. Singleton was at ease pushing the ball up court following a rebound, something Coach Sam Cassell wanted him to become comfortable doing. Hopefully the defensive-minded Florida State product can continue adding to his offensive game.

I can’t forget the guard play from the reserves, starting with six-foot-eight guard out of Indiana, Earl Calloway. Calloway was the surprise of the Wizards bench with sharp shooting from beyond the arc, 50% from three point range. The Wizards’ roster may not have a spot for him, but his shooting touch will get him invited to another team’s training camp.

Stephen Gray, another guard, also impressed at times. The six-foot-five guard from Gonzaga displayed an ability to find teammates at the right times and in the right spots. If Washington is looking for more young guard help, Gray could most certainly be a candidate.

The Wizards were relentless on the offensive and defensive glass, with several good rebounding performances from former Duke center Shavlik Randolph, a training camp hopeful.

Washington’s bench was also dependable. The second unit exhibited timely shooting and nonstop hustle.

It’s safe to say the Wizards will be looking to other teams’ summer rosters and free agents to fill their remaining vacancies—but if they look to their own summer roster for help, it could be a good decision.