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Going to Philly

As I write this, I'm on a train from DC to Philly for tonight's preseason game against the 76ers. (Okay, I left a little early so I can find a TV to watch my Vikings lose to the Bears at 1 p.m. Lovie baby, can you make Rex Grossman the starter again? Just for today?).

It wasn't easy to get a read on the value of last night's 90-86 win over Dallas because Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier and Devean George had the night off. The Mavs played at Chicago Friday night and one of their beat writers said Avery Johnson is making a concerted effort to get his big dogs some rest when he can during the preseason. His feeling is that everyone went full tilt right from the start last year following the loss to Miami in the 2006 Finals. Perhaps easing in - and avoiding Golden State in the playoffs - will make a difference this season. For what it's worth, I still see the Mavs as my favorite to win it all.

Anyway, Andray Blatche was the best player on the floor for long stretches last night and wound up with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He could've had at least six more points had he finished a couple of shots and/or a couple of potential and-ones at the rim.

That said, I was really hoping see him defend Nowitzki, who has just killed the Wizards in recent years (as well as a lot of other teams obviously). Andray, now that he's growing into his frame and is in shape, is the one Wizard (may D-McGuire as well but we'll see) who gives the team a good matchup against guys like Dirk, LeBron, Garnett and assorted other freaks of nature who can't be checked by traditional types. He has off-the-charts skill level to go along with length, agility and instinct.

There was one play from the game that illustrated this. A shot was missed by a Dallas player (don't recall who) and Andray swooped in for the rebound. He took a couple of dribbles and quickly encountered a defender. Andray put on a Magic-style spin move, kept his dribble and swooped all the way to the basket where he drew the foul.

That play and others Andray has performed like it during camp and the first two games got me thinking: How many coast-to-coast players are there in the NBA right now? And by that I mean, a player who can block a shot or snag a rebound at one end, advance the ball up the floor and either dish it off to an open teammate or take it to the rack and finish?

A list right off the top of my head: LeBron, D-Wade, Kobe, Shawn Marion, Gerald Wallace (though more as a finisher than a passer), Andre Iguodala, Ak-47 (when he's not crying), Josh Smith, Stephen Jackson and??? I'm sure there are a few I didn't think of but my point is that Andray's skill set doesn't come along very often. Now, it's up to him to put it to use and give this team an x-factor this season.

With his team facing a back-to-back tonight and a third game in four nights in Chicago on Tuesday, Eddie Jordan said he may actually play his starters longer tonight. He wants to see how they respond to a back-to-back, particularly on the defensive end where the energy has been good through two games.

One stat that stands out is forced turnovers (keep in mind, it is the preseason when things tend to get sloppy). Still, Cleveland coughed it over 27 times and Dallas turned it over 21 times. The Wizards have been active with their hands, have been digging back into the post on entry passes and dribble penetration and the weakside defense has been solid (particularly when Andray has been in there with Brendan. That's a lot of length).

Not sure about Gilbert's status for tonight. He may sit it out and go Tuesday at Chicago to give that knee a break. In two games, Gil has not found a groove with his outside shot - he's 3 of 19 overall and 2 of 9 from long range - but I don't see him forcing bad shots and last night, the burst was there against a pretty quick Devin Harris. On two occassions, Gilbert squared Harris up at the top of the key and blew by him, though I noticed that he pushed off his right and not his left leg on both plays. In general, I don't see him favoring the leg and defensively, he's been pretty aggressive in going after loose balls and trying to pry away steals. Some may disagree, but I'm not worried about him.

I'll check in later from Philly.

By Ivan Carter  |  October 14, 2007; 10:24 AM ET
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I'd probably add Ron Artest to that list.

Posted by: DC Man88 | October 14, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

What about our own Caron Butler? Jason Kidd as well.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 14, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Add Paul Pierce, McGrady, and Kevin Durant to that list too

Posted by: MD Baller1 | October 14, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

None of those guys are 6'11-7'0 like Blanche. I am thinking only Garnett at that size has that type of skill. Dirk could do it but is not much of a passer or shot blocker for that matter. Nice observation Ivan.

Posted by: PTP23 | October 14, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Jared Jefferies use to do the coast-to-coast thing for the Wizards every now and then.

Ok, so there's obviously a difference between a Jared Jefferies and a Kevin Garnett.

The question is, which one will Andray Blatche utlimately resemble more?

Posted by: Washington Ball | October 14, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Play the starters longer? I don't get that. I hope that is not a sign of things to come for EJ's early season rotation. He needs to find a balance so the big guns stay fresh when it counts the most.
Btw, can it be any clearer that Gibbs has completely lost it? Time to boot him upstairs, get him off the field.

Posted by: oddjob | October 14, 2007 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Why not
Arenas PG Young, Daniels
Butler SG Stevenson Mason
Jamison SF McGuire Hall Butler OPEC
Blatche PF Songaila Hall OPEC
Haywood C Massenburg Songaila Blatche

Posted by: Emmet | October 14, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I know this is not standard thinking. Has putting Butler in at shooting guard in an extra tall Arenas, Butler, Jamison, Blatche, Haywood lineup been discussed at all? I feel that given our extreme weakness at the shooting guard position in terms of natural shooting guards that it should be considered.

Posted by: Emmet | October 14, 2007 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Jeffries could pull down the rebound or make the steal, make the move on a guy and go end to end. But, just when you were on your feet cheering and thinking, Wow! He'd blow a weak layup.

Never saw a guy with so much obvious talent blow so many easy layups. And if he tried dunking he'd miss time it, and throw it off the back off the rim.

Blatche is no Garnett yet, just hope he developes to be more like KG then Jeffries. Blatche could end up being the X factor for this season. A guy like him having a breakout year can really change a team's outlook.

With Etan out, Blatche's role this year could really be huge, he may leapfrog Songalia as the number one big off the bench and suddenly gives us two multi-dimensional bigs off the bench.

Glad to here Etan's surgery went well, would be interested to know if there have been advances in blood thinners in recent years. I was under the impression and several posted here that if he had a mechanical valve implanted that it would be career ending because of the need to take blood thinners.

Then the other day his doctor was saying he could be back this year. Big difference there, if he makes it back I'd really wonder about his strength and stamina.

Known several people that have gone through open heart surgery,can't imagine what taking an elbow to the chest would feel like after having your sternum cut in half and your ribcage jacked open.

One final point about Etan's Surgery, they lower your body tempature and stop your heart. The reason they cool your body down is to lower the chances of damage to other organs and your heart while they are working on it.

Etan has one of the finest Doctors in the world, just wondering how much this fellow knows about the strength and conditioning reguired to play in the NBA post. Can't imagine that Etan will be ready Sumo wrestle with Shaq, or trade elbows with Zo in a matter of months.

Hoping for the best for Etan, but I'd really be surprised to see him again this year. Blood thinners can take months and months to get adjusted to a person's body chemistry and they really tend to sap a strength.

With Blatche possibly the X factor this season, Pecherov and MacGuire could be the secret ingredients to a playoff run. If they can get their feet wet and be ready to contribute down the stretch we could be looking at a deep versitile team up front.

By playoff time we'll need the rookies to be contributing for us to make a run. Like what I'm hearing about our D. The only worry I see right now is depth at the two.

Jordan might have to get creative with some combos to cover that up if Mason doesn't handle the role. But there's worse problems that a team could have.

What I'm not worried about is our big three, they'll all be there when the bell rings. This could be a fun year.

Posted by: GM | October 14, 2007 6:00 PM | Report abuse

NY isn't a point guard, Emmet, so that wouldn't work.

Posted by: newposter | October 14, 2007 6:12 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting what EJ said about the second team. I wouldn't be surprised if he yanked the first team and put the second team if they ever come out sluggish.

Posted by: DC Man88 | October 14, 2007 6:37 PM | Report abuse

As far as a starting lineup goes, Emmet, try McGuire instead of Jamison at SF to make it:

Arenas PG
Butler SG
McGuire SF
Blatche PF
Haywood C

This lineup could play defense and still score.

Posted by: Tim | October 14, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Tim - I think that's the line up of the future, with AJ (if he resigns) coming off the bench for instant offense.

This year, I think you'll see the same first team we had last year (Arenas, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison and Haywood).

The big difference this year is the bench. I like what I've seen of the defense the second unit plays. Daniels, Mason, Songaila, Blatche and McGuire (and Pecherov) seem to have really brought it defensively.

Posted by: Rook | October 14, 2007 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Mason is looking pretty good tonight at PG. He also looks like he did work on his shot this summer.

As far as Etan is concerned, I did not think he got the mechanical valve transplant and thus would not need the blood thinners. This would allow him to play baskeball again.

Posted by: Tim | October 14, 2007 7:04 PM | Report abuse

You are no doubt correct, Rook. I knew I was getting ahead of myself. McGuire, even though he looks good, will still need some time to get his NBA sea legs, anyway.

The second unit should be strong. EJ could have a lot of flexibility this year with the different lineups he could put out there for different matchups and situations. I hope he is up to it coaching wise.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 14, 2007 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to post my name to post above.

Posted by: Tim | October 14, 2007 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Rook and Tim-
If McGuire ended up proving himself ready to start, would Jamison go for it? I know he's been a sixth man before but here he's part of the Big 3.

Posted by: newposter | October 14, 2007 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Antawn is not going to be replaced anytime soon.

Posted by: newposter | October 14, 2007 7:55 PM | Report abuse

The Wiz 2nd team might be better than the first team as a unit.

Posted by: PTP23 | October 14, 2007 7:58 PM | Report abuse

A better question would be would EJ go for it? Jamison would no doubt accept what Coach wanted.

Forgetting about starting McQuire for a moment, a better thought might be replacing Jamison at PF with Blatche in the starting lineup. Then bring Jamison off the bench with a second unit that would include McGuire at SF.

I doubt if EJ will do this either (at least not in the beginning of the year), but it is interesting to speculate on.

Posted by: Tim | October 14, 2007 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Tim, I could have misheard but I thought in the news confernce they were talking about an artifical valve.

Posted by: GM | October 14, 2007 8:08 PM | Report abuse

GM, my understanding was that Etan got a tissue valve replacement as opposed to a mechanical valve replacement.

The tissue valve replacement will allow Etan to attempt to play again. From what I remember reading, this type of valve would probably have to be replaced again in 10-15 years.

Posted by: Tim | October 14, 2007 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Apparently, both tissue valves and mechanical valves are considered artificial valve replacements.

Posted by: Tim | October 14, 2007 9:13 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | October 15, 2007 2:25 AM | Report abuse

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