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Wanted: a win

Sorry for not updating the blog the last few days. Last week's road trip wiped me out and I'm still catching up. I think we all can agree that the Wiz seriously need a win tonight over Atlanta and Friday night over Charlotte to erase some of the bad vibes that have been hanging over the team. The only good news is that other than Orlando, which picked up an impressive win at Utah last night, and Detroit, which is on a nice streak, the entire Eastern Conference is hurting right now.

Miami is holding on until Shaq gets back and Chicago has some major issues starting with Ben Wallace and his headband. How long before Wallace and Scott Skiles put an Etan and Brendan and just start throwing down in the middle of a huddle? Two weeks? Today? It's coming.

Now, I know that this is not the time to hear about the moves the Wizards didn't make this summer but think about two of them: first, Ernie Grunfeld never seriously considered putting a package together for Kenyon Martin and his crumbling knee. There was a point this summer when I thought he may take a look at Martin, who played for Eddie Jordan when Jordan was an assistant in New Jersey. On paper, Martin would have given this team what it so badly needed: a nasty big man who can grab rebounds, knock an opponent on his can from time to time and get out and run the floor. And I know for a fact that Eddie Jordan would have driven to Denver to pick Martin up himself. Now's Martin's done for the year if not longer and the Nuggets are on the hook for the rest of his $70 million contract. Not good.

And then you have Wallace. I was getting e-mails left and right this summer from big-man starved Wizards fans wondering why they weren't getting involved in the Big Ben sweepstakes. Because he hated Flip Saunders so much, Ben stiffed Detroit and signed for $60 million with the Bulls. Now, the Bulls can't score, Ben is struggling (he played an entire game recently and finished with no rebounds and no points) and he and Skiles are headed towards armed conflict. Sometimes the best move a GM can make is to do nothing at all.

But that does bring us to a move Ernie did make: the signing of Darius Songaila to a five year, $23 million deal. This team could really use Songaila right now with Ruffin out and Andray Blatche nowhere near ready to contribute on a nightly basis. I spoke with Darius yesterday after practice and he's in far better spirits but it's going to be awhile before he's on the court. My guess would be late January at best and even then his work will be limited, something Darius talked about yesterday.
"I mean come on, we have to be realistic. I know that I'm not going to just get back out there and play 20 minutes a game," Songaila said. "It's going to take some time."

As for tonight's opponent, the Hawks, I have one question: why oh why did they not take Chris Paul in last year's draft? Could you imagine that team with Paul penetrating and dishing out to Joe Johnson? Zaza Pachulia is an above-average big man, Shelden WIlliams looks like he's going to at least be a consistently solid defender and rebounder and the team has shooters in the freaky athletic Josh Smith and Salim Stoudamire. Instead of taking Paul though, they drafted Marvin Williams, who is going to be a pretty good player in this league for a long time. But let's be real, Paul is going to be a superstar and they passed on a chance to team him up with a legit scoring machine like Johnson. With those two, that would be a playoff team this season, I'm convinced.

Some quick thoughts:
-Any of you guys seen Minnesota rookie Randy Foye yet? Wow. I saw last night's game at Dallas and the kid was killin' the Mavericks in the fourth quarter. He has a super quick first step, great body control in the mid-range area and he can get to the rim. In the final minutes of the Mavs' tight win, Mavs coach Avery Johnson started sending double teams at the kid. Too bad the Wolves put all of that money into MIke James this summer and, they're stuck with Troy Hudson and Marko Jaric at the point as well. What is Kevin McHale thinking? Foye needs to play heavy minutes. Now.

-Checked out Phoenix a little bit last night as well and it appears that the Suns are starting to find a groove after a choppy start. Amare Stoudemire looked pretty good against Portland and finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Still, you have to wonder whether he'll ever have that same old explosiveness on that surgically repaired knee. Remember Antonio McDyess before and after his knee problems?

-That was a good win for the Magic at Utah. On the road, tough place to play and against a hot team. The Wizards better get on their horse and start stacking up wins or Orlando is going to open up a huge game in the division.

By Ivan Carter  |  November 28, 2006; 2:47 PM ET
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Next: A win is a win but...


I think casual observers of the game would think that the Wizards should have pursued Kenyon Martin and Ben Wallace this summer. But Grunfeld knows that what the Wizards could use is the 2002 versions of Martin and Wallace, and that his job is to find the next generation of Martins and Wallaces, not the old generation (and their ridiculous contracts). And perhaps he has done that to some extent with Songalia, and perhaps Jordan has tried to do that by elevating Etan to the starting lineup.

Posted by: Red | November 28, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

We need a big game tonight from Etan! I have a feeling he is gonna come out like he did to start the year and be a monster tonight. We really need it!

Hope Lang gets some run tonight also, time to see if he can help us inside. With Ruffin out this is his chance, and I think he can help off the bench with some low post offense.

If Etan comes out strong, it makes it so much easier for our big 3 to get off and do their thing. That's what I'm looking for tonight!

If Etan comes out strong, and is on the bench after 10 min for the rest of the game, and Jamison is at center I am turning my TV off!

Posted by: Darnell | November 28, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to see Lang as well, but do you really expect Jordan to play him? Maybe Lang needs to start shooting 20 footers in practice so Jordan can put him in!

Posted by: C.Bell | November 28, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Its funny you mentioned Foye, IC. GM's across the league was declaring him the ROY before he was drafted and claimed he might be the next D. Wade. He owned the SUmmer league and pre-season too. Don't know why it took so long to get some serious minutes. Especially with that trio you mentioned! But is he enough to keep K.G. from demanding a trade? Doubt it seriously.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2006 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see a quick mention of the impact of the loss of Songaila and the depletion of what should have been a much deeper bench. This is an angle that has not been played out enough to me and it's good to consider the importance of developing a strong second unit.

Posted by: Bullets Fever | November 28, 2006 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Ivan - good points on the no-action being good action by grunfeld with regard to a couple of the big off-season moves. I still think that Ernie was reluctant to extend Eddie and got pushed into it by the players (Gil particularly) and Abe. Hopefully, that wasn't the case, and even if it was, perhaps it will turn out to be a case where Ernie was wrong. I know it doesn't go with coaches, but what is going on with Eddie right now kind of feels like what goes on sometimes with a pro in the nba or nfl - play great building to extension/free agency, and then lose that focus afterwards.

So the real question is where is Ernie taking the team? I'm guessing he is looking a couple of years out at this point, which is a bit frustrating - have a look at this year's draft pick - he had to know it would not take a couple of years to get there which neatly corresponds to the expiration of Antawn's contract, which will create opportunities in the free agent market. I just hope we don't lose Gil in mind if not in body by then.

The next two games are huge - at the beginning of the year they would have been penciled in as wins, and they now are must wins. For all the handwringing, we are only five games under .500 (we were 8 games under not too too much later in the season last year), and we have only lost three games that we should have won (knicks, nets/pistons (half each), and memphis). The early season schedule has been tough: out of thirteen games, we have had the pistons twice, cavs twice, dallas, houston, new jersey and what looks to be a strong contender for most improved team, Orlando). All of those teams, with the exception of perhaps Orlando, have a legit shot to get to the finals. We should have won more than one of those nine games, but not realistic to expect to win more than 3-4. Admittedly, that would put us around .500 which would be a lot more palatable, but. . .

The NBA is all about beating the teams you should beat, and stealing wins against the good teams. For all the pain of the close losses and bad record against good teams, the wizards were very good at beating the teams worse than them last year. . .that has to continue, starting tonight.

Posted by: charles jones | November 28, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

The drafting of Pecherov speeded up the Songaila signing, but the deal would have made more sense last summer. I didn't think anyone else out there was willing to pony up $20 million for the guy coming off a major injury. I hope it works out for us, but he needs to prove he can gel with the rest of the guys and is not just here to get paid.

Posted by: juandixonformvp | November 28, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

IC, have you talked to Brendan lately? I have a very hard time believing he is satisfied coming off the bench and averaging 17.6 minutes a game. He is in his prime, and his career is wasting.

Posted by: poptart | November 28, 2006 4:09 PM | Report abuse

From my view, the Wizards are debilitated by the lack of a defensive presence at the PF spot. As one of the posters mentioned, Antawn has an expiring contract. The Wiz can either (i) keep Antawn and use the money ($14 mil in salary this year) for a big time free agent or (ii) package Antawn with Heywood and/or Hayes and/or draft pick and get a legit player. Would Minnesota have any interest in moving Garnett? Jamison's and Heywood's salaries add up. Throw in Hayes and a draft pick and that might picque some interest. The idea of Arenas, Butler and Garnett is intriguing, at least to me. Of course, I don't know whether McHale can be duped into a dubious trade. But, he's been duped before.

Posted by: MDP | November 28, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

MDP, I don't think getting KG is realistic. But I think we could do something like Haywood for Stromile Swift. Ivan would know better if it's a possibility. But the salaries match as far as making the deal acceptable. Memphis needs a center, and can deal Swift since they are pretty deep at PF (Warrick, Gasol, etc).

We could throw in a conditional draft pick, or perhaps the rights to Navarro (who is Gasol's best friend) if needed.

But just straight up, it is a pretty even trade for both teams. Swift would give us an athletic PF who can score inside and block shots. When Darius returns, he has different game from Swift, and that would be a good rotation for us at PF. And Swift can also move to center when Eddie wants his small ball.

We'd still have Booth, Lang, Ruffin, Swift, and Songaila to backup Etan Thomas at center.

Center is Etan, with Booth, Lang, Swift.
We can play Swift and Songaila at PF/C.
We could then play Jamison at SF/PF.
Caron and Hayes can play SF/SG.
Guards Arenas, Daniels and Stevenson.

We could still start Jamison at PF with Caron at SF. Or we could start Swift with Jamison at SF, and Caron at SG. Or we could start Swift and Caron at forwards, and bring Jamison off the bench at SF/PF as 6th man, along with Hayes at SG/SF, and Daniels for a solid bench.

The entire balance of the team is better. Our bench is strengthened, and we have more versatility.

This would be a very makable, sensible, and logical trade.

Posted by: poptart | November 28, 2006 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Short term, getting Stromile Swift for Haywood is o.k. at best. Long term, it makes no sense. Why trade a center for a PF when you have Jamison, Songalia (who is as much of a center as Ruffin), Blatche and Pecherov at that position? If Etan gets hurt, your centers are Ruffin, Booth and Lang. Hello, smallball! Hello, NBA Finals!

Posted by: Sean | November 28, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

To respond to CJ's point above, I have a different take on the Pecherov pick. Good teams have long term plans, and good teams pick guys and keep them overseas. Look at the Kings and Peja, and the Nets and Krstic, etc. The Wizards historically have been desperate for immediate help, so they draft a guy and expect him to make an immediate impact. I think it's a very good sign that the Wizards drafted a guy without expecting him to play this year. Deferred gratification is often the best (at least that's what my girlfriend tells me).

Posted by: Red | November 28, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

""Sometimes the best move a GM can make is to do nothing at all.""

The Wiz need a man in the middle who can play D and rebound, so for the immediate future it would have been a good fit. The problem is Ben isn't a spring chicken anymore, and Ernie clearly is thinking a couple years down the road.

Songaila was a fine pick up for the Wiz, I don't think anyone blames him for getting hurt. I feel sorry for the guy actually.

It's a big hole in the lineup, but the it's not like the Wiz were relying on him solely to take them to the next level. He is just a piece of the puzzle.

Saying that I think everyone that posts here realizes that even with him healthy the Wiz were going to win the whole thing anyway. I STILL think the Wiz are a year or two away, and that will include the two kids playing overseas on the roster.

However I'm upset with Jordan, his coaching is really bad right now and it shows. They STILL can't play defense and Jordan loves smallball even though it's been documented(yes by us)to lose games. And Arenas, the Wiz's best player, looks completely lost some nights.

This debacle rests squarely on Jordan's shoulders, you can't tell me the Wiz don't have good players.

Ivan, what rumors are you hearing (if any) about any moves the Wiz may be considering? I know that's a lot to ask for, but a bone would be really encouraging right now. :)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 28, 2006 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Getting Stromile Swift would be a tragedy. Why would you trade one underaciever for another? I do like the idea of KG being a Wizard. I like MDP's scenario but it all depends on one man. Randy Foye. If Kevin Mchale believes that he is the real deal (as everybody else in the league believes) then trading KG and dumping that salary would make them huge in the fre agent market. Not to mention that they would plummet out and probably end up with a pretty high pick in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. The only snags I see is that another team would have to jump in and help the deal become a reality. As dumb as Mchale is, i'm sure he's gonna want someone to take either Jaric or Mike James' contract off his hands.

Posted by: C.Bell | November 28, 2006 5:45 PM | Report abuse

all i can say is PHEW. that was a game we should have lost. the "do you have the ball" hijinks between jarvis and gilber was unbelievable.

Posted by: charles jones | November 28, 2006 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Ok, we were lucky to pull that one out! Liked the defense and hustle at the end, but where was it at the start? Etan isn't bringing the fire he started the season with at all, where's the energy, emotion and force he dominated those early games with?? Haywood on the other hand is playing real good, and I like the way he's kept his head in the game! For all the busting Haywood early, this guy has shown a great attitude. He was hilarious on the post game show, and took shot at Eddie about inconsistant rotation and joked about playing better mad and at this rate he'll be mad all season. I always liked Haywood, unlike Etan he extended with us instead of going FA and got probably less money because of it. But nobody remembers that do they?! Nobody thinks about that! Glad he was in the 4th Q too and we kept away from small ball amazingly! Only because Ruff is hurt though! Glad to see Lang get in! He can give us something we need, some scoring down low, and could be good sub-in at end of games at center instead of Ruffin because he can hit his free throws!

Look like Hayes is finding his game! AD was solid as usual too. And Jamison was at the 3pt line the whole time! He was hitting at first, then started missing! He is standing there the entire game, standing with his hand in the air! Am I wrong?! What is his problem?! Dude got a serious trip about his shot or what? He must be dreamin he's Reggie Miller!!

Posted by: Darnell | November 29, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Whatever Caron Butler is drinking (aka "Tough Juice), PLEASE bottle it and pass it around the Wiz. I'm liking this guy more and more each day. He was something special at UConn but he's getting even better in the NBA. I wish the Wiz had at least five more guys like him and AD.

Just a question to others critical of Jordan's "small ball" style: What other option does he have? If he says he's looking for people who produce and give effort, perhaps these are the best people he has in that department.

Songaila's out, Ruffin's out, Lang just got into his first game, Etan and Brendan together put up Will Perdue numbers more nights than not -- I mean, what other options does Jordan have? Maybe he and Ernie are talking trade options, but it seems Jordan is trying to pull a MacGyver and find a combination that works.

Not trying to dump on earlier posters or Jordan, but it seems the guy just doesn't have much to work with until he gets these guys off IR.

Posted by: iceberg | November 29, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

iceberg, let me ask you a question, just what do you think is the benefit of playing Ruffin at center? What is the advantage of that? He is 6-8 and can't hit his free throws, so why you put him in at the end of the game ?! I want to hear you explain that. You think he plays harder than Etan?? You think he plays better D than Haywood? You think he adds offense? What kind of stale cheese you been eatin?!

iceberg good point about Caron! I wanted to say I am so happy we got this guy! How can you not like this guy, he brings it every night and does everything you could ask for! Seriously start passin that juice around! Force it down their throats if you have to!

Keep in mind people this game was against ATLANTA, we were at home and rested. They were on the road, without Childress, and they are inexperienced. We still relied on jumpshots too much, gave up too many 2nd chance pts and too many open shots, got outrebounded, and had too many TOs.

Jamison kills me with all his tough tone talk about needing to step it up and play with intensity and play D and this and that, and he stands at that 3pt line all night waving his hand!! On D I have never seen anyone get faked out so easily.

Posted by: Darnell | November 29, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I missed the postgame show. Can you recount what Haywood said?

Posted by: Sean | November 29, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

In response to Iceberg, Haywood and Thomas collectively are averaging:
39.5 minutes per game
12.8 points per game
11.6 rebounds per game
3+ blocks per game
59% field goal percentage

Those are very good numbers in Jordan's system for the minutes played at that position (notice how I skipped over FT%, though). Ruffin gives you nothing along those lines.

Posted by: Rich | November 29, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Sean he said something like he was just happy to be in the game because you never know when it will happen again. He said something about how he wants to return as starter during season him on bench isn't set in stone. Then joked he plays better mad and this rate he'll be mad all season. He said he just wants to bring energy, rebound, block shots and defend. He just came out and sat with the guys and answered any question they asked him, it was cool. He did also say he thought a problem was team doesn't come out hard to start the 1st and 3rd quarters, the starters aren't bringing it.

Posted by: Darnell | November 29, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

They really tried hard to give the game away last night. Even though Gilbert scored 21, he was extremely "rattled". This isn't the Gilbert we're used to. He needs to take the next couple of games and concentrate on dishing the ball, getting assists. Scoring will come but he needs to get others involved in the game.

As for Brendan "brick hands" Haywood...all I want for Christmas is a new backup center. When's the trading deadline?

Posted by: CJ Baltimore | November 29, 2006 11:50 AM | Report abuse

If the Wiz were playing better I would take that win and run with it.

However this isn't the case and the Wiz could have easily(maybe should have)lost this game.

This was a bad win and it doesn't bode well. Seems like the Wiz are getting worse at home now. :(

Jordan's comments about the "basketball gods" just made me more upset at him. Stop blaming others for your own doing, or lack there of, and step up and do what you get paid to do.

Arenas's crying to the refs every time down the court is starting to get on my nerves. CJ's post above is very accurate, Gilbert looks lost on the floor this season.

The Wiz really need to suck it up and just play ball. Screw win's an losses at this point, if they play well then they will win. Simple.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 29, 2006 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Ray, yeah that crying face he makes to the refs is really annoying! And he will still be talking to the ref about a call he made 3 possessions ago. He's got to keep his head in the game!

Posted by: Darnell | November 29, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Darnell --

I honestly don't know what I would do if I were in EJ's shoes. That's why I asked the question. (No stale cheese, just I miss stretches of the 2nd and 3rd quarters 'cause I'm putting my son to bed.) :)

From watching the Wiz in previous seasons, Ruffin has always seemed to give you D, hustle, and some rebounds, even with the poor FT shooting. He also tends to foul WITHOUT letting the guy get an "and 1" at the line.

Maybe it's EJ's coaching, maybe it's his knowledge of his teams limitations. All I'm saying is that maybe he knows he's in a box and his options at 4 and 5 are limited -- especially at the end of the game. I couldn't begin to decipher some of the choices he's making down the stretch in the post.

Thanks for the props on Caron Butler. Multiply his effort by 5 and I think we'd be looking at 9-5 or 10-4 rather than 5-9 (losses at Houston, vs. Detroit at home, at Cleveland, at Orlando would have been be wins; even odds on the L at Detroit).

Thanks for the stats, Rich. All I can say is how many shots have they taken to yield that 59 percent? And FT percentage could be telling -- I seem to recall a game this season (Houston, perhaps) where FT shooting did them in -- Wiz lost by 4, and didn't Haywood go 2-7 or miss 7?

The only criticism I have of the composite stats is it would be great if we could get those from one guy instead of two. With Songaila, that average coming off the bench is good; without him, it's led to this jumpshooter-driven offense that's good when the shots are dropping but bad when they aren't -- as the Wiz, and we, are finding out.

Posted by: iceberg | November 29, 2006 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Iceberg, you are correct that in previous seasons Ruffin gave the team D, hustle and rebounds. He hasn't this season though -- he's pretty much laid an egg -- and maybe the injury has much to do with it. But even if healthy, Haywood and Thomas are producing better than Ruffin has, even in the past, so why pull BrEtan in favor of Ruffin?
And I agree that it would be great if the team had a guy who played 20 minutes a game and had 12.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3+ blocks per game. But then he wouldn't be playing 20 minutes a game, would he?

Posted by: Rich | November 29, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

IVAN......the sports guy bill simmons (ESPN) mentioned you and michael in his latest column. as in he likes your work. thought that was pretty you know him?

Posted by: TM | November 29, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Gil is getting himself too caught up in looking to draw the fouls. I know he said that he can't wait until January when they go back to calling the game the way he likes but that isn't a really good plan.

The TV guys, Buckhantz and Phil Chenier have talked a lot this season about the points of emphasis according to the officials and one of those points is the offensive player leaning in and creating the contact then expecting the foul call. That never should have been a foul in the first place. It makes about as much sense as Reggie Miller kicking guys while taking a fall away jumper and coming away with free throws. This is a correction that was long overdue.

He would be better served working on ways to take advantage of the calls against defenders on the perimeter then wasting possessions trying to draw fouls that aren't going to come. He has to adjust...or wait til January and hope they change.

Posted by: Prophet | November 29, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"I agree that it would be great if the team had a guy who played 20 minutes a game and had 12.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3+ blocks per game. But then he wouldn't be playing 20 minutes a game, would he?"

True indeed, Rich. True enough.

Posted by: iceberg | November 29, 2006 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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