It would be easy to look at the final box score and understand everything you need to know about last night's pathetic loss to the New York Knicks--a team that has cornered the market on pathetic performances in the last two seasons. But to understand what kind of night it was for the Wizards, all you had to do was see this sorry sight. When I was walking out of the arena there was a girl in a tight-fitted Gilbert Arenas jersey walking down 33rd Street. One of New York's finest gentlemen called out "you'd be a lot hotter if you took off that jersey!" The girl just kept walking, like Arenas--who missed all 7 of his 3 point attempts and spent more time looking at the refs that at his man last night--she had no response.
Renaldo Balkman? The Knicks were booed when they drafted this kid from South Carolina back in June, with the 20th overall pick, but as we all saw last night, the kid has some serious talent. Before the draft, I saw Balkman at the Orlando pre-draft camp, and I remember him impressing GMs and coaches with his high-energy style. The problem was that no one could figure out what position he would play. Was he a small forward? A power forward? A guard? Could he shoot? Perhaps the kid is just a basketball player.
Last night, he and David Lee dominated a game against a team of Wizards that supposedly has three All-Star candidates. I was in Nashville for Lee's last college game, a Florida loss 2 years ago, and I remember seeing him sit at the podium with a look of utter disappointment in his face. The kid never realized his potential after being a big-time recruit. It now appears that he is making up for all of that in the NBA. Last night I saw a guy who wanted the ball more than anyone else. He stole rebounds from Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, and out-rebounded the Wizards by himself in the fourth quarter.
It's always dangerous to draw major conclusions from a single basketball game, but last night I couldn't help but think about the fact that Lee and Balkman were killing the Wizards, while Washington's last two draft picks--Andray Blatche and Oleksiy Pecherov--weren't even in uniform. We are going to find out what the Wizards are made of over the course of the next two weeks. Actually, it starts tomorrow night when they play a Detroit team that is also woefully underachieving. Then, 24 hours after that game, LeBron James and the Cavaliers will be at the Verizon Center. If this team wants to be taken seriously, it will bounce back this weekend. It's pretty sad when three Irishmen, sitting at a bar in Manhattan, can offer this observation after seeing their first NBA game: "the Wizards just kept shooting from outside and they kept missing. Why didn't they take the ball to the basket?" Great question.
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