In The Scrum With John Wall

Washington Wizards star guard John Wall has been on fire as of late. After scoring 37 points to lead the Wizards to a 104-85 over the Indiana Pacers, Wall talked about his confidence and some of the emotion he shows while he’s on the court. Wall believes “When you’re feeling good, you’re playing good”  and it showed tonight as he went 16-25 from the field.


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Beal Appeal: Unsung Hero of Wall’s Return

Since John Wall’s return to the Wizards lineup, the team has gained the confidence needed to turn their season around–a  season that a few weeks ago was the biggest laughing stock of the league. Laden with first round draft choices and overpaid vets, the Wizards seemed a lost cause with no potential to grow.

Due to a rash of injuries to almost every member of the starting roster, lesser known players were forced to step up.

That includes Wizards 2012 top draft pick Bradley Beal. Beal has answered the bell in big way.  He’s learned to adjust on the fly and his game reflects it. He was has stepped into the starting lineup and plays more minutes. Scoring has dramatically increased for the 19-year-old rookie out of Florida.

Beal appears to have found his comfort zone, and with Wall alongside of him, is a dominant player who can take over a game offensively while holding his own on the defensive end. Beal was sidelined for five games with a wrist injury suffered after a hard fall against the Nuggets in Denver. In the second game after his return, Beal came off the bench and set a new career high with a 28-point effort against the Bucks.

The first game following the All-Star break Beal returned to the starting lineup and lead all scorers with 25 points.

Beal has brought the threat of a consistent outside shot to the Wizards, helping create more space for Wall to operate. Beal and Wall complement each other almost perfectly and stress defenses in a variety of ways.

Beal’s being rewarded for his play, selected by Charles Barkley to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend. There, “Team Chuck” defeated team “Team Shaq” by an impressive margin. Beal started the game, played 22 minutes, and finished with 12 points.

Beal also received the honor of being named the Eastern Conference NBA Rookie of the Month for his play in both December and January. Beal is now the second player in franchise history to win the award more than once, John Wall being the first. In January, Beal became the first rookie, since Stephen Curry in 2010, to make at least 50% of his three point attempts over an entire calender month.

Friday night Wall and Beal helped lead the Wizards to their second win against the Denver Nuggets, each registering a double-double. Wall finished with 14 points, 10 assists, and 3 blocks—tying a career high—while Beal came away with the second double-double of his young career, scoring 17 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.

The team’s reunion of projected starters back on the floor has elevated their level of play. It’s no coincidence Wall’s health and the improvements in his teammates’ numbers coincide.

As new rotations gained chemistry, Jordan Crawford’s playing time diminished. Crawford, arguably the team’s most valuable player in the absence of many key personnel, found his new role difficult to accept. The shooting guard’s attitude was a distraction and the Wizards were all but forced to move him before the trade deadline. The Wizards couldn’t get much in return for Crawford: marginal cap space. This is yet another instance of the Wizards trading away a promising young player—once hoped to be a core piece of the team’s future—as a result of the player’s public displeasure with team management.

Wall has solidified himself as the unquestioned leader of this team on and off the court. Beal is becoming the player the Wizards hoped for when they selected him at number three overall in the draft. Shooters like Martell Webster have noticed an increase in open looks and shooting percentages, and a healthy Nene has been a revelation for Emeka Okafor’s play.

Because the Wizards started the season so poorly, playoffs seem to be out of the question. But, this team has proven they can compete with the elite on any given night.

The Woeful Wizards

A quarter of the way through the 2012-2013 NBA season, the 3-20 Washington Wizards have the worst record in the league. The team has struggled to find consistency and seems to have on suffered setbacks in every way imaginable. Notably, injuries have derailed the Wizards roster and projected lineups.

The fan base in Washington grows more frustrated with each passing day. Most disappointing: there‘s no solution in sight.

Star point guard John Wall has been inactive since training camp with a stress fracture in his left knee, and was originally projected to miss about eight weeks. At one point, Wall himself predicted he would return by the November 30th game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Fast forward to now and there doesn’t seem to be much progress or optimism surrounding his situation. Though Wall’s most recent visit to his doctor resulted in clearance to “ramp up his activity,” he has not been cleared to practice. There is an ever-growing notion among those who follow this team closely that Wall could miss the entire season. The organization has yet to give a concrete timetable on his possible return to the court.

Some speculate Wall is too valuable to rush back from injury and any possible comeback will be shut down because of the team’s struggles. Why risk your star’s health for an already doomed season? Wall says, “I’m not thinking like that. You don’t want to miss a whole season. If it comes to it, you have to, but I’m not trying to think that far ahead.”

With Wall having only a 50/50 chance of returning this season, the Wizards find themselves at a huge disadvantage without their best player on the floor.

In the last month, Nene has returned from missing time with plantar fasciitis. Though the team’s record doesn’t reflect the talent upgrade, Nene’s presence makes the Wizards much more competitive. The bad news is, due to the severity of Nene’s injury, it’s likely he’ll be negatively affected the entire season. Nene is currently on a 20-minute per game limit and usually sits the second game of back-to-backs causing the team to use him in a reserve role, stunting their chemistry and rotation balance.

Most recently, AJ Price, Trevor Ariza, and Trevor Booker have been sidelined with injuries of their own; each began the year as starter at their respective positions.

Jordan Crawford has been pushed into more lead guard duties along with rookie Bradley Beal. They’ve been the team’s lone bright spot as of late. Both players are very young and coming into their own. The two of them have clearly arisen as a glimmer of hope for an otherwise desperate franchise and fan base. Beal leads all rookies in scoring for the month of December. He took a hard fall and hurt his back causing him to miss the last game—and the Wizards cannot afford to lose their top draft choice this year.

In the midst of eight games in eleven nights, the Wizards face a five game losing streak since their first road win of the season, which came against a struggling New Orleans Hornets team. Next on the Wizards’ schedule is a home and home series with the Detroit Pistons on back-to-back nights.

Hopefully, the Wizards can begin to right the ship before the holidays.

Mavs Continue To Search For Answers

There’s no way around it.

The last ten games, which have seen the Mavs go 2-8, have been absolutely abysmal. The Mavs’ execution, effort, and basic desire to play quality basketball weren’t at the level needed in order to compete for a championship. Whether it was due to injuries or contract uncertainty beyond this year, the Mavericks have simply lost too many games against teams they should easily handle nightly. You can analyze or go into the stats and dig around all you want to try and find why the Mavericks have underachieved so much after the All Star break, but the answer is simple: lack of effort.

The world is well aware what this roster can accomplish when locked in, but they haven’t been in a while. Mavs Guard Jason Terry acknowledged the problem last week.

“We’re not a team out there right now,” Terry admitted. “It shows, so until we become a team and play together on both ends of the court we’re not going to be very good.”

Terry, the most vocal during the Mavericks’ recent stretch, has the most to be emotional about with the Mavs’ front office not addressing his contract status until the trade deadline and offseason free agency play out in full. Business is business in the NBA, but you can’t help but feel for guys like Terry and Shawn Marion who could very possibly go from key pieces on an NBA champion to roster flotsam in a year’s time.

Still, the Mavericks needed to regroup at home after capping their ‘nine games in twelve nights’ disaster with losses to Phoenix, Sacramento, and Golden State in consecutive nights. One would think the best way for the defending champions to get back on the winning track is to catch the 9-31 Washington Wizards at the American Airlines Center, but it’s tough to tell the way the Mavericks have played lately.

The good news for the Mavericks was the return of big men Brandan Wright and Brendan Haywood would provide some depth and inside presence that was missing during the west coast trip of death. A near perfect first half by Dirk Nowitzki set the tone as the Uberman dropped 20 points in the first two frames.

Despite letting the Wizards get to the line 38 times, the combined efforts of Nowitzki (finished with 27 points), Jason Terry (24 points), and Roddy Beaubois (19 points) led the Mavs to a spirited 107-98 win that hopefully left much of the last few weeks in the rearview mirror.

But was it enough? Obviously the win is passable for one night, but is the energy from tonight against a low-end team in the league a sign of the Mavericks rolling or are there still poor, effortless performances left in this team’s character?

Which Mavericks team are we going to see for the rest of the year?

Maybe the passing of the trade deadline on Thursday will put some of the uncertainty to rest, but the reality for the Mavericks is that most of the change, if there is any, is due to take place this summer and fall. Nothing will be settled on this roster until then, so it’s up to the strength in the Kidd-Dirk-Carlisle locker room to hold together this foundation for at least another year.

For now, wins against teams like Washington are just a small step in the right direction for what will be a tough road to redeem this season.