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.
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'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."
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.
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 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.
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