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Savin' Isiah

The New York Knicks are still pretty lousy (they fell to 2-6 with last night's loss to the Cavaliers) but at least they're playing hard. The Knicks erased a 14 point Cleveland lead with a second half charge keyed by little Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford but as usual, they couldn't make the shots or get the stops when they needed them. The biggest miss was really no surprise. Down three, 1:09 left and Stephon Marbury pulls a wide open three from corner that would have tied it. His shot wasn't even close.

The Knicks are 0-3 at the Garden, Marbury is awful and the team is getting nothing from Steve Francis. However, Isiah Thomas does have those guys scrapping and playing hard and the Garden crowd sounded like it was into the game down the stretch last night. They've fought back from large deficits in several games, including a loss at San Antonio, and I don't see any of the roll-over-and-quit I saw up close last season when Larry Brown was running that team. They were total dogs in two games at Verizon Center last season.

In other words, the Wizards should come in ready to handle business tomorrow night. Five of Washington's next six are on the road - the home game is Saturday night against Cleveland - so we're about to learn something about this team. Sunday's loss to New Jersey was a real kick in the stomach. How will they respond?

By Ivan Carter  |  November 14, 2006; 10:24 AM ET
 
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Comments

Hey, Ivan, love your blogs. I'm going to cheat on this one, and ask you a question that has nothing to do with today's blog, but pertains to your article today. At the end, you gave us an update on Oleksiy and some of the other Wizards picks. A big question that has been on my mind is what is the deal with Juan Carlos Navarro? The guy tore up the Worlds this summer, and I'm wondering why we haven't made more of a play to get him. Do you have the inside scoop on this? Is there a chance he will sign with us in the future? A great true point guard like that would be a nice complement to Gil and would work well in the Wizards' offense.

Posted by: Dr. Spiegel | November 14, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

""...what is the deal with Juan Carlos Navarro?""

He has a hefty "buy out" clause in his contract and the Wiz don't wanna pay it. After everything I've read, I personally think he's using the NBA to get a better deal overseas. Kinda like Danica Patrick saying she wanted to explore the NASCAR scene when she really didn't.

""Sunday's loss to New Jersey was a real kick in the stomach. How will they respond?""

That's exactly what I'd like to know.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 14, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Navarro is not a true point guard or any kind of point guard. He essentially is the Spanish version of Juan Dixon, an undersized 2 guard who can light it up. I do think he would fit into the Wizards' offense well (and their defense too, because he doesn't play much), but his buy-out clause (I read about 12 million) is prohibitive. As Ray said, someone who is interested in coming to the NBA doesn't agree to a $12 million buy-out clause, but just uses the NBA for leverage.

Posted by: Terry | November 14, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Nice blog Ivan, you make some good points and bring up some good questions. How will they respond? I hope they come out and play hard. That last loss has just left me in a daze. It's like my enthusiasm was sucked away watching that uninspired effort. The guys looked bored out there.

Interested to see how the Knicks look. I keep forgetting to mention, that Bucks game... man I like that guy Villenueva! What a player, I really like his game. Man if there is one guy in the league I wish we could get who is not considered a "superstar" player (at least not yet), he would be the guy.

Navarro has that huge buyout. Plus I heard Wizards mangagement wasn't all that high on him, at least they had doubts that he was worth using the full midlevel exemption on him even if they were able to get around the buyout somehow. He is a tweener, and not a true point, alot like Dixon as Terry said, but not as good defensively even. Doubt he can D in the association, especially at the 2.

Anyway hope we come out intense vs NY. Then we got the Cavs saturday with those gold jerseys.

Posted by: Darnell | November 14, 2006 11:40 AM | Report abuse

http://www.nba.com/media/dleague/Williams_Justin.pdf

forget navarro, this is the guy we got to watch! he is on our dleague team, and he was in for predraft workout for us. he was kings final training camp cut. he was in smaller conference in college, but was conference defensive POY twice, and is leader all time career shotblocker, and he only played in conference 2 yrs.

Glen Consor said he reminded him of samuel dalembert.

Posted by: poptart | November 14, 2006 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Wanted to make sure Darnell saw this. We had a discussion a week or so ago about the relative value of offensive rebounds vs. shooting better than the opponent, and he made the point that, shooting better doesn't matter if your opponent gets twice as many shots.

So, I asked a friend who runs www.basketball-reference.com to query his box score database for the most extreme field goal attempt differential he could find. Biggest difference he found (going back to the 87-88 season was a game between Houston and Utah played 2/4/04. Houston had 54 field goal attempts to Utah's 97.

Utah had 23 offensive rebounds to Houston's 5, and just 6 turnovers to Houston's 17.

Utah won in a blowout, right? Umm...wrong. Houston shot 33-54 from the floor (an efg of .676 to Utah's 43-97 (.448). And Houston shot 31-41 from the line to Utah's 10-16. Houston won comfortably, 104-97.

Posted by: TSW | November 14, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Whoops -- one mistake in my previous post -- the game between Houston and Utah was played 2/4/02, not 04.

Posted by: TSW | November 14, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse

TSW, there are exceptions to every rule. The problem with that example is that Houston had so many more free throw attempts and scored 31 pts from the line compared to Utah's 10.

But you proved your point, good food for thought. Obviously keeping down opponent fg% with good D, and having a good fg% yourself by moving the ball and taking good shots is key to winning. But I still think number of possessions, by rebounding and limiting TOs is equally important, and can help overcome a poor shooting night.

Good post.

Posted by: Darnell | November 14, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

IC:

"They've fought back from large deficits in several games, including a loss at San Antonio, and I don't see any of the roll-over-and-quit I saw up close last season when Larry Brown was running that team."

They're eight games into the season, man!

Posted by: bryc3 | November 14, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Ivan is right. This next stretch of games is going to define the early part of the season. The team hasn't won on the road yet this season, and they likely won't be the favorites in 4 of the next 5 and 5 of the next 7. If they go 1 and 4 or 2 and 5 in those games, it will get rather interesting. And if they start this stretch by dropping one to the Knicks, ....

Posted by: Henry | November 14, 2006 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I hope the Wiz respond to Sunday by coming out, playing hard and keeping the Garden silent and the Knicks off-kilter. They have to be ready to take care of business.

And it wouldn't hurt if they made it look like Jared Jeffries left the party just as the punch bowl came back loaded with the good stuff.

Stevie Franchise was quoted in the NY Post last Wednesday as saying this Knick team of high-priced free agents is "close" to success, "but we really don't know how to win yet."

I sincerely hope the Wiz don't help the Knicks learn how to win tonight.

Posted by: iceberg | November 14, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Good teams would handle the knickerbockers on Wed. Mediocre teams would play the game close and then have stories about 'heart-breaking close loses' or overcoming adversity and winning. That team is awful and should be thrashed around by anyone with any illusions of a meaningful season.

Yes, they play hard and it is commendable that they do so even when they have no chance to win this year (forget the millions of dollars), but they should not be able to play with us at all.

Posted by: Bernard King | November 14, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Darnell wrote: "TSW, there are exceptions to every rule. The problem with that example is that Houston had so many more free throw attempts and scored 31 pts from the line compared to Utah's 10.

But you proved your point, good food for thought. Obviously keeping down opponent fg% with good D, and having a good fg% yourself by moving the ball and taking good shots is key to winning. But I still think number of possessions, by rebounding and limiting TOs is equally important, and can help overcome a poor shooting night."

-------

Sorry for thread hijacking, IC, all. :)

The number of possessions -- no matter what -- is approximately equal between opponents in a game. A possession starts when one team gets the ball and ends when the other team gets the ball back. (At least using the definition Dean Smith invented, which is also the one used by the stat goobers around the league -- guys like Dean Oliver, Dan Rosenbaum, Sam Presti, Daryl Morey, etc.) An offensive rebound doesn't create a new possession, but extends the existing one.

You correctly point out that offensive rebounds and limiting turnovers are good ways to counter a bad shooting night. It's just that it's tough to overcome. Of course, a bad shooting night is relative -- you can shoot 30% and win if you can make the other guy shoot worse.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 14, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm no basketball expert, but Dr. Jack Ramsey has always said that the key stats to look at to see if a team really is good are:

1) Opponent FG%
2) Rebounding differential

Well, unfortunately the Wizards are near the bottom in both catagories (NBA.com has sortable team stats). This has been the case since Eddie Jordan has been the coach.

I still like this team, still think they will win 50 and have a legit shot at the second round (as they did last year), but I'm not so sure I would have given Eddie that extension.

What is kind of embarrasing is that most "experts" seem to think Lawrence Frank (a former trainer who has never played a sport above the college level) is a better coach than Eddie Jordan, and that's the guy that got the Nets job that Eddie wanted so badly.

And Byron Scott, the guy he kind of stabbed in the back at NJ is now on fire with the Hornets.

My point is, I think Eddie is pretty fortunate to have a head coaching job.

Posted by: Wei | November 14, 2006 4:20 PM | Report abuse

""My point is, I think Eddie is pretty fortunate to have a head coaching job.""

I agree, and the Wiz have to take strides this year or else people will be saying the same thing about the extension.

But....

There has been absolutely NO continuity in the organization since Nash left(or fired depending how you look at it) so I'm sure Ernie was looking to build a foundation here, starting with Eddie.

Say what you want but Wes(then Jordan)really screwed up this team. I find it interesting that all of the people Jordan brought in are now gone, minus Haywood. I'm sure that's sooner then later though.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 14, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Ray, MJ also brought in Etan. He was part of the Juwan Howard trade.

TSW:
"An offensive rebound doesn't create a new possession, but extends the existing one."

Ok, but in my book an offensive rebound is a new possession. New 24, new chance to score!

Posted by: Darnell | November 14, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I believe the Navarro buyout is around $10 million and he signed a three-year extension with FC Barcelona a year and a half ago so I'm not sure why he's chirping about wanting to play in the NBA. Why sign the extension then? I'll confirm all of this and get back to you guys. And bryc3, good point about it being early on those Knicks. I guess I just can't get what I saw at Verizon last year out of my head. Never seen a team just lay down and die like that. In any sport. At least they're fighting a little bit for Isiah. For now. As for the defense, the Wiz have to get their opponent's shooting percentage down but the good news is that this team is going to have no problem scoring a ton of points all season. And Gilbert and Caron can consistently get to the stripe for free throws. I'll wait until 20 to 25 games are in the books before I draw any statistical conclusions. Too early right now.

Posted by: Ivan | November 14, 2006 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Come on, Ray. To say that Michael Jordan really screwed up this team blatantly ignores history. When Jordan arrived he inherited a c(r)apped out team with Strickland, Juwan, and Mitch Richmond that was heading absolutely nowhere but down. He went full tilt towards a youth movement, essentially tanking a couple season to get high draft choices. He got rid off those three clowns and cleared TONS of cap room that set the organization up for years (and allowed it to get Arenas). What he did was revolutionary for this organization, which in the 10 or 15 years prior had no long-term plan, and instead was content to make dopey little "quick fix" moves here and there to stay mediocre. Remember Kevin Duckworth, Ike Austin, the trade of a draft pick that could have been used for Kobe so that Mark Price could play 7 games for us, etc.?

Although Jordan STUNK at many of the jobs of a GM, most especially picking coaches, he was a terrific evaluator of players (with - cough - one notable exception) and did great with the cap. He signed Larry Hughes when no one wanted him much, traded for Haywood, Bobby Simmons, and Etan, traded Courtney Alexander (where is he now?) for a draft pick he used to draft Juan Dixon, drafted Jeffries and eveyone's other favorite Juan, Juan Carlos Navarro. It's true that most of those guys are elsewhere, but that's not because they can't play -- all of those guys are solid NBA players or superstars in another league. It's likely because Jordan drafted them with the Triangle offense in mind, and Grunfeld has a different vision. At least Jordan left Grunfeld with cap room and assets to trade. You think Grunfeld could have acquired Jamison by dangling Ike Austin?

Jordan made two mistakes on the player front:
1. Drafting Kwame. When you've got the first pick, you've got to do better. (But keep in mind the players considered for the first pick that year were Kwame, Chandler, and Eddy Curry, none of which is tearing up the league. The Grizzlies shocked everyone by picking Gasol third.)
2. Trading Rip for Stackhouse. Although others are going to disagree, I actually think this was a pretty balanced trade (Jordan was in part clearing more cap room), but it really went against the whole youth movement he was pursuing, so it didn't make any sense.

Beyond those mistakes, however, Jordan laid the foundation for what we are experiencing now. Cap room got us Arenas, Stackhouse got us Jamison, Kwame got us Butler, Jordan got us two decent centers, and Jordan's irritating intraoffice personality got us Grunfeld. Thanks, MJ!

Posted by: What!? | November 14, 2006 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Really well put. I agree completely, MJ made alot of progress and laid the foundation (or cleared the junk) that allowed Ernie to come in a take this team to a playoff level. And his talent evaluation holds up even looking back in hindsight. (The Kwame draft was one of the weakest in the history of the NBA, and is anyone really crying that Gasol isn't a Wizard?)

It would have been interesting to see how this team would have turned out if MJ had been given a reasonable timeframe to follow through on what he had set up.

But Ernie's done solid too so I'm not complaining.

Posted by: Wei | November 14, 2006 6:42 PM | Report abuse


Hey What!? I like your point about the 2001 draft. Question: Were the Wiz to do it all over again, would they take Gilbert No. 1. Think about it. He's the only all star from that class believe it or not.

Posted by: Ivan | November 14, 2006 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Oops, Pau Gasol was an all star last year. So, who you take No. 1?

Posted by: Ivan | November 14, 2006 6:45 PM | Report abuse

""To say that Michael Jordan really screwed up this team blatantly ignores history.""

To say he laid the foundation and a terrific talent evaluator is extreme. Trading Rip for Stackhouse was downright horrible and it wasn't until Gilbert got here that Hughes blossomed.

As far as Etan and Haywood(I forgot about Etan) it's not like they've been tearing it up for the Wiz. Etan is only now playing well after how many years?

I WILL give him credit for fixing the salary cap, dumping Howard was pretty good.

I can't help thinking instead of Kwame we could have Pau Gasol.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 14, 2006 7:08 PM | Report abuse

""The Kwame draft was one of the weakest in the history of the NBA, and is anyone really crying that Gasol isn't a Wizard?""

Yes, and that's what I get for being on the phone while trying to post. :P

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 14, 2006 7:13 PM | Report abuse

the kwame mistake wasn't drafting kwame, it was declining an early trade offer for kwame. if memory serves, i believe the clippers offered elton brand straight up for the pick/Kwame

Posted by: charles jones | November 15, 2006 8:53 AM | Report abuse

charles jones- exactly! That still boggles my mind, especially if MJ was planning to return as a player, and bringing in Doug Collins. To bring in a h.s. player into that situation was just asking for trouble. Brand for that pick is a no brainer now, and was at the time. At the time I also liked Curry alot, not knowing about his heart problem of course. As Ivan pointed out, in hindsight Gilbert would of been the pick... imagine teaming Gilbert and MJ! What a pair that would of been, talk about a couple competitors, and it would of been a great learning experience for Arenas I'm sure. Plus, add Rip to the mix?? Damn!!

MJ did ok I thought... dumped Howard for Etan, Laettner(who played well for us), and Alexander(who brought us Dixon). He acquired Bobby Simmons, who we should of kept, and Haywood. Although his two high draft picks were Kwame and Jeffries, which doesn't look that great. And Rip for Stack turned out bad.

Posted by: Darnell | November 15, 2006 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Ivan, does the MJ cloud still hang over the Wizards? I mean, do the players ever mention opinions about how the team did MJ, since they now represent the organization that did that? The Wizards pretty much used him, he only came back to play and did so for the league minimum to try to help turn the organization around, because he was trying to rebuild the organization. He was told he would return to Pres, had knee surgery, and tried to teach the young team about winning. He could of signed with another team like the Heat for 10x the money. And he even sold back his shares in Washington Sports for bottom dollar to return, and you know those stocks skyrocketed after he returned to the court! Do the current Wizards think Abe was right? Does it still affect the oranization at all? It just seems to me everyone acts like it never happened. Jamison was a TarHeel, he must have some opinion about it, and Gil replacing MJ as the face of the franchise must too.

Posted by: poptart | November 15, 2006 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Poptart's question is a fantastic one. I would encourage you to look into that one, too, Ivan. I imagine players won't be willing to be forthcoming on the subject (you are in essence asking them about their boss), but maybe if you approach it this way, some will be honest: write a story about NBA players' views of what happened, and interview players throughout the league, not just Wizards, and agree to not reveal anyone's name in your story.

On a related subject, I'm disappointed that no one ever wrote a story that got to the bottom of what happened leading up to Jordan being kicked to the curb. There were two things that happened during that period of time that showed there was more going on than we were told:

1. Before Jordan was asked to leave, Jordan and his people were very upset about the Wizards using his name and picture in advertisements for the next season's season tickets. If Jordan thought he was going to be part of the organization, why would he be upset about that? Even though Jordan said he was shocked by Pollin's decision not to allow him to return, I think he knew it was coming. (And remember that awkward retirement ceremony that Abe through for Jordan? Talk about writing on the wall.)

2. Wes resigned about a week or so before Jordan was let go. The reason stated was that he needed major surgery (knee or hip) and would need to recouperate. I know the first thing I do before I have major surgery is quit my job so I have no health insurance. I knew something was up when that happened, and when Jordan was let go, I assumed that either Wes didn't agree with the decision or he didn't want to be appointed GM after Jordan was let go.

But we never found out what really happened.

Posted by: Henry | November 15, 2006 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Ivan:
In response to your question, it's hard to say what the Wizards should have done with the Kwame draft pick. If you use hindsight, you say it was OBVIOUS that the Wizards should have traded the pick to Houston for the 13th, 18th and 23rd picks and picked Richard Jefferson, Zach Randolph and Gilbert. But using hindsight like that is ridiculous.

At the time, there were only 6 players who were real possibilities for the first pick -- Kwame, Chandler, Gasol, Curry, Richardson and Battier:
- Jordan had Kwame and Chandler go head to head in a workout, and Kwame killed Chandler. Given how competitive Jordan is, there's no way he picks the loser of that fight.
- No international player had ever been picked as high as #3 before Gasol, and he was a surprise at #3. Unless Jordan had international scouts in his ear telling him how great Gasol was going to be, it would have been hard to pick an uncoordinated-looking Spaniard ahead of a 6'11" athletic freak with amazing quickness.
- Abe probably balked at picking Curry because it would double his catering bill. Curry was from Chicago, so Jordan probably knew something about him. Even today most people would rather have Kwame than Curry.
- Jason Richardson was probably intriguing, but Jordan already had Rip.
- Battier would have been a very safe and mediocre pick by a team with a history of very safe and mediocre picks.

As David Dupree has said, given the options, you had to pick Kwame. Jordan's mistake was deciding to use the pick instead of concluding that the above options weren't good enough and trading it. Crumbs Krause offered Elton Brand for the pick, but (1) Jordan knew the team needed a cornerstone player, and Krause obviously had determined Brand wasn't that type of player, which leads to (2) given their history, Jordan did not want Krause to get the better of him. If Brand was on any other team, would Jordan have made that trade?

In the end, it was just bad luck that there weren't better options and the Wizards got the first pick. Recall that Yao was a possibility for that draft, but the Chinese government decided not to make him available, and Jason Williams was a possibility to come out, but didn't. If the Wizards got the 3rd or 4th pick instead, I imagine Jordan would have picked Battier because he liked picking solid players from high profile programs.

Posted by: What | November 15, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I'd be interested in an in depth look at the management structure of the Wizards, including what happened around Jordan's dismissal by Abe Pollin.

Specifically, did Susan O'Malley have any say in the decision and how much power or sway does she hold with Mr. Pollin?

I felt like Abe Pollin courted Jordan in the first place cause he was desperate and the franchise was horrible, Jordan came in and stepped on some toes in the process (which I think is understandable because toes definately needed to be stepped on given the state of the franchise), then Pollin didn't like how Jordan wasn't playing nice and let him go.

Not very professional at all and even if Abe Pollin manages to eventually deliver a championship, I think the unclassy way he handled the whole situation will forever be part of his legacy.

Posted by: Wei | November 15, 2006 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Funny that now MJ works with Bickerstaff who was Abe's homeboy. The whole dang tie-in really with Bob Johnson former Wizard season ticket holder and fan, and my boy Ed Tapscott who was the Bobcats president does the Wizards post game show for Comcast.

Posted by: Darnell | November 15, 2006 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ivan,

Just wanted to say keep up the good work. I really enjoy your "inside" blogs with the stories and everything.

It's definately a fun read.

Gives me something to look foward to when I come online to check out the area sports.

You do a really good job, and it's very much appreciated! :)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 15, 2006 12:23 PM | Report abuse

""Although his two high draft picks were Kwame and Jeffries, which doesn't look that great.""

The thing about Kwame, at least everything that I remember seeing on TV and read, was that a lot of people felt that Kwame was the consencus overall #1 that year.

Physically he's a beast, there's just something wrong with his concentration. It's like he doesn't understand what's going on around him.

I remember going to games and just watching Kwame when he was on the floor. It always seemed like he was always a step behind and just stood around looking a lot.

I think the Jeffries/Dixon draft was more Wes Unseld then Jordan.

One thing that kills me about Rips last year here is they probably would have made the playoffs if he hadn't have gotten hurt. Collins ran every play through that guy, a ton of screens.

If they make it that year, I wonder where they would be now.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 15, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

MJ did a solid job of creating a blank slate after the disaster that was wes unseld; his arrogance was his undoing. unseld was responsible for such trading gems as getting ike austin and unloading ben wallace (as a throw in!); or how about rasheed wallace for an old rod strickland; or how about whatever we gave up for duckworth; or my personal favorite, three first round draft picks and tom gugliotta (who let's not forget was a very good player before he broke down years later) for a worn out mitch richmond via chris webber. the team we have is STILL recovering from the Unseld era - how many teams in the NBA have not ONE single player who has been with the team for more than five seasons? how many NBA teams have no draft picks on the squad who have been there for more than three seasons?

tonight is big. a very good team in the nba wins 50 games. they lose close ones and win close ones. but they have to win the ones on the road that they are supposed to win. a good team beats ny tonight. let's see if we fit the definition.

Posted by: charles jones | November 15, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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