Preview & Chat: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  December 5, 2008

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
Records: Lakers 15-2 (1st in West) Wizards 3-13(15th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.1 (3rd in League) Wizards 106.0 (16th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.8 (2nd in League) Wizards 111.3 (27th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Wizards : Dee Brown, DeShawn Stevenson (the pride of Fresno), Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, JaVale McGee

Lakers notes: Just one note today, according to an interesting post at the still-going-strong Supersonics Soul, Lakers television ratings are up 9% on Fox Sports so far this year.

1789 The District is a great place to visit, and I’m not sure I ever enjoyed a meal more than at 1789, an amazing old-school Georgetown restaurant. Plus the bar below that is right out of St. Elmo’s Fire.

The Wizards Coming In: To get a little insight into the Wizards, I asked a few questions of Truth About It (and if you head over there he has my answers about the Lakers).

Q: When Eddie Jordan got canned, the consensus around the Web was he was unfairly axed because the real issues were injuries and the roster. Is that a fair assessment? How much did he contribute to his own demise?

I really hated to see Eddie go and would have rather him finish out the remainder of the season. At one point, the Washington Post had a poll showing that 72% thought the firing was unfair. However, I think I can speak for many Wizards fans in saying that no one was exactly devastatingly heartbroken over Jordan’s departure. Out of all the players, Caron Butler probably took it the hardest, initially refusing to speak to the media.

Yes, Jordan drove a hapless franchise into the playoffs for four consecutive seasons. However it was becoming more and more apparent that the team didn’t have the goods to make a title push. Defense wins championships. Before last season, the Wizards tried to hire Tom Thibodeau to be their defensive guru, but he opted for Boston instead, and I believe you guys know the rest of that story.

Option #2 became Randy Ayers, who is now the lead assistant under Ed Tapscott. Ayers, I believe, provided some positive results. But in the end, I think GM Ernie Grunfeld felt that it was just time to completely change the coaching philosophy from the top. I 80% doubt that Tapscott will be at the helm next year, so it will be all about who the Wizards hire for the future. Wanna loan us Phil Jackson?

Q: Lakers fans still have a soft spot for Caron Butler after his time here. His numbers look good. How is he performing?

And Wizards fans still have an intense hatred for Kwame Brown. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mitch Kupchak! Funny….at the time, I was slightly miffed that the Wizards did not get more for Brown, such as a throw-in 2nd or 1st rounder.

Caron Butler puts the team on his shoulders the best he can, and is highly respected on an off the court. He is such an admirable person, I really hope “Tuff Juice” retires as a Washington Wizard.

But as much as he does, Caron cannot carry a team alone. He doesn’t have the handles/quickness to create for himself and/or others, mainly in late game situations when teams are focusing on him. And that’s why the Wizards miss a scorer like Gilbert Arenas so much.

Q: What is wrong with the Wizards defense? (That answer could probably fill a novel, so summarize.)

First and foremost, the absence of Brendan Haywood hurts. But even when he is healthy and in the lineup, the Wizards defense isn’t that great.

Problem #2 is that the Wizards “Big 3” of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison are all sub par defenders. It’s a far cry from having someone like Kobe or Kevin Garnett setting the tone on D for their respective teams.

The best “stopper” is DeShawn Stevenson, who is horribly inconsistent on offense, which at times affects his focus on defense. The second best stopper may be Dominic McGuire, who is only a 2nd year player and is severely challenged offensively.

Look out for the JaVale McGee kid. He may be the steal of the draft when all is said and done. He has the potential to be an amazing shot-blocker, but is rail thin and must add some muscle to really hold his own against the big boys of the league.

Otherwise, the Wizards mostly must resort to the gimmicky match-up zone, along with doubling the rock off ball screens. Good rebounding and/or passing teams take advantage of these aspects by racking up second chance points or draining open three-point attempts.

Keys To The Game: Every team does it — play like crap on the last game of a road trip. Frankly, I think the Lakers had their crap game of this trip at the start, so they had better show up focused tonight.

As for the rest, I turn it over to the scouting report at Lakers.com:

Defensively, the Wiz are a long and fairly athletic team. They have more potential than their record shows. This is a team (with Butler and Jamison once again setting the tone) likes to jump into the passing lanes for steals. Once again the adage of ‘fake a pass to make a pass’ comes into play. After some free throws we may see some full court pressure. Another defensive strategy that Washington has employed against some excellent scorers is to simply trap and take the top option out of the equation. With the various offensive weapons we have and Kobe’s willingness to move the ball this would be a risky option but we will be ready for it anyway.

The final part to beating this team is to control the paint/boards. If we control this area we can control the game. This team beat up New Jersey and then went down to the wire against Portland so even though they have a poor record, lately they are definitely improving. If we play against their record we will get beat. If we respect them and show that respect by attacking them then we will be successful.

Where you can watch:KCAL 9 here in LA, nationally you’ll need League Pass or one of the several Web streams for the game. Remember, 4 p.m. tip off.

Kurt

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