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More Perspective on the Wizards' Fall, Plus NBA Awards

I know some people are probably still crying in their Fruity Pebbles-colored milk over the incredible fall of the Washington Wizards. These are depressing times for fans of the local five, considering that this team once was 10 games above .500 and had a 7 ½ game lead in the Southeast Division, and needs to win tonight in Indiana to avoid finishing as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The last team that I can remember collapsing in similar fashion was the Milwaukee Bucks in 2002. One year after losing to Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks, featuring The Big Three of Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell were 33-23 and in first place of the Central Division on Feb. 27. They remained in first place until March 16 but finished the season 41-41 and missed the playoffs. The most disturbing part about that team was they needed to win their final game against Detroit to get into the playoffs - and lost by 34 points! They found a spot in NBA infamy.

The common links with both teams: They had explosive, high-scoring offenses, non-existent defenses and Ernie Grunfeld was the general manager.

The Wizards can blame their increbile plunge to season-ending injuries to Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas. The Bucks blamed alleged chemisty-killer Anthony Mason (although there were other issues involving selfish play). Which do you think was worse?

But the most troubling aspect of the Bucks' breakdown was that by the start of the 2003-04 season, Grunfeld was general manager of the Wizards, Allen was the starting shooting guard for Seattle, Robinson was the starting small forward in Atlanta and Cassell was the starting point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves. From Big Three to Zero in one season.

What does this mean for the Wizards? Nothing more than it proves the point that the window to be a legitimate competitior in the NBA isn't open very long - and this will probably be the most important summer for the franchise in decades.

Okay. So that I don't continue pushing people closer to the ledge, let's move on other topics around the league.

Since we don't vote for awards or Hall of Fame inductions at the Washington Post - we do not participate in the newsmaking business, we cover the news - I just want you to know that I had nothing to do with the selection of the league's most valuable player award, rookie of the year, coach of the year, sixth man of the year, most improved player, defensive player of the year and the All-NBA teams. But if I had a ballot, this is what I would've punched on the league's major awards. If you disagree with me, feel free to post a comment.

Most Valuable Player
1. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
2. Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
3. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
4. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
5. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

Rookie of the Year
1. Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers
2. Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
3. Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies

Coach of the Year
1. Sam Mitchell, Toronto Raptors
2. Jerry Sloan, Utah Jazz
3. Avery Johnson, Dallas Mavericks

Defensive Player of the Year
1. Marcus Camby, Denver Nuggets
2. Bruce Bowen, San Antonio Spurs
3. Shawn Marion, Phoenix Suns

Sixth Man of the Year
1. Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix Suns
2. Jerry Stackhouse, Dallas Mavericks
3. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

Most Improved Player
1. Kevin Martin, Sacramento Kings
2. Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors
3. Al Jefferson, Boston Celtics

First Team
F Nowitzki
F James
C Duncan
G Bryant
G Nash

Second Team
F Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors
F Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
C Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns
G Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards
G Tracy McGrady, Houston Rockets

Third Team
F Carlos Boozer, Utah Jazz
F Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
C Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
G Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
G Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets

By Michael Lee  |  April 18, 2007; 11:54 AM ET
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That is a good slate Michael. The only things I would change would be flip flopping Nash and Dirk and switching Ellis and Martin.

As for the Wizards, life could be worse. The good news is that if the Wizards win tonight (a huge if) they are guaranteed not to play the Bulls, since if the Bulls win they finish sixth, if the Bulls lose they play the Cavaliers.

Posted by: George Templeton | April 18, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Michael Lee. Very good point. Lets hope EG learned from that stint with the Bucks and does his due diligence this summer. It is time to get some of those Euro players we have rights to over here in camp and on the team.

As I said before, I hope he uses that number 1 pick on a Euro center if Roy H. from Georgetown is not there for the taking.

I also hopes he resolves this "two-headed" center thing with Haywood and Thomas by doing something. I as a fan can not put up with another year of this because I have seen it three plus years now. EJ does not handle that to well, and think it would be good for him to not have to deal with it anymore.

Good subject for a blog. Now we are talking Wizards's Basketball....

Posted by: mikie | April 18, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

There isn't any real similarity at all between the 2002 Bucks and the 2007 Wizards. The Bucks collapsed because they played bad. The Wizards collapsed because they suffered serious late-season- injuries to their two best players (Gil and Caron), after going for a critical month without their third-best player (Jamison). I don't know if a healthy Wizards team could have beaten a healthy Miami for the southeast title, but the way they were playing prior to the injuries, 50 wins and a high seed was definitely within their reach. You seem to be almost gleeful that they suffered such bad luck, and it's getting really irritating.

Posted by: Patrick | April 18, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

From Bill Simmons' column on MVP candidates:

"53. DeSagana Diop & Erick Dampier
The hidden reason for Dallas' monster season: A combined 43.3 minutes per game, 12.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 9.4 points and 12 available fouls every night. Added together, they're more valuable than nearly every center in the league. If Diop re-signs with the Mavs this summer, let's combine them for fantasy purposes and call them DeSageric Diopier."

Haywood and Thomas: A combined 42 minutes per game, 12 rebounds, 2.45 blocks, 12.6 points, and 12 available fouls.

Posted by: Joe: | April 18, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

For the first time since Gil's arrival, i dont think we will win with Arenas. When Gil is not there the ball is passed around, Tawn becomes the star that he has always been (HE CANT BE TRADED FOLKS), and we have the same close games as we did when Gil was playing. If you give Tawn some help in Caron Butler, i would prefer watching those two play with Andray and Songaila developing then watch the team that was 10 games over two months ago.

The team takes on their best players personality. Their best player cares more about pranks than defense. i think over time, the competitor in Arenas will realize that he cant be a goof ball and a ball hog and win a championship. But like M. Lee said, that window can close FAST.

From a strategy standpoint - name the last combo guard to win a 'ship? Maybe Billups, but that dude doesnt seem to be the heist that Gil is. Other combos like AI, Francis, Starbury, etc DONT WIN 'SHIPS.

Either Gil moves to the 2 and we draft a point guard, or they HAVE TO MOVE GIL. Tawn for KG? nope. Gil for KG and a pick? Minny would do that in a heartbeat. Gil for Marion and the ATL pick... plus we are trading small for big...

Posted by: Ledell Eackles | April 18, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse


I asked David Dupree this in his chat and I'll ask you:

How can Kobe be considered a legit MVP candidate (let alone top 3) given how his team faded down the stretch and barely hung on by their fingernails to get to the playoffs? Yeah, he's having one of the best individual seasons of his career, but that just highlights his failure to really uplift his team in the way one would expect from an MVP level player.

Posted by: kalorama | April 18, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

From point guard of view, I don't think Gil should even be considered in 2nd NBA team while Wade is put in 3rd team? Let's talk about this based on Assists Per Game listed in Washington Post Sports E4 yesterday - Gil is in 15th place currently, can you believe? Not only Nash, Kidd, Billups, Hinrich are all ranking ahead of him, you know what? Even Iverson,(7.3) McGrady (6.4) and James (6.0) is putting more assists per game than Gil!

Posted by: ymu | April 18, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Replace Kobe with Tracy McGrady
Replace Bruce Bowen with Chandler

and a few other swaps here and there and I'll agree with your list

Posted by: Jeff | April 18, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Jeebus | April 18, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

EXCELLENT POST Michael Lee. Excellent. Most important paragraph and what I have been harping on all year:

What does this mean for the Wizards? Nothing more than it proves the point that the window to be a legitimate competitior in the NBA isn't open very long - and this will probably be the most important summer for the franchise in decades.

Again, look at the Celtics. Look at Philly. I just don't think we will be able to get any of the bigs this year in the draft. So if I were GMEG, I go after Scottie Pippen version 2.0: Corey Brewer. That is who I have my sights set on.

Posted by: The Governor | April 18, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze me how much fans of a team think other teams will be willing to pay to get a player they want their team to dump.

Even if the TWolves were willing to trade KG for Arenas, there's no way they'd throw in a lottery pick. Why would they? To thank the Wiz for taking Garnett off their hands? Same with Marion and the Suns.

Posted by: kalorama | April 18, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse


I think you have to consider what Kobe had to lift up.
Did he have a backcourt mate like sharpshooting Jason Terry or defensive-minded, three-pointer shooter Raja Bell? No. It was Smush Parker.
Did he have an all-star forward like swiss-army knife Josh Howard or The Matrix, Shawn Marion? No. He had Lamar Odom playing hurt all season and Luke Walton missing a huge chunk of games in the middle of the season.
Did the Lakers have a game-changing sixth man like Leandro Barbosa, Manu Ginobili or Jerry Stackhouse? No. He had Vladimir Radmonovic snowboarding in Utah.
I think Kobe did the best he could do to carry his team. If he doesn't go on that 50-point binge, the Lakers are not in the playoffs. How good should the Lakers have been this season? I picked them to finish ninth in the preseason. They're pretty close - but only because half the team spent significant time sidelined with injury. Kobe was lighting up the league while his teammates were shuffling in and out of the lineup. I won't punish him for that.

Posted by: Michael Lee | April 18, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

The real problem is that Gil and KGs contracts dont match. The Wiz would have to give up their pick, and Brenda or Etan and whomever to get it to work.

Marion wants out...the suns cant force him to stay. Of course we wont be the start here that he wants to be...

Posted by: Ledell Eackles | April 18, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Why all of the trade Gil talk,etc when the wiz lose? Isn't this supposed to be a format for the wiz fans? True they have been stinking up the joint,true the coaching is some what short of spectacular but not too long ago, when they were winning, everyone was up on them. Gil is still a great player for the Wiz and he will change and mature because believe me if he leaves, we are going to regret it big time! As for the Haywood and Etan drama, hopefully it will be concluded this summer one way or another. That situation has to be neutralized permanently. As for Deshawn, I am little worried about him. He has tanked big time in the last few games. Last night was one of them. I hope he settles down and let the game come to him. His forcing his will onto the game has resulted for him in missed free throws, numerous turnovers, stupid fouls and a horrible shooting percentage. In spite of the controversy that the end of the season has brought to the Wiz, I am and will still be a devout Wiz fan win, lose or draw. Looking ahead to next season, I still maintain that they should keep their core and add a big C if possible and somone else, besides Caron, who can play straight up, in your face defense. Also, some kind of instructor that can take them back to the beginning and teach them defense over the summer. As for EJ, give him one more year and see what happens.


Posted by: wizfan | April 18, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse


First of all, thanks for the response. As for the question at hand:

No one's questioning Kobe's greatness as a player, or the fact that he had to do a lot of heavy lifting to get the Lakers as far as they went. And I certainly don't think he should be punished. My point was that, as matter of historical fact, the MVP pretty much always comes from a team that finishes the season at or near the top of the league. Inasmuch as there are no strict criteria, the unwritten rule has always seemed to be: best player having a great year on one of the best teams. Kobe doesn't fit the last part of that criterion.

Every year there are guys who put up great numbers on average/mediocre teams and manage to get them further than they'd have any chance of going otherwise. But they never get serious MVP contention, because those teams don't finish among the best. It's always seemed like that played a major part in who got consideration. But whenever anyone mentions this in relation to Kobe's MVP odds, the response is always "but look what he had to work with." I just wonder if Kobe isn't being held to a different standard because he's Kobe. If it were Tracy McGrady or Carmelo Anthony leading the Lakers to a 7th seed after a 2nd half of season slide, would they be getting as much MVP ink?

Speaking of McGrady, I think he deserves at least as much consideration as Kobe given how he carried the Rockets on his back with Yao out. And his team actually finished above the fold in the standings.

Posted by: kalorama | April 18, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Michael - I won't agree or disagree, but you definately need to explain Arenas 2nd team and Wade 3rd team.

I kind of like it, but you can't let that go by without saying something.

Posted by: Wei | April 18, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse


Why Gilbert 2nd team and Wade 3rd team?
Okay, the Wizards are 1-7 without Arenas.
The Heat caught the Wizards for the division title without Wade. I think Arenas had the more dominant season.
When he was playing at his best, the Wizards had the best record in the East. When Wade was at his best, Miami was barely .500.
I still gave Wade his props, though. Wade was incredible before his shoulder injury, but dude missed 23 games. Gilbert played in 74. I'm not saying Gilbert is better than Wade, but he had a better, more productive season in my opinion.

Posted by: Michael Lee | April 18, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Michael Thank you so much for another EXCELLENT article! Love your making us "think" Great Stuff.

Also, thanks for listing Kobe. Big Kobe fan. They struggle with all those rookies then tons of injuries. Its my understanding Phil gave him the "go" to take over games or they'd be still sittting in the basement.

Big Steve Nash fan but I can understand the No. 2 spot.

Um, I wish there was a way to put Amare Stoudemire 1st team. but its tough. He is the man. What would they do without Amare, Marion and Diaw?

Sorry, I'd still put the one armed man(Wade) 2nd Team. (He's still out there draggin the arm with him) Miami beats the Wizards - handily with or without Arenas. Thats says something. so I'd move Arenas to 3rd team. This is great. Can't wait for the next article.

PS heard your spot on 980 yesterday?

Posted by: Robin | April 18, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse


Why is the Coach of the Year almost always the coach of a team the "experts" picked to be (for lack of a better word) lousy? Does a team performing above expectation necessarily mean the coach of that team deserves to be Coach of the Year, or that the experts just underestimated that teams talent?

Posted by: Andre | April 18, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I second Andre's comment, above, wholeheartedly.

Posted by: Joe | April 18, 2007 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Picking on the Bucks-sooo wrong!

Posted by: Guess Who? | April 18, 2007 7:32 PM | Report abuse Gil now!!!!!!!!

Posted by: fred | April 18, 2007 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Get real, Fred. Gil will not be traded....don't know why anyone would even msntion such nonsense.

Posted by: Lisa | April 18, 2007 11:40 PM | Report abuse

I don't think anyone really wants to trade Gil but they have been seeing this team finally play team ball. They can't do that when he plays. simple as that.
His ego prob won't allow him to play SG so Houston, we have a problem.

Sounds like gilbert & Jordan are incommunicato. Not good.

Posted by: jaa | April 19, 2007 1:09 AM | Report abuse

"Okay, the Wizards are 1-7 without Arenas"

C'mon, Michael, don't give all the credit to Arenas. Les BouleS are also 1-7 without Caron, and even before Arenas got hurt, Les BouleS were on a downward death spiral because Caron was out with a bum knee. 1-4 West Coast against sub.500 teams, blowout to Charlotte, lost to Raptors at home where Gilby went 0-4 in OT. Look at the second half of the season since All Star Weekend. He lost his mojo then.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 19, 2007 7:12 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Gilbert Arenas was not the same player in the second half of the season - I've written that he lost his edge after the all-star break - but try as you might, you cannot diminish the season that he had, or deny that during that stretch between December and January there were not many, if any, players in the league performing at that level. Not only that, the Wizards were in first place in the entire Eastern Conference at the time because he his swag was phenomenal. I stand by my pseudo-ballot for postseason awards.

Posted by: Michael Lee | April 19, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the posters above. Arenas 3rd team. Wade 2nd team.

Posted by: peterss2 | April 19, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Look, Wade played 51 games. He missed almost half the season. Third team is fair. Nuff said.

Posted by: Michael Lee | April 19, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for your reply. How did Yao Ming, who missed almost half of the season, beat out Dwight Howard for 3rd team center?

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 20, 2007 8:07 AM | Report abuse


Yao's team won more games.

Posted by: Michael Lee | April 20, 2007 8:22 AM | Report abuse


I see that, but if you removed both Yao and Howard off their respective teams, I'd say Houston would beat Orlando easily over lets say, a 7 game series. Houston is just a better team than Orlando, but individually, I say Howard had a better season, and was unhurt.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 20, 2007 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Wow!! Thanks Michael!! I'm just excited you responded!

um..I can read you are NOT going to move Wade so.... ok - I'll suck it up and deal with it.

Thanks for responding.

Posted by: peterss2 | April 20, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Wow!! Thanks Michael!! I'm just excited you responded!

um..I can read you are NOT going to move Wade so.... ok - I'll suck it up and deal with it.

Thanks for responding.

Posted by: peterss2 | April 20, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Almost great ballot. Wade missed more than a third of the season. He shouldn't even get 3rd team in my opinion. If anyone misses that much time, it doesn't matter if he averaged 27 6 6, he doesn't get nomination. So stop with the wade should be 2nd team nonsense. Great pick with boozer by the way for the third team. I wish there was room for Dwight in there somewhere. How many games did Yao miss this year?

Also, people need to stop with this trade gilbert crap. This is the first time washington had a true superstar in his prime in my lifetime. We're not trading Gilbert nor should we.

Posted by: Nara | April 20, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Hey what in H E double hockey sticks is wrong with you guys. Gil is the best player we've had in years and you guys already want to get rid of him look at what Rasheed and Ben Wallace did in detroit now webber guys these are all ex-wiz ballers we need to stop dealing and start building. Look we need a Big Man. And I'm really discussed that Andre is not getting any time on the court. Thanks coach.

Posted by: John | April 30, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

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