Browsing all articles in Basketball
Jan
4

New Coverage Poll

Hi everyone! Mark here. We’re going to talk about this a little on the next podcast, but there is going to be a change coming to Washington Sportsjam. Please let us know what direction you’d like it take!

Feb
27

A Fresh Start for the Wizards

With two recent trades the Wizards have blown up almost all of their starting lineup. The first trade on February 13th traded C Brendan Haywood, SF Caron Butler, and SG DeShawn Stevenson to the Mavericks for Josh Howard,Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross, and James Singleton. A few days later on February 17th the Wizards participated in a three-team deal that sent Antawn Jamison to Cleveland, Drew Gooden from DC and Sebastain Telfair from Cleveland to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Zydrunas Ilgaukas, Al Thornton, and a 1st round pick here to DC. The only remaining starter from last season and the Wizards playoff run two years ago is Gilbert Arenas. Every Wizards fan knows that Gil is suspended for the rest of the season and is on his way out of Washington. Or he may not be according to a recent Washington Post article.

Many fans are disappointed with the drastic changes to the Wizards roster  but I think the moves have been for the best for a few reasons.

1. The young core of players has been retained. C JaVale McGee, F-C Andray Blatche, SG Nick Young,and G Randy Foye are all still on the roster. Al Thornton is a young forward in only his third year who also has potential.  Next year’s starting lineup could be Arenas at PG, Nick Young at SG, Thorton at SF, Blatche at Power Forward, and McGee at C. That may not be a formidable lineup next season but with an average age of 25.6 there will plenty of time for it become one. Blatche is blossoming in to a solid player on offense and defense who’s capable of putting up huge games. Young and McGee have been inconsistent but have shown flashes of brilliance and are a both potential superstars.

2. The old lineup had peaked. The core lineup of Arenas, Butler, Jamison, and Haywood had never passed the 2nd round of the playoffs. The previous two seasons Caron Butler missed starts in 39 regular season games and Arenas only played in 15 games. Last season Brendan Haywood only played in 6. The  old lineup had a tendency to break down late in the season.  And to be frank, the front-court of Haywood and Jamison wasn’t built to go deep in the playoffs. There just wasn’t enough power to match up well against Dwight Howard and the Magic or Shaq, LeBron and the Cavs.

3. Financial and Draft flexibility

The Wizards did not get much immediate value from their trades but  they did clear a lot of cap space and will now have four draft picks in the 2010 draft. Ilgauskas has already been bought out of his contract and Mike James will likely be bought as well. Josh Howard has a team option so the organization can decide whether his play before his season-ending injury justifies bringing him back. Quinton Ross has a player option next year and Mike Miller,Fabricio Oberto, and Earl Boykins contracts all expire as well. Wizards insider estimates that the recent moves have reduced the team payroll from around $79.3 to $68 Million. The big shakeup will likely continue.

While D.C. may not be one of the  most attractive options for the big name free agents like LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, etc…the Wizards may be one of the few teams able to pay a superstar salary next year. SI reported recently that a hard cap may be put in place before the 2011-2012 season. If owners and GMs begin to feel like that is a real possibility during the off-season, they’ll be even less likely to pay out for a big name.

The lingering question remains is what will happen with Gilbert Arenas? It seems like almost anything can happen. They could try to create a third “Big 3″ of him, Josh Howard, and another star brought in during the off-season. But Arenas was the most oft-injured and most expensive player of that old Big 3. He is only in the second year of a 6 year, $111 Million dollar contract. Unless they can renegotiate his contract he will be impossible to move through trades. The Wizards could still pursue voiding his contract but that is starting to seem more and more unlikely.

If Arenas stays or if he goes, I still think the Wiz will be in good shape next season. It’s hard right now as a Wizards fan to see some of our favorite faces shipped out, but I think these moves will help the team in the long run. Two years from now I really believe that the Wizards can be in playoff contention. But if the management had stayed the course with the current lineup I think it we would be watching a steady decline. So let’s not overreact. In the long run I think the Ernie Grunfeld and the ownership are doing the right thing for the team.


Feb
14

So long Tuff Juice, Haywood, and DeShawn

The Washington Wizards traded away Center Brendan Haywood, Forward Caron Butler and Guard DeShawn Stevenson to the Dallas Mavericks this week.  The Wizards gained financial flexibility as well as players Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross.  So let me get this straight, the Wizards traded away Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson and lost part of their soul in exchange for… well, not much.

Words cannot describe how much I'll miss this...Photo by John Kuntz/The Plain Dealer

Mike Prada at Bullets Forever digs into why this trade is more than awful.  Two things about this make this particularly frustrating for me:

1. Better options seemed to be on the table

2. It’s truly the end of an era.

Over at Bullets Forever, Prada cites Marc Spears at Yahoo Sports who reported that the Portland Trail Blazers were offering: Steve Blake (yeah, the guy from that Terps championship team who actually made it in the NBA) , rookie Jeff Pendergraph (young potential) and a first-round pick (always a good thing) for Haywood.  Instead we got Gooden, Howard (an all star 3 YEARS ago) and two no namers?  That’s almost embarrassing to think about.

Haywood was a rebounding machine this year and someone you could count on to bring his best every game.  He wasn’t an offensive juggernaut, but the man brought board game better than Parker Brothers (compared to what we’ve had before) and played some pretty decent defense.

Butler, has always been one of the toughest guys on this squad.  He’s got grit and guts and even though he hasn’t been on offensively much this year, he’s been one of the only ones on the Wizards willing to play defense.  I’m not sure what wasn’t working out with Flip Saunders’ offense and Caron but I think he was starting to catch on the past two weeks.

To be honest, I’m going to miss DeShawn Stevenson for purely nostalgic reasons.  I will miss him for his hatred of LeBron James, for his amazing defense on some of the best offensive players in the game and for his “I can’t feel my face” taunt after his three pointers.  I loved everything about DeShawn.  I understand the past two years he’s had it rough, and I get that people call him Debrick… Yeah yeah, but he was to me, the most exciting underdog of this team.  Media darling LeBron James was Goliath and Michael Vick jersey wearing DeShawn was our David.  Alright, DeShawn didn’t have the virtues of a regular hero but I’d be damned if you said he didn’t have fight.

A few months ago, after the Wizards got schalacked by Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena (where I unfortunately witnessed it first hand), LeBron James said the “rivalry is over”.  The comment was infuriating to Wizards fans.  Some thought it was acknowledgment of more than just the poor state of the franchise but also of the fact that Antwan Jamison could be a part of the Cavs sooner rather than later.  This team will be unrecognizable in about a month and even though they’ll have more salary cap room, what have we really gained?  I know I’m not the only Wizards fan that is looking forward to the end of the season and is hoping that Leonsis is able to buy this team and right this wreck of a ship.

Jan
8

Bad Decisions Abound in Arenas Incident

Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, Gilbert made a stupid and arrogant mistake in pre-game warmups.  It was irresponsible and immature of him to turn a criminal investigation into a joke with his teammates. There’s no denying that. But Arenas isn’t the only one who has handled this situation poorly, the Washington Wizards organization and David Stern have made decisions too quickly and offer no attempt at finding the truth of what happened on December 21st.

The Commish: Does Stern know best?

As the Commissioner of the NBA, David Stern clearly has the authority to discipline players.  Stern reacted to Arenas’ attitude and comments regarding the investigation by suspending him indefinitely, just a few hours before the tipoff against the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Mind you this is  probably before the criminal investigation is even halfway through and before Gilbert has even formally been charged with a crime.  It has been noted that the NBA has an image problem: thuggery, but those who have watched Agent Zero during his career in D.C., know that he is not a thug.  David Steele lays it out clearly here and Adrian Wojnarowski does the opposite here.

Often times league commissioners get high marks from the public when “swift justice” is served on the players that sacrifice their body for the games they play.  Fans see the privileged, multi-million dollar athlete in legal trouble and before the whole story is out, scream for judgment.  But in this specific instance, the whole story isn’t out yet.  Let the legal system do what it’s set up to do! Why should Stern think he knows better than the American justice system? While the legal system in America isn’t perfect, it’s made to find the truth and to administer true justice. You can’t tell me that the NBA League office is equipped to find truth better than the U.S. legal system.  Stern acted too quickly here, and like I said, his comments on Gilbert being “unfit” to be on an NBA Court are absurd.

The Club: Betrayal for the sake of rectifying a heavy contract?

Unfortunately, the NBA Commissioner isn’t the only one who reacted poorly in the Arenas situation.  The Washington Wizards who are, supposedly looking into ‘voiding’ Arenas’ contract have quickly condemned him and his teammates for the 76ers pregame.  They’ve stripped Verizon Center of his likeness and are doing whatever they can to push him away right now.  I understand keeping some distance but completely disowning him before the facts are out?  Bogus betrayal.

Really, which is worse?

What should have been done was to wait until the facts were out on the issue and hold the person responsible for the wrongdoing accountable (which more and more seems to be Javaris Crittenton according to some reports).  Instead Stern decided to make an example of the wrong man and the Washington Wizards are using this as an opportunity to try and unload a contract as if it were a strictly financial decision.  As wrong as it was for Arenas to have guns in the locker room, I find the actions of Stern and the Wizards reprehensible.

Related Links

***MUST READ***Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports offers a reality check on people trying to kill Gil’s career.

Mitch Lawrence of the NY Daily News is one of those people who needs a reality check.

Mike Wise from the Washington Post gives reports on Crittenton’s possible actions in the incident.

For all the latest Wiz and Arenas news: Wizard Insider by Michael Lee at the Post.

Jan
6

The Gilbert Gray Cloud

The day that Mike Shanahan was introduced as the Washington Redskins new head coach, declaring that we will be a strongly “disciplined team”, a gray cloud descended over the happy DMV area. Gilbert Arenas, the area’s most popular athlete, was suspended.  When accountability and respectability appear to be on the horizon for one of our area’s most beloved franchises the other one takes ten steps back.

David Stern has suspended Gilbert Arenas indefinitely and released the following statement (Thanks to the Wizards Insider):

“The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us. I initially thought it prudent to refrain from taking immediate action because of the pendency of a criminal investigation involving the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Police Department, and the consideration of this matter by a grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia.

For the same reason, I directed the Wizards to refrain from taking any action. Wizards personnel continue to be interviewed by law enforcement authorities, some are scheduled for appearance before the grand jury and the investigation is proceeding with the intensity that one would expect for such a serious incident.

“Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game. Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA.” (emphasis added)

The Wizards responded to the decision by Stern swiftly (again thanks to Wizards Insider):

“We fully endorse the decision of the NBA to indefinitely suspend Gilbert Arenas. Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert’s recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable. Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert’s behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable. Under Abe Pollin’s leadership, our organization never tolerated such behavior, and we have no intention of ever doing so.”

The suspension is undoubtedly not just because of the investigation but also for Gilbert’s actions and his poor behavior after the incident.  Last night against the 76ers Gilbert Arenas stood in the middle of the huddle and “jokingly” aimed his fingers as guns and shot at his teammates.  They all yukked it up, and Arenas continued to tweet (also jokingly) as well.  That’s why Stern had to make a move.  But I have a major problem with the language from the NBA office.

“[N]ot fit” to be on an NBA court?  As far as any one knows right now, Arenas had unloaded guns in a locker room.  That’s it.  He should have been more serious about the situation he was in, but unfit?  That makes him a mental evaluation away from being able to step back onto the court.  More to come on this issue and the effect it’s going to have on the Wizards this year.

Personally, I’m pissed because I’m going to the game in Cleveland tonight.  What are your thoughts on the Arenas suspension?

Did he have it coming to him?

Is this suspension merited considering the offense has been met with less anger than the reaction to the investigation?