Wizards Midnight Tip-Off
Hit up the Wizards Midnight Tip-Off event lastMonday night, and aside from being too late for the free Chick-Fil-A and Dunkin’ Donuts, had a pretty good time. Plus, I saw George Mureşan, which was huge. Ha.
After Ralph Wesley, the new PA announcer that you can find a bit more on here, did player introductions, the team ran a few lay-up lines that allowed Andray Blatche to dunk a bunch, did an ongoing 3v3 drill, and then played full squad scrimmages for 40 minutes. At this point, what stuck out to me was how nonchalant Gilbert Arenas was, that Adam Morrison looks like an actual wizard and should probably make the team for that reason, and that John Wall didn’t dance when he got introduced. Dammit.
Once the game got going, it was cool to see the coaches playing with different match-ups and rotations. Got to see John Wall, Gilbert, and Hinrich all on the same team, and different combinations of them playing against each other.
- For now, Gilbert is still the best player on the team. He shot and passed well, getting to the basket frequently and finding his teammates after he got double-teamed. In general, it seemed like he was doing whatever he could to make the easy basket, which is a good thing considering the question marks about how he’ll deal with playing second fiddle to a rookie. If his knee is actually healthy, it’s worth remembering that even though his contract is out of control, Gil is nasty.
- God damn, John Wall is fast. You know how LeBron can get from the three point line to the rim in the blink of an eye by taking just a couple of steps? John Wall does the same thing, it’s just that he looks more like Speedy Gonzalez’s spinning legs as he’s doing it. He didn’t really shoot the ball too well, but he finished when he got to the rim, and he found his teammates when they were open.
- On the subject of Gilbert and Wall playing together, my jury is still out. There were definitely a couple of times when one would stand there with his hands up, expecting a pass, while the other dribbled right by him or simply didn’t notice. They both want the ball in their hands, which will cause some growing pains, but I’m hoping they find a way to make things work. It’s a good thing that Kirk Hinrich doesn’t seem to be too concerned about his touches on the ball.
- Speaking of Hinrich, I’m high on both him and Trevor Booker. Hinrich is a really smart defender, giving Wall enough space to make him think about shooting, but still applying enough pressure to make those shots hard. In defending Wall’s drives, which made him most dangerous, he moved around screens really well, and took good angles once Wall got moving, which made it difficult for John Wall to make an easy basket. On offense, he makes space for his teammates well, hits open shots, and isn’t unable to create off of the dribble. Not a bad starting point. Also, for better or for worse, he’s one of the more experienced and poised players on the team.*
*So is Adam Morrison. The guy sitting next to me reminded me that he’s the only guy on the team with a ring (and two at that!). I guess Sam Cassell counts, but only kind of. Great.
- As for Booker, he’s a grown ass man: fast and big, and I think that he understands the game better than a lot of rookies do. He was in the right place at the right time a whole lot, and his mistakes weren’t self-inflicted in the way that a lot of rookies’s are. Instead, it was a lot more about timing and being used to the quickness and awareness of professional defenders. I think he’ll adjust well, and I’m looking forward to seeing him improve throughout the year.
- I think Nick Young is mostly worthless.
- JaVale McGee has clearly benefited from his summer with Team USA. He’s got some really strong moves down low, and just looks eager to be out there. Also, he works well with Wall, getting himself onto the receiving end of a couple of sweet passes and an alley-oop or two. It’ll be cool to see if these two can develop a la KG and Starbury (except with John Wall not ending up playing in China, and McGee probably not holding a candle to Garnett…) over the coming seasons. He does need to improve his defense though.
Overall, the midnight practice was a lot of fun. People aren’t going to show up to a Wizards event out in Fairfax unless they’re into the team and the game, so the atmosphere was pretty good even though there weren’t all that many people there.
As a team-less NBA fan that’s recently moved to DC, I’ve taken an interest in the Wizards, and as hesitant as I am to root for the team that has brought us the Rod Strickland years and drafted Kwame Brown, I’m pretty much hooked. Ted Leonsis seems like the real deal, and the Verizon Center is only a fifteen minute bus ride away (and a five minute walk from work). Following the team this year is going to be fun.
I’m still pissed about the Chik-Fil-A though.