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Wiz get back to work

Before I get started, has anyone else noticed the uncanny resemblence between my fellow blogger Dan Steinberg and Sam Cassell? I was pondering this today as Dan was doing his thing after practice today.

On to Wiz biz. I spoke with Coach Eddie Jordan and a few of the fellas this afternoon. The news of the day is that Jordan has promoted assistant coach Mike O'Koren to Associate head coach. Not sure if anything really changes but the title is a better one. O'Koren has basically been Eddie's right hand man since he came to DC. He'll still be the guy who slides over and runs the show from the big chair should Eddie get sick or get booted from a game.

Jordan gave Gilbert Arenas the day off so Arenas can recover from some "bumps and bruises" left over from the preseason. Arenas did come in to do some shooting but he broke out before practiced ended. Antawn Jamison's sore right shoulder is feeling better. I watched him go through his normal shooting routine after practice and he looked fine. Rookie foward Mike Hall, the former George Washington star, remains out with a strained right knee. He won't need surgery but he also won't be on the court for awhile. I chatted with Mike for a time outside the lockeroom and he was a little down. He knows that the injury could not have come at a worse time. I covered George Washington two seasons ago when Mike was a junior and I've always liked his game and attitude so I hope things work out for him one way or the other.

The Wiz need to get down from 16 players to no more than 15 players by next Monday and Jordan said he plans on going right up to the deadline before making a move. My guess is that the cut will come down to a decision between Hall and James Lang, who has shown some promise at center. I don't see Donell Taylor getting cut simply because the team has invested a second round pick and a full season in the kid plus, he does have some talent and Calvin Booth has a guaranteed contract.

Jordan did say that he is going to decide on a starting center soon, possibly as soon as tomorrow. He wouldn't confirm that he's going with Etan Thomas but everything indicates that Etan will be the guy. When Eddie makes his decision official, it will be interesting to see how Brendan Haywood handles it becuase he clearly feels that he should be the starter. Brendan said the right things today when he was asked about the possibility of coming off the bench but we'll have to see how it all plays out.
"I feel that I'm a starter but it's not my decision so I have to be ready to go out and help the team however I can," Haywood said. "That's up to Eddie Jordan. Whatever he says, positive or negative."

My take: does it really matter? Both Thomas and Haywood are going to play heavy minutes for this team and I'm sure that the starting role will change hands a few times depending on the ebb and flow of the season and certain matchups. The Wiz are going to need both of them to step up their games if they want to be a 45-50 win team, especially if Darius Songaila remains out for an extended period. Speaking of Darius, I talked to his agent, Mark Bartelstein, yesterday and he basically repeated what the team has been saying: Darius is working hard to rehab the lower back but he's coming along slowly and there is no timetable for a return. Bartelstein said that surgery is not a strong consideration right now but that could change down the road. Either way, it appears that it's going to be a stretch before we see Songaila in a uniform.

By Ivan Carter  |  October 26, 2006; 1:35 PM ET
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You've got too many fact-checkers, Ivan. Donell Taylor was not a second round pick.

Posted by: Jerry | October 26, 2006 2:40 PM | Report abuse

You're on point we will diffidently need both to step up. What's the scoop on young Mr. Lang is there some legitimate promise here. I'm reading he has good hands and the kid has some rhythm in his post moves. Will Jordan fill comfortable in turning him loose...why the uncertainty about his future?

Posted by: Eric | October 26, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

This one is for the Insiders and the rest of the viewers here. The oddsmakers in vegas have the over/under of total wins for the season at 39 1/2 for the Wizards.

When I first saw this number I thought about taking out all the equity in my home and flying to vegas and lay 100k on the Wizards. I mean 39 1/2 wins? That means the Wizards would have to be 3 games below .500 at the end of the season to lose???

We won 45 and 42 the last two seasons, and everything I read is that the Wiz should be better than last season. I understand you run the risk of Gilbert, Jamison, and Caron being injured for an extended period of time, that could kill the season and the bet of over 39 1/2 wins.

So what are the Wizards Insiders opinions on the over 39 1/2 wins on the season?

Posted by: Dominic | October 26, 2006 2:52 PM | Report abuse

First of all, sorry for the Taylor mistake. You're correct Jerry, he was undrafted. My bad on that. They have invested a full season in him and two summer leagues in him though so I see him sticking. As for the over/under on wins I'd take the over on that and not even think about it. As long as Gilbert, Caron, Antawn and Antonio Daniels are healthy, I see this team winning 45-50 games this season. I'm kind of shocked that it's so low. You mean to tell me that Jared Jeffries was worth that many games? I like JJ but I don't see a huge drop off from him to DeShawn Stevenson plus, getting Jarvis Hayes back is a like getting a free agent. Now, it would really help if Darius Songaila got back by early December.

Posted by: Ivan | October 26, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for the response. I might not lay 100k on it, but I just locked it in with my local for 10k. I guess if things start going bad I can start saving, cuz this is a 9 month long bet.


Posted by: Dominic | October 26, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Hi Ivan and/or Michael -

If Daruius goes on IR, does that save a roster spot until he is ready to come off (meaning they can delay a cut)?

You'd think I'd remember this since Les Boulez have a stirring history of injuries.

Posted by: BulletsFan | October 26, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

you mentioned hall/lang and briefly discounted booth/taylor as possiblities. does that mean mason is off the table just off the strength of the 22 point performance?

Posted by: question on cuts | October 26, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

We once saw Sam Cassell in the BWI Airport. He had just landed his spaceship and was munching on a brain sandwich. Poor Steinz!!!!

Posted by: | October 26, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Good luck, Dominic. If Ivan keeps this blog going, remind us as the season goes on that you made the bet and tell us how it turns out. I think you'll regret not laying down the $100,000, but who I am to say -- I wouldn't have the stones to bet $100.

Posted by: Fred | October 26, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

charles "the secret weapon" jones here. on the o/u of 39/ i had seen this and am going to play it as it looks good to me. putting aside ivan's good point on jj versus deshawn, and hayes coming back, the bottom line is look at the division - they should be better than 3 out of 4 teams in their division. by contrast - look at mil where o/u is 40/ and the griz where o/u is 41 - both of those teams have to play brutal opponents in their division. they are likely the worst team in their division, but have a higher win o/u? (for instance we get 5 (or 6) games against atl, orl, char, and miami - mil has to play det, chi, indy, and cle - who would you rather play?) also when you look at their rosters you sure wouldn't trade the wiz' for theirs would you?

gambling is gambling tho so risk is always out there that one of the big three goes down with an injury (knock on wood), but that risk exists for all of these over unders so. . .that doesn't change the fact that it is a solid bet.

Posted by: cj | October 26, 2006 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Here's my conflict in the 'Poet' vs. 'Big Wood' debate:

While Etan is all that you can ask from a baller: blue-collar low-post teamster who hustles like a migrant worker with ten kids to feed-- and off the court he's an outspoken articulate wordsmith who'd rather be passionate and dedicated than 'too cool to care'.

Still, even Brendan at his lazy-lookin' half-assed half-speed is more often more effective than Etan. Just a fact.

There are shots that players won't take when Haywood is in the paint; there are players he basically neuters-- Ilgauskas is one (he just frustrates the helloutta Big Z). His defensive effect is seen in the +/- and win/loss records. Etan looks good out there, but jus' doesn't have the same effect.

Size matters. (Otherwise Earl Boykins and Juanderdawg Dixon would be jumping center).

And fact is, the difference between these two pivot players illustrates one of the concerns I got for the team. With Brendan on the bench our starting line-up on most nights is smaller than the opposition _at every position_ except point guard.

Not less talented, not less hard-working. And we got chemistry on our side. But the squad is going to have to kill themselves with hustle night in night out. And 82 games is a looong season.

There's gonna be nights when-- like Brendan-- you'd just rather coast on superior size and talent. Save something up for the next guy.

Undersized overmatched underdogs--this team can't afford to do that. Which means I expect we may get off to a hot start early in the season when it's clear we care more than the other squads and can out fight 'em early. And Gil may outlast the Energizer bunny, Antawn may have kept alive a nice consecutive games streak, but can every player on the floor maintain staying power for all 82?

Injuries become a risk. And late-season fade. And which is more, unlike last year's Miami Champs you can't roll downhill on superior talent in the regular season, then take it to another level in the playoffs. Because you been at 'another level' night in, night out, all year long.

The saving grace is always Gil though. Hard to know if he even has levels. Gil jsut keeps finding a way to take your expectations and turn it up and up and up.

So. Ya never know. I'm looking forward to the season. Because I got no doubts about the size of the fight in these dogs. That much is certain.


-doc. Wizards site.

Posted by: doclinkin | October 26, 2006 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Hey do you know where I can get in on that over/under? I've never made a wager like that and not sure how to go about it, but I'd really like to 'go all in' on that one!

As for the final cut, I really like Hall and especially Lang. Personally I would waive Calvin, but if that's not an option I would have to let go of Taylor. I know he had the big quarter vs Detroit, and I love the kid's hustle... I just don't see the ball skills needed: the poor handle, and his shot is way too inconsistant. He was undrafted, and they compared him to Hughes early on, but he lacks Larry's smoothness. I think we definately have to keep Lang, and I just think Hall is a better player than Donnell.

Also I disagree about Brendan being more "talented" than Etan. Etan was I believe a top 10 pick for a reason, Haywood went #20 in a weak draft. Etan is a much better rebounder and defensive presence, runs well, and has plenty of size to play center. To say he is too small is rediculous. He brings the physicality we need in the starting lineup to compliment our 'big 3'.

Lastly, about Darius... what a let down this guy has become. I mean the guy knew he was hurt, and continued to play. Would he have done that if he was still unsigned and a FA? I doubt it. He knew he had just signed a guarenteed 5 yr contract and had nothing to lose. By the way, no one else would have signed him to such a longterm deal as us, let alone for starters money for a career backup. He is going to need surgery... anyone remember Lorenzo Williams??

Posted by: Darnell | October 27, 2006 10:49 AM | Report abuse

The discussion of the effectiveness of the player in the pre-season can be extended by naively summarizing the player production per minute. Consider the expression
100 * (R + A + S + 2*B + P -TO)/min. I overweight the blocks because of the emphasis on protecting the basket and because many blocks probably indicates many altered shots.

Wizard players effectiveness
8 preseason games

Arenas 93.5
Jamison 90.3
Thomas 85.4
Butler 77.5
Lang 64.2
Daniels 62.3
Hayes 60.7
Haywood 54.5
Taylor 51.8
Hall 50.0
Blatche 48.5
Mason 48.3
Booth 47.9
Stevenson 43.4
Ruffin 32.4

1. Thomas appears to be significantly more effective than Haywood.
2. Lang would probably be downgraded by the coaches as he has no blocked shots. However his rate of (blocks + steals)/min is essentially the same as Haywood's. So he is playing some defense. It looks like Haywood is number three center?! Thomas rates much better than either of them in this criteria also.
(Of course the numbers don't rate footwork, etc.)
3. Stevenson has been producing more lately in the preseason. He clearly will move up.

Posted by: ELP | October 27, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

ELP. Problem is cumulative stats for individual players only tells half the story. This is the half that shows up well in box scores and looks good on the court.

The other half of the picture shows up in the Win/Loss column and in the other teams' box scores.

Haywood has consistently outplayed Etan in this aspect of the game. The simplest measure is to take a look at the +/- stats of on-court vs. off-court production per possession. (Does the opposing team score more or less when X-player is on the court? Check or among others).

Year after year Brendan outranks Etan in this measure. In fact last year Mike Ruffin outranked Etan in this stat. Simply put, the team is defensively stronger with Etan sitting out and the lazy-lookin' Brendan on court. And Etan's slightly better offensive output is more than offset by the points he gives up.

Sad fact but it's ture. Basically who you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes?


Posted by: doc again | October 27, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

'ture' or 'true', your pick.

Posted by: doc | October 27, 2006 5:09 PM | Report abuse

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