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Posted at 4:51 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Let the kids run

By Lee Friedman

The Wizards had a bad February. A very bad February. Only the L.A. Clippers 2-12 record was better then their 2-10 one. Even the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to pull out a 3-8 record (a case of Stadium Mustard was delivered to the city of Los Angeles). The month included some moral victories:  back-to-back near wins against the Heat (not sure if there were any tears shed in the Wizards locker room that night) and the Mavericks. Some of the losses were to teams they weren’t expected to beat, but they were essentially conceded before the smoke was cleared from the pre-game intro: losing by 28 to the Bulls, 24 to the Spurs and twice by 25 and 18 to the Magic. The low point of the month was back-to-back losses to the Pacers and Sixers by a combined 40 points, teams they were a combined 3-2 against coming in.

As March progresses and the losses mount, it’s time for the youth movement to take priority over winning games. That means giving more minutes to Trevor Booker, Mustafa Shakur, Kevin Seraphin and Jordan Crawford, even if it’s at the expense of playing time for Josh Howard and Rashard Lewis. I’m not saying that we should give up, but I am saying that if the price of developing our young players is winning 19 games instead of 24 games, I’m comfortable with that, even if it means more ugliness like last night’s Bucks game.

Flip has already started to raise the younger players' minutes (see Booker’s 28 minutes against the Pistons and 31 against the Bucks), although I wonder if it is more out of necessity than some specific plan. The team should encourage Lewis to have the knee surgery now and start working towards preparing himself for next season, and while I know Howard is trying to use the rest of the this year to showcase his rehabbed knee for other teams, the coach’s obligation should be to the long term interests of the team.

When managing minutes for young players you walk a difficult line. You can’t yank them out after every mistake (see Brown, Larry), but you also need to let them know that they are not guaranteed playing time and that their bad decisions on the court have consequences (see McGee, JaVale). How Flip manages those two, sometimes competing interests, will be another indication of whether he sticks around next year. They should also give Cartier Martin and Maurice Evans some playing time to see if they are worth resigning for next year for bench depth. Lastly, I started off very positive on Yi and he’s done nothing to reward my faith in him.  Since Feb. 1 he’s been shooting just 35 percent from the field, which is basically his only valuable skill set at this point. The Wizards took a calculated risk in getting him from the Nets, but let's admit it failed and move on.

Assuming Rashard has the knee surgery, below is the breakdown of how many minutes per game (MPG) I’d propose each player average for the last 19 games. Obviously player health, opponent’s line-ups and foul trouble will impact this, but I think this would be a target. In parenthesis is their current MPG.

- John Wall: 36 (37)
- Nick Young: 32 (32)
- Andray Blatche: 30 (34)
- JaVale McGee: 28 (26)
- Jordan Crawford: 26 (17)
- Josh Howard: 15 (23)
- Kevin Seraphin: 20 (9)
- Trevor Booker: 23 (14)
- Cartier Martin: 10 (10)
- Maurice Evans: 10 (22)
- Mustafa Shakur: 10 (7)

Finally, a word of advice to Ted on the team’s logo: If you can’t go back to the Bullets logo (which I think you should), then you at least need to completely redesign it. Simply changing the colors won’t do. I know next to nothing about design and marketing, but I do know that fans feelings on the current design range from mild indifference to outright hatred. You’ve been successful at brand marketing, use some of your talents to create something the fans can embrace. If the in-house team can’t come up with something better, open it up to the public and let them submit designs. Judging by the artwork on some abandoned buildings, D.C. has quite a few talented artists with time on their hands.

By Lee Friedman  | March 9, 2011; 4:51 PM ET
Categories:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  | Tags:  Lee Friedman, Wizards  
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