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Outplayed by the statistical cousin of Uwe Blab?

By Kevin Broom

Bad news disguised as a coach’s praise has emerged from the Wizards training camp.

“Hilton Armstrong’s had a really solid camp,” Flip Saunders told BulletsForever. “He’s actually played better than Javale McGee has through camp right now.”

There was more, but this is damning enough. If you’re not worried about the Wizards’ center position, you’re either not a Wizards fan or you’re one of Abe Pollin’s cockeyed optimists.

Look, there’s no scenario in which Armstrong should have a better training camp than McGee. Not if McGee is serious about becoming the team’s man in the middle. At his age, with his physical tools and a summer spent with Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball, McGee should be having a great camp. Especially since he has zilch in the way of professional accomplishments and no guarantee of a starting role.

He shouldn’t be getting outplayed by Armstrong. He shouldn’t be playing “about the same” as Armstrong. McGee should be dominating a player like Armstrong.

Nothing against Armstrong, I’m sure he’s a nice guy and I hope he’ll be a good find for the Wizards. Unfortunately, it’s not likely that he will be. In general, NBA players don’t get a lot better after four seasons. Usually, young players learn for their first couple seasons, do whatever significant improving they’re going to do by the end of their third season, and then maintain for a few years before declining as they age.

The league's conventional wisdom is that bigs take longer, but the truth is that players don’t become even mediocre after a four-year start as bad as Armstrong’s. It can happen, but it’s exceedingly rare.

Take a gander at players who began their careers like Armstrong (6-10 or taller, between 500 and 3,000 career minutes through their first four seasons, and a rebound rate of 14% or below). 47 guys match these criteria, and it’s not an impressive bunch. Some notables:

· Zarko Cabarkapa — finished in the NBA by age 25
· Patrick O’Bryant — spectacular flop for Golden State who still managed to have a higher career PER than Armstrong
· Marcus Haislip
· Jerrod Mustaf
· Acie Earl
· Uwe Blab
· Desagana Diop

Diop was as useful role player in Dallas, but no more than that. The rest of this group — stiffs. (And, to be honest, Diop's a stiff too.) Which brings me back to the Wizards.

I am not saying that Armstrong can’t get better — of course it’s possible for him to improve. It’s just not likely. That he’s looking good in comparison to McGee is a terrible indictment of McGee, because nothing Armstrong has done in his career suggests that he’s anything but a deep-bench reserve. He’s practice fodder and spot duty, not a starter.

McGee is supposed to be the team’s future at center. He’s tall, long-limbed, and gifted with speed, quickness and freakish hops. If he’s getting outplayed by the statistical cousin of Uwe Blab, the Wizards are in for a long and painful season.

By Box Seats blogger  | October 4, 2010; 5:42 PM ET
Categories:  Kevin Broom, Wizards  | Tags:  Hilton Armstrong, JaVale McGee, Kevin Broom, Wizards  
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Does Mcgee have a low post move now other than a dunk?

i saw the summer league. the guy had some nice dunks and oops, but he has no back to the basket move. he can't hit the spot up 15-foot jump shot either. the real question is who on the wizards works with these guys on their games. Nobody drafted by the Wiz ever gets better here. Same story for Nick Young.

Posted by: oknow1 | October 5, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Gene Banks is the big man coach, and he has a good reputation. But, it doesn't take one-on-one work with a coach to develop a better game. If McGee wanted to develop a post game, he'd take his behind to the gym and work on it. If Young wanted to be more than a goofball with a jumpshot, he'd be in the gym WORKING.

Look, I'm 6-2 and nowhere near the caliber of athlete that McGee and Young are. I once taught myself a version of Kareem's skyhook in less than a week at a basketball summer camp. No coach -- in fact, one coach tried to discourage me when he saw me working on it. And guess what? The thing worked in actual games. 25 years later, and I still use that sky hook to score against bigger, more athletic players in church ball.

If I could do it on my own in high school, surely McGee could develop a post game on his own as a professional.

Posted by: TheSecretWeapon | October 5, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Why can't we get "The Secret Weapon" in camp to push these big guys for some minutes? TSW dropping a few tear drop hooks over them should show them they gots to work on they game. Polish it up McGee or Flip will go Armstrong on your butt. Go Bullets!

Posted by: WestCoastBullet | October 5, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I agree with both comments but the Wiz need more than a big man coach and McGee needs more than just working on back to the basket moves. He needs both at the same time and same place! This guys needs either Rick Mahorn, Hakeem Olajuwon, or even Kareem. This is where the Wizards invest in what they have. Since they have now reached out to former Bullets, less Wes Unseld, why not utilize what your resources.
McGee should actually be in college but he is not so Coach Flip, GM Ernie should make sure that this happens for McGee, and not only their center but forwards and guards.

Posted by: Doobie_Sparks | October 5, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Why can't we get "The Secret Weapon" in camp to push these big guys for some minutes? TSW dropping a few tear drop hooks over them should show them they gots to work on they game. Polish it up McGee or Flip will go Armstrong on your butt. Go Bullets!

Posted by: WestCoastBullet | October 5, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

WTF is the Thw Secret Weapon?

Posted by: 15600_sknfan | October 5, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I think we might be putting a little too much emphasis on training camp. It's often the players who don't even make the roster who play the best during camp because they are the ones busting tail trying to earn a spot. The starters are more interested in brushing up on conditioning, fundamentals, etc., while doing their best to not get injured. I wouldn't necessarily call McGee a seasoned, established veteran or Armstrong a long shot to make the roster, but it doesn't surprise me that the backup is outplaying the starter in training camp. I'm more interested to see how McGee, and the other young players, look tonight against Dallas.

Posted by: jmnewman87 | October 5, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

jmnewman82 -- I agree that veterans often kinda coast in training camp. It's usually fringe guys desperate to make a team and youngsters trying to earn a spot who give maximum effort and perform the best. McGee should be one of those guys giving maximum effort. That he may be getting outplayed by Armstrong -- for whatever reason -- is worrisome.

15600_sknfan -- You must be a youngster. Back in the 80s and 90s, the Bullets had a player named Charles Jones. CJ was listed at 6-9 and 215, but he was a PF/C -- mostly C. CJ was one of those guys who always looked old. Part of that was reality: he didn't get to the NBA until he was 26 and he played 15! seasons. Part of it was just the way he looked.

Anyway, on defense, CJ battled but was often simply overmatched by bigger, stronger, quicker centers. Which means, the rest of the league. On offense, CJ was kind of a poor man's Michael Ruffin. Because of injury and other reasons known only to the Bullets, CJ was the team's starting center for several seasons (in 89-90, he started 81 games for the team).

It was a special event and cause for celebration anytime CJ scored. Whenever he did, Mel Proctor (the play-by-play man) would call CJ "The Secret Weapon."

CJ also had one of the all-time great delusional quotes. He told reporters that he could score 10, 20 points a game if that's what the team needed. At the time, the Bullets were desperate for someone to bring some offense. And, CJ had a career average of 2.5 points per game. He actually had more fouls than points.

Still, he was someone I respected because despite all his limitations, he ALWAYS played hard.

Posted by: TheSecretWeapon | October 5, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

WestCoastBullet -- I'm available. Don't know how many teams are in the market for a 40-year old, 6-2, immobile "big." I'd be happy to give it a try for the league minimum, however. :)

Posted by: TheSecretWeapon | October 5, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"In general, NBA players don’t get a lot better after four seasons." - Kevin Bloom

Who is this imbecile Kevin Bloom and why is he writing for the Post? Seriously, the guy clearly knows next to nothing about the NBA, so what is he doing covering it? MOST--not some, not a few, not one or two--NBA big men get better after several years in the league. It happens ALL THE TIME. Just ask Brendan Todd Haywood.

Memo to the WaPo: Please replace this Bloom idiot.

Posted by: Barno1 | October 5, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Charles Jones "The Secret Weapon"!!!
And I am not talking about Charles A Jones, who we also hard and stunk.

Posted by: tischmid | October 5, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Had, excuse me.

Posted by: tischmid | October 5, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: KevinBroom | October 6, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm having trouble posting -- hope this goes through.

Barno -- Common mistake, but the name is "Broom" not "Bloom."

Posted by: KevinBroom | October 6, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Next issue -- You assert that big men routinely improve after several years in the league. You cite Brendan Haywood, but Haywood actually didn't improve much at all after his 4th season. Many think he did, but his rates of production remained about the same. He did become a better defensive rebounder, but overall he was basically the same player over the past 5 years as he was in the first 4 of his career. For example, his PER over his first 4 seasons was 15.2; over the last 5 it was 15.5. Not a significant change.

Posted by: KevinBroom | October 6, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Final comment -- I'm always interested in learning something new. Please post some names of big men who improved significantly after their 4th season. Should be easy since it happens "all the time." Just the names would be fine -- I'm happy to research them. Thanks.

Posted by: KevinBroom | October 6, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

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