Washington Wizards John Wall hustle play gif
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Basketball
Stashed in: Basketball
Q: Could the Wizards really make the Eastern Conference finals despite whiffing on 2013’s no. 3 overall pick (Otto Porter) and 2011’s no. 6 overall pick (Jan Vesely)?
Let’s flip that around. The Wizards could make the Eastern Conference finals because they didn’t whiff on 2010’s no. 1 overall pick (John Wall) and 2012’s no. 3 overall pick (Bradley Beal). They also flipped 2008’s first-rounder (JaVale McGee) into Nene, who is practically breaking the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year trophy over Joakim Noah’s head right now. They turned Vesely and next year’s first-rounder into Professor Andre Miller and Marcin Gortat, two veterans who made an impact. And Trevor Ariza wouldn’t be thriving without young Porter breathing down his neck. Fine, that’s not true. There’s been no neck-breathing whatsoever. Everything else is true. I can’t imagine having next year’s Atrocious GM Summit without Ernie Grunfeld, but we might be headed that way. This is bittersweet. I can’t lie.
(Wait, someone just reminded me that Ernie traded the no. 5 pick in 2009 for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, which means he whiffed on three top-six lottery picks in five years. According to the Atrocious GM Summit rulebook, the “David Kahn Corollary” says that at least three top-six whiffs in five years earns you an automatic invite. So, Ernie is coming back no matter what happens! I’m glad we settled this.)
Q: Can the Wizards really make the Eastern finals when their fans are sending emails during playoff games like, “I’d like to report an attempted murder — Randy Wittman is trying to kill me”?
My buddy House (lifelong Washington fan) sent that one during Game 2, somewhere around the same time Wittman decided, “I know Andre Miller destroyed the Bulls in Game 1, but I’m playing him only nine minutes tonight and that’s that.” And it’s not like things got better. During overtime, right before the Wiz nearly blew a six-point lead in the final 40 seconds, House and I had this exchange:
Me: “How many offensive rebounds do you have to give up before Wittman puts Gortat in for Booker?”
House: “Infinity. Infinity offensive rebounds.”
The good news for Wizards fans: Just in the past decade, Alvin Gentry and Mike Brown coached in Round 3; Flip Saunders took two different teams to Round 3; and Scott Brooks made two conference finals and the actual Finals. Don’t those four guys make you feel a little better about Randy Wittman?
The NBA isn’t complicated — to blow a series when you have a more talented team, you’d need an offensive game plan that’s two steps below rudimentary, no defensive mind-set whatsoever, a slew of head-scratching rotation decisions, an overall emphasis on aggressively sloppy play, a stubborn refusal to change anything that’s not working, a lack of recognition for basic stuff like “That guy is headed for 40 points again, maybe we try something different defensively,” and the confidence to keep making terrible game-management choices in the final minute without learning from the previous game’s terrible game-management choices. Basically, you’d have to do everything that Kevin McHale is doing in the Houston-Portland series. When you have a talented team going against the limited Bulls in Round 1 and the disintegrating Pacers in Round 2? You can survive Randy Wittman. Who’s having a decent series, by the way.
(In Round 3 against Miami? You probably can’t survive Randy Wittman. But at that point, we would have already had the greatest Washington basketball moment in 35 years, right? That reminds me … )
Q: Can the Wizards really make the Eastern Conference finals when they’re the Washington Wizards?
Now THIS is an obstacle. Since they lost Game 5 of the 1979 Finals to Seattle (R.I.P.), here’s your Washington basketball history in fewer than 90 words without mentioning that (a) they missed the playoffs 22 times in 35 years, and (b) they won only two playoff series total: Kwame over Pau; C-Webb for Mitch; Sheed for Strickland; Rip for Stackhouse; Gilbert vs. Jarvaris; $100 million for Juwan; the Rubio/Curry pick for Miller and Foye; Kenny Green one pick over Karl Malone; Wes Unseld, then Ernie Grunfeld; MJ ruining LaBradford Smith; past-their-primes Bernard, Moses and MJ; Andray Blatche’s extension/amnesty; top-12 picks on Hot Plate Williams, Muggsy Bogues, Tom Hammonds and Jared Jeffries; top-six picks on Vesely, Porter, Cal Cheaney and Mel Turpin; Gheorghe Muresan AND Manute Bol; and again, Kenny Green ONE PICK BEFORE KARL MALONE.
My favorite Wizards fact: Since Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes left the franchise in 1981, they haven’t employed a single player whose jersey could be retired. Not one! That’s impossible!
My second favorite Wizards fact: I sent House the last two graphs and he wrote back, “You forgot about Ike Austin for Ben Wallace. And Mark Price’s foot. And Gheorge’s pituitary gland … I’ll have more later.” I didn’t hear from him for another 24 hours.
My third favorite Wizards fact: Out of the blue, House emailed me the next day, “I forgot about Rex Chapman’s thumb and Jahidi White’s belly. Seriously, you should put that in.” The Washington Bullets-Slash-Wizards, everybody!
Q: Wait, you never answered … can the Wizards really make the 2014 Eastern Conference finals?
On ABC last Sunday, I picked a Miami-Washington Eastern finals two days after predicting Washington could become “this year’s Memphis” on the B.S. Report. So yes, I’m a believer. What looks more ridiculous on paper: the Wizards making Round 3, Nene becoming the league’s most unstoppable scoring center, or me finally hitting one of my predictions? It’s destiny!!! We’re intertwined! Speaking of Nene …
Q: Nene is lighting up Joakim Noah!!! LIGHTING HIM UP!!! Also, am I on drugs right now?
You’re not on drugs; you’re fine. Nobody ever doubted Nene’s talent, as evidenced by his earning more than $86 million since 2006 (with another $39 million guaranteed through 2016) despite never averaging 15 points or eight rebounds in any season. He’s been the first-team center on the NBA’s All-Perplexing Career team for years and years, a frustrating talent who sleepwalks through some Orlando game on a Tuesday night, then eviscerates Miami for 30 points just 24 hours later. When I attended the 2012 Summer Olympics, I wasn’t remotely surprised to see Nene mailing in the Brazil games, just like I wasn’t surprised to see him taking it to Noah in Games 1 and 2. That’s why he’s Nene. When he gives a crap? That’s when you want him on your team.
Over everything else, you gotta love how HARD Washington is playing: You have Beal and Wall trying to make names for themselves, Ariza and Gortat playing for new contracts, and Nene taking the Noah matchup personally for whatever reason. Yes, yes, yes. They can make the Eastern finals. And by the way? They were 60-to-1 to win the East just one week ago. If the Wizards make the 2014 Finals and Cousin Sal and I buy a 10-acre compound in Hawaii just two weeks later, I swear, there’s no correlation whatsoever.
Q: What’s more unrealistic, the Wizards making the 2014 Eastern finals or Kevin Love signing with the Wizards in the summer of 2015?
Every Wizards fan right now … Hold on, we need some music!
Go Wizards Go!