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.
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