Archive for the ‘Washington Wizards’ Category

John Wall and Rashard Lewis

What have the Washington Wizards been up to since the Raptors blew them out 127-108 on Dec. 1? Not much besides more losing and pulling off the most high-salaried one-for-one trade in NBA history. When the Wizards sent Gilbert Arenas ($17.7 million this season) to Orlando for Rashard Lewis ($19.5 million this season), it seemed like to trade two people would make in an NBA 2K11 online league. It also didn’t seem like a trade that would likely help either team in the short term, although the long-term chemistry and financial benefits for the Wizards were obvious — Lewis’ contract is a year shorter and his final year isn’t fully guaranteed.

While the “new-look Wizards” have continued to lose with impunity, Lewis has quietly been playing his best ball in a couple of years since he became another brick for John Wall. In 11 games with the Wiz, he’s averaging 13.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 47.7 percent from the field. If Magic fans are paying attention, they’re probably wondering where that player was when they needed him in Orlando for the past season and a half. It might not be too soon to state that the Wizards emphatically won this trade — particularly considering what a bust Arenas has been in Orlando. Leave it to Magic GM Otis Smith to turn what was once the worst contract in NBA history into a worse player with an even worse contract. Nice job, Otis!

Injury report

Toronto: Sonny Weems, Leandro Barbosa, Peja Stojakovic and Reggie Evans all didn’t travel with the team to Washington.

Washington: Andray Blatche (right shoulder) and Nick Young (left knee) are both considered probably for tonight.

Five questions

1. Will Andrea Bargnani break into the top 10 rankings in scoring average by the end of the season? He’s 15th right now with 21.9 PPG while Eric Gordon is 10th with 23.7 PPG

2. Will the Raptors end up with the league’s worst defence for the second season in a row? After a promising start, they’ve sunk to 28th overall in Defensive Rating with 111.5 points allowed per 100 possessions.

3. Will John Wall’s road to stardom be blocked by his poor shooting? He’s shooting under 40 percent from the field and under 30 percent from three-point range.

4. Remember when people used to compare Yi Jianlian to Andrea Bargnani? Now, that seems more ridiculous than those comparisons between Bargnani and Dirk Nowitzki.

5. Do you think Javale McGee in the dunk contest will make us lost back wistfully on the Chris Andersen dunk contest experience?

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Washington: John Wall, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Al Thornton, Javale McGee

Tonight’s pregame song is “Harder Better Faster Stronger” by Daft Punk. This isn’t an official video (I don’t think they released one for this song) but it’s pretty damn cool nonetheless. Plus, it sums up nicely how the Raptors will need to play if they’re going to beat the Wizards tonight.

Ron Turenne/Getty Images

DeRozan and the Raptors were in attack-mode from the opening tip

That, ladies and gentlemen, was just a good old-fashioned beat down. What you saw tonight is the result you can expect under the rare circumstance that every Raptor plays to his potential and beyond.

Toronto shot 58 per cent from the floor, had 72 points at the half, surpassed 100 in the third quarter and had seven players in double figures. You may not see a more complete victory all season.

The Raptors looked right from the opening minute. DeMar DeRozan scored Toronto’s first points on an aggressive drive to the basket. From that point on, the Raptors were off and running, and never looked back.

Tonight’s game was special for a couple of reasons. One, I’m pretty sure it’s the first time all three of the Raptors “Young Onez” (DeRozan, Weems and Johnson) started together. Second, and much more importantly, it was the NBA debut of Ed Davis.

After a long wait, the rookie did not disappoint, netting 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 24 solid minutes. While Davis’ movement in a bulky knee brace was a little awkward, you could see he has the hop in his step already. What I was most impressed with was his defensive awareness and rebounding position on pretty much every play.

There was a lot more to like from a Raptors’ perspective than just Davis, though.

After a stretch of disappearing acts from DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems, the pair combined for 38 points tonight, on 14-of-23 shooting in 28 minutes a piece. They also combined for 11 rebounds and six assists.

Andrea Bargnani ate up the Wizards defence for 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting in just 26 minutes of action. Jose Calderon continued his climb back to the good old days with a solid performance of 11 points, eight assists and just one turnover. Calderon was also very efficient shooting the ball, finishing 5-of-7.

Leandro Barbosa provided more than just a spark off the bench, dropping 16 quick points in 21 minutes.

And I have to mention Jerryd Bayless tonight. No, not just because he had his best offensive game as a Raptor with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting or because he added five assists and six rebounds. The reason Bayless deserves honourable mention tonight is because he shut down John Wall. Yes, Wall was coming off of an injury, but make no mistake, Jerryd Bayless took it to him and outplayed the rookie tonight.

There were many occasions when it seemed that Wall wanted to blow by Bayless, only to realize that he couldn’t. When’s the last time you could say that about a Raptors point guard?

With news that Reggie Evans will be out eight weeks after having surgery on his broken foot, this has to come as a promising sign: the Raptors out-rebounded a lengthy, athletic Wizards team by a count of 52-30.

No, a demolishing of the Wizards is not a statement. But it’s the way in which the Raptors grabbed their seventh win that should have fans optimistic.

None of the Raptors’ previous six victories truly demonstrated the potential this team has like Wednesday night’s victory did. DeRozan, Weems, Bargnani, Bayless and even Ed Davis all had a hand in the blowout.

In a season of question marks, that’s a nice step in the right direction.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 28 Min, 20 Pts, 7-11 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 5-7 FT, 6 Reb, 3 Ast

Wizards Player of the Game: JaVale McGee - 27 Min, 21 Pts, 8-12 FG, 5-8 FT, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Gilbert Arenas – 29 Min, 7 Pts, 1-10 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 5-6 FT, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO (Gil was completely invisible in this one. He’s had some nice games this season, but he looked like a washed up D-Leaguer tonight, and I’m not exaggerating)

Random side-note: I thought it was nice to see Drake sitting courtside, in an average-guy Jays hoodie, for a random Wednesday night ball game against the Wizards.

John Wall

Well, well… there’s actually quite a bit to be excited about for Raptors fans tonight. Ed Davis will be in uniform for the first game of his Raptors career, Amir Johnson is getting his second start of the season and his first since November 14, and John Wall is expected to play after missing the Wizards’ previous two games and sitting out the last Raps-Wiz matchup on November 16.

Perhaps Raptors fans will be the only group of fans excited about a game featuring two teams with a combined 11-22 record, but I figure it’s my job to give you reasons to be hyped about every Raptors game, when possible. While the Wizards look bad enough simply by glancing at their 5-11 record, they needed overtime for two of those wins and the only double-digit win was against the Raptors. Washington capitalized on Toronto’s weaksauce defensive effort to make 56 percent of their shots in that game, and Andrea Bargnani had arguably his worst outing of the season as he made just three of 13 shots for 12 points and grabbed just two rebounds. It’s safe to say Bargnani has to do better than that for the Raptors to have a shot in any given game — they’re 6-5 when he scores at least 20 points and 0-6 when he scores fewer than 20.

Injury report

Toronto: Peja Stojakovic is day-to-day with a swollen knee. Now that Davis is playing, I expect Triano will let Peja rest.

Washington: John Wall (bruised knee) and Al Thornton (sprained ankle) are expected to play and start tonight. Yi Jianlian (bruised knee) and Josh Howard (recovering from knee surgery) are probably out. Hilton Armstrong isn’t hurt, but he’ll serve a one-game suspension tonight.

Five questions

1. Is tonight the night the Wizards get off the road schneid? They’re the only remaining winless team (0-8) in away games this season.

2. If Wall plays, will Triano give Jerryd Bayless heavy minutes to try to avoid Jose Calderon’s heavy burnination?

3. Will Johnson have to get into early foul trouble for Davis to see more than 10-12 minutes?

4. Is Wall a lock for Rookie of the Year if he can stay healthy? He’s averaging 18.0 points, 9.1 assists and 2.8 steals this season. Here’s the list of NBA players who have averaged at least 16/7/2 in their rookie years: Magic Johnson, Chris Paul, Allen Iverson, Isiah Thomas.

5. Will the “Toronto Rogers” get new uniforms or will they just change a few letters in the existing design? I don’t even want to know what the new mascot will be.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Liveblog: James Borbath on theScore.com and ScoreMobile
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Washington: John Wall, Kirk Hinrich, Al Thornton, Andray Blatche, Javale McGee

In honor of what could be some Raptors fans’ first exposure to John Wall, our pregame song is “Breakneck Speed” by Tokyo Police Club. Hopefully, we won’t see Calderon in a neck brace after this game.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the Raptors followed up two solid outings in Orlando and Miami with a massively disappointing effort in Washington last night, but the idealist in me wanted to believe that they might have turned a corner and were going to play with heart and energy every game going forward. Instead, they looked lifeless and confused as a Wizards team playing without John Wall took a 26-point lead in the third quarter and thoroughly buried this sorry squad. It was, as Jay Triano aptly put it at halftime, “a horses**t effort”.

(What’s with Triano’s swearing lately? He isn’t trying to get fired, is he?)

In eight previous games this season, the Wizards had failed to shoot over 50 percent in any single game and entered last night with the league’s worst offence. Against the Raptors’ porous defence, they shot 56 percent fromt the field and scored seemingly at will in the paint. I wouldn’t have been totally shocked if Gilbert Arenas had lit the Raptors up for 40 because he’s certainly capable of that. Instead, he scored a relatively modest 20 points while Andray Blatche, Kirk Hinrich, Hilton Armstrong and Nick Young each scored in double figures and combined for 65 points on 64 percent shooting. It seems the Raptors are the cure for an ailing offence.

Washington outrebounded Toronto 47-36 on the night, but that was mostly a result of the Raptors missing 16 more field goal attempts than the Wizards. Of course, Andrea Bargnani’s two rebounds in 28 minutes didn’t help but we’re used to that by now, right? Unfortunately, he also went 3-for-13 from the field and was typically useless on defence. Reggie Evans wasn’t any better on that end, as we’ll see in the following two clips.

The shame about this play is that Bargnani actually tried to help when DeMar DeRozan got beat by Nick Young along the baseline. The problem is that Bargnani didn’t return to his man after Young passed the ball and DeRozan recovered, leaving Hilton Armstrong by himself. You can see Bargnani asking for someone to cover for him, but it appears he didn’t notice that DeRozan was right next to him. If any of you think that Bargnani isn’t specifically at fault here, I’d love to hear why in the comments. Part of what I’m doing with these videos includes educating myself on exactly why this team sucks at help defence.

How does a hulking power forward like Reggie Evans average a steal-and-a-half per game? Because he likes to gamble like in this desperate attempt to pick off a pass to Andray Blatche. This is just dumb defence and it’s an example of how activity doesn’t necessarily equate to effectiveness.

It’s hard to pick out a bright spot from last night’s debacle, but Sonny Weems continued to impress with his smart, efficient play on both ends of the court. Check out this sequence late in the first quarter (when the game was still within reach) where Weems does an outstanding job defending Al Thornton and then backs down Kirk Hinrich in the post for a spinning bank shot.

It may sound crazy if you haven’t been paying attention, but Weems has been the Raptors’ best player over the past four games. Of course, if he’s the best player on an NBA team… your team stinks.

Washington Wizards

After equipping themselves admirably against the Magic and Heat in their last two games, the Raptors’ confidence has to be high going into tonight’s game against the struggling Wizards. In spite of the arrival of John Wall and the return of Gilbert Arenas, the 2-6 Wizards have the worst offence in the NBA with just 99.1 points scored per 100 possessions. They’re 26th in the league in field goal percentage, 28th in three-point attempts and 29th in free throw attempts, so they’re living but mostly dying on two-point shots.

Arenas had looked a little rusty in his first four games back from injury while averaging just over 10 points per game, but he looked more like the Agent Zero of old in dropping 30 on the Bulls on Saturday. Since Wall is expected to miss tonight’s game, Arenas will likely have the green light to shoot at will and try to jumpstart the Wizards’ anemic offence.

Injury report

Toronto: Reggie Evans missed the morning shootaround so he’s probably out for tonight, while Leandro Barbosa will remain out of the lineup at least until the Raptors’ next home game on Friday. Linas Kleiza is expected in uniform, but probably won’t start.

Washington: John Wall will sit out tonight’s game with a sprained foot — which I’m actually kinda bummed out about — and Yi Jianlian is out with a hyperextended right knee. Neither Raptors nor Wizards fans will miss his presence.

Five questions

1. Should Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan or Sonny Weems get the assignment of guarding a possibly rejuvenated Gilbert Arenas?

2. Will Julian Wright and Joey Dorsey continue to show that they deserve to be part of the Raptors’ regular rotation?

3. Can Amir Johnson stay out of foul trouble long enough to play his first 30-minute game of the season?

4. Does Wizards rookie Hamady N’diaye have a shot of surpassing ex-Raptor “Nobody Blocks Shots Like Your” Mamadou N’Diaye as the greatest N’diaye in NBA history?

5. Does Javale McGee have one of the most attractive moms in the NBA? If you watch this video, you’ll likely agree this is a rhetorical question.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Liveblog: Holly MacKenzie on theScore.com and ScoreMobile
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Washington: Kirk Hinrich, Gilbert Arenas, Al Thornton, Andray Blatche, Javale McGee

Your pregame song is “Waiting Room” by Washington-based punk band Fugazi, although I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be particularly cool with their video being posted on a site that sells advertising. Regardless, it’s a good song.