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Darius Songaila on trades, bear hunting and Wizards

When the Wizards' only victory in March was completed, Andray Blatche didn't initially seek out his teammates to celebrate. He grabbed the person nearest to him, wrapping up Darius Songaila in an embrace. Blatche could've been thanking Songaila and his New Orleans Hornets for helping the Wizards end their March misery -- except Songaila was doing everything in his power to send his former team to its 17th consecutive loss.


No, Dray, you are not welcome. (AP Photo)

The Wizards' 96-91 victory over New Orleans offered another reminder of why President Ernie Grunfeld tried desperately to avoid including Songaila in Washington's pre-draft deal with Minnesota last June. Songaila didn't do anything spectacular on Wednesday. He simply stepped back to knock down the open jumper, mixed it up inside and made smart basketball plays.

Songaila scored six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, and was essential in helping the Hornets come back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit. Did anyone else notice that it was Songaila -- and not starter Emeka Okafor -- who got the big minutes at center in the final period?

Songaila looks at his former team and hardly recognizes it, since the Wizards dropped several sticks of dynamite on the roster in February.

"It's a couple of guys left," said Songaila, who spent the previous three seasons in Washington. "It's another team right now."

The funniest, little-reported detail of the Wizards trade with Minnesota was that Songaila didn't know anything about it for nearly a week. Songaila was up in the mountains of Idaho hunting black bear and had no cell phone reception, so he missed some frantic calls from Grunfeld and assistant Tommy Sheppard informing him of the move that brought Mike Miller and Randy Foye to the Wizards.

"We were in the mountains and when we got back into town, in cell phone range, I got all the text messages and all the voice mails and stuff like that," said Songaila.

Songaila hunts every summer, a hobby that he picked up after moving from his native Lithuania to North Carolina, where he played college basketball at Wake Forest. Songaila admitted that he didn't have much luck on his hunting retreat. "Not last year, no."

He didn't shoot any bear, and he had to deal with an unexpected move.

"I was still disappointed because I really enjoyed being in D.C., living there and the team and the guys that were there for three years. I was used to it and I was comfortable," Songaila said. "I called Tommy and Ernie and those guys and talked about what happened. I understand it was a business decision and nothing personal. Things like that are normal in the NBA. I'm glad it happened in the offseason because it gave me enough time to think about it."


I know you guys are struggling, but I was trying to win. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

It wasn't long before Minnesota traded Songaila to New Orleans, oddly enough, for his former teammate Antonio Daniels. In 69 games for the Hornets, Songaila is averaging 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds, which is identical to his production in each of his seasons in Washington.

"It all turned out to be for the best," Songaila said of his summer deals. "It's been great [with the Hornets], not counting that we didn't make the playoffs, which is a little disappointing. I think we definitely had a team that could've made the playoffs."

The Hornets looked like a possible playoff team before Chris Paul suffered a knee injury in late January. Rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton helped fill some of the gaps left by Paul's absence, but that wasn't enough in a fully loaded Western Conference.

"I was in the West for a while before I went to Chicago and Washington," said Songaila, who started his career with Sacramento. "Obviously, it's a little tougher in our division with all of the Texas teams and everything. We were starting to click in the month of January and injuries started happening, piled up on us. We were down to eight, seven guys for a few weeks there. That was a little disappointing, but it's an improvement from last year, with 19 wins. We have 35 right now, close to 40 possibly."

Songaila has kept tabs on the happenings in Washington, from the Gilbert Arenas-Javaris Crittenton gun incident to the two trades that shipped Antawn Jamison to Cleveland and Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas.

"What happened, happened," Songaila said of the dispute between Arenas and Crittenton. "You're not going to change anything. I think we all know people made some bad decisions. I don't think there was ill intent or anything like that. I don't think it was as much, as blown up as everyone made it out to be. But it wasn't a good decision. It wasn't a smart decision. And obviously, there were some consequences to it."

The obvious consequence from a basketball perspective was that the Wizards were forced to rebuild. Songaila said he has spoken to his former teammates about the moves.

"I talked to all of them. It all came to the point that it was just a matter of time before it was going to be broken up," he said. "I think everybody is in a pretty good situation. Antawn is with the best team in the league. Caron is with a top three team in the league. Both playoff teams, both contenders. I don't think those guys are going to complain about that. Especially in their career, where they are at right now, it's all about winning championship. I think those guys are pretty happy, I would think."

By Michael Lee  |  April 1, 2010; 2:12 PM ET
 
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Comments

Those were the days. 2007-2008 season was as good as it gets because buckhantz and chenier said the wizards had the most productive bench in the nba. Daniels didn't turn the ball over, Mason gave reliable outside shooting, blatche was ok, and Songaila bodied up big men physically and shot a good percentage from outside.

Posted by: jefferu | April 1, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Nice update. I always appreciated what Songalia brought to the table as a role player.

Posted by: ts35 | April 1, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

"In 69 games for the Hornets, Songaila is averaging 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds, which is identical to his production in each of his seasons in Washington."

That's one of the things GMs and coaches like about guys like Songaila. He does nothing spectacular or eye-popping, but they pretty much know exactly what they're gonna get from him every night.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 1, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Even after the Wizs traded Darius away, I held out hope that he'll somehow land back here (maybe like Big Z did with Cleveland).

Posted by: tundey | April 1, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

It's ultimately probably for the best the Songalia went in that trade. If he were still with the team, Flip would likely be putting him in for Blatche every time AB did something silly.

Posted by: ts35 | April 1, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Is Songalia a free agent after this season - maybe the Wiz can pick him up for next season. He would be good in Flip's pick and roll offense.

Posted by: blt8828 | April 1, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Those were the days. 2007-2008 season was as good as it gets because buckhantz and chenier said the wizards had the most productive bench in the nba. Daniels didn't turn the ball over, Mason gave reliable outside shooting, blatche was ok, and Songaila bodied up big men physically and shot a good percentage from outside

Yep, those were the salad days.

Posted by: thecomedian1 | April 1, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Aw man that was a fun season to watch the Wiz. With Gilbert out almost the whole year, they played cohesively and ended up the 5 seed in the east. Songalia was awesome mainly because he was this seemingly random East-European, with that fundamental if unspectacular game. Haywood and Stevenson were solid too.

We kind of got boned in the playoffs that year cuz daniels got injured, and wasnt caron injured too?

Aw man, will ever reach 45 wins again? arrrgghh..

Posted by: bigtriumverate | April 1, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

We're actually looking back fondly on a year when we finished 2 games over .500 and went out in the first round of the playoffs. SHEEESH! Talk about lowered expectations....

Posted by: rbpalmer | April 1, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Forget Songaila. The Wizards should get the dude that's built like a hog farmer. Aaron Gray = fan favorite.

Posted by: djnnnou | April 1, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Cole Aldritch should be available when we pick in the draft djnnnou =)

Posted by: ts35 | April 1, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Remember when Lebron got tangled up with Songalia in the playoffs, hit himself in the face....feigned a knockout (almost) and blamed it on Songaila.

Songaila was suspended and the Cavs went on to win again.

Posted by: Lisa_R | April 1, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

"Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes, well, he eats you."

Posted by: midlevex_ | April 1, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Is it me, but it looks like Songaila and Blatche look like they're the same height?

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | April 1, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I have always liked Songaila as a backup PF (which is what his role is in N.O.), never liked him as a starting C.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 1, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Thirty years ago, Ozzie Silna, with attorney Donald Schupak, negotiated a deal that cleared the way for the ABA to merge with the NBA. It ranks as one of the best sports deals in modern times, one that has paid the Silnas about $168 million and continues to pay off.

The TV Deal the NBA Wishes It Had Not Made

Can't believe I've never heard about this.

Posted by: djnnnou | April 1, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

"President Ernie Grunfeld tried desperately to avoid including Songaila in Washington's pre-draft deal with Minnesota last June."

Yeah, we all heard that, but makes you wonder why would Minnesota turned around and traded Songaila for Antonio Daniels, and then simply waived AD. It just does not make any sense. I guess Grunfeld just did not try hard enough, since he could have used Mike James (who has similar deal as AD) in place for Songaila.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 1, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Not saying the numbers still wouldn't have worked, but James is making $1.5 mil more than Songalia and EG may have been trying to hold onto James' expiring contract because it was supposed to be a somewhat valuable commodity at the trading deadline.

I seem to recall he was trying hard to pedal DeShawn to them instead, but even Minnesota was not going for that.

Posted by: ts35 | April 1, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

The TV Deal the NBA Wishes It Had Not Made

Can't believe I've never heard about this.

Posted by: djnnnou | April 1, 2010 6:35 PM

This is wild.
Gotta be the biggest secret in sports (or an April fools joke).

Posted by: VBFan | April 1, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Good stuff djnnnou.

You know I like interesting tidbits/stories like that. It is one reason why I kept bringing up what the Wizs were worth and what Ted would pay and yadayadayada.

As it turns out, I bet no one really thought that Ted would have to pay only a hundred something million actually to become the biggest sports owner in DC.

But hears a true story about horse racing and junk bonds. An owner owned this massive estate in Kentucky and financed it through the junk bond market.

His monthly payment was several hundred thousands of dollars to keep everything going. He owned a race horse that generated enough income to help meet his monthy payments.

The horse broke his leg and he lost everything. True story.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 1, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

"In 69 games for the Hornets, Songaila is averaging 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds, which is identical to his production in each of his seasons in Washington."

That's one of the things GMs and coaches like about guys like Songaila. He does nothing spectacular or eye-popping, but they pretty much know exactly what they're gonna get from him every night.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 1, 2010 3:03 PM

Would the same analogy apply for why Dallas likes Haywood so much and if so, why did he get so little respect here?

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 1, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Two years ago maybe a little longer this was a playoff team that had hope and at least they were watchable and now.................. thanks Ernie for firing EJ and hiring Tapscott and infecting this team with a culture of losing thanks for sabotaging EJ's tenure here,thanks for firing the only coach that at least got us to the playoff's, at least we had that to look forward to, thanks for stockpiling a bench when EJ coached here(NOT!)thanks for getting rid of Roger Mason Jr. I know now that EJ wasn't perfect but EG was worse as a GM and instead of sitting down with Jordan and trying to work it out he went the backstabbing route and now we will thank you to just get the f_ _k out.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 1, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Tarheels make NIT finals. Does that mean they eventually outsurpassed everyone in the ACC this year except Duke?

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 1, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

We are on here pining for Songalia, the salad days of 42 and 40 and EJ. I would say our expectations are pretty damn low.

Posted by: dcwizard | April 1, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

DCWizard: I'd take 42 and 40 right now instead of back to back 55 loss seasons low expectations be dammed because from where i sit we're pretty damn low right now.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 1, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

DCWizard: I'd take 42 and 40 right now instead of back to back 55 loss seasons low expectations be dammed because from where i sit we're pretty damn low right now.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 1, 2010 9:34 PM

I think we're in better shape with 55 losses than 40.
Gotta look at the big pitcher.

Posted by: VBFan | April 1, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

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I gotta go see my man Javale!!

Posted by: kanderson2385 | April 1, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

The Wizards have the 4th worst record? That means they will end up with the 7th pick. Don't plan for top 4 players, but figure out who will be there that can help the Wizards at #7.

Posted by: hamptonpirates89 | April 1, 2010 11:51 AM |


I like Hassan Whiteside or Ekpe Udoh. Both have a ton of upside and would give us a major upgrade not only defensively but also in the rebounding department. We will significantly shorten our rebuiling phase once we add quality depth in the middle. Aldrich seems to be further along fundamentally, but when I think of Dwight Howard and the type of player it may take to try and contain him and box him out, Aldrich seems a bit slow. Udoh or Whiteside would bring athlticism and strength to our interior defense.I am not so sure that Udoh wouldn't start, bringing JaValle off the bench. We would even have the luxury of playing at certain times, Blatch at SF, McGee at center and Udoh at PF.

Posted by: Raef | April 1, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

"Would the same analogy apply for why Dallas likes Haywood so much and if so, why did he get so little respect here?"

It may or may not apply to why Dallas likes Haywood. But it has little to nothing to do with his value here, because for the vast majority of the almost 10 years he played here you didn't know what you were going to get from him every night (other than pouting and whining if he didn't get the amount minutes or touches he thought he was entitled to).

Keep trying, though.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 1, 2010 11:21 PM | Report abuse

"Tarheels make NIT finals. Does that mean they eventually outsurpassed everyone in the ACC this year except Duke?"

Congratulations. One more win and they'll officially be the 66th best college basketball team in the country. Wonder if they'll get a parade?

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 1, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Would the same analogy apply for why Dallas likes Haywood so much and if so, why did he get so little respect here?

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 1, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Besides not being consistent at all for most of his career here, Haywood was a whiny crybaby as opposed to a team player like Song who fills whatever role is asked of him.

Furthermore, Song has always been a reserve who was asked to step up and be a starter (or play starter minutes) and fulfilled those expectations. Haywood had trouble earning and keeping his starter role and was not satisfied with being a backup.

Evidently, this continues in Dallas, as the article a couple weeks ago indicated he was pissy about going back to back up when Dampier returned from his injury.

Just a difference in expectations I guess. If you profess to be the starter, you need to nut up and prove it most, if not every night. If you are the back up, but outplay the starter 4 nights out of 10, then people really value your contribution.

Posted by: Blurred | April 2, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

HEy didn't see kalo had already posted basically the same thing.

Anyway Wed night I was torn, I was rooting for them to win, because they were playing well and the streak needed to end, but wanted them to lose, because thats one more ball in the lottery.

Have to say I am happy they won one though. Keep playing hard and learning and give these teams a run for their money. I doubt no matter how hard or well they play that they will win too many games with the talent they have.

Then again, end of season and playoff teams may be resting some guys.

Posted by: Blurred | April 2, 2010 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations. One more win and they'll officially be the 66th best college basketball team in the country. Wonder if they'll get a parade?

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 1, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Probably.

Posted by: glawrence007 | April 2, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

blurred:

Dude, CBI in the bag. Congrats.

Posted by: glawrence007 | April 2, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

I do not think we have to take a loss to increase our lotery chance. last year We were # but pushed to 5 , chicago win lotery the year before but they were #9,Memphis came to # 2 from 6th spot last year, clipers won from #3.If we are fortunate we will win it.

Posted by: gtefferra | April 2, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

@Blurred,

Yeah, I guess Haywood's career here wasn't a model of consistency, for him on the floor nor the yo yo coaching strategy either.

Can't deny that.

At Dallas though he is the starter, though they did start Dampier once he got back to see how things would play out with Damp being the starter.

They know now and Haywood is the starter and they also know that in order for them to come out of the West and compete for the Ring that Haywood is the one that will be on the floor for them and not Dampier.

Check it.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 2, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I agree, the Songaila days were good...very much underappreciated, mis-appreciated..him and Haywood. Maybe Wizkids can drop Oberto and pick up both Haywood and Songaila this summer.

Posted by: leopsan | April 2, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

CBI in the bag = what? 96th best team?

Whatever, I'll take it.

I hear CBI winners have good luck the next year.

Posted by: Blurred | April 2, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Not saying the numbers still wouldn't have worked, but James is making $1.5 mil more than Songalia and EG may have been trying to hold onto James' expiring contract because it was supposed to be a somewhat valuable commodity at the trading deadline.

Posted by: ts35
------------------------------------------

That would still mean that EG did not value Songaila's service over James' expiring contract (since James didn't really play, there is no "service" to speak of).

Besides, in the end, James expiring contract was useless, and we had to buy him out. So EG miscalculated on that too.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 2, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Mike James not playing at all this season was proof EG aint above holding a grudge.

Posted by: divi3 | April 2, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

That would still mean that EG did not value Songaila's service over James' expiring contract (since James didn't really play, there is no "service" to speak of).

Besides, in the end, James expiring contract was useless, and we had to buy him out. So EG miscalculated on that too.

Posted by: sagaliba

As the OBC used to say "Hindsight is 50 / 50."

Not claiming EG is a genius, just saying there may have been other considerations. You can look back on it and say maybe he should have done this or that, but without knowing the particulars, you're really just making up the story you want to, i.e, EG Sucks Chapter 92.

The only thing I remember hearing was that he was trying to give them DeShawn and they didn't want to take him. No idea why if they were just going to flip him anyway. Maybe they already had the side deal in place for AD and New Orleans didn't want DeShawn or the salaries didn't work out. No idea.

Posted by: ts35 | April 2, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

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