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Terps, Hoyas, and Wizards

Tag Archives: nene

The Teams: Charlotte Bobcats (6-5) @ Washington Wizards (0-10)

The Time: 7 PM

The Location: Verizon Center. Washington, D.C.

TV, Radio: CSNW, 106.7 FM

The History: The Wizards had previously won their last five contests against the Bobcats, until November 13th of this year when they dropped a game 92-76.

The Washington Wizards are hurting this year, having started the season with ten straight losses and no victories. For the past few seasons, a game against the Charlotte Bobcats would have been a remedy for a losing streak of epic proportions. Unfortunately this year, that simply isn’t the case. The Bobcats come into the District having won five of their last seven games of basketball. The only thing these two teams have in common is that they both dropped their last game to the Atlanta Hawks, with the Bobcats falling 101-91 at home yesterday.

Aside from that loss, the Bobcats have been nothing but trouble for teams, with an impressive victory against the Memphis Grizzlies last week establishing them as a much improved team. Head coach Mike Dunlap has them playing very good basketball on the defensive end, and passable offensive play as well. Rookie small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is as advertised, averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds on the year. Thing is, MKG isn’t their only weapon, as the Bobcats have six players scoring in double figures this year. Ramon Sessions, the traveling suitcase of a player, has finally made a home for himself in Charlotte, where he is an early candidate for Sixth Man of the Year with his play off the bench.

Needless to say, this game won’t be easy for the Wizards.

Keys to the Game/Storylines

1.) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs Bradley Beal

No, these two players do not play the same position, but they were the second and third pick in the previous NBA draft and as such their histories will be closely linked. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has, as I previously stated, been a stud this year for the Bobcats. He is one of their best players, and has scored in double figures in 8 of their 11 games this season. Against the Hawks last night, MKG scored only 11 point, but he also impacted the game in ways that many players can’t. He also grabbed seven rebounds, but he blocked four shots as well, giving him 18 on the season. For a small forward, that number is absurd.

Meanwhile, Beal has been good but not really great. His 33% shooting from the field ranks him as the second worst rookie who is playing 15 minutes or more this year. His poor play recently relegated him to the bench, but only for one game. He started against the Hawks, but shot poorly and finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. He marred that performance with five turnovers, however, and he really hurt the team with those.

Both players are young, but so far it is glaringly apparent that one has been far more impressive than the other.

2.) Nene-Nene, Nene-Nene, Hey-hey hey, good try!

Nene debuted for the Wizards in the same fashion that he did after last year’s midseason trade: impressively. In 20 minutes of play against the Hawks, Nene scored 12 points off the bench by getting to the line numerous times. His presence and talent level was something the Wizards sorely missed, and it is clear that even in diminished health Mr. Hilario will be a boon for the Wizards front court.

With the poor performance of Emeka Okafor, Nene is a major upgrade who can sop up Okafor’s minutes that he doesn’t try. Given how much better of a scorer Nene is, the Wizards should see a major advantage in that department down low, which is something that they haven’t done well this season.
Take note, however. Nene only had one rebound last game, which is a very unusual number for a big man. His rebounding issues have been documented, so hopefully that is an aberration.

Prediction: The Wizards finally get a win with a rested, relatively healthy team who came off a tough loss where they played well. Bradley Beal rises to the occasion and outshines the person taken ahead of him in the draft.

90-88 Washington

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The Teams: Washington Wizards (0-9) vs Atlanta Hawks (5-4)

The Time: 7:30 PM

The Location: Phillips Arena. Atlanta, Georgia

The Coaches: Randy Wittman (18-40 with Wizards) and Larry Drew (89-68 with Hawks)

The History: In 274 games, the Wizards have lost to the Hawks more than they’ve won, being down 141-133 all time. They’ve played a lot over the years and this is one of their closer series all time, so it’s typically a good ball game every time these two teams step onto the court.

Why you should watch: Nene is coming back!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halleeeeeelujaaaaah! With reports coming out that Nene is expected to be in action for the first time Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks, Wizards fans breathe a collective sigh of relief. Well, what’s left of the fan base that has been bludgeoned nine times to the face this year through loss after loss. But now, Nene is back to bolster a frontcourt that has been shredded game after game in the paint and has been unable to score too much there either.

Nene brings both, and a bit of rebounding prowess that might offset the inability of a certain French forward, and with them he also brings the promise of shattering that unsightly goose egg in the win column. Last season when the Wizards traded for Nene, they got considerably better as a direct result. They weren’t blowing teams out, of course, but they were actually winning. If he can provide similar results, Wizards fans will embrace him with open arms.
Key Points and Storylines

1.) What impact will Nene have?

Look, who knows what version of Nene we’re going to be getting. That has to be said, because he has yet to play a single game of basketball during this short NBA season, and it may take him awhile to get the hang of things again. He’s a fantastic player, but it might take time for him to get back into the swing of things. If he can make a quick recovery, then this team will be all the better for it. Conversely, if he looks slow and rushed back onto the court, then it will show and the Wizards may still be better served waiting more time for him to come back.

Nene is going to be asked to rebound and defend a lot since Okafor is in the dog house (really, the entire team is in the dog house). I’m just not sure he can do that right away…

2.) Can the Wizards shoot better?

Shooting under 40% as a team for the entire season (dead last in the NBA) is a recipe for an 0-9 season. The Wizards have followed that recipe to a T, and if they were wise, would do their best to deviate a bit from that course. Without better shooting, Washington will continue to pile up losses. Having one of the most efficient shooters/scorers in the NBA today in Nene will be a huge boon for getting that number above 40%, but that won’t change the fact that the Wizards take bad shots.

Early in the shot clock three pointers by A.J. Price and Jordan Crawford don’t help a lot, and Bradley Beal going 4-12 (as he did last game) has to change. Taking good shots is directly correlated to how many points this team has been scoring, which at 89 per game is last in the NBA as well. Changing that number, given the somewhat passable defense they’ve been playing, might secure a victory for Washington.

Prediction: Wizards win a close one against their divisional rival Atlanta Hawks ON THE ROAD in Nene’s return.

99-98 Wizards

 

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By: Bohlin

The ongoing saga surrounding Dwight Howard has come to a close. Last night the all-star and former defensive player of the year was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four team deal.

With all the rumored offers on the table from teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets, the Magic decided to send Howard to Hollywood in return for Aaron Afflalo and a bevy of protected first round picks from teams that will almost assuredly be outside of the lottery. While the reasoning behind Orlando pulling the trigger on this deal at this time is perplexing to me, as I believe Brooklyn and Houston’s offers were better, it signifies that the Magic are entering “rebuilding mode”– which is great for the Wizards.

This marks the second time this offseason where a playoff team from the Southeast division has shipped their best player out of town (Joe Johnson to Brooklyn being the other instance). In each case the argument can be made that the Hawks and Magic took a step back (in Orlando’s case a few hops, skips and jumps back) in order to rid themselves of massive headaches inside their organizations.

How does all of this movement effect our Washington Wizards? In short, it brings them closer to the top of the division. While the Miami Heat are still the cream of the crop in the division, that race for number two in the Southeast is up for grabs.

Atlanta should still be competitive with Josh Smith and Al Horford in their lineup but the loss of arguably their best perimeter scoring threat in Joe Johnson will hurt. The thing about the Hawks is they are a much better team when Josh Smith isn’t continuously falling back in love with his jump shot. With Joe Johnson now gone, all I can see is J-Smoove thinking it’s his time to become “The Guy” on the perimeter for Atlanta. Keep pulling up from 18 feet and beyond and you’ll make a lot of Wizards fans happy, Josh.

Orlando has taken a massive step back and will more than likely be challenging the Bobcats for the Cellar Dweller award in the division. Without Dwight Howard in the fold first year head coach Jacque Vaughn has his hands full figuring out how to make this team competitive. They did pick up some nice young pieces in this deal in Afflalo and Mo Harkless, but to think that those two, in addition to Jameer Nelson and Hedo, will be enough to vault Orlando to the playoffs again is a bit extreme.

Charlotte, fresh off becoming statistically the worst team in NBA history, hasn’t done much to shake up their roster this offseason. In are Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions and out is D.J. Augustin. I think in time MKG will be an impact player for Charlotte but to think he’ll be able to really help carry the load on offense as a rookie is extreme. The fact of the matter is the Bobcats still aren’t much of a threat to do anything in the division with the roster they have assembled. Quite frankly I’m not sure why I dedicated this much space to a team that is coming off a 7 win season.

The Wizards are set up nicely to make a move towards the top of the division. With perennial playoff teams Orlando and Atlanta taking steps back it is possible to think that a 2nd or 3rd place finish in the division isn’t out of the question. The Southeast has been at least a three playoff team division for the past five seasons. There is little doubt in my mind that this trend will continue going forward.

Should the Wizards make the type of jump that we believe they are capable of making this season with the additions of Nene, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal they should absolutely contend for one of the eight playoff spots in the East. John Wall said he wanted to be the “savior” of the Washington Wizards…here is your chance John, lead us back to the playoffs where the Wizards belong.

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By: Willis

Welp, you knew it had to end eventually. The Olympic basketball semifinals/finals are not for everyone. In this case, they are definitely not for any former or current Washington Wizard/Maryland Terrapin players, as none remain in the tournament. Wednesday was just a day for closing out.

First, Russia edged former Terrapin  Sarunas Jasikevicius and Lithuania in a hard fought battle 83-74. Jasikevicius, in what will likely be the swan song performance for his Olympic career, looked every bit his age by going 1-of-4 from the field over 19 minutes for three points. Not to mention his turnover problem reemerging, as he finished the game with six total against only three assists. He was clearly having problems getting around future Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved, who even on a poor shooting night still outplayed him. Furthermore, it really just seemed like Jasikevicius was getting minutes because it could have potentially been his final game. Younger guard Mantas Kalnietis probably should have received more playing time, and in fact would have put them in a better position to win (as much as it pains me to say that about Sarunas).

(Strike one)

Next, Kevin Seraphin and France were dogged by Spain in the fourth quarter of their 66-59 loss that could have been closer were it not for so many French mental errors. Seraphin had, without a doubt, his worst game of the tournament, playing only 7 minutes while registering more fouls and turnovers (three each; six total) than points and rebounds (three). As is his propensity for picking up quick fouls, yesterday was no different as he quickly rendered himself worthless via sloppy play. They certainly could have used him against Marc and Pau Gasol, as former Wizard Ronny Turiaf looked like absolute garbage, culminating with his embarrassing hard foul which essentially cost France the game (though that torch will be passed to Nicolas Batum).

(Strike two)

Finally, Argentina fought off a furious late-game run by Nene and Brazil to hold on and win the “Battle of South America” 82-77. Nene, presumably playing injured, was the lone bright spot for local fans as he gritted out a poor shooting performance with all around good play. He logged the most minutes during any tournament game up to that point yesterday with 27, and the result was a nice 12 rebound, 7 point performance. His facilitating play late in the game opened up the floor for Brazil and spurred their 23 point fourth quarter in which they cut a 12 point deficit down to three.

Unfortunately, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, and Juan Pedro Gutierez gave Nene, Cavs center Anderson Varejao and Spurs forward Tiago Splitter work on the defensive end all game, combining to score 40 of the 82 Argentinian points. Nene also had two careless goaltending calls late in the game, which didn’t necessarily help his team (though you can’t blame him for trying). Overall, Nene didn’t play terribly by any means, but his offensive production wasn’t there when Brazil needed it most during their 2nd and 3rd quarter droughts.

(Strike three, you’re out)

Final Grades:

Kevin Seraphin: B-

Seraphin should have been much more effective throughout this tournament, but his positive play was marred by the fact that he constantly got into foul trouble. He finished the tournament averaging 6 points and 3.3 rebounds over 6 games, with his best performance being a 10 point, 7 rebound, and 3 block line against Argentina. At times, Seraphin seemed like one of the best players on the court, while in other instances he just looked lost against more dominating forwards. He averaged just over a block a game during the tournament, but also racked up 19 fouls in a six game stretch (something he definitely needs to work on for the NBA). Three fouls a contest in international play is a death sentence, given the five foul rule.

In the end, Seraphin could have done better, but he is still only 22 years of age which indicates room for improvement. I’m sure in 2016 Seraphin is going to play a much larger factor on France as the old guard (i.e. Ronny Turiaf) gets less and less minutes. In the meantime, he needs to work on playing more under control and can hopefully carry over this international experience into productive NBA play.

Nene: B+

Nene proved to be a bit of a disappointment as well if we’re being honest with ourselves. I expected him to be a much more dominating scoring option for Brazil, which is something they could have used. Instead, Anderson Varejao had more points than Nene throughout the tournament (albeit in one more game, but it’s still Varejao). He just never demanded the ball on offense, and was way too passive of a forward given how talented we all know he is. Part of that, I’m sure, had to do with his lingering plantar fasciitis which caused him to sit out the game against Spain. That he’s out of the tournament is of great relief for the Wizards, as it means he is going to be able to rest up for the NBA season a bit longer.

What did he do that impressed me? Rebound. Nene was the fifth-best rebounder in the entire tournament, averaging 8 per game. I loved that he got after it on the defensive end, fighting down low for boards with opponents. He played the ball off the rim nicely, and it’s a credit to his defensive positioning ability. Speaking of defensive, Nene wasn’t too shabby on the defensive end, holding his own against a lot of talented forwards (with the exception of his game against Argentina). His defense is always going to be a plus, and he showed it this tournament.

Sarunas Jasikevicius: A+

I’m giving Sarunas an A+ because I respect the hell out of that guy. Sarunas didn’t have a bad tournament by any means, averaging 6 points and 5 assists throughout; rather than dwell on what he did this tournament, we should acknowledge all he has done throughout his international career. A bronze during the 2000 Sydney Olympics for Lithuania (their third medal in three straight Olympic games), a 2003 FIBA Eurobasket Gold medal, and another bronze medal in 2007 FIBA Eurobasket. He’s played in the NBA, he’s played in Israel, he’s played for FC Barcelona, he’s dominated the Greek Leagues and he’s represented his country incredibly well–all for the love of the game.

Sarunas could have quit on his dreams a long time ago, but he never has and as a sports fan one has to acknowledge a guy who is so internationally renowned. Yes, he’s a Terrapin, and yes I’m biased to them, but Sarunas goes beyond that. At 36, this is likely his last Olympic games, and while I’ll be sad to see him go, he has kept Lithuania in contention since his arrival and will no doubt play a part in their future. And for that, Sarunas get’s an A+.

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By: Willis

I’ve predicted it before, and I won’t hesitate to predict it again: Nene and his injuries are going to become a major issue for the Washington Wizard. Not just this upcoming season, where Nene’s plantar fasciitis has already reared its ugly head during the Olympics, but for the remainder of his contract with the Wizards. Big men at 30 years of age don’t just randomly get incredibly healthy; they break down at a very rapid rate and once the wheels fall off, it is over. I’m not predicting complete apocalypse for the Wizards at all, but I cannot help but be unnerved by the foot injury. It is why I have been watching France so intently, because for the Wizards to overcome a Nene injury, Nene’s backup has to emerge as a stud. Kevin Seraphin, the ball is in your court.

My thoughts on Seraphin’s Olympic play so far basically mirror how I feel about him as a whole: he projects to be a much better starter than a reserve in the NBA, but there’s still work to do. As a starter last season over 21 games and 665 minutes, Seraphin averaged 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. As a reserve during 36 outings and 511 minutes? 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. His statistics plummet when he gets fewer minutes because that’s not really his specialty. Some players just function better as starters; just ask Allen Iverson how he dealt with being a sub. Part of it is due to being over-excited, as Seraphin is like a high energy dog who needs to be run constantly in order to calm himself down. Don’t give the dog a run, and it’ll eat your Jordans, your couch, and poop on the floor. That’s Seraphin. Too much energy to be a substitute and the end result is foul trouble and ineffective play.

The other main reason he is a better starter than reserve is that Seraphin is not the type of power forward that teams can really run a certain amount of set plays for; his offensive skill set is just too limited right now. Rather, on the offensive end at least, Seraphin functions much more effectively when he is allowed to play within the flow of the game and not force the issue. That includes put back dunks, catching defenders out of position down low, and using that baby hook he loves so much. Seraphin scores because he is such a good offensive rebounder that he always puts himself into position to get plenty of second-chance points. Seven times over his last fifteen games he grabbed 3 or more offensive rebounds, including four games with five or more OREB.  If he isn’t on the court for missed shots to occur, he isn’t going to get offensive boards and his scoring goes down. Simple logic, really.

It’s why his first game as a starter against Nigeria on Monday didn’t shock me in the least. He finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks (a standard Seraphin line), which is a line Seraphin has had more than once during these Olympic games. The difference is that Seraphin looked far more comfortable and fouled at a lower rate, despite playing more minutes than any game. He was a hyper-efficient 4-of-5 from the field, and that’s a good thing because it actually hides Seraphin’s other problem: he doesn’t get to the line (he went 1-of-2 on FT’s yesterday).

Seraphin almost always has to work harder than most for his points because, for one reason or another, Seraphin just doesn’t draw contact on his shots. Last season, he only took more than four free throws in a game one time (he had six), and he only attempted four free throws five times total in ’11-’12. His free throw rate is among the worst in the NBA, and over his last 15 games (in which he started all of them) he averaged 1.9 FTs per game. Couple that with the fact that Seraphin shoots about 50% from the field and you get a starter who needs 16 shots to score about 16-18 points. It’s why his ability to get to the line is what could make or break the Wizards if Nene goes down.

Seraphin’s stats look much improved in some instances (PPG shot up), but in order for him to be an effective starter, he’s going to need to cut down on his usage rate, or make more of the touches he gets. As a starter last season, Seraphin was used on 20.6% of the Washington Wizards possessions. While he wasn’t bad at all, he simply didn’t do enough to justify being used that often. As explained earlier, he doesn’t get to the line, but he also doesn’t pass particularly well, either. In fact, he pretty much doesn’t pass at all, as evidenced by his 5% AST rate (the % of baskets assisted by a player while they’re on the floor). Obviously big men aren’t notorious for dishing assists all the time, but you either make plays or create plays. When a player isn’t doing either, it’s a detriment to the team.

Luckily for Wizards fans, Kevin Seraphin’s career trajectory is taking an incredibly similar curve to that of Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz. Millsap is his most apt comparison for a lot of reasons: they’re both undersized at 6’8, they were both bench players who shined in scant minutes at the same ages, neither got to the line very effectively, and they score in incredibly similar manners.  In fact, the whole scenario of Seraphin and Nene reminds me of Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap a ton. A young forward with tons of energy who comes off the bench to spell the oft-injured All-Star with similar skill sets. Eventually, Boozer was shipped out of town and Millsap filled in just as effectively (and at a much lower price tag). If Seraphin wants to become what everyone hopes he can be, he should spend the offseason talking to Millsap about how he became a very effective starter in place of the resident star (Nene).

Millsap and Seraphin, at 22 years of age and in their second season did essentially the exact same thing as one another. 16.1 PER for Millsap, 15.8 PER for Seraphin; 7.9 PPG for Seraphin, 8.1 for Millsap; 5.6 RPG for Millsap, 4.9 for Seraphin. See what I mean? That’s just a small sample size, because they’re almost an exact carbon copy of one another. In Millsap’s third season, when he took over the reigns from Carlos Boozer halfway through the season, he started to show his true colors. His Per 36 Minutes projections were almost exactly how his actual season played out, as he doubled his free throw attempts and started passing the ball a whole lot more.

His passing ability is perhaps one of Millsap’s most underrated qualities as a big man. Millsap’s opportunities opened up even more because he increased his AST% from 7.0 as a sophomore to the 12.4 he averaged last season. It didn’t happen overnight, but Millsap is actually a very skilled passer now, probably thanks in part to working with the great Jerry Sloan so closely. Seraphin is behind Millsap’s development in that regard, but it’s not to say he can’t get better. He is going to need to if he wants to fill the role Nene plays as a ball mover and not a ball stopper.

And the biggest thing is just putting more points on the board in general through free throws. Not only does it get other big men in foul trouble, but he becomes a much more efficient player overall. Seraphin last year drew a foul on 8.4% of his shots attempted. Contrast that with Millsap’s 17.3% as a sophomore and you can see the disparity. Though their statistics are similar, it’s incredibly apparent what could end up limiting Seraphin as a starter. Instead of fouling, Seraphin just needs to get fouled. And he is definitely not soft by any stretch; Seraphin doesn’t shy away from contact in the least. I think he could deliver a bit of punishment given that his frame is so sturdy.

In short, Seraphin has some work to do in order to become an every day starter, and it’s not going to happen right away. He may be able to fill in for Nene in the short term, but Seraphin needs to take over that spot in a similar way to the Millsap/Boozer arrangement. I love where he’s at right now because it is very easy to peg exactly what he needs to work on. Assuming that he does over time, any Nene injury should be a small potato problem, because the Wizards could have an incredibly effective low post scorer on their hands. But right now, he’s a hyper backup that needs work.

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By: Willis

As we continue to follow former Maryland Terrapins and Washington Wizards players being featured in the Olympics, I do not think it will get much worse than yesterday. Lithuania with Sarunas Jasikevicius faced off against Kevin Seraphin and France, Ekene Ibekwe and Nigeria went head-to-head with Team USA for a game no one will forget anytime soon, and Nene and Brazil had a rough go of things against Russia in a nail biter.

We’ll start with Ekene Ibekwe, who finally got to register his first minutes of play during these Olympic games after recovering from a sickness. He only played about 4 minutes, but those 4 minutes means that he played a part in the most lopsided loss in Olympic history, a 156-73 drubbing to Team USA. Ibekwe managed only 1 rebound and 2 fouls, which is nothing to write home about; but it’s what he didn’t do that is going to make these Olympics most memorable for him.

For example, he didn’t stop Carmelo Anthony, who made 10-of-12 three pointers and scored 37 points in 14 minutes. To put that into perspective, he scored 10 more points than Nigeria did during the entire second half. Ibekwe also couldn’t stop the 49 point first quarter that Team USA had, though not necessarily his fault. All in all, it’s a game he will never forget and I’m not sure the world will forget for a long, long time.

Meanwhile, Kevin Seraphin and Sarunas Jasikevicius faced off against one another yesterday, though not directly. Seraphin came out the victor in an 82-74 victory, but neither player was particularly overwhelming during the game. Seraphin played yet another game where foul trouble dictated how many minutes he could play (14 total), and he never looked comfortable out there against Lithuania’s big men. He finished the game with only 2 points on 1-of-4 shooting, with as many rebounds as fouls (three). Until Seraphin can learn to play more under control, former Wizard Ronny Turiaf will continue to get minutes over him.

Jasikevicius, in the meantime, got eaten up on the defensive end by Tony Parker and Nando de Colon. Parker had one of his best games of these Olympics with 27 points and 5 rebounds, as he proved too quick for Lithuania’s guards. Jasikevicius only scored 2 points on 1-of-5 shooting over 20 minutes of play, and while he did have 5 assists, he coupled that with 4 turnovers in the process. His age showed during this game, and even though the score was close, it was mostly due to France playing lazily most of the game.

Finally, Nene and Brazil lost on a last second three pointer to Russia, 75-74 in perhaps the most exciting game of these Olympics. Nene himself didn’t play that poorly, as he logged 8 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes of play, but he did get beaten on the defensive end numerous times. Timofey Mozgov, a not-so-skilled NBA center, numerous times got past Nene in the paint despite not being nearly as good. Nene looked a step slow throughout the game, and he could have been a lot more effective than he was. Brazil should have won that game, but all credit goes to Russia and Alexey Shved (the Minnesota Timberwolves new guard) for playing some very exciting basketball.

 

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By: Willis

The Wizards and the Terrapins continued their trend of strong representation in the Olympics on Tuesday, as Lithuania, France, Brazil, and Nigeria played their second games of the tournament. Nene Hilario, Kevin Seraphin, Sarunas Jasikevicius, and (sort of) Ikene Ibekwe all represented their respective countries yet again. This time, the results were a bit more promising.

Nene played an integral part in Brazil’s 67-62 win over host country Great Britain yesterday, showing no signs of soreness in the foot that plagued him all of last season. He finished with only 4 points and 6 rebounds during his 28 minutes of play, but as is the case most of the time in International play, the stats don’t tell the whole story. Nene was a force defensively, blocking 3 shots over the course of the game which, in essence, stopped Britain from scoring crucial points. He hounded former George Washington player Pops Mensah-Bonsu all game, and was a major reason why their team won.

On the offensive end, his two big time jams got the crowd on their feet and highlighted his athleticism that he has been prone to show in spurts. His only other shot was a badly missed jumper from the left wing, but he didn’t need to shoot. Instead, Nene made great kick out passes all game long that led to wide open three pointers which, sadly, Barbosa and friends missed quite a bit. If Wizards fans wanted to see just how good of a passer Nene could be, this game was a showcase of it.

Meanwhile Kevin Seraphin had his international coming out party against powerhouse Argentina in a 71-64 nail biter. Seraphin continued to be plagued by the foul trouble that hurt him last game, but managing to remain assertive on the offensive and defensive end en route to 10 points and 7 rebounds over just14 minutes. Seraphin showed off his hook shot that the Wizards saw in flashes last season, and appeared much more aggressive in attempting to get his shot off.

Defensively, it appeared Seraphin got a little overexcited, as he picked up quick fouls on unforced contact. He seemed to be played the role of endforcer, however, and in the process swatted away three defenders shots. Seraphin is going to need to play a bit more under control if he wants to remain effective against quality big men. This actually includes the NBA, as his opponent Luis Scola also plays the same position for the Phoenix Suns and seemed to cause him trouble. Overall, though, nice showing by Seraphin and France.

Then we have the Terrapin players Ekene Ibekwe and Sarunas Jasikevicius facing off against one another for Nigeria and Lithuania, respectively. Except that with Ekene Ibekwe still sitting out with, as PMNewsNigeria.com reports, a sickness, he failed to register a single minute during the game. The Nigerian team ended up losing the game 72-53, as Lithuania pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Sarunas, playing in his 4th straight Olympics for Lithuania (the most ever by any person from his country), had a much better second game. Sarunas accounted for 9 of his team’s 19 assists, and displayed why he cannot be counted out as being considered one of the best point guards to ever play internationally. He got the ball to open players whenever he was on the court during his 20 minutes of play, and was the main reason why 9 of 12 Lithuanian players shot 50% or better from the floor. Their offense played with serious fluidity, and Lithuania looks poised to go deep in the tournament these Olympic games.

Sarunas and Co. helped hold Nigerian guard Tony Skinn to only two made shots the entire game, and frustrated him with help defense anytime he attempted to drive. The game was a nice one to watch, and Sarunas represented the Terrapins well. Here’s hoping that Ibekwe gets his chance to play, health be damned.

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By: Willis

Yesterday, there were news reports of Nene complaining about his lingering plantar fasciitis (the same one that plagued him all of last season), which gave Wizards fans a pause.

Considering the amount of money we owe this guy over the next few seasons, it is disheartening to learn that he may have to miss extended periods of time during the regular season. That kind of roster instability is never typically good for a team. Temporarily, good teams can overcome such injuries, as they typically have more depth on their rosters. But not for long. Look at Memphis last season, who lost Zach Randolph early in the year and had to play Marresse Speights. While they were fine for awhile, it began to wear on them and when Zach Randolph returned there was an adjustment period that they never fully figured out.

With the Wizards, there are two players on the roster who are prone to injury in Nene and Emeka Okafor. Luckily, the Wizards have a loaded front court; I don’t mean to say they have an incredibly talented front court, but that they have a lot of potential there. The Wizards can sub in Seraphin for Nene if he goes down any time, and if his play last year is any indication of how good he can be, the drop off will be only marginally felt. With Okafor, the Wizards would have to go small if there were an injury. If both of them go out, then we’re essentially playing with last years roster towards the end of the season. With that being the case, it’s worth looking in depth at what the Wizards most effective starting five were last season.

The only rules I’ve placed on this are that JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche are excluded—they’re not with the team anymore.

The Best of the Best

92.8 Minutes Played

4-0 Win-Loss Record

Wall-Crawford-C. Singleton-Booker-Nene

(I’m sure people are wondering about that Win-Loss record, and I’d be glad to explain it. Wins are defined as the number of games a unit outscored their opponent while on the court; losses are the inverse, with the number of times a unit was outscored over the course of a game while on the court.)

Back to this lineup: this was by far the Wizards most effective five man unit (without considering McGee and Young). They played the sixth most minutes of any lineup, and the results were better than anything else Washington threw out there. It’s a perfect example of the Nene effect.

With this five man unit, the Wizards outscored their opponent every time they were on the court (giving them a 4-0 record in that regard). The main reason is the Nene suddenly became the best jump shooter on the roster once he came to the Wizards. This unit displayed a 10% decrease in close range shots while they were on the floor from the most used unit (38% to 28%).

It wasn’t just Nene, however, as Booker showed off a newly found ability to hit set shots while on the floor as well. The spacing they created by knocking down fundamentally sound 15 footers changed the entire dynamic of the offense. With Wall able to drive against defenders who were on their heels wary of jump shooting big men, the paint softened a little and made his life a whole lot easier. This says nothing about Nene’s ability to pass, which makes him yet another person who can keep the ball moving to other players and force defenses to move around.

The other reason this unit excelled was because they could actually rebound (a huge fault of last years team). In fact, of the top 10 units played, their 53% rebounding mark (based on chances for rebounds) was the best the Wizards had to offer. This doesn’t surprise me much, given how often Trevor Booker was able to extend possessions on the offensive end of the court last season. He may be small, but Booker was arguably our best rebounding forward last season. He doesn’t do anything extra special; his positioning is so-so and his length is abysmal. He really just hustles and always works hard while he is on the court. Simple stuff that pays off. That is not to discredit Nene, though, who had some very solid rebounding games with the Wizards last year during his short stint. Either way, 53%, while great by our standards, still is not that impressive.

Since all of these players are hustle guys, the end result is that they held opponents to a poor 42% shooting from the field. All of these guys are individuals who try very hard on the defensive end, and that number reflects that. Nene, at the center position, provides a very strong anchor who is not going to be bullied in the paint. Combined with his help defense, this rotation made the Wizards a (dare I say it) formidable foe. Not to mention that this lineup provided enough scoring to allow Singleton to do what he does best, which is key in on wing defenders and stop the ball in man-to-man offense. He wasn’t asked to score, which he really should never be asked to do in the first place.

The Sidekicks

199 Minutes Played

10-10 W-L Record

Wall-Crawford-C. Singleton-Vesely-Seraphin

Surprisingly enough, this combination of players is the one the Wizards trotted out the second most last season. Even more surprisingly is that they weren’t half bad as a unit either.

Knowing that, their 10-10 record is slightly impressive. That’s .500 basketball, boys! Let’s overlook the fact that with that lineup, the Wizards looked like the most one dimensional offensive team on the court at all times. No jump shooters to be found, with the best one being Jordan Crawford (who percentage wise is an awful jump shooter). Every single player on the floor is virtually incapable of scoring effectively from outside of 10 ft–and that’s being generous. So why, then, were they a formidable opponent?

It’s simple, really. They may not have been able to shoot that well, but that lineup was freaky athletic. When Seraphin mans the center position, he is almost always undersized. But what he gives up in size, he makes up for in quickness and athleticism. Vesely is similar in that he didn’t have a lot of skill last season, but he hustled a lot and his length bothers anyone he plays against. He can stay in front of opponents and contest shots.

Not to mention that all of the players know what they are good at and stick to it: close to the basket, high percentage shots. Of the top 20 lineups the Wizards trotted out last season, only 5 had a better FG% than this one had at 45.6%. Vesely dunks, Seraphin bangs down low, Wall drives, Singleton doesn’t shoot (the most effective shot for him sometimes), and Crawford provides the inconsistent jumper from everywhere else/fastbreak points. That’s it, really.

If this lineup had a better shooter *cough* Bradley Beal *cough* they might actually prove to be a formidable opponent. The shooting was this lineups problem because they were prone to droughts in scoring due to teams keying in on the paint. That’s part of the reason why they were -18 in net points scored.

The Potential Unit

33.9 Minutes Played

2-1 Win Loss Record

Wall-Martin-C. Singleton-Vesely-Seraphin

I know, this five man unit only played about 34 minutes, but when you hear about how successful they were on the court it is definitely an encouraging sign. The lineup consists of the majority of the young core of players the Wizards want to build around, and they performed admirably in their limited minutes.

In terms of scoring while on the court, they finished +17 overall against their opponents. Again, this goes back to the balance between skill sets that these players have. Cartier Martin provides a much better deep threat than most players on the roster, and his ability to consistently hit three point shots created a similar spacing effect to Nene. It is a noticeable trend on this team that Wall performs his best when there is at least one Wizards player able to stretch the defense on the court. No shock, there anyway. With this sort of in and out balance of basketball, the Wizards again shot 8% less from in close than their most used unit (37% to 29%). I shudder imagining what Bradley Beal could bring to this rotation if they moved Martin to the three and played Beal at the two.

What they really did well, however, is lock down opponents defensively, which lends credence to the belief that Seraphin is actually an effective defensive player. In their small amount of minutes, they actually held opponents to the lowest field goal percentage of any unit at 36%. It’s a minuscule sample size, but since we’re going off potential I love this unit. The entire unit has solid size at every position except for center, and there really aren’t that many good centers around to dominate Seraphin. The end result is that, at the very least, the Wizards weren’t undersized. It allowed them to split ~50/50 on rebounds.

If we’re judging units on potential, I feel pretty darn confident if the Wizards are forced to play with these young guys (assuming they improve in the offseason). Add in Bradley Beal to this youth group, and the Wizards are looking pretty solid next season.

————-

The conclusion I drew from this is that Washington can overcome a Nene injury. Heck, they can probably even overcome an Okafor injury at the same time. Their young rotations show potential, and as long as there is a proper balance on the court, Washington should be okay. That being said, the Wizards need Nene in order to be a complete team, and he will become an integral part of the future as long as he is healthy.

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By: Bohlin

According to an Olympic blog report by Rick Maese of the Washington Post it appears as if the injury that sidelined Wizards PF/C Nene during the end of the 2011-2012 regular season has reared its ugly head again.

“Nene walked with a slight
limp after the game. The
plantar fasciitis that bothered
him at times last season has
flared up, he said.
“When the ball goes up, I
forget about that, though,”
Nene said.”

After Brazil’s opening round win against Australia Nene made those comments. This would explain more why Nene was coming off the bench for the Brazilian national team thus far. While it is admirable that Nene is not letting the nagging injury effect his efforts to represent his country it is the last thing Wizards fans want to hear.

With the acquisitions of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza the Wizards had finally assembled a front court they were confident could compete. This particular re-occurrence shouldn’t be anything that effects Nene long term but it would be nice for him to be as close to 100% as possible come training camp.

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By: Willis

The London 2012 Olympics have been a treat to watch for DMV fans, thanks in large part to a group of stars who are either from or have played in the area being featured in prominent roles. There is of course Michael Phelps, the Baltimore native who has racked up more medals than a junk yard magnet. But there are also a lot of basketball players who are performing admirably in the Olympics, particularly from the Maryland end of things. No, they aren’t playing for Team USA, but there is no shame in representing one’s original, not adopted, home country.

While Ikene Ibekwe received the unfortunate DNP for Nigeria’s opening 60-56 win over Tunisia, at least we can claim him as a Terp! Ibekwe was out for an undisclosed reason, but the sole fact that he got to participate in Nigeria’s first ever win at the Olympics as a country is something he will never forget. It is likely to be a monumental moment in his lifetime, and moments like that is something that can be universally related to.

As an aside, his Nigerian team is actually pretty loaded up with NBA/fringe NBA level talent. Al Farouq Aminu, the one and done from Georgia Tech who was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers, Ike Diogu, Tony Skinn of George Mason, and Olumide Oyedeji all play significant roles on this team. It’s no wonder Ibekwe wasn’t playing, despite dominating in 2006 at the FIBA Championships. This team might end up surprising some people with their athleticism and fundamental play. No, they can’t really hit shots, but they play stingy defense and that can certainly help.

Another former Terrapin, Sarunas Jasikevicius, is playing fairly well for his home country Lithuania. Around international circles, Jasikevicius is known as one of the most accomplished players in the game. While he’s getting a little long in the tooth at 36 years of age, Jasikevicius can still handle the rock a bit. In his county’s opening round loss to powerhouse Argentina 102-79, Jasikevicius put up 6 points and 4 assists in 20 minutes of play. He turned the ball over four times, but Carlos Delfino (the man he was “checking” on defense) had one helluva game, so that isn’t the norm. Hopefully we can see some better play from him than a 2-6 shooting performance.

The Wizards are actually getting a lot of Olympic love with both Nene and Seraphin playing one games apiece for Brazil and France, respectively. Nene came off the bench in favor of Tiago Splitter/Anderson Varejao against Australia, logging 21 minutes in a gritty 75-71 victory. From the bit that I got to watch, Nene displayed some deft defensive skills, grabbing 7 rebounds and turning away 2 shots. On the offensive end, he was 3-of-5 from the field, finishing with 8 points total.

Meanwhile, Kevin Seraphin struggled against incumbent gold medal winners Team USA mightily. He got in early foul trouble, and didn’t provide much benefit thereafter in about 9 minutes of play.  Seraphin finished the game with 3 points on 1-of-5 shooting, and has to be disappointed. The athleticism and small ball style of Team USA may have flustered him and forced him to play more cautious, but I expected much more.

The Dime will be keeping you updated on all of their progress as the Olympics continue. Nigeria, Brazil and France both play (not against one another) tomorrow, so be sure to check out a loaded basketball schedule.

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