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Wizards Beat Cavs, 96-93

It's tough to judge much of anything from Summer League basketball. As one veteran NBA writer said tonight, you don't get too many chances to waltz to the basket past an undrafted Jamont Gordon in front of a few hundred ambivalent fans once the season starts.

And things are just different out here. Before the Wizards opened Summer League against the Cavaliers tonight, the arena started playing a very dramatic instrumental version of the National Anthem. Then they killed it halfway through, and Cavs Summer Leaguer David Harrison started clapping. Then they started a different instrumental version in a different key. Summer League is just a different deal.

That said, the Wizards won tonight, 96-93, after a few scary moments late in the fourth quarter when they tried to squander an 18-point lead. You'd rather win than lose, and two of the Wizards' most important Summer League pieces were the key.

Andray Blatche, who showed up, started, and played more minutes than anyone on either team save for Nick Young, had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Young--whose parents sat just a few rows off the floor--had 36 points on 13-of-19 shooting; the Vegas League record for points in a game is 42. Javaris Crittenton and JaVale McGee also saw major minutes--Crittenton had 8 assists and 2 turnovers, while McGee was erratic and angered Flip Saunders by attempting a behind-the-back pass in the lane.

More observations:

Gilbert Coming?

Blatche said he came to Summer League mostly because he wanted to work on his conditioning, but he added that Gilbert Arenas gave him a nudge.

"Gilbert gave me a call and said he was gonna participate in it," Blatche said. "He said it would be good for us, so we can get an early head start on the offense."

I asked if we should still expect an Arenas appearance.

"That's what he says," Blatche said. "Knowing Gilbert, you never know. That's what he said."

Young shooting

Young's 36 points came with just six free throws; he launched 19 shots, and eight three-pointers. He said after the game that he had never come off so many screens in his life.

"I'm so tired right now; that's all I did I feel like was coming off screens all day," he said. "I try to do everything they tell me to, just come off screens. At times I was coming off so many screens I couldn't handle the ball like I normally handle it. It kept slipping, hitting my knees, going out of bounds. I didn't feel like Nick, I felt like somebody else. I don't know, I felt like I was just a shooter, just strictly shooting."

That said, his coaches were pleased with his performance, and have made conditioning a point of emphasis with several players.

"I thought the thing Nick really did tonight, he made himself hard to guard," said Wizards assistant Randy Wittman, who is coaching the Summer League team. "Sometimes a young guy that can score and shoot kind of just runs around out there. Nick was moving with a purpose, I thought tonight, stopping, starting, creating a gap to get free. He made himself difficult to guard tonight, and then he made shots....As any coach does when a guy gets hot, you try to continue to go to him, and he's got to learn not to take the chances with the turnovers and stuff. It's like anything else, any coach in this league; if a guy makes three or four shots in a row, that [opposing] coach is saying 'Get the ball out of his hands,' And he's got to realize that, he's done his job, make the easy play, and now somebody else gets an easy basket."

Blatche Outta Control

Blatche was clearly the most seasoned player on the court, and he dominated at stretches, but he also was out of control a few times, especially in the first quarter.

"I came out too hyper," he said. "I came out real hyper, real real hyper, and then [Dominic McGuire] was like, 'Man just calm down and let it come to you, can't nobody out here check you, just take your time.' And after that I just slowed down and things started working out for me."

"Jitters, adrenaline's going, that's expected," Wittman said. "I'd have been really surprised if we didn't play like that in the first couple minutes. It was everybody. We were moving a hundred miles an hour for the first five minutes of the game, and I thought we got it under control."

Blatche In Control

Indeed, at one stretch late in the first half, Blatche drove and converted a three-point play, came back with a spin move, and then grabbed a rebound and led a fast break. With the game tied in the final two minutes, he drew the biggest oohs of the night with another three-point play on a reverse, and later added two key free throws. So, can anybody out here check him?

"I mean, I don't want to sound over stuck on myself, but I felt like I'm a tough matchup for guys out there," he said.

At some point early in the game, he tossed his headband in frustration, which he said is what happens "when I get my little attitude. That's when I get more aggressive," he explained.

"We played through Dre a lot tonight, and he facilitated our offense, because he's a versatile player," Wittman said. "He can post up, he can pass, he can dribble. Again, he's got to continue to understand, he got three or four baskets on a post up early in the second half, they doubled him and he's got to now make the easy pass."

The Newcomers

Boston College guard Tyrese Rice had several nice moments and finished with 11 points, but if there's one thing the Wizards are not in the market for, it's an undersized guard who likes to shoot. Josh Heytvelt, the Gonzaga big man who seemed to have the only serious shot at grabbing a roster spot, played eight-and-a-half minutes and had just 2 points and 1 rebound. With the Wizards targeting veteran big men, the guys at the end of their Summer League rotation are really here auditioning for other executives.

New Coaches?

Wittman is the official head coach of the Summer League team, but I'm hearing that assistants Don Zierden and/or Sam Cassell might get a turn as the man in charge over the next few days. Cassell was easily the most animated member of the staff, jumping up and down and yelling frequently.

"I've got him on my back every day," Young said of Cassell. "He asks me if I'm gonna play for real or am I gonna go out there and slack."

New Teammate

New Wizard guard/forward Mike Miller sat behind one basket with Antawn Jamison and Arn Tellem, who represents both players. Miller also got stopped by about 17,000 kids in the lobby of the arena to sign autographs and pose for photos.

By Dan Steinberg  |  July 14, 2009; 10:11 PM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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Next: Blatche More Comfortable With Saunders


After reading your blog posting, I wish I would have spent the $4.99 to watch the game. Nice reporting, though.

Posted by: pjkiger1 | July 14, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Dear Nick,

If you can knock down jumpers off the screens, like you did tonight(think Rip Hamilton, pistons), then you can start at the 2 guard. Maybe Nick is a wildcard this year. Maybe he gets the nod to start at the 2 spot. The position is wide open IMO.

Posted by: dominic10464 | July 14, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Ditto. Great reporting.

Posted by: UltimateFootballNetwork | July 14, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

it was good to see NY and AB dominate--as the should at thhis point in their careers! I had forgotten just how raw JaVale McGee is. He looked lost on defense and offense an awful lot of the time. I cant see him having much of an impact this coming season. The way he played, its less likely the Wiz can afford to add somebody like Heytvelt. They will need to fill both open roster spots with veteran big men.

Posted by: oddjob2 | July 14, 2009 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Showcase Nick Young.
Jamison and Young to the Jazz for Boozer.

Posted by: minorthread | July 14, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Nick is a heck of a player. I just hope we use him here and he does not go to another team and become a star like ben wallace and countless others we gave up on have.

Posted by: anacostia85 | July 14, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

I sure hope Nick can put it together. The rotation of Gilbert, Foye and Young at G sounds great with a little Crittenton or Steveson sprinkled in.

I hope they sign Wilcox or Gooden. I'm worried that McGee still isnt mature enough to see major minutes next year.

Posted by: avbanig | July 15, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Good write up. I forgot what time the game was. I had been watching some of the free streams. I hated that Rice played for BC, but had nothing but respect for how he played. I'd like to see the Richmond, VA native play somewhere.

Posted by: sitruc | July 15, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

"I've got him on my back every day," Young said of Cassell. "He asks me if I'm gonna play for real or am I gonna go out there and slack."

It's about time the coaches called out & challenged Young, rather than give him the Jord&Taps tough love cold shoulder. Don't get me wrong, at 24, with that kind of money at stake, Young should have realized what it takes to be a pro and carved out a role long ago. But it looks like a fresh coaching approach and a youngish assistant coach with respect among players could do this team a world of good. Too often, the team has had Old Skool coaches who couldn't connect with the younger players... Collins, Unseld, E&M Jordan, Taps, and it has hurt the team. If they can get Blatche and Young motivated, our outlook improves greatly... both on the court and in the front office, where one of these guys could become trade bait for the strongman we desperately crave.

Posted by: SammyT1 | July 15, 2009 6:24 AM | Report abuse

If we trade Nick, Blatche or McGee it would be a huge mistake. These guys are the future. By the time this team is competative Jamison, Butler and maybe Haywood would be long gone. As long as Jamison is getting 35 min at the 4 this team will be a 1st round and done.

A lineup with Gil, Young, Butler, Blatche, and Haywood is very good. If you want you can put Jamison at the 3 and bring butler off the bench. But I would have Jamison, McGee, Foye and Miller coming off the bench. Now that don't leave a lot of time for Critt and McGuire. Stevenson and James would have to go for a servicable big that don't expect to play 20min a night.

Posted by: rnbrown4 | July 15, 2009 6:56 AM | Report abuse

I like what I hear from whittman with regard to NY. Last year he floated around the perimeter waiting for the ball, looking disinterested. He'd get the ball around 30 feet from the basket, and then try to make a play. With him running off screens, he can catch it in a position to shoot or take a few dribbles to get to a better spot. This strategy emphasizes his strengths, and limits his weakness, which is ball handling.

Posted by: ZardsFan1 | July 15, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Wonderful job, Dan!

Posted by: TheFunBunch | July 15, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone here think DeShawn Stevenson could score 36 points in a summer league game?
It's pretty obvious who the odd man out in the Wiz backcourt should be.

Posted by: elfreako | July 15, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

At risk of being a complete nit-picker, If we're talking about the same "Jamont Gordon" who played college ball for Virginia Tech, then I'm pretty sure it's actualyl "Jamon Gordon" - no "t."

I could be wrong though, but I was calling him Jamon for all those years.

Posted by: VTDuffman | July 15, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Unless they had Blatche showcasing for other teams, why did he get so many minutes and a guy they need to look at, Heytvelt, only got 8 minutes???

Posted by: fearturtle44 | July 15, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

It's great to see Blatche and NY get off to a good start. I would like to see more from McGhee, but it's still early. It's highly unlikely anyone from the summer league will make the team, but I would like to see Heytvelt get some more run though.

Posted by: cbyrd5717 | July 15, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Jamont Gordon played for Mississippi State, Jamon Gordon of VT plays in Europe (I think in Italy).

Posted by: SeanTsGhost | July 15, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

elfreako wrote:
"Does anyone here think DeShawn Stevenson could score 36 points in a summer league game? "

Yes, I absolutely think DeShawn could go 13 for 19 and score 36 in a Summer League game. Pretty sure he's done it already in the NBA. The problem is, he could just as easily have a 1 for 19 night. The question with Nick is not if he can score 36, but can he stop the opposing 2-guard from dropping in 50 while he does it.

Posted by: ts35 | July 15, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

DeBrick couldn't shoot 13 for 19 from the free throw line. His career high came two seasons ago at New Orleans (33 points). I'd be willing to bet he played 40+ minutes to get it too.

Nick scoring 36 w/o one freakin' assist is a bit troubling. I mean how about one pump fake, drive and dish move? Especailly if you're that hot from the field.

I kinda see Nick as the new Kerry Kittles hopefully sans knee issues. Kittles was a way better defender but maybe there's still time for Nick to get there.

Posted by: elfreako | July 15, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

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