Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ted Leonsis's Wizards Remain Winless; Experience Their Historic Futility with a Garbage-Time Live-Blog

By Finesse

For those who haven't been paying attention, the Washington Wizards are a team in the NBA.  They used to be called the Bullets but then-owner Abe Pollin decided that "Bullets" had too many violent overtones so he decided to let the fans submit alternative names.  According to Wikipedia, the five other finalists for a new name were Dragons, Express, Gingivitis, Stallions, or Sea Dogs.  Only one of those is fake.

Were the other proposed logos not phallic enough?
Pollin's decision to let the fans choose the name Wizards should be an asterisk on his plaque in the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.  (After all, Steely McBeam is what happens when you let fans pick names).  And just for the record, "Jewish" does not modify "Sports" in the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame -- you do not get inducted for being good at traditional "Jewish Sports" such as kibitzing, circumcising, or having terrible breath at the Yom Kippur morning service.

Guy on the right gives a lethal "Good Yom Tov"
The Wizards have been a heinous team since 1997, compiling a record of 97 wins and 4,786 losses.  It's conventional wisdom in Washington, DC that the Wizards reached rock bottom during the winter of the 2009-10 season when star guard Gilbert Arenas pointed a loaded gun at teammate Javaris Crittenton in the Verizon Center locker room during a dispute about a gambling debt, admitted to defecating in teammate Andray Blatche's shoe during practice, and then explained the defecation incident by pointing out that "nobody is going to ask what Andray did to deserve it."  That was rock bottom.

Until last night.

The 0-11 Wizards fell to 0-12 after getting walloped at the Verizon Center by the San Antonio Spurs, 118-92.  I started taking notes on the Comcast Sports Net Washington coverage with 2:23 left in the 4th quarter with the Spurs ahead 112-88.  Let's pick it up together after the jump and explore what happened.  (All times approximate).

2:23: A graphic compares injured Wizards guard John Wall's first two seasons to those of Spurs guard Tony Parker.  Wall's statistics are better than Parker's in every category except he averages 2.4 fewer Teammates' Wives Slept With Per Year than Parker did in his first two seasons with the Spurs.

There is no word for "platonic" in French.
2:13: Nando de Colo hits a 3-pointer to put the Spurs up by 27 points.  This comes only a few minutes after the Spurs almost threw a complete Whitewash at the Wizards (you could make an argument that Matt Bonner is so white that he single-handedly completed the Whitewash).  Getting fully Whitewashed would have been so demoralizing to the Wizards that it would have made Arenas's defecation into a teammate's shoe feel like winning back-to-back titles.

Matt Bonner, the One-Man Whitewash
1:54: Wizards forward Cartier Martin, whose name sounds like something James Bond drives, teams up with Earl Barron, whose names sounds like someone James Bond kills, to miss a 3-pointer so badly that the rebound bounces into the third row.  Martin, who is averaging playing time in 42% of Wizards games this season, had his breakout performance, notching his first assist of the year in the first quarter.  Earl Barron struggled, however, going 0 for 3 despite getting a season high 16 minutes.  But as Barron explained after the game, "Wayne Gretzky once said, 'you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.'  So I figured, why not do him one better and miss 100% of the shots I do take?"

Earl Barron attempts a layup during a preseason game.
1:32: Spurs forward, and legendary ex-Pitt Panther, Dejuan Blair plays volleyball with himself on the offensive glass as Barron, the Wizards' 7-foot tall center with zero blocks on the season, stands nearby and collects his thoughts in preparation for making at attempt at getting the rebound.  Blair can't convert the put back.

1:30: Wizards second-year man Jan Vesely collects the rebound, his only board of the night.  Vesely, the Czech Republic native, was the Wizards first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft (6th overall).  After putting up 4.7 ppg and 4.4 rpg as a rookie last year, Vesely came to training camp this season determined to up his game.  "My goal is to be the first player in NBA history to play over 14 minutes per game and finish the year with more total fouls than total points," he said before the season.  He's living up to his promise with 29 total points scored and 30 fouls committed.

The Franchise.
1:24: Cartier Martin shouts, "F**k passing!!!" as he drives the lane and gets fouled by Blair.  He hits both free throws to cut the lead to 25.

1:06: As Wizards play-by-play guy Steve Buckhantz and color-man Phil Chenier (Buck and Phil, familiarly) wrap up a discussion about how all the Wizards can hope for at this point in the season is to "come to work the next day," Cartier Martin draws an offensive foul on the Spurs, or as he calls it, "a chance to shoot again."

0:56: Jan Vesely goes 0 for 2 on setting screens.

0:50: Cartier Martin shoots again.  Jan Vesely stands idly by the rebound as he watches two Spurs debate which one of them should take the ball.  The Spurs still lead by 25.

0:47: I hear something resembling crowd noise.

0:46: Check that.  It's just Ted Leonsis's acid reflux.

Everything going according to plan.
0:37: Cory Joseph hits an open James Anderson who nails a 3 to put the Spurs up by 28.  It's the Spurs' 13th 3-pointer of the game.

0:24: Wizards rookie first-round pick Bradley Beal misses a 3-pointer.  Beal, a shooting-guard, was the 3rd overall pick out of Florida and his scouting report described him as "a pure shooter that draws favorable comparisons to Ray Allen."  It may have been worth noting that Beal shot 34% on threes in college and the college three-point line is three feet closer than the NBA line.  But yeah, he's just like Ray Allen!

(There is at least one reason to be optimistic about Beal.  Based on the NBA three-point line being about 18% farther than the college three-point line, Beal should be shooting about 27% on threes in the pros.  But he's actually shooting 33%! So there's that.)

0:23: After Beal's miss, Buckhantz exclaims that Vesely "keeps it alive" by tipping the rebound back into the air.  By "it," we can only assume that Buckhantz was referring to something other than Vesely's career.

0:19: Cartier Martin scoops up the loose ball and passes it to an open teammate.  LOL JK. He shot it.  Wiz cut the lead to 26.

0:09: When asked whether he's leaving the game early in order to beat the traffic, a season-ticket holder looked around the barren arena and sighed, "What traffic?"

0:00: The Spurs dribble out the remaining seconds and improve to 12-3 with the 118-92 victory.  The Wizards fall to 0-12.

Postgame Show

9:25 pm: Nicole Darin is in the CSN studio and previews the night's agenda with talk of RGIII and Ray Lewis.  No mention of the Wizards until she throws it across studio to Wizards Post-Game Live with Christy Winters Scott and Ron Thompson.  Given that not more than 150 people can be watching the post-game show on any given night, Winters Scott should change her last name for each show just to see if anyone is paying attention.

"Hi, I'm Christy Summers Eve and you're watching Wizards Post-Game Live."
The theme of the night on the Wizards Post-Game Live is "Anything but the Wizards."  Winters Scott and Thompson seem determined to filibuster all discussion of how terrible the Wizards are by only discussing how good the Spurs are.  Here are the first 4 questions that Winters Scott fed to Thompson, summarized.

1. "The Spurs were playing patty-cake out there, Ron?"

2. "Matt Bonner, the white guy who makes every 3-pointer he shoots.  Ron, your thoughts?"

3. "Tiago Splitter, white guy, Spurs.  Ron?"

4. "The Spurs won their last game in triple overtime.  Ron, say something about the Spurs."

"This is Ron Thompson for Spurs Post-Game Live on CSN Washington!"
After Ron confirms Winters Scott's assertion that the Spurs "don't get tired," Winters Scott throws it back to the Verizon Center to Buck and Phil for their analysis.  She essentially asks, "There was no chance the Spurs were going to lose this game, right Buck?"

"You're absolutely right, Christy.  No chance.  Back to you in the studio."
9:32 pm: After 5 minutes of discussion about the Spurs, they finally get to a highlight package showing Wizards second-year forward Kevin Seraphin making a couple layups (Seraphin finished the game a -16).  Phil ends his analysis by saying, "you really have to feel for coach Randy Wittman."

One of these guys is Randy Wittman.

9:34 pm: Ron chimes in from the studio that the Wizards "were in control of the game until the end of the third-quarter."  (The Wizards were down 12 at halftime and down 18 with 7:45 left in the third).  One of the positive takeaways from the game for Ron was the performance of Martell Webster, who pumped in 16 points.  Webster finished a team-worst -23.

9:37 pm: The game highlight package starts by showing the Wizards taking a 15-9 lead.  Is this when they had control of the game?  Winters Scott notes that the Wizards were "only down four with two minutes to go in the first half," which means that the Wizards would be undefeated in a league where you get spotted 5 points and play 22-minute games.

9:40 pm: Wizards coach Randy Wittman is at the podium sharing his thoughts on the game.  Like the CSN crew, he leads off with effusive praise of the Spurs, followed up by unrestrained admiration for the Spurs, and wrapped up with gushing hyperbole about the Spurs.  Before fielding the next question, he adds that the Spurs took the Wizards will away and "carved us up pretty good."

Guess again.
9:41 pm: To paraphrase Wittman's analysis of why his team wasn't more competitive: "We dribble too much.  We aren't very good at dribbling.  We got very caught up in dribbling.  Unfortunately, we don't have any good dribblers.  Once we master dribbling, we can hopefully tackle shooting."

9:43 pm: Rik Smits texts me back to confirm that yes, Manu Ginobili would have counted toward a Whitewash.

Rik Smits, International Whitewasher
9:44 pm: Wittman says that center Nene didn't play because he is still dealing with the lingering effects of a foot injury and is very sore because the season is harder than training camp. Nene is revered by Wizards brass as if he's a modern-day Bill Russell, the implication being that the season cannot be fairly judged because they have been without Nene for all but two games.  Did Bill Russell also average fewer than 7 rebounds and one block per game for his career?

9:50 pm: Beal begins his post-game comments, "First, give my praises to God and Jesus Christ."

Jesus Christ, the original Whitewasher
9:51 pm: Beal goes on to -- surprise! -- praise the way the Spurs play.  He says that one of the things he envies about the Spurs is that they don't call a play on every possession and he wishes the Wizards would call less plays.  This would be like Rick Perry saying he needs to do less preparation for debates.

9:52 pm: In critiquing his own play (11 points on 4-for-13 shooting), Beal says that he has become too one-dimensional and that opponents know what he's going to do on the court.  Perhaps he could be more unpredictable by making more shots?

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