Last night the Wizards closed out the first half of the 2010-2011 NBA season in a way that characterizes their season so far.
It was a loss on the road, bringing the Wizards to a road record of 1-26. Thank goodness for the post-LeBron Cavaliers for getting that monkey off our backs. Wednesday’s loss to the Magic was worse than a devastating, last-minute defeat like their loss against The Heat.
It was apathetic.
Apathetic in terms of the attendance I’ve seen at home games,where the lower level is a sea of empty seats. Apathetic where you wouldn’t think twice about leaving in the last quarter if the Wiz were down. Apathetic where we look talk about the Redskins, Capitals, and even the Nationals.
The Wizards may not be last place in the NBA, but they are last place in DC sports.
It is hard to watch a rebuilding team as it starts from the bottom, trying to climb up step-by-step. With the exit of Gilbert Arenas, we now have a singular star to watch in John Wall, but the pieces aren’t all there yet. We have to accept that we are on our way to another lottery year, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps with another young star we can start building talent like Oklahoma City did with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (a method not exactly endorsed by Arenas).
So as we continue to evaluate and look to the future let’s take a look at the team as it stands right now. Looking back to our season preview I am doing pretty well with my predictions, we found that sucker to trade Gil to and the Wiz are currently 13th in the Eastern Conference, a slot I think we could hold for the rest of the year.
Now let’s look at the starting five.
Has he lived up to the hype? Yes. He’s fast, perhaps too fast for his own good. He’s shown that he can distribute the ball and he can race down to the other side of the court in transition, he just needs to stop looking lost when the defense catches up to him. He also needs to continue to embrace the leadership role he’s been put into.
Unfortunately he will probably be overlooked for the Rookie of the Year award, that honor will probably go to a guy named Blake Griffin. However Wall is the real deal and will continue to be the keystone in the Wizard’s rebuilding plans.
I understand why Arenas has a man crush on him, also why he faked that injury to get him more playing time. After three years he’s become an offensive spark for the team, racking up points game after game. However that’s all he’s good for, he’ll hang around the baseline corner or the outer perimeter for a pass so he can take a shot. He needs to develop a more complex offensive game otherwise he’ll be an interesting debate on where he fits in with the future of the team.
On a per game basis he’s scoring more points per game than ever (15.9 PPG), but he’s also shooting at a lower percentage (43.1%). After the departure of Arenas he’s moved into the vacated role of potentially great player with an attitude problem. When I watch him play I just wonder why he takes so many mid range jumpers, and just drive to the basket more. Coach Saunders told me that the Wizards weren’t necessarily an outside shooting team, well if Blatche is our best inside presence guy, we’re in trouble.
When he’s not impressing you with his dunks or blocks, he’s doing little else. Probably because he’s on the bench due to fatigue or fouls. He just needs to work on being able to stay on the court longer. This weekend we’ll see him do what he does best: make the highlight reel. Overall he’s improving as a player across the board, but he still has a long way to go.
He’s battled injuries so far to start the year, but after back-to-back games over 20+ minutes he could be the X factor in the second half
Notes On The Rest
Kirk Hinrich: The veteran has performed well as a guard off the bench. Grade: B
Al Thornton: A disappointment. Grade: D
Yi Jianlian: Less of a disappointment, at least he had some flashes early the season. Looks like he’s catching the Chinese injury bug as well. Grade: C-
Rashard Lewis: He’s no replacement for Gilbert and is definitely on the decline. Grade: C