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Celtics 115, Wizards 107; Arenas Speaks

It's over. This season of bad luck, bad breaks, bad shots, bad passes, bad box outs, bad picks, bad rolls, bad news and bad defense mercifully came to an end, with the Wizards doing no damage on their lottery position.

They will finish the season tied with the 2000-01 Wizards for the worst record in franchise history (19-63). They will also finish tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the second-worst record in the league after the Clippers didn't even bother showing up for their season finale against Oklahoma City. As I'm writing this, the Clips are down 31, at home, in the fourth quarter to a team with 22 wins!?!

The Wizards were not playing for ping-pong balls last night. Even though they had just eight players -- none of whom were Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood or Gilbert Arenas -- they really wanted to get win No. 20. At least Caron Butler did. The lone opening day starter to see the floor on Wednesday night, scored a season-high 39 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter.

"I can't thank him enough, in terms of coming out in the last game, nothing to prove for him and he gave me a warrior's effort," Interim Coach Ed Tapscott said. "Him and Antawn [Jamison], in particular, have been like that all year long. It was my privilege to coach them."

Said Butler, "I was trying to finish the season strong. The goal was always to get 20 wins. Unfortunately, we fell a little short," Butler said. "It's hard as a player to find the bright spot in all this losing and to continue to come out and keep preparing. I respect all the guys in the locker room for rallying together and finding a way to compete and not go on vacation too early. Now it's officially over, so they can enjoy themselves. But I can't wait to get back at it."

Although Boston rested Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, the Wizards just couldn't withstand the loss of point guard Javaris Crittenton, who was forced to leave in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle. That left Juan Dixon as the only ball handler on the floor. You sort of felt bad for the guy, playing out of position, as he had his second consecutive forgettable fourth quarter with three turnovers.

Tapscott was asked if he was relieved that the season is finished. Tapscott stayed classy on his way out. "You mean like our long national nightmare is finally over? No. I enjoyed coaching these guys," he said. "I have not coached in quite a while. This was a thrill. To have two captains like I had and to see some of the progress with some of the young guys, that was a thrill for me. I'm very much appreciative to those guys for hanging in there and continue to competing until the very end. I would coach tomorrow if I could."

But enough with that relatively meaningless game. The big news after the game was that Gilbert Arenas finally explained why he didn't play another game after helping the Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 109-101 on April 2. Since then, Arenas has been mapping out his workout program for next season, which he says he will begin next week. He said his knee is fine, but the trainers didn't want him to risk getting hurt with the team having nothing more to play for.

"We decided, mostly the trainers were happy with the performance I put on," Arenas said. "Movement-wise, they thought I was moving well. They liked the explosion I was showing. And they said there is no point in playing. If we win, we don't win, there is no point of it. We've seen what we like, let's get ready for next season."

"It wasn't up to me," Arenas continued. "I wasn't worried about what I was physically doing out on the basketball court. I haven't played in so long, I wasn't expecting to hit shots and get to the basket and dunk on people. I was just trying to run, react, run around the floor and get a feel."

He then added that Tapscott told him that he can play if he wanted to, but explained that the Wizards didn't really need him to finish the season. "If we were in the playoff race, this wouldn't have happened," Arenas said.

With the expected hiring of Flip Saunders, Jamison also had a great quote while explaining that things will be different for the younger players next season. "I think the coaching staff is really going to have to get them. They've been in a nice bed and breakfast the last couple of seasons," Jamison said.

And so it ends.

By Michael Lee  |  April 16, 2009; 12:44 AM ET
 
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Next: Final Night at the Improv

Comments

Nice final comment on Jamison -- sounds like Randy Whitman is Saunders whipman -- the young guys will get used to him in a hurry.

Also like hearing from Arenas -- and as expected, he did not play because there was no reason to risk it and if he lead us to wins, we actually lose.

Thank goodness Juan Dixon and Tapscott are done with the Wizards -- good night and good riddance.

Posted by: Chad32 | April 16, 2009 1:17 AM | Report abuse

"Wizards just couldn't withstand the loss of point guard Javaris Crittenton, who was forced to leave in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle. That left Juan Dixon as the only ball handler on the floor."

How often has JC been in the game in the fourth quarter? I can't remember the last time . . . Lee assumes Tapscott would want JC in there, but there's no reason to think that.

OK season over anyway . . .

Posted by: bj2000 | April 16, 2009 1:44 AM | Report abuse

However horrible a year they may have had, I'm always proud to root for guys like Butler and Jamison. And like Caron, I'm ready for next season. I think it's going to be a good one.

Anyway, thanks for the hard work, Michael. You've taken this blog up a level or two, and it's appreciated.

Posted by: IrenePollin | April 16, 2009 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Tapscott speaking in past tense about coaching Caron and Antawn ... not THAT interesting since the cat's already out of the bag, but mildly interesting.

Tapscott truly took one for the team this year.

Posted by: KeithMcMillan | April 16, 2009 2:31 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if I would say Tapscott took one for the team. He got to coach at the NBA level despite having never done it and having never been a successful coach at any level. They could have called me, I would have coached these guys. Tapscott should be thankful if he retains a job in the Wizards organization. Since he is responsible for player development, I would like to see how EG and Abe view Tapscott as a success in that role.

Posted by: Chad32 | April 16, 2009 2:51 AM | Report abuse

I hate to make predictions, especially cynical ones, but my prediction is that Arenas' knee will not handle the rigors of the NBA season. We will go through 2 more years of this baloney and then he will retire. He was noticeably limping in the 4th quarter of the Cavaliers game. It is apparent what is going on, but no one wants to admit it: $111 million down the drain.

I hope to be proven wrong and every optimist on this board can gloat while I hold my head in shame. I will gladly hold my head in shame if the man can prove me wrong and come back and be an effective starter in this league! Baron Davis limps around all the time. Let's see if Gilbert can do it!

Posted by: MeviousMan | April 16, 2009 4:03 AM | Report abuse

""I think the coaching staff is really going to have to get them. They've been in a nice bed and breakfast the last couple of seasons," Jamison said."

I like how Jamison, who has thrown the young players under the bus all season, finishes off the season by throwing the coaching staffs of the past two seasons under the bus. That's leadership.

Why is this guy the team captain if he can't push and prod the young guys? Oh that right, he "leads by example" (translation, he doesn't have the stones to speak up or the leadership abilities to lead).

Posted by: disgruntledfan | April 16, 2009 5:55 AM | Report abuse

One has to wonder about all of this trash talk about one's own teammates. Even if Arenas returns and they start winning, there will be a lot of resentment bubbling below the surface.

Personally, I see a heck of a lot more of McGee in the future than Jamison. Unfortunately, McGee wasn't given the necessary training or minutes to warrant a heavy role next year. But as Boston's announcers said last night, McGee has the most talent on the Wiz at center. Hopefully, Flip can figure out how to develop it.

Posted by: Izman | April 16, 2009 7:09 AM | Report abuse

Here's a nice Bill Simmons quote:

(Here's how dumb coaches are: Just this season, we witnessed coaches playing Kevin Durant at shooting guard, slowing down Steve Nash, playing slow-it-up with the Sixers, bringing Rip Hamilton off the bench, burying Anthony Randolph on a lottery team, playing Darius Songaila over JaVale McGee on a lottery team , ignoring the stat that's about to impress you when we get to the Nowitzki paragraph, and doing everything that Mike Dunleavy did. There's a reason 85 percent of these guys get canned within three years.)

Posted by: original_mark | April 16, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

I thought Tapscott was a class act under tough circumstances.

Posted by: BPupp | April 16, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

"How often has JC been in the game in the fourth quarter? I can't remember the last time . . . Lee assumes Tapscott would want JC in there, but there's no reason to think that."

I think JC impressed a lot of people in the front office and on the bench. If he'd been healthy, he'd have started all the games except the two Arenas played.

Doesn't mean they wouldn't draft Ricky Rubio, but does make it less likely they'd take somebody like Brandon Jennings.

Crittenton's big strength is in the open court, and he goes to the basket well, sort of a bigger, stronger Rajon Rondo. Now if you could learn to play defense -- but players can learn to play defense, can't they? Sometimes I forget...

Javaris and McGuire are two rooks with potential as contributors next year. Blatche and Young, the jury's still out, and who knows if we'll see Pecherov? The jury remains out on McGee, but nobody in his right mind would give up on that kid at this point.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 16, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

In 27 years as a Wiz/Bullets fan I have never been more glad to see a season end.
On to the lottery/draft and next season.

Posted by: jeremybozz | April 16, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

billsimmons: "(Here's how dumb coaches are: Just this season, we witnessed coaches playing Kevin Durant at shooting guard, slowing down Steve Nash, playing slow-it-up with the Sixers, bringing Rip Hamilton off the bench, burying Anthony Randolph on a lottery team, playing Darius Songaila over JaVale McGee on a lottery team , ignoring the stat that's about to impress you when we get to the Nowitzki paragraph, and doing everything that Mike Dunleavy did. There's a reason 85 percent of these guys get canned within three years.)"

Yes, and it's usually because they took risks that didn't pan out, in an effort to a) get their team out of that revolving lottery door, or 2) tried to get their team up and over the hump to a championship.

Call up the spirit of Bill Belichick for a moment, who said: when I was with the Giants, we went to the Super Bowl and people said I was a genius. THen I went to Cleveland and we lost and they called me a moron. THen I went to New Englsnd and became a genius again. The funny thing is, I'm doing pretty much the same thing I did all along.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 16, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

So maybe Bill Simmons is a genius, or maybe he's a moron. How can you tell? He'll probably get downsized next year, like 85% of those guys.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 16, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Thank you GA for that comment which spells relief to my troubled mind. So let's concentrate on the draft. And a match-up zone sounds great for this team of individualists. Only problem is, its very difficult to play. And the spotlight really shines on the ones who don't move their feet or other parts of their anatomy quickly. If FLIP's in and the match-up is played the "bed and breakfast" JAMISON alluded to is closed. Hot damm!!!! GO WIZ in 2009-10.

Posted by: glawrence007 | April 16, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

The last time we had this record, we ended up with the #1 pick that year (ok, so it was Kwame Brown but it was still #1). So lets hope the result is the same this time around (obviously with much better results).

Posted by: CBell29 | April 16, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Original_Mark,

That Bill Simmons thing is quite telling. Its how coaches believe so much in their own wisdom rather than letting the players on the floor win the battle.

I could never understand why they would not believe that Iverson and Hamilton together could not be good controlling the guard play for the Pistons.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 16, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Samson, you obviously like to beat around the bush. Would you have played Songaila over McGee at center this year? If so, why? How does this decision affect the Wiz's chances in the future?

Posted by: Izman | April 16, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Izman | April 16, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm with YOU, Izman. We were doomed because of injuries but we were better than 20 wins if we'd had a decent coach. Hell, we could have won 15 with JM and Critt starting every game (since he got here) and getting more experience. What's the only difference additional 5 wins made?

Less ping pong balls, as far as I can tell.

If someone wants to spin things a la Tapscott and say that the younguns learned from the vets how to approach a game and season with professionalism while in the midst of trying times, blahblahblah... fine.
Clearly this was not the case since AJ, Ivan and even Mike Lee have reported that the locker room is still like romper room.

So in the final analysis, what was gained by playing Songaila so many minutes, by not playing JM a lot, by not playing Pech AT ALL? We might have been able to trade Pech for a 2nd rounder or something had we tried to showcase him. I still think he has some ability and he continues to put up ok numbers despite playing sporadically. Any other player in his position would be shooting a low percentage, too. It's hard coming in for few minutes a game every 5th game. Sure, JM is really weak and gets pushed under the hoop by virtually every C in the league. Still, do we want him getting the jitters out now or when we really need him next year?

I don't think Tap took a bullet for this team at all. I think he was one of the ones firing the gun.

Posted by: original_mark | April 16, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Did anybody else watch Kornheiser's comments about the Wizards yesterday (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2009/04/14/VI2009041403171.html?sid=ST2009041500003)?

I'm a bit confused by him saying that Flip Saunders never made it to the conference finals despite having good players on the Pistons and (at least Kevin Garnett) the Timberwolves... as I understand it, Saunders's teams actually made it to the conference finals four times? I mean, I know Kornheiser's kind of more involved with the NFL nowadays, but did he really get this that wrong and nobody told him? Or did he mean "NBA finals" and misspoke "conference finals" or something?

Posted by: duffin_j | April 16, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

If we win, we don't win, there is no point of it.

The point, Gil, is that there are thousands of folks who paid this time last year to see YOU play. If there was no increased risk of injury, you should have played.

I'm no statistician but if his knee really is healthy, the probability of him getting hurt now is the same as it is on opening day. I'd rather see him build his confidence in that knee back now than spend the first month of next season watching him play tentatively.

Posted by: original_mark | April 16, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Now is the time to look forward to next year. Let's not forget that basketball is a team sport. That means passing the ball. If Gilbert is hobbled next year, bad things will happen again. We need insurance at the point guard. Ricky Rubio may be a good luck charm for the Wiz if Blake Griffin is not available. He would make all the Wiz better including Gilbert. Hope for Blake but be delighted if it's Ricky Rubio.

Posted by: JoeC2 | April 16, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I like Critt better than Rubio.

Posted by: original_mark | April 16, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Wizards have lot more to worry about with Arenas' knee than he mentioned. His lateral movement was non-existent and he was constantly exposed on defense even with Haywood in the lineup. If the Wiz don't end with the No. 1 to pick Blake Griffin, they have to be thinking that a PG is an important insurance policy.

I've come to accept that Arenas may be more of a facilitator and spot up 3-point shooter than a dominant scorer. Can the Wiz win with him playing this role? If he's healthy along with the rest of the starters and we find a true SG, maybe.

Posted by: wizfan89 | April 16, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Mark, I couldn't agree with you more about McGee. The guy is has franchise center potential -- Yao Ming size (wingspan-wise) with David Robinson athleticism.

Of course, that doesn't mean he'll reach the level of either. But on potential, he's about the most exciting Wiz player I think I've ever seen. And this year was the perfect opportunity to get him real playing time. Ed the moron blew it, the way he screwed up most things this year.

Posted by: keithward64 | April 16, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

original_ mark:

Me tooo!!!

Posted by: glawrence007 | April 16, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

originalmark: "I like Critt better than Rubio."

Why?

Posted by: Samson151 | April 16, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 16, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"Would you have played Songaila over McGee at center this year? If so, why? How does this decision affect the Wiz's chances in the future?Posted by: Izman"

Dunno. I was at home watching on TV, mostly TIVO'ed. Probably a better view than being up in the stands somewhere, but that's about it. Who knows what decision I would have made if I'd been with the team, interacting with them daily, watching practices. Heck, I'm not even a basketball coach. I played football.

So I'm not disagreeing with your opinion -- you know, the one you've stated without variation after pretty much every game all season. Maybe you're right, I don't know. Maybe we could have won a few more games. Heck, maybe even Chad32 is right, and he could have coached the Wiz (although somehow I doubt it).

I'm just suggesting a little humility in judging other people. I mean, look at us: what do we know?

Maybe you can garner some support for your position among the other bloggers, but the same question applies to them, right? There were a lot of people in Lafayette Park yesterday who have strong opinions, too -- strong, if not correct.

Wait a minute -- you're not Ernie Grunfeld, are you?


Posted by: Samson151 | April 16, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Let's get real about McGee and Hollinger's PER stats.

McGee's 18 PER is the same as Haywoods 18 PER from last season. And this year, Haywood had a PER of 14 in the past few games (closer to his PER from seasons prior to last).

Are you really suggesting that because his PER is the same or better, that McGee is the same or better than Haywood?

McGee's risky play will lead to better stats - especially PER stats which give weight to blocks but not whether the opponent still scores following a block. PER does not consider opponent layups due to a missing ball-watching center. It rewards points which McGee gets, but PER does not penalize much for the consequences of a missed layup (usually a very high chance of an opponent score). PER is a great measure of activity not necessarily results.

PER is just one of many snapshots to evaluate a player. Another snapshot is looking at his play and deciding if the guy looks lke he knows what he's doing.

McGee deserved to get his minutes jerked around. His instinct is to play a risky game rather than a high-percentage game. He favors wild post moves over solid, traditional post moves. He plays helicopter defense rather than solid positional defense. Songalia is the opposite. Very rarely does Dsong take anything but a hig percentage shot, and for obvious reasons he can't overextend himself on block attempts.

McGee is a rare talent and as PER points out, he is uniquely active and impactful. He also runs the court like no center I can remember. But he's got a long way to go before he channels his play into high-percentage impact. His play last night was more "wild swingin' swatten, runnin' McGee." and I can see why Tap opted to be careful with those minutes all season - even with the chances he's received, McGee still doesn't play with enough discipline.

Posted by: cballer | April 16, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

omark: "I'm no statistician but if his knee really is healthy, the probability of him getting hurt now is the same as it is on opening day."

The probability, maybe, but not the psychology.

Suppose you're Gilbert Arenas. You've been off for two seasons. You played two games so far this year, and things are looking pretty good as long as the damn knee doesn't swell again. God forbid you mess it up now -- you don't even want to think about that.

But you play anyway, in what for your team is a completely meaningless game, because you think to yourself, 'I'd rather build my confidence in that knee back now than spend the first month of next season watching myself play tentatively.'

Somehow I'm not seeing that...

Posted by: Samson151 | April 16, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

"Posted by: cballer"

Thanks for the explanation. Very clear.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 16, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

"PER is just one of many snapshots to evaluate a player. Another snapshot is looking at his play and deciding if the guy looks lke he knows what he's doing."

Just thought it was worth repeating.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 16, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

... we going to put this on Juan Dixon again. Yall must be crazed. The Raptor game, the Wiz when ice cold the last 3 minutes of the game (not buckets scored). THAT WAS JUST ONE PLAY. We should have been playing to win (score points; Haywood would be cutting to the basket, or coming back to the ball when Juan got trapped...).

As for last night, Dixon is a 2 guard in a point guard body. We should not look for him to turn into Magic Johnson just because we short handed.

Hopefully next season we bring him back to do what we planned for him to do this season (score off the bench, provide some leadership to the younger guys, be that vet... 5th guard cause GOD knows we are injury prone and going to need one). You say goodbye Tap and Juan; I say, you tried Tap but it aint workout; Juan work on that ball handling in the summer and see you next year; and GOODBYE Mike James and Etan Thomas (expiring contracts)... hello vet. big man (Chandler in a 3 way trade anyone...)

Posted by: fishin41 | April 16, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

The Wizards have been about NEXT season for the past 4 years.

So, when is the train finally going to come into the station?

I seriously doubt the present lineup even with a healthy Arenas and Haywood presents the kind of basic fundamentals of rebounding and defense that are key to winning championships in the NBA.

And there is no cap room to acquire any veterans to fill those holes.

That draft choice from the lottery better be a guy that can rebound and play a physical game.

The last thing this team needs is another ball hog that wants his 20 shots a game.

Posted by: leopard09 | April 16, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I learned this season not to believe anything that is said in public by anyone associated with this franchise especially Arenas. The truth is they are up against the salary cap and loaded with fringe players who have acid contracts which means you can't even give them away. One question, when is it all going to stop?

Posted by: dandyhuffman | April 16, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

"McGee's 18 PER is the same as Haywoods 18 PER from last season."

No, they are not.

First of all, I don't know what you mean by 18 PER. Do you mean PER value of 18, or ranked 18th among centers based on PER value?

McGee this year has PER value of 17, and ranked 18th. Haywood last season had a PER value of 19 and ranked 8th among centers.

MeGee's ranked 18th (with PER of 17), Haywood ranked 8th (with PER of 18), how can that be the same?

Posted by: sagaliba | April 16, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I believe JaVale McGee will train to improve himself. His Mom will see to it.

Hopefully Ed Tapscott will be back as assistant coach or stay in the front office somewhere to help Flip Saunders and our current players to make a smooth transition. It's going to be an adjustment for the players to learn a new system, so I think the Wizards may have a .500 record next season. It's still a major improvement compared to this season.

BTW- I love JaVale McGee. He's the best!

Posted by: RedCherokee | April 16, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

sagaliba

I double checked my stats and you are right, my error - McGee has a PER of 17 (not 18) vs. Haywood's PER of 14.97 now and PER of 18 last season. Thank's for catching that.

Based on the corrected statement, would you agree that it's still silly to use McGee's PER of 17 as the sole reason to conclude that he's as competent as any other center with a PER between 16 and 18?

Posted by: cballer | April 16, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

cballer,

I agree with you. As I pointed out in other posts, McGee's blocks often resulted in follow-up baskets by the opponents and not a "true stop." Too bad that they do not keep this kind of stats. :)

McGee's athleticism is without question, but he is very raw. Unfortunately, I do not see improvement from him at the end of the season vs. at the start of the season, but I am still hopeful.

BTW, Haywood's poor PER value this season is the result of his poor shooting percentage coming back from wrist injury.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 16, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

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