Are You Encouraged?

Wanted to give you guys an update from shoot-around: Antawn Jamison (sprained ankle), Juan Dixon (sore Achilles'), Javaris Crittenton (back spasms) and Gilbert Arenas all participated this morning. Jamison was fine after injuring himself in the fourth quarter against Cleveland, while Crittenton and Dixon are expected to be available tonight. Arenas will be a game-time decision.

The Wizards' win over the Cleveland Cavaliers was an encouraging sign for the franchise and made General Manager Ernie Grunfeld excited for the possibilities of the team. But what did you think? Did seeing Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood make you more optimistic about about this team's future? Drop me a line ...

By Michael Lee |  April 4, 2009; 11:23 AM ET
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And change their name to the Zephyrs. They seem to have a much better record as the Zephyrs.

Posted by: charley42 | April 4, 2009 11:42 AM

A healthy team would be a delight but would have other, serious, problems. Haywood can not play 48 minutes a game and Songalia/Blatche do not belong as back up centers - not fair to them or good for the team. McGee needs to develop a sense of playing defense other than blocking shots. I am truly troubled by his inability to grasp the rudiments of position defense. The idea that he needs playing to learn this is ludicrous. I wonder if it is more a reliance on talent instead of learning. Our guard play/defense is inadequate no matter who is healthy. Is Caron going to be a guard? I hope not. If not, who pairs with Gil? Let's face it, "Can't feel my face" should not be a starter.(pun intended). Ricky Rubio, if he can get out of Europe, sounds good to me. Naturally if Griffin's ping-pong ball falls our way, then we choose him.
Not run on, but we do not play defense worth a darn, healthy or not. We need to either be the Suns of previous years or get serious about D. I vote serious on D.

GAR

Posted by: h20law2000 | April 4, 2009 11:50 AM

This team won't get serious on D so they're going to have to play like the Suns-East as they've done in the past to have success. It's a shame Nick Young couldn't take the reigns to start at 2 next year.. he's got too much to learn and consistency to develop.

Posted by: visionof75 | April 4, 2009 12:08 PM

If McGee is going to develop properly the wizards are going to have to shell out for a big man coach that can work exculsively with guys like McGee and blatche. But I would be shocked if wizards would be willing to spend the extra money with having to hire a head coach and being in luxury tax territory next season

Posted by: guinness4health | April 4, 2009 12:24 PM

NO!

Its just one game. Unless they win "50" games next year and pass a second round, then I will be optimistic about it. But right now....hell no!

Posted by: forbid | April 4, 2009 12:30 PM

I think we need to see Gil a little more to see if he will be able to come back all the way from his injuries.

However, with Gil on the floor, the offense does flow better so far with teams paying attention to him and him getting assists.

With Haywood back, we now have a defensive presence in the middle that we have not had all year.

Both of the above are making us more competitive. The game tonight will be interesting if Gil is going to play, beacuse Miami is usually a tough team for us to beat (with last year being an exception).

BTW, is Gil a game time decision because of whether Critt will play or not as I read somewhere, or are there other reasons?

Posted by: cannontl | April 4, 2009 12:32 PM

Gilby may be back, but his shooting percentage is still as horrid as it was before he got hurt.

Gilby's pretty much been working out for the past 4 months before returning. His shooting should be as bad as it is now.

The key to Les BouleS turnaround is a healthy BTH. The only issue is that AB's minutes will decline now, although I think he should be starting at the 4.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | April 4, 2009 12:49 PM

Yes, this is vindication for those who preached patience, Grunfeld being first in that line (and yes I did as well)

Arenas looks like he will average at least 20 pts and 10 assists even if he is only 80% of what he once was and BTH is the defensive difference maker we didnt realize until he was gone.

As long as McGuire, Young and Blatche make a step forward in the offseason this team is an eastern conference contender next season.

Find it interesting that every news article mentioned that the Wizards were finally healthy...but were still missing Deshawn, Etan, Dixon and Crittenton.

Posted by: UltimateFootballNetwork | April 4, 2009 1:03 PM

Definitely encouraged, but not ecstatic yet. Still a hole at the 2, still questions about attitude and defense, and still questions of whether we're a true contender or just an above average team.

I suspect the master plan still involves moving the pick, one of the young guys, and the expiring contracts for one more piece, probably a bargain all-star on a financially struggling team (Vince, Amare, or Michael Redd, for example). I'd be very curious to see how good the team would be with one of those guys (especially Redd). Your thoughts?

Posted by: GshawnJohnson | April 4, 2009 1:26 PM

I am very encouraged with what I have seen since Gilbert and Brendan came back. I have been saying all along that I have not lost sight nor hope of what the Wizards can be with everyone healthy. And now on to the coaching situation!

Posted by: alr47 | April 4, 2009 1:31 PM

Ok. We proved that we can be competitive when healthy.
Now let's get ready for next year.
PLAY THE BENCH.
REST THE VETS.
Are EG & ET afraid to hurt the vets feelings by limiting their PT?
We know what they can do let's not wear them in to the ground.
Someone needs to wake up.
At least we need to know WHY???
What are we proving?

Posted by: VBFan | April 4, 2009 2:00 PM

It's too bad that we had to wait for Arenas and Haywood to return to be talking about being encouraged. Had McGee, Blatche and Young been treated like McGuire, I would have been encouraged before Arenas and Haywood returned.

Gilbert looks like he did in the last playoff performance - stiff-legged. What's the story with the knee? Can it be easily damaged again from just playing?

Posted by: Izman | April 4, 2009 2:06 PM

How could you not be "encouraged" after what has taken place so far this season? This team is easily a 4/5 seed in the East when healthy and I think the injuries have not only matured to varying levels those that played more than they otherwise would have this season (Blatche, Young, McGee, Crittenton), but also the injured. As they have maybe returned with a little more hunger and appreciation. Plus, now the young guys like McGee get to watch all the little things that a professional center does during the game for a few games. Something to build on for next year and no more goofing off!!! That was the most focused the team has been all season.

Haywood even makes AJ an almost adequate defender with his communication on defense. He reads the plays so well. McGee has no idea what is going on yet.

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 4, 2009 2:07 PM

Izman,

Are you kidding me? Those guys did not deserve to be treated like McGuire with the possible exception of Blatche who was at times getting the same mins as him. It's called produce and play.

McGee got the least mins of them all, but he is so clueless still that he did not deserve more mins this year. Give him another year or two to learn the game and he could be scary. Not this year though.

McGuire knows how to play a floor game, has improved greatly, must study his scouting reports, plays defense, passes well, improved his ball handling and rebounds effectively. A little more work on his shooting and he is a SOLID professional player that every team needs to do all the "dirty" work. Kudos to McGuire! The rest need to follow his lead!

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 4, 2009 2:14 PM

Izman,

Forgot. GA looks 100x better than he did in the playoffs last year. It was obvious after watching him play 5 mins last year that he was not completely healthy. He looks completely healthy to me know if only a little rusty and not in game shape. Plus, he is admittedly scared of contact at the moment, which means he is missing some confidence in the knee still. That is mental and not physical and why he is testing it this year. In the playoffs, he was limping around. I have not seen him limp yet even when knocked to the ground.

The "what if he injures himself" argument is so bogus to me as well. If he is healthy, play. He is paid to play. It's his job and he could get injured anytime. One could even argue that with all the strength training etc on the knee...it's better to play now than after he might slack off a bit for the summer. This is the moment he's been rehabbing towards!

Posted by: rphilli721 | April 4, 2009 2:23 PM

I vote for that name change too -- Zephyrs seems to work.

Yeah, very optimistic about the team's chances next year. The high draft pick too could add a lot of value to the team either through the draft or in a trade.

Posted by: JPRS | April 4, 2009 2:48 PM

Zeros Zephyrs.
Now if we could get Zydrunas from the Cavs.

Posted by: VBFan | April 4, 2009 3:04 PM

Do not think that AB should be starting...yet. We got one more decent season out of Jamsion (who I WISH would play defense at some point).

I agree with the comments on McGuire. Dude is a game changer. He has definitely become more valuable to this team than any of the other young guys.

If we get the lucky bounce, we should take Griff for sure and slide Jamison to 3 and CB3 to 2 with Gil at 1.

We dont get the lucky bounce, what about the idea of taking UNC's Ty Lawson? Throw Gil at 2, CB3 at 3, AJ at 4 and BH at 5?

When we wanna run, we put in Mcgee at 5 and blatche at the 4 spot with Mcguire available to play the 2 or the 3.

Posted by: m1ke3i6 | April 4, 2009 3:31 PM

Yes, they look much better with Gilbert and Brendan back. They were very competive in the 1st game back, with Gilbert, even though they lost in the last seconds. Same with the first game with Brendan against Charlotte...and with both they were able to win against Cleveland. They just need consistent backups, at least at center I think.

Posted by: washwiz | April 4, 2009 3:44 PM

correction, not Charlotte, Memphis?

Posted by: washwiz | April 4, 2009 3:45 PM

rphilli721:

Look at some scouting reports or statistics, including PER. Then think about the fair market value established by other teams for McGuire versus McGee.

There is no comparison, and McGuire got good support and minutes this year and McGee got squat. (He actually got a lot of negatives - aka knucklehead #3).

McGee could have been better than Haywood next year if he been coached correctly. Now he's not even ready to be a back-up despite off-the-charts potential.

No one has ever become a star in the NBA sitting on the bench and being demeaned.

Posted by: Izman | April 4, 2009 3:46 PM

I'm encouraged by a sequence in the second quarter of the Cleveland game when McGee, Blatche and Songaila were on the floor together. Who cares who's SF, PF or C? Three bigs with different skills, Songalia playing his smart game and Blatche who has the moves to get the basket but can't finish, drawing the second defender and nicely dishing to McGee who definately finishes strong. Easy to imagine the three as a second unit front line that could reduce the starters minutes to something more reasonable than 40 a game.

Posted by: mugsybol | April 4, 2009 3:52 PM


We have some nice core players and some interesting young prospects. That's not so bad. This is still a work in progress but things look good. EG has options. Abe gave him the green light to go over the cap while building this out which is key. That give him a little time and some breathing room.

Gilbert returning a more mature person and a pass first PG is like a dream come true. As he gets his game back he will start nailing the 3 and his pts will go up. He just needs to remember what he is doing right now and know when to give the team what it needs most. Time to be a leader and play the position he is assigned while on the court. When PG, be a PG. If SG, then he can be more of a scorer.

We have a pick on the way which add more options.

We aren't stuck with a head coach that doesn't make the tough line up changes or rotations just because one of the players is a vet.

We have a solid starting center in Haywood. People way under valued how good he is and what he meant to this team.

We made lots of progress this year. Looking at W-L is no way to evaluate this team. We are much farther along then our record shows and we have lots of options moving forward.

Now we just need to add:

A defensive coach - try for TT again

Maybe another center - AB and DSong are not really centers and McGee is to young. If we keep Etan a little longer he can play there but we need to dump his contract one way or another.

Several player need to continue to work on their outside shot or else we need to add someone at SG an or PG.

Players that need to be removed.
DS and James. Dixons contract runs out so he isn't an issue.

Things are looking pretty good but we have some contracts to remove and some work still ahead of us. But we are a good team as is.

Posted by: hands11 | April 4, 2009 4:06 PM

BLAKE GRIFFIN. What don't you people understand about this? The wiz have never had an inside presence over the past 10 years. Ernie needs to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to move up to the #1 spot to draft Griffin.

Posted by: novickpd | April 4, 2009 4:47 PM

I am very optimistic, and agree with others that Grunfeld was right about this team. It just needs to be healthy (with maybe a little tweaking AND the acquisition of coach of the future). If Gil continues to be more a pg than a sg, he will cement his standing as a great. What a difference BTH makes! Dom McGuire is a WOW! McGee and NY are wonderful assets, who with coaching will realize their tremendous potential. CB and AJ are classy all-star vets. Songaila vs. the Cavs is causing me to see him with new eyes. AB is a keeper. I'm glad we've got Crit. Not sure where Etan, DeShawn, and Juan fit in -- I'll leave that to Ernie, whose acumen I completely trust. Hope we get Griffin, but even if we don't, I think we can get a future asset. Above all, barring injuries, next year will be big!

Posted by: 7snider7 | April 4, 2009 5:17 PM

Some say it was dumb to play Gil and give AJ and CB the minutes they got. Including me...after watching that game. I think they (the youngsters) needed that. Nick Young even said he's never been in a situation like that. They need to bring that 4th quarter intensity EVERY NIGHT. The intensity from the 4th quarter of the Pistons game. If you can't good night. Hearing Critt talk about learning how to be a professional from Jamison...these things are important. For what it's worth watching Gil fight through screens in the DET game is something Nick Young could learn from. Give DeShawn a break he had a terrible season...BACK SURGERY PEOPLE. It's not like he just became terrible. If he returns to form (knocking down open 3's and playing solid defense) I will be very encouraged. Being able to have McGuire, Stevenson, Butler with Haywood improves the defense some. McGuire's defense is a huge wildcard. Having him is huge, he's athletic and committed to defense and rebounding. If he gets something resembling a jumper, and if we get Griffin or trade the pick for a bruiser (resulting in less punishment/getting pushed around) for Jamison and McGee. They should be a 50 win team again.

Gilbert staying healthy and coming back is most important. He's shown that burst...just still scared.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | April 4, 2009 6:03 PM

But you need to count heads and contracts. You can't keep everyone. DS has to go. As for him not being that bad, go look up his stats and PER. His best year was PER 12.92

Nick is already past that with way more upside. Plus DS is a total knuckhead. Not the kind of vet you want on a winning team with younger players.

Anyway, if you count heads, this is where we are.

Haywood, AJ, CB, GA
Etan, AB, DSong, McGee, DMAC, NY, Critter
That's 11

DS, James and OP plus the draft
That's 14 players under contract.

Dixon is on an expiring contract.

It's going to take us buying out James, DS staying injured and us sitting OP on the inactive just to have room for a draft pick. And if it is BG, we still are short extra outside shooters at the guard spot.

It wouldn't be bad at all if we got Curry.

As for us never having an inside presence, I think we do and have. What we didn't have was a coach that made the team feed the post or a PG ( other then AD ) that would feed it. That's why we survived not having Gil last year. We played Haywood and AD. Something EJ only did because he had no other option. But with Gil showing signs he can be that PG, now we just need depth. Etan can be that center for one more year but who is our passing PG behind Gil ? Rubio or Curry can do it.

Posted by: hands11 | April 4, 2009 6:42 PM

If 'Grunfeld was right about this team', then what about his prediction that they should have been playing .500 ball despite the injuries? I mean, that's what he said when he fired Jordan...

The victory over the Cavs brings out the various agendas. One guy insists we need Blake Griffin, the next Elvin Hayes. Another claims we're serious contenders next season, as is. Still another wants us to believe that he would have been 'encouraged' if only the coaches had played the youngsters more. One individual even suggested we needed Etan Thomas!!

Etan Thomas!! But hasn't this board spent an entire season calling for him to be traded? And the Griffin vs. Thabeet debate, and the obsessive arguments about the salary cap.

Let's face it: we're fanz, and fanz are nutz.

Hey, we beat Cleveland. Of course, Orlando pounded Cleveland into the ground the very next game, so maybe that club isn't quite as good as people thought.

Season's almost over. Let's set aside our differences and crab-dribble to the draft.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 4, 2009 7:20 PM

I vote for a switch to "Zephyrs" too. Plus those uniforms are better looking.

With Butler, Jamison, and Haywood at full strength, Arenas at 70-80 percent, and McGuire, Young, Blatche and McGee improved, I would put the Zephyrs...er, Wizards at somewhere between fourth and sixth seed next year. I'd like to see them continue to start McGuire and bring Stevenson off the bench, unless they can package him in a trade with Etan.

Posted by: pjkiger1 | April 4, 2009 7:33 PM

I don't care if they go 4-78 next year, as long as those 4 wins are against Cleveland, I will be happy.

Posted by: bryan1976 | April 4, 2009 8:01 PM

Samson

Nice rant but not sure what you represented other views or the situation very well. Your saying the Cleveland win doesn't fairly represent how good we would have been since Orlando 57-19 crushed them in a second game of a road back to back after we beat them.

Cleveland has the best record in the league. Everyone had there shot at them. So we finally got our center back and a PG and we beat them. Then they got beat by a top NBA team the next night. Orlando aren't the Clippers.

Also, pointing out that we needed a center and pointing out that Etan would have helped given who we had healthy isn't exclusive of saying we needed to trade him or dump his salary for longer term considerations regarding the Cap. We badly needed a vet center. Haywood helps prove that. Now Haywood is way better the Etan but Etan is still a beast in the post when healthy and a better center then anything we had left. When healthy is the key. Problem is we don't need a 7M back up center who can't stay healthy. We, unless the owner doesn't mind spending a boat load on lux tax. But since it won't be easy to move him, he is plugged in there until we do. He has one year left on his contract.

Had Etan stayed healthy and we kept AD, we would have won more games. Period. But moving AD was a good move for longer term. Also, the Haywood injury was really a key part of our loosing. Loosing Etan added insult to injury. That left DSong as our next best vet center and DSong is not a center. Actually, Etan isn't even really a center but you can get by with him there as a back up given we have other player who can give you some minutes there.

EG comments were common given he wanted to get ride of EJ which was the right move. With a healthy Etan and AD and even a healthy DS, we would have still been under .500% but we wouldn't be in last place. We would have been in the Charlotte range. EG was just taking advantage of the opportunity to move EJ out so we can be better moving forward. EJ was our Norv Turner. If you know both coaches and their histories, you will know why that is true.

Given what we have and will have, we are right below Orlando next year with upside if we gel well under a different Gil. One that is more mature and plays more like a PG first who can score instead of a SG at PG who passes sometimes. The Celtics are aging. That leaves Orlando and Cleveland. We already showed we match up well with Cleveland.

So yes, we will be back contending next year given Haywood is healthy. Now it's time to work on our depth. So in case anything happens to him, the drop off isn't so harsh. Etan serves that purpose until we get someone better. McGee is still a year or so away.

Posted by: hands11 | April 5, 2009 8:48 AM

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