Gilbert's Arena

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Don't Cry, I'll Be Back Soon!

I'll be out of town until Monday, so check back in on Monday night or Tuesday morning for my post to wrap-up the weekend's action.

It's a quiet off-day in this series, and most of the attention around the NBA is focused on the Lakers upset of the Suns last night, highlighted by Kobe's vicious dunk on Steve Nash (which can be viewed HERE). The Zards and Cavs get back at it on Friday night at 8pm at Gilbert's Arena. Uh... i mean the Verizon Center. Game 4 will be Sunday at 7:30pm. Thanks to Tuesday's cheeky shenanigans, home court advantage is ours now, so if we defend our turf the next 2 games this series belongs to us.

Around the web:

> Washington Post:
1) Wizards should stick to the game plan from Game 2
2) Haywood is doing a great job on Big Z

> Cleveland Plain Dealer:
1) LeBron BeFuddled
2) Drew Gooden came up big in Game 2
3) a report on the Cavs home crowd in Game 2

> Yet another story about Tough Juice’s hard knock life.

> Here's a random Cleveland area paper/journal/almanac that seems waaayy to into the Big 3. It's like they're trying to bait them into being overconfident.

> This is a couple days old, but it has the transcript of Brian Windhorst’s ESPN Insider chat about LeBron. It’s also interesting to note Windhorst’s prescient analysis (at the top of the page) after watching Game 1 on tape: “I couldn't believe how everything went the Cavs way, like the Wizards missing key open shots and not taking advantage of so many things that could’ve shifted the tide. What I'm saying is, I really expect things to be very different (in Game 2).”

> This is about a month old, but i just found it. I would find it hilarious if I hadn't spent an hour last weekend listening to a friend from San Jose scream about Baron Davis' shot selection and Mike Dunleavy's contract in a frustrated rage. Now I just feel kind of bad for Warriors fans. God knows we Zards fans have been there before.

> Gilbert quote of the day: "Once I threw my jersey to this petite woman in the stands, and this guy basically snatched it away from her. She looked at him for a minute, and then she started to punch the guy in the face."

Enjoy this weekend's games (and the NFL Draft), and check in with Wizznuttz or Mr. Irrelevant if you need your Zards fix.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Around the Web

Tons of great stuff on the web today, so let’s get right to it:

> I’m sick of sports writers jumping all over LeBron for not always taking the last shot. He’s NOT going to take a bad shot. He’s NOT going to shoot a 25-foot fade away with 2-men in his face when he has a teammate open for a better shot. So get over it! In last night’s case, he got double-teamed at the top of the key, and Varejao looked wide open for an easy dunk. Gilbert just came out of nowhere and made a tremendous defensive play. The irony is that the same instinct that earns LeBron all the praise, the desire to get the best possible shot for his team, is the same instinct that people then turn on him for at the end of games. He’s always going to get the best possible shot for his team on every possession, whether it’s his own shot or a dunk for Anderson Varejao.

> Tom Knott shoots from the hip, and as always, it really cracks me up. Today, Lebron is a “wimp”, who “walked around in a snit, making all sorts of ugly faces” and looked “as if he was ready to burst into tears”. Oh, and the Cleveland crowd is “addle-brained”. Tom Knott, you are the man.

> Maybe after he finished whining last night, LeBron went to his favorite amusement park to ride the tea pots?

> Michael Wilbon loved the physical play on LeBron last night, and he compares it to the Jordan Rules that MJ struggled with for so long against the Pistons. The Charles Oakley quote is especially amusing.

> Mike Wise gives credit to Eddie Jordan for the Zards’ feistiness last night.

> Yaysports was none too happy last night, declaring a 7:00pm bedtime for all Cavs fans. The doctored Nike “Witnesses” ad made me laugh out loud too.

> Cavs fans are telling themselves its okay, because they only lost by 5 despite the fact that LeBron was horrible, and that LeBron can’t possibly play that badly again. However, Bud Shaw in the Cleveland Plain Dealer points out that the Cavs also can’t possibly see “Drew Gooden’s best impersonation of Bill Walton at the Final Four” again.

> Cavaliers Corner: “We are all witnesses… that LeBron is indeed human.” Also, apparently Mike Brown adamantly defended LeBron’s pass to Varejao. He takes the blame on his own shoulders, since he directed the team to get a quick high-percentage bucket.

> This link will only work if you have an ESPN Insider subscription, but Chad Ford shows that he has clearly never watched a Wizards game when he describes Antonio Daniels as a “disappointing replacement for Larry Hughes”. Thanks for mailing it in, Chad. How’s Hawaii treating you? He also says that the Wizards have needs at Combo guard (uh… what?) and Center, and suggests Patrick O’Bryant, Hilton Armstrong, and Josh Boone as possible options at the 5-spot. I wouldn’t mind O’Bryant at #18, but he’ll probably go in the lottery do to the dearth of Centers in this draft. I don’t want anything to do with Boone or Armstrong. If we’re gonna draft a big man, I want someone who fits our offense. I want a high-post 5 who can hit the 15-foot jumper (think Brad Miller in Sacramento). The Princeton Offense is a beautiful thing to watch when you have a 5 who can draw the opposing 5 away from the rim to open up the blocks for cutters (and for guards like Caron Butler who have post-up skills). The only guy like that who should be available when we pick is Kevin Pittsnogle, but his lack of rebounding for a guy that size concerns me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

WE ARE ALL WITNESSES... to suffocating Wizards defense?

Washington 89, Cleveland 84

For the first time this season, I can honestly say that the Zards won a game with their half-court defense. We switched up our defensive philosophy after the Game 1 double-teaming debacle, Lebron was frustrated all game, and the Big 3 scored enough this time to pull out a win in a hard fought defensive battle.

This win was all about our defensive strategy against Lebron. First of all, we let Caron Butler and Jared Jeffries cover Lebron one-on-one. But rather than body up on him, we sagged off him and dared him to shoot jumpers. As is often the case, Lebron couldn't hit from the perimeter with any kind of consistency. Then, when he tried to drive to the basket, we put a body on him each and every time. Option 1 was to slide into position and attempt to take a charge. If he was able to avoid the charge, then we fouled him HARD to avoid giving up the lay-up. Both the charge calls and the physical play clearly frustrated Lebron, and he appeared more and more tentative in the half-court game after we clearly established our new philosophy in the first quarter. Meanwhile, with only one man dedicated to Lebron, he had a hard time finding open men (just 2 assists in the game), and Cleveland's spot-up shooters were rendered ineffective. Donyell Marshall only managed as many field goal attempts this game as he had 3-point makes last game (3).

Essentially, our defensive philosophy led to Cleveland's offense consisting of:
  1. Long jumpers from LeBron.
  2. Spot-up jumpers or contested drives in the half-court offense from Larry Hughes, a player whose game is basically only effective in the open court.
  3. One-on-one post-up opportunities for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has always struggled to score on Brendan Haywood.
  4. Post-ups and offensive rebound putbacks from Drew Gooden, which was basically the only consistent offense the Cavs had all game. Gooden was 11 of 12 from the field, and dominated Antawn Jamison on the offensive end.

The results? LeBron, Hughes, and Ilgauskas combined to score just 51 points on 15-for-53 shooting (28%). As a team, the Cavs shot 36%.

Offensively, it still wasn't pretty, but we did enough to win. Gilbert led the way with 30 points, despite the fact that he didn't play particularly well (by HIS standards). He was extremely tentative in the first quarter, so much so that I was screaming at the TV for him to play more aggressively to jumpstart the offense. At halftime, Charles Barkley validated my argument by declaring that Gilbert needed to step up, be aggressive, and be the star when his offense wasn't clicking as a team. Luckily for the Wizards, Caron Butler really caught fire late in the 1st quarter, and the whole team seemed to come alive after that. Butler was our best offensive player in the first half, as he scored the majority of his 21 points in the first stanza, and it honestly felt like we would have been blown out if he hadn't stepped it up. In the 2nd half, Butler disappeared (partly due to foul trouble), but Jamison came alive. Antawn was especially huge in the 4th quarter, scoring 11 of his 21 points in the 4th quarter alone, including 2 enormous threes.

In the end, a game that played out as a defensive battle came to a fitting conclusion, as a beautiful strip by Gilbert Arenas underneath the basket iced the game. However, after I finished jumping up and down in celebration, I was left with one burning question. If LeBron had had one more rebound, would he have been credited with his 2nd straight playoff triple-double for a 26 point, 10 rebound, 10 turnover game?

This is OUR series now. This road win was the first big momentum swing in this series. We just have to head back to DC and protect our home court this weekend.

One more thing... did anybody else catch the split-second camera shot of Caron Butler right after the buzzer sounded? He turned toward LeBron, and mimicking the pre-game clip of LeBron that ESPN and TNT have been incessantly showing since game 1, he pretended to throw chalk powder in the air and wave his hands to the crowd. (Haha, and right as I finished typing that passage, TNT just showed the clip in slow motion on the Spurs-Kings halftime show. I LOVE ME SOME TOUGH JUICE!)

A little reading for your afternoon visit to the john...

just found an article in today's LA Times about Gilbert: LA Times

The Zards' Cap Situation

This weekend, put up a summary of our cap situation this off-season. They peg our 06-07 payroll at $56 million, which would put us roughly $4 million over the estimated salary cap. The good news is that we have Gilbert Arenas signed for the next 3 seasons, and Caron Butler signed through the next 5 years at approximately half of Larry Hughes’ cost. Gilbert will be just 27 when his contract expires, so an extension would take him to age 32. So it is realistic, and even quite probable, to expect that Arenas will be a Zard for the next 8 years. Thank you jeebus!

The only real contract mistake on this roster is Etan Thomas, as he’s got 4 years left at $6.5 million per year. Luckily, he’s an active big-man that can play Center, and he’s a good guy, so that means his contract is definitely tradable. Some people complain that Antawn Jamison’s contract is too much, since it’s easily the biggest on the team, but I’m not too worried. His veteran presence, shooting, and double-doubles have been instrumental in revitalizing this franchise, and he’s only 29. He should definitely continue to post double-doubles over the final 2 years of his contract.

The Zards should be able to pick up someone with the mid-level exception this off-season who is of similar caliber to the Antonio Daniels pick-up last year, but that’s not the kind of move that’s really going to improve this team to the 50-win level. I think the key to this off-season is going to be Brendan Haywood’s contract. He might be the most tradable starting Center in the NBA. We all know he’s never going to be a star, but A) he’s only 26, B) he’s a legit 7-footer, C) his contract is eminently reasonable (4 years left at $5 mil per year), and D) there’s nothing more than hot garbage available at the Center position in this year’s draft. Haywood would be a VERY attractive trade chip for just about any team in the league. I bet we could get something interesting for some combination of Thomas, Haywood, and our first round pick (18th overall).

Another year down the line, I think the key for the Zards will be Antawn Jamison’s expiring contract. He’ll be 31, reaching the point where a physical and statistical decline is imminent, and he’ll have an expiring $15 million contract that teams will drool over. Plus, at that point, Andray Blatche should be developing enough to begin taking over playing time. I am REALLY high on Andray Blatche. His size, skills, and game remind me a lot of Lamar Odom, he’s got great instincts, and he’s very physically mature. Don’t be shocked if he earns a steady rotation spot next season.

In the end, despite giving us bonus points for unloading Kwame for Caron, only gives us a C-grade for the state of our cap. They are far more pessimistic than I am, stating that “with little cap room and no good trade bait, it will be very difficult to become a contender”. I believe in Ernie Grunfeld though. He built the Knicks into a Finals team, then he put together the Cassell/Big-Dog/Allen teams and found Michael Redd in the 2nd round in Milwaukee, and now he’s quickly made one of the NBA’s most downtrodden franchises into a back-to-back playoff team. We have our young core (all 26 or under) of Arenas/Butler/Blatche, we always have the mid-level exception, we have a very tradable asset in Haywood, and we have a huge trading chip in Jamison in 2007. That’s more than enough for Ernie to get it done.


> Obviously, game 2 is tonight at 7:00pm on TNT. Just remember, nothing important has happened in an NBA playoff series until someone loses at home.

> This link won’t work unless you have ESPN Insider, but Scouts Inc. still likes the Zards in 6.

“Prediction: I don't give up easily, Wizards in 6.”

Why? A) pace, B) Butler getting tough with Lebron, and C) the Cavs supporting cast laying their typical bricks. The Cavs will keep running a slow offense through James to try and control the game. If Butler plays Lebron, Scouts Inc. thinks that Tough Juice can slow down James by getting mean and tough with him, unlike Jared Jeffries. He also expects more double-teaming, which Lebron will counter by hitting his teammates for open jumpers, which is exactly what the Zards want. You have to force guys like Eric Snow, Drew Gooden, and Larry Hughes to beat you. The Cavs shooters were bums in the regular season, and Scouts Inc. expects the supporting cast to keep missing those shots in the playoffs (as do I). On top of that, if the Zards can control the pace by running and shooting like we’re capable of, then it’ll be our game.

> Mike Wise profiles the Cavaliers’ brain trust.

> Ivan Carter: The Zards need to make Lebron work on the defensive end.

> Wizards selfish? Easy tiger, it was just one game where the shots weren’t falling.

> Cleveland has confidence in Eric Snow’s scoring ability. I have NO IDEA why. Apparently they don’t realize that he’s 33 years old and shot 39% over the past two season. We should keep leaving him open and dare him to hit shots again like he did in Game 1.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Can you tell it's been 10 years since the Cavs last made the playoffs?

It's a 7 game series fellas, in case you didn't know...

Sunday, April 23, 2006


No doubt about it, the Wizards got smacked at The Q on Saturday afternoon. But here's the beauty of the NBA playoffs, it's not a big deal. As a lower seed on the road you're expected to lose, but if you can steal just one game out of the first 3 in your opponents building, you only need to protect your own home turf to take the series. Last year was the perfect example of this. We lost our first 2 games in Chicago on the road, and the pundits were ready to write off the series. But no NBA series takes a true momentum swing until someone pulls off a road win. As should be expected, the Wizards came home and won both our games at MCI, tying the series at 2. The first significant win of the series came in game 5, when Gilbert hit the game winner in Chicago, sending us back to DC with a chance to close out the series. We get our 2nd shot at stealing a road game from the Cavs on Tuesday night, and even if we lose again, there's no need to panic. Neither team is in a hole until someone drops one at home.

As for Saturday, I don't think this game needs too much of a recap, since it was barely competitive from the beginning. Were the Cavs just clearly a superior team? Was Lebron a singular dominant force that was impossible to overcome? Not really. It was simple, our shots just weren't falling. Arenas, Butler, and Jamison combined to shoot 15-for-47 (32%). We're not even going to beat the Raptors on the road if our Big 3 is shooting like that. The Cavs didn't even play that well. Lebron got his (as he always will), Donyell Marshall hit some open 3's from the corner, and Eric Snow miraculously nailed a few perimeter jumpers. That's about it. We shot ourselves out of this game from the beginning, and you could see that we got more and more discouraged as we continued to miss jumpers. By the middle of the 3rd quarter, we seemed to give up, knowing it was over. The players know they're not going to win any defensive slug-fests, and we're not going to outscore anyone when we can't hit an open 15-footer. Hopefully the Big 3 can get it going on Tuesday, and if not, we head back to DC on Friday to even this series where our jumpers are far more consistent.


> Charles Barkley had a great point about Gilbert Arenas on Sunday night on TNT. He said that Gil is a very good player, but that he won't be a great player until he learns how to help his team win games when he's not hitting his shots. Just take a look at Gilbert's splits in Zards wins vs. Zards losses. In wins, he shoots 50% from the field. In losses however, he only shoots 40% from the field, AND his assists actually go down as well. In games when Gilbert's not shooting well, he should do everything he can to get better looks for his teammates. His assists should be going UP when his shot's not on. He should also get to the line alot more, since the best way to get your points on a poor shooting day is by getting yourself to the line for freebies. One reason the Wizards were a mediocre road team this year was that Gilbert is only a 42% shooter on the road. If he could learn to make the team better with other aspects of his game, the Wizards would be much more of a consistent team on the road.

> ESPN's Chris Sheridan seems ready to anoint Lebron as the greatest playoff performer of all-time after 1 freaking home game against "The Team That Wasn't There".

> Mike Wilbon on Sunday: Lebron was great, the Zards were not.

> Mike Wise was on point with this column on Sunday. Lebron was excellent, but he's not the reason we lost. We lost because the Big 3 couldn't hit the back side of a barn.

> Kornheiser also takes a sensible approach this morning: "You don't have to win the first game to win a seven-game series. Should the Wizards win Game 2 tomorrow night, hello, they'll have wrestled away home court. And come on, nobody looks at Cleveland and thinks, 'Ohmigod, how are we going to beat them?' Beyond LeBron, how many of the Cavs do you think are going to Springfield other than by Greyhound? Cleveland has one great player, and four guys named Moe. The Wizards should beat them. But they'll have to get Arenas, Jamison and Butler mo' better real quick."

> Tom Knott: "The outcome was not about James, really, although the panting gushers in his midst will be certain to portray it that way. You figure it takes two teams to deliver a masterpiece. The problem is there was only one team on the floor."

> CNNSI has a running diary of Lebron's debut, which may or may not have also involved the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as the Washington Wizards. It includes hard-hitting revelations such as the fact that Lebron thinks he is "a human being just like everybody else." Thanks for the great work, Chris Ballard.

> If you're still feeling a little down about Saturday's debacle (not to mention Lavar Arrington's traitorous signing with the New York Giants), this really REALLY helps take the edge off. I watched it about 10 times on Sunday.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Links to peruse while eating a bagel and drinking a glass of freshly squeezed Tough Juice

Check out The Basketball Jones’ Eastern Playoffs Preview. I heard their Wizards expert is terrific:

> Washington Post:

Wilbon’s playoff preview:

Arenas vs. Hughes:

Etan Thomas is ready to go, and Gilbert’s ready for the media spotlight:

> Washington Times:

Will Lebron get the superstar treatment?

Caron Butler’s journey to the NBA

> Other stuff:

Get inside the head of the enemy:

It sounds like Sir Charles and Reggie Miller are on the Wizards bandwagon:

USA Today is drinking the Tough Juice:

Stupid SI likes the stupid Cavs in 7:

Jai Lewis impresses NFL scouts:

Wizards-Cavs Preview

In preparation for recording The Basketball Jones Podcast I jotted down some answers to several warm-up questions that J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas sent me. I typed up my thoughts and fleshed them out a bit, and now they serve as the perfect preview for the upcoming Zards-Cavs series (starting Saturday at 3:30 on ABC).

> How do you think your team will play and how have they been playing?

As far as I’m concerned, the Zards played as well as they can to close out the season. You have to ignore the 5 games (all losses) without Caron. We can't win without our entire Big 3 in the line-up, because the rest of the team is just too deficient on the offensive end to make up for it. In our last 10 games with Butler healthy, we were 7-3. When we’re firing on all cylinders, we push the pace, attack the passing lanes on defense, and force an up-tempo game.

> Major issues plaguing/helping your team?

2 major things will motivate us against the Cavs:

1) King James and his hype machine. Gilbert loves to be the underdog, he wants respect, and the whole team will be playing with a chip on their shoulder as the media fawns over Lebron.

2) Larry Hughes. The common wisdom said that losing Larry Hughes would set this team back, but we're right back in the 5th spot. Hyper-competitive Arenas will want to show his buddy Hughes that he shouldn't have left, and Butler and Daniels will want to make a statement that they're more than just adequate replacements.

> Keys to the team's success?

Key #1: Keep Lebron on the perimeter. In our 3 victories over the Cavs, the biggest key has been that Lebron has stayed on the perimeter and shot jumpers. Whether it's playing off him and forcing him to hit from outside, or Haywood stepping up and forcibly protecting the rim, we need to prevent Lebron from getting easy buckets in the paint, and make the Cavs live and die by his often streaky jumpshot.

Key #2: Go small, play a transition game, and make it about guard play. The Cavs weakness all-season has been the play of guards like Eric Snow, Damon Jones, Sasha Pavlovic, and Flip Murray. Arenas, Daniels, and Butler have had their way with those guys. If we go small by sliding Jeffries to Center, like we did in our big win over Milwaukee this week, we can take Zydrunas Ilgauskas out of the game and put pressure on the Cavs guards to take care of the basketball. Even with Hughes healthy, that would be an advantage for the Wizards, as Hughes has always had a high turnover rate.

> Past playoff performance?

For the first time as a Bullards fan, I can actually say that playoff experience is on our side. We won a tough series as the 5 seed last year against Chicago, before taking our beatings (and hopefully learning some lessons) in the 2nd round against Miami.

2005 was the first playoff exposure for Gilbert, and he showed his mettle by burying the series winner in Chicago. Now it’s Gil’s 2nd time around, and he knows he can win a game at the buzzer in the playoffs. Can Lebron? While Gilbert goes into Eastern Conference Assassin mode during crunch time, will the 21-year-old be biting his finger nails?

The rest of our Big 3 should be ready for the playoff pressure as well. Caron has playoff experience from his days with the Wade/Odom/Butler Heat team, and Jamison's a grizzled playoff vet now thanks to his Dallas days.

In addition to the experience edge, the Zards should also have an edge in confidence. We’re a combined 6-1 against Cleveland and Detroit this season, so fear and intimidation will not be a factor.

> Your prediction?

Wizards in 6. We’ll go 3-0 at home, and 1-2 on the road. We’ll win the series in front of the home crowd on May 5th at Verizon Center.

And just for fun, here's the whole enchilada...

Round One:

Pistons over Bucks in 4
Heat over Bulls in 5
Nets over Pacers in 6
Wizards over Cavaliers in 6

Spurs over Kings in 7
Suns over Lakers in 5
Clippers over Nuggets in 6
Mavericks over Grizzlies in 4

Round Two:

Pistons over Wizards in 6
Heat over Nets in 6

Mavericks over Spurs in 7
Suns over Clippers in 6

Conference Finals:

Pistons over Heat in 6

Mavericks over Suns in 7

NBA Finals:

Pistons over Mavericks in 6

Thursday, April 20, 2006

check me out on The Basketball Jones Podcast

I just finished recording the Wizards section of the The Basketball Jones playoff preview podcast. Thanks to J.E. Skeets and Tas for giving me the opportunity to let their listeners know that the Zards will beat the Cavs in 6. Before we face Detroit, hopefully they'll let me back on to talk smack about our 3-0 record against the Pistons this year.

The podcast should be available for download sometime Friday morning, and you'll be able to get it HERE. The Basketball Jones Podcast is also available on iTunes, so check it out and subscribe to get it weekly.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, because you don't know what a podcast is (Hi Dad!), then take a look here:

Also, if you seek relationship advice from 7-foot, floppy-haired Germans, go here:

We're #5! We're #5!

It was an ugly game, except for Caron's wizardry (pun intended!), but we got the job done. The 1st quarter was especially sloppy. The Wizards looked tense, and the Pistons starters (minus Chauncey Billups) didn't really look like they cared. The Pistons held a 24-19 lead after one quarter, but the starters gave way to the likes of Carlos Delfino and Jason Maxiell in the 2nd, and the game was pretty much over after that. The Zards took an 8-point lead into half-time and the Pistons never really got any closer: Zards 96, Detroit Ex-Bullets 80.

Caron Butler was spectacular last night: 33 points on 13-for-22 shooting, 12 rebounds, 3 steals. Granted, much of it was against guys like Amir Johnson and Alex Acker, but we can still hope that it's an indication of what's to come in the playoffs. Both Butler and Jamison continued their strong play, and we're going to need top-notch production from them against Cleveland.

The Wizards and Cavaliers kick-off the playoffs on Saturday at 3:30 in Cleveland. This series should get a TON of national hype, being that it's Lebron's first playoff appearance. Hopefully the national attention combined with a series victory over the Cavs will get Gilbert some of the ridiculous, media-bandwagon overhyping that Dwyane "Jumpshot" Wade's been getting for the last 2 years.

Notes (lots of stuff on the web today):

> ESPN’s Daily Dime: Caron was "Wednesday's Best", Chris Webber actually showed up for the Sixers last game (what a professional!), Chris Sheridan calls Zards-Cavs "a toss up" but picks the Cavs in 7, and Marc Stein omits Gilbert from his All-NBA teams... BEHIND TONY FREAKING PARKER!!! SHOW ME ONE NBA GM OR SCOUT WHO WOULD TAKE PARKER OVER ARENAS! ONE! I DARE YOU! (deep breath... and moving on...)

> Sports Illustrated has a small interview this week with Gilbert Arenas. A lot of it is old news, but there are two pretty funny parts:

  1. Earlier this season, Gil drenched Awvee Storey with a water hose for 3 minutes while he was on the can. Says Gilbert: "It was hilarious. But for some reason, he still wasn't laughing."
  2. We all know about "The Eastern Conference Assassin", but apparently Gilbert has given himself quite a few other nicknames. Previously, he's gone by "Black Fever" and "Hurricane", and he's currently going with "The People's Champ". He even had clear bowling balls custom-made with boxing gloves inside of them.
> Apparently Larry Brown wants to bring Jared Jeffries to the Knicks this off-season for the mid-level exception. He would seem to duplicate alot of the things that David Lee already does for them (at a cheaper price), but whatever, it's the Knicks so logic doesn't apply. I do think the Wizards should let Jeffries go, that money could be better spent elsewhere, but at the same time, I wouldn't wish a contract with the Knicks on a good guy like Jeffries.

> Mitchell Butler sighting! The Washington Times catches up with Gilbert's Arena favorite Mitchell Butler, a mainstay of the mediocre mid-90's squads, unsung star of Blue Chips, and randomly reappearing 2004 12th man.

> George Mason Power Forward Jai Lewis will audition for NFL teams today, in the hopes of following in the foot steps of Antonio Gates. I love this quote: "It's tough to teach a guy to be 6'5, 280 or 290 pounds and to move like that." Thanks, Sherlock.

> Scottie Reynolds, a McDonald's All-American from Northern Virginia, asked for his release from Oklahoma now that Kelvin Sampson jumped to Indiana. I wonder if Georgetown or Maryland has a shot at keeping him home now?

> Speaking of Maryland, Ekene Ibekwe and DJ Strawberry might be declaring for the NBA Draft (apparently they don't realize there's not a 3rd round anymore). However, Gary Williams fired back and said they’re not going anywhere. The Terps program hasn't seemed like much fun since the Juan Dixon days.

> It's pretty funny that Adam Morrison used to look like THIS. Somehow, I don't think Larry Bird was ever into Rage Against the Machine and Che Guevara.

> And just for fun... a statistical wrap-up of Kwame Brown's 2005-2006 season
  1. 28 minutes per game, 7 points, 7 rebounds, 0.71 assist-to-turnover ratio (1 assist and 1.4 turnovers per game), 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
  2. Hollinger Stats league ranks: 142nd in Player Efficiency Rating, 167th in Turnover Rate, 33rd in rebound rate (just 20th among Centers)
  3. Most statistically similar players at his age? Donald Hodge, J.R. Reid, and Iakovos “Big Jake” Tsakalidis
  4. Ernie Grunfeld, my love grows stronger for you by the day.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wizards-Pistons games make me sad...

Watching the Pistons is kind of like having all 3 of your ex-girlfriends show up at a restaurant at the same time, 15 pounds lighter and with breast implants, while you're dining with the mediocre girl you've been dating to help you get over a cold streak.

At least we got our very own championship core of Jerry Stackhouse, Rod Strickland, and Ike Austin for them. If my walls weren't plastered with posters of Gilbert Arenas, I would definitely have a poster of this man over my bed.


> The Post's Mike Wise focuses on last night's Arenas-Redd duel.

> On SportsCenter last night, NBA analyst Greg Anthony picked the Wizards as the most dangerous playoff team in the East. His reasoning? We have the top 3 scorers in the league, the only team in the East that plays great defense is the Pistons, and we're the only team in the league with a winning record against the Pistons this year.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Washington 116, Milwaukee 103

What a performance tonight by the Zards! That was EXACTLY how we need to play in the playoffs. Arenas dropped 43 points, got to the line 19 times, and took over the game offensively in the 4th quarter during a 29-13 closing run. Jamison and Butler both shot 50%, and each had 20+ points and 9 rebounds. Most importantly though, we played the game at our pace. We pushed the ball constantly without forcing anything (just 9 turnovers), and attacked Milwaukee on both ends of the floor (16 forced turnovers, including 10 STEALS).

The Bucks gave us their best shot, too. TJ Ford played as well as I've ever seen him play (26 pts, 8 ast, 6 reb, 4 stl), and Michael Redd was absolutely unconscious in the 2nd half and finished with 43 points. In the end though, the Bucks couldn't stay under control while playing at the Wizards frenetic place. Eddie Jordan made the Bucks play OUR game, by playing Jared Jeffries at Center for most of the 4th quarter. In response, Terry Stotts had to take Jamaal Magloire out and go small. The Wizards are a far more comfortable team in the full-court game than the Bucks, and Milwaukee showed it by turning the ball over and committing silly fouls. We really can't play any better than we played tonight, so that's a great sign heading into the opening weekend of the playoffs.

We're heading to Detroit Wednesday night for our final game of the regular season, and we're in the driver's seat for the 5th playoff spot. Indiana and Chicago are in our rearview (1 game back with a game to play) and Milwaukee is lying in a heap at the side of the road (1.5 back with their season over). Detroit has nothing to play for and their starters will be on the bench, so we should be able to take this one if we come out playing hard.

Here are the scenarios going into the final day:

1) If we win, we finish 5th and play the Cavs. Yay!
2) If we lose, and just Indiana wins, we finish 5th. (Cavs! Woohoo!)
3) If we lose, and just Chicago wins, we finish 6th and play the Nets... :(
4) If we lose, and Indiana and Chicago both win, we finish 7th and play... Miami! NOOOOO!

More Love for Gilbert

Mr. Irrelevant spreads the love for Gilbert this morning:


There are a couple of funny links at the bottom worth checking out, as well as an interview with Gilbert.

Also, here is a link to the 2005 SI article about Gilbert that refers to his pitbulls (first paragraph):


I've been looking for this article for a while, so thanks to the The Wizznutzz for posting it for all to enjoy. Apparently, my memory was slightly off. Gil didn't buy treadmills for his dogs, he brought them into the Warriors training facility and tried to see how fast he could get them to run on the treadmills. That's even better!

In even MORE wonderful Gilbert Arenas news, the Washington Times reports today that Gil is planning a bowl-off for the ownership rights to a 2001 Chevy Monte Carlo. Apparently he won the car from his friend last year by pretending to be terrible at Halo and then convincing his friend to bet his car on a game. For the past year, Gilbert has kept the car in his garage, and occasionally he takes pictures of it and sends it to his friend to taunt him.

Oh, and I guess I should also mention that the Bucks, Pacers, and Bulls all won last night. If we lose tonight to the Bucks, we lose any chance at the 5th spot. Should be a playoff atmosphere tonight in Washington. If you're not excited for this game, there's something wrong with you.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Playoff Picture

According to the Wizards website ( there are 3 basic ways the Wizards can secure the 5th spot in the East:

> Wizards go 2-0

> All four teams go 1-1

> Chicago and Milwaukee both go 0-2, and Indiana goes 0-2 or 1-1 (we only have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indiana)

The Wizards site also breaks down what would happen if there was a 3-way tie or a 4-way tie. It's a little bit mind-numbing to actually try to read it, so here's the summary: If we get into a 3-way tie or 4-way tie situation, we get the worst seed no matter what.

Moral of the story: JUST GO 2-0

Weekend Wrap-up

Before I get to this weekend’s action, READ THIS IMMEDIATELY. A few highlights:

> Gilbert plays on-line poker in the locker room at halftime of games.
> During the summer, he bowls 3 to 4 hours a day, every day, and his high score is 277.
> He thinks resting in the off-season leads to burn out. I’m not sure how that works, but I like it.
> He wants to write and film his own shoe commercials this summer and post them on-line. One of his ideas features Ron Artest going into the stands after a fan, only to slip and knock his own teeth out.

Sometimes I love Gilbert Arenas so much it hurts. Moving on…

On Friday night, we traveled to Chicago, where we suffered our 5th straight loss without Caron Butler (L, 103-101). There were two major reasons we lost this game, and the horrendous charging call on Jared Jeffries on the last play of the game wasn’t one of them. Although Andres Nocioni clearly shouldn’t have gotten that call, I also don’t think it should have been a foul on Noc. If anything, it should have been a “no call”, in which case the clock would have run out. The real problem was that Jeffries didn’t call a timeout when he got the ball with 3 seconds left on the clock. I’d rather set up a play for the winning shot than have Jared Jeffries careen wildly down court toward the basket in a full-court one-on-one situation.

That charging call aside, the real reasons we lost this game were: A) Ben Gordon, and B) Gilbert Arenas’ calf. Gordon went 9-for-9 from three, tying the NBA record for most threes in a game without a miss. He was lights-out in the 4th quarter, and it didn’t matter if we had a hand in his face. He wasn’t missing. Meanwhile, Gilbert was ice cold in the 4th quarter. At the mid-point of the 3rd quarter, Arenas was 11 for 20 from the field with 30+ points, but then he came up limping. He went to the bench where the trainers massaged and treated his calf. When he came back out a few minutes later, something was clearly wrong. Antonio Daniels was bringing the ball up the court, Gilbert wasn’t moving at all on defense, and he stopped driving to the basket. When he shot jumpers (which was all he did for the rest of the game), he had no lift, as he was clearly jumping off one leg. To make a long story short, Gilbert shot 2 for 12 over the last quarter and a half. Game over.

On Saturday, our Eastern Conference competitors handed us a gift. Philadelphia lost to Orlando, Indiana lost to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats in overtime, and Milwaukee got drubbed by the Atlanta Hawks. So going into Sunday’s game against the Cavaliers, we had a 1/2 game lead for the 5th playoff spot. Then we got more good news…

Caron was back! And it made a world of difference. The Zards played with the kind of aggressiveness, confidence, and energy that's been missing over the past 2 weeks. We looked like a different team. Gilbert was picking his spots rather than forcing his shot, we constantly pushed the ball up the court and relentlessly attacked the rim, and Antonio Daniels’ production became a luxury off the bench rather than a necessity. The game was over after 3 quarters, as we took a 26 point lead into the final stanza. The Cavs even conceded the game at that point by pulling Larry Hughes, Lebron, and Big Z. Caron was clearly the player of the game, finishing with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists (box score). With the win, we finally clinched a playoff spot. About freaking time!

This week, the Zards have Milwaukee on Tuesday in our final home game of the year, followed by the Pistons on the road on Wednesday (hopefully with their starters resting). We need to lock down the 5th spot, and at this point we control our own destiny thanks to a one game lead over Milwaukee, Indiana, and Chicago. We are a better team than the Cavs, as our 3-1 record against them this year shows. We can definitely beat them in a 7 game series, and in the 2nd round we’d face the Pistons rather than the dreaded Heat. The Pistons are clearly the best team in the league, but at least we have confidence against them. We’ve beaten them twice this year, including a win at The Palace, so we won’t be afraid.


> Michael Wilbon jumps on the anti-T-shirt bandwagon. Says Wilbon: “It’s time for the Wizards to act like they’ve been there.” AMEN.

> Eddie Jordan has given Caron the nickname “Tough Juice”. I like it.

> Get your off-season dose of Clinton Portis! The Mighty MJD

Friday, April 14, 2006

Awards and Bizarro Awards

I was going to post year-end awards for the Wizards today, but given the fact that I can't think about the Zards right now without curling into the fetal position, I think I'll just focus on league-wide awards. Everybody and their mother offers their award choices this time of year, so I thought I'd throw in my "opposite day" award choices as well, just to spice things up a bit.

First-team All-NBA: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Elton Brand, Dirk Nowitzki

Picking this team was easy this year. Every single one of these guys was a cut above the rest. Nash is the league's best PG. Kobe carries what might be the league's worst team without him. Lebron is gonna win his fair share of MVPs before he's done. Elton Brand lost weight, worked on his jumper, and became the league's best traditional PF. Dirk is the unquestioned stud on what might be the West's best team.

72nd-team All-NBA: Orien Greene, Sasha Vujacic, John Salmons, Scott Padgett, Brian Scalabrine

If you've never seen any of these guys play before, you're lucky. Orien Greene and John Salmons are perfect examples of NBA scouts' inexplicable love for tall guys who can play PG, even if they can't do anything other than be tall and not dribble off their own foot. Sasha Vujacic is just horrific. I honestly think he leads the NBA in air-balls this year. Does anyone keep track of that kind of stat? As for Scalabrine, his selection to the squad is due to the fact that he gets paid $15 million dollars by the Celtics to (in the words of my friend Rookie) "bring nothing to the table but his tangy, Irish breast-milk". That leaves my nemesis, the dreaded Scott Padgett. I have had a burning hatred for Scott Padgett since the first time I saw him play at Kentucky. First of all, I hate his goatee. That thing just gets under my skin. Second of all, he has managed to convince basketball coaches and scouts on all levels that he can actually shoot, just by shooting a lot. He's not a good shooter! In fact, he's a very mediocre shooter. He just keeps shooting, and then he acts all upset when he misses. Why do people buy into it? Are they mesmerized by the goatee?

Most Valuable Player: Steve Nash

I evaluate this award by answering a question: "Who is the most indispensable player on a good team?" Nash is my choice again this year, ahead of Dirk and Kobe. Nash was the best player in the league last year, and he took it to a whole new level this year. I didn't even think this team could make the playoffs without Amare, Q, and Joe Johnson, but Nash turned guys like James Jones and Raja Bell into scoring machines. And I don't care that he doesn't rebound or play lock-down defense. His effect on that offense is clearly a net positive over any negative effects he has on their defense. And why should Nash's rebounding matter? It's not his job. Nobody complains that Tim Duncan doesn't shoot 3's.

Least Valuable Player: Antoine Walker

Who is the most dispensable supposedly good player on a good team? It's gotta be Antoine Walker. It's kind of sad to give this award to Antoine, because he had so much potential when he came into the league to become a dominant Point-Forward. But his lateral quickness eroded each year he's been in the league, it doesn't seem like he's worked too much on his ball-handling, and he fell in love with the 3-pointer in Boston. Now he just stands around the perimeter and heaves 3-pointers with one hand while cashing paychecks with the other.

Most Improved Player: Boris Diaw

Diaw gets this award over Gerald Wallace (only player in the league to average 2+ blocks and 2+ steals per game, and he's only 23!). My roommate and I used to watch Hawks games sometimes just to rip on Diaw's phenomenal lack of production. We used to send each other Hawks box scores whenever he put up lines like: 32 minutes, 0-for-1 from the field, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal. Last year, he might have been the MVP of my 72nd-team All-NBA squad. Now he's the best Point-Center in the league. Go figure.

Least Improved Player: Stromile Swift

I was always a Stromile apologist. I thought he just needed to get out of Memphis and go to a team where there weren't so many players crowding the rotation. At some point, a player with potential becomes too old to be considered anything other than a bust. I think it's about that time for Stromile. Well... unless the Rockets fire Jeff Van Gundy and the new coach gives Stro more PT. He just needs a coach that will let him play in an up-tempo system. It's the coach's fault right? The coaches are holding Stro back!

6th Man of the Year: Mike Miller

Mike Miller has quietly developed into one of the league's best long-range shooters. When he comes off the bench feeling it, there's nothing you can do to stop him. Just ask the Wizards (30 points) and the Nuggets (41 pts).

12th Man of the Year: Sean Marks

I'm not really sure what the bizarro equivalent of a 6th man is, so I'm just going to use this award to give a shout-out to the league's most underappreciated 12th man, Sean Marks. Raise your hand if you know who Sean Marks is? Nobody? Well, did you know that Sean Marks has been in the NBA for 6 years?! Well done Sean Marks. Well done.

Rookie of the Year: Chris Paul

Not much to say here. Nobody else is even close. That's why I'm gonna give out a 2nd ROY award...

Long-term Potential Award: Andrew Bynum

The league's youngest player showed that he belongs in the NBA, and he's still growing! By the time he's done, he'll be Shaq-sized, and he has a soft touch, great attitude, and excellent feet. Barring injury, this kid should develop into a perennial All-Star, and sooner than you might think.

Worst Rookie of the Year: Marvin Williams

Okay, so maybe he hasn't been the worst rookie in the league. He's just been mediocre. But the Hawks should have picked Chris Paul, so Marvin Williams is going to be judged against Paul for the rest of his career. Hawks fans are hoping that he develops into an All-NBA stud at the 3, but I'd put my money on Josh Smith before I'd put it on Marvin.

Defensive Player of the Year: Trenton Hassell

I think this is the hardest category for the average fan to evaluate. Typically, people base their choice on 3 things: stats (blocked shots and/or steals), reputation (i.e. media hype) , and watching guys try to guard Kobe or Lebron one-on-one (on ABC, just about every Sunday). In reality, most people have no idea who's really playing the best defense within their team's concept. Some guys might be racking up steals or blocks by gambling. Other guys get a rep for being defensive stoppers because they don't do much else (Bruce Bowen) or because they run their mouths (Ruben Patterson). So, since I'm not really sure who actually is the best defensive player in the league, I am going to choose who I think is the best defensive player never to get any credit for it, Trenton Hassell. He's the real Kobe Stopper, but you never hear anyone mention it. He was phenomenal against Kobe in the playoffs 2-years ago. I've honestly never seen anyone cover him better. And check out Kobe’s stats versus the T-Wolves this year. The only teams he scored less against were Utah and Orlando, and those were both smaller sample sizes.

Worst Defender of the Year: Ricky Davis

Ricky probably isn't the worst defensive player in the league, but he gets this award because he's a worse defender than Wally Szczerbiak, and nobody seemed to realize it! After the Wolves-Celtics trade at the deadline, the sports media was talking about how this was a great trade for the T-Wolves, because they were going to instantly improve their defense. I would like to thank the sports media for proving once again that they don't actually watch NBA games that don't involve the top 5 teams in the league. Wally is slow-footed, and he's not a good defender, but he plays smart team defense, he's always in the right place, and he knows his limitations. Ricky Davis on the other hand, is an atrocious defender. His favorite defensive maneuver is to body-up on the opposing team's best scorer, talk trash to him, follow about 2-feet behind him as the player easily cuts open to catch the ball, bend down and slap the floor while talking more trash, stand flat-footed while turning and watching as the player goes right by him, and then acting all upset and confused that it happened. It's the Scott Padgett appraoch to defense. He's also a big fan of jumping wildly into the passing lanes 10 times a game, giving up layups 90% of the time, just to get 1 steal that he can turn into a fast-break dunk at the other end. It only took about a month for T-Wolves fans to realize what they got themselves into.

Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni

I waffled back-and-forth between D'Antoni and Avery Johnson, but in the end, I had to pick D'Antoni and his amazing mustache. The style of play that he has brought back to the league has produced some of the most entertaining NBA basketball in decades, AND he's winning doing it. That deserves to be celebrated. Now I just need the Suns to win a championship so the whole league will copy their style of play, and then Jeff Van Gundy will get fired for good, and the Heat/Knicks basketbrawl era will officially be dead. Good riddance.

Worst Coach: Larry Brown

What a freaking disaster.

The 2nd Best GM Award: Larry Harris, Milwaukee

Joe Dumars owns this award for as long as he wants it, so I figured I'd just name it after him and move on to other candidates. I briefly considered the Clippers' Elgin Baylor, until I realized that he may actually have been worse than Wes Unself for a solid 15 years, and you can't just ignore that. So, I'm going with Harris instead. The Bucks seemed to be on the verge of disaster just a year ago, with Michael Redd demanding a huge contract from a notoriously cheap owner and TJ Ford's career potentially over. Now, they're one of the best young teams in the league, with a core that has big-men, ball-handlers, and shooters (Ford, Mo Williams, Redd, Bobby Simmons, Andrew Bogut), none of whom are older than 26.

The Rob Babcock Memorial Worst GM Award: Billy Knight, Atlanta

I would have given this award to Rob Babcock, except Toronto unceremoniously canned him halfway through the season. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure the Raptors are still paying Alonzo Mourning and Alvin Williams, and they face Vince Carter several times a year, so they won't forget Rob Babcock in Toronto for a long time. Since Rob couldn't make it, Billy Knight will gladly accept the award in his stead. Unless Billy knows something we don't know, the "5 Small Forwards" line-up will never be a winning strategy in this league.

And just for fun, one more category...

Most Overrated Players: Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker

That's right. I said it. Dwyane Wade is one of the league's most overrated players. Now don't get me wrong, Wade and Parker are both very good players, but they aren't as good as the hype they are getting. I mean, comparing Wade to MJ??? COME ON. I don't want to hear that kind of stuff until Wade gets into the gym and develops something I like to call a "jump shot". I can specifically remember all 3 times I've ever seen Dwyane Wade hit a shot beyond 10 feet. As for Parker, he's still a very one-dimensional player. He is very fast and he has a quick release and great touch around the basket (thus his 50% FG percentage), but that's his entire game at this point. He's still not a great passer, and like Wade, he really needs to work on his jumper. Honestly, would you take Tony Parker over an underappreciated PG like Mike Bibby? Bibby would shoot 50% from the field as well if he never took a shot beyond 15 feet, but Bibby takes 3's because he can make 3's.

Most Underrated Players: Manu Ginobili, Raymond Felton

Everyone knows that Manu is a good player, but it's a little known secret that he's a top-20 player, because he has such an unconventional style, and his statistics aren't gaudy. Manu does absolutely everything well, and he's one of basketball's premier winnners (both in the NBA and internationally). He can take over the game in so many ways, and it's different from game to game, whatever it takes to win. Do you know who the top 5 players in the league last year were in terms of net +/- (on-court vs. off-court)? Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd, Manu, Dirk Nowitzki, and Steve Nash. And, despite struggling a bit this year with injuries, Manu's PER (John Hollinger’s "Player Efficiency Rating") ranks 18th in the league, between Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

In all the hype over Chris Paul, Raymond Felton's stellar rookie season has gotten lost. If you haven't been paying attention, take a look at Felton's post All-Star performance: 16.4 points, 7 assists, just 2.5 turnovers, and 40% shooting from three. Those #'s are just a tick under Paul's over the same period (17.5 pts, 8.2 ast, 2.3 to) and Felton's 3-pt shooting has been far better than Paul's (27.5%). And if team performance is more important to you when evaluating a PG, it's worth noting that Paul's team has gone 9-17 during that stretch, basically the same as the Bobcats (8-16).

Take a deep breath...

Sorry for not posting yesterday, I couldn't bring myself to do it. It would have wreaked of panic and desperation, and that wouldn't have been good for anyone. We Wizards/Bullets fans may have issues and complexes that have built up over the past 20 years, but it wouldn't be fair to use this site as an emotional outlet or on-line shrink. Keeping that in mind, I will attempt to summarize (calmly and coolly) what we have gotten ourselves into...

We are 4-6 in our last 10 games, and we have lost our last 4 games, including a heartbreaking loss to the Bucks on Wednesday night. We now have just a 1 game lead on the Bucks and Pacers, and just a 2 game lead on the Bulls and 76ers. So yes, you read that right, we are only 2 games out of the 9th spot in the East, with 4 games to play. The Washington Times does a nice job summarizing the obvious today, that we suck without a consistent 3rd scorer (I never thought I'd find myself missing Jarvis Hayes), but i think it's clear what the real problem is...


I'm not usually a superstitious person at all, especially when it comes to sports, but when you are as miserable of a franchise as the Bullards have been over the past 20 years, you can't take any chances. Clearly, someone or something has not been on our side over the past 20 years (or maybe the franchise was run by Wes Unseld), so why get all cocky and mess with karma now?

If anyone associated with the Wizards organization in any way somehow reads this blog, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make sure that those t-shirts do not make it to Chicago tonight.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Big Game Tonight in Milwaukee

The Wizards can clinch a playoff birth tonight with a win at Milwaukee. Not only that, but a win would give us a 3-game lead over the Bucks for the 5th spot, with 4 games to play. Indiana plays a weak Celtics squad at home tonight, so there's a good chance that both Indiana and Milwaukee would both be just a game behind us if we lose tonight.

Milwaukee is a very well-balanced team, with plenty of ball handlers (TJ Ford, Mo Williams, Charlie Bell), wing shooters (Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons), and quality big men (Andrew Bogut, Jamaal Magloire, Dan Gadzuric, Joe Smith). They're still a pretty young team, so they are inconsistent, but they can be scary when they put it all together at the same time. They can also be scary when Redd gets red hot (no pun intended), or even Mo Williams. Williams dropped 35 on us in an unbelievable performance in December, including 14 points in the 4th quarter and a game winning 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer. It's a little known secret that Williams may actually be a better PG than the much-hyped TJ Ford, and I'm sure that the Utah Jazz wish they had held onto him last year instead of rolling the dice with Carlos Arroyo, Raul Lopez, and Keith McLeod.

Milwaukee has enough skilled offensive guys to score with us, and to outscore us if we don't have Butler, so I think our defense is going to be the key to this game. We can't give guys like Redd, Simmons, and Williams open looks from 3, and we have to keep their active big men off the boards and prevent 2nd chance points. Our best chance to win is to keep them under 100 and get solid offensive peformances from Arenas, Jamison, and AD (assuming Butler doesn't play).


> Caron and Etan couldn't return to practice and Gilbert's back still hurts, so EJ opted for a film session over practice yesterday: Washington Post.

> The Cleveland media thinks Cavs-Wizards will be the best first-round matchup. Thanks for the jinx guys. Like the playoff t-shirts weren't enough already.

> Caron Butler thinks he would have been an All-Star if he had started during the first quarter of the season: Racine Journal-Times.

> I think this may be the secret to Miami's success against the Wizards.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Caron for MVP?

Once again Caron Butler was in street clothes last night, and once again we lost. We're now 0-3 since Caron injured his thumb, and by my personal calculations we're 9-17 this season in games when Caron isn't in the starting line-up (7-14 when he comes off the bench, 2-3 when he doesn't play at all). In all seriousness, I don't actually think this indicates that Caron Butler is an unsung MVP candidate. This really reflects upon the offensive abilities of the rest of the team, beyond the Big 3.

Our role players (everyone not named Gilbert, Antawn, or Caron) are not the kind of guys who choose to focus on the dirty work and then will pick their spots offensively. Rather, they are guys whose primary NBA skill IS the dirty work. For instance, our 4th leading scorer, Antonio Daniels, has never averaged more than 11 points per game or 8 field goal attempts per game in his entire career.

Last night's game was the perfect example of why we can't win without the entire Big 3 putting the ball in the basket (by the way, there's really gotta be a better nickname than "Big 3"). Jamison got back on track with 37 points on 12-for-24 shooting, and Arenas got his points at the free throw line (16 free throws made) despite an off-night from the field, but the rest of the team could only combine for 28 points. And with AD sliding into the starting line-up to replace Caron, our bench only managed to produce 5 POINTS!

With just a 2 game lead over Milwaukee (our opponent on Wednesday), it would be tempting to rush Butler back into the line-up. However, it's far more important at this point to get him 100% healthy for the playoffs. Although clinching the 5th seed would be nice, we wouldn't stand a chance in the first round, against either Cleveland or New Jersey, without our 3 primary scorers all at full strength.


> Butler still can't palm a basketball.

> Kornheiser rips on the Zards for their pathetic performance against the Heat the past 3 seasons.

> Apparently the Wizards are traveling with t-shirts that anticipate clinching a playoff spot. Talk about a guaranteed jinx... YIKES! Let's hope we don't see these shirts for sale at a 90% discount on e-bay next week.

> Did anybody see Lebron smile at the crowd and then bury the game winner last night in Oklahoma City? Get off the kid's back. He's gonna win his fair share of games in the clutch over the next 15 years, whether it's on a pull-up jumper or a sweet assist.

> If you enjoy contact sports, keep an eye on the Nationals-Mets series that starts this afternoon (1:05pm eastern). There's a 50/50 chance that Jose Guillen might kill someone. Watching THIS is a phenomenal way to get fired up for this series.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Today We Honor Chris Webber

The Zards travel to Philly tonight to take on the Philadelphia 76ers and one of my least favorite Wizards/Bullets of all-time, Chris Webber. I didn't always hate Webber. At one point during his stint as a Zard, I worshipped the ground that he walked on. 5000 18-foot jumpshots from the biggest man on the court and several brushes with the law later, I couldn't wait to see him tossed out the door (at least until I saw what we got in return... thanks again, Wes Unseld.)

So, in honor of today's match-up against the Sixers and C-Webb, I am going to countdown my five favorite and least favorite Wizards and Bullets.


5. Peter John Ramos: What's not to love about Party John?!?!

4. Tim Legler: Sure, Tim Legler deserves the #4 spot because he is the greatest 3-point shooter in Bullets/Wizards (Bullards?) history, as evidenced by his 52% marksmanship and All-Star 3-Point Championship in 1996. But the real reason he's up here is because I love the looks on peoples' faces when I wear my #23 Wizards jersey and they see the name "Legler" on the back. The highlight was the guy who pulled up next to me while honking repeatedly, rolled down the window, screamed "HEEEEY MI-CHAEL LEEEE-GLER!", and then peeled out. That was awesome.

3. Muggsy Bogues: The smaller half of the greatest draft class in Bullards history (ah screw it, IN NBA HISTORY), was one of the most entertaining players I've ever watched. I cried the day he left the Bullets. There was never a greater player in NBA history for a 7-year-old fan to relate to.

2. Gilbert Arenas: There are three major reasons to love Gilbert Arenas: 1) He's the greatest player in the game under 25 that's not named Lebron (Screw you Dwyane "Hypefest" Wade. This deserves it's own column.), 2) He once covered a jelly donut in baby powder, said it was powdered sugar, and convinced Troy Murphy to eat it, 3) He bought 2 extra treadmills so his pitbulls can jog next to him when he's on his treadmill. FYI, I am willing to pay for video of this, if anyone can obtain it.

1. Gheorghe Muresan: Screw Manute Bol, Muresan could actually play. People always forget that in 1996, Gheorghe's 3rd NBA season, he was developing into an All-Star caliber center. He averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and shot 58% from the floor, in just 29 minutes per game. Unfortunately, his freak-show body couldn't hold itself together, and he faded out of the league soon thereafter. Then again, that same body garnered him a starring role in My Giant, which destroys Mitchell Butler's cameo in Blue Chips for the best appearance in a movie by a Washington Bullard. On a side note, has anyone else noticed Gheorghe sitting behind the Wizards bench during most home games this season? Is he officially linked to the team in any way? Or does he just have a passion for the franchise? If you have an answer for me, post it in the comments.

Honorable Mention: Ledell Eackles (I never knew who he was or where he came from, but you gotta love fat 2-guards named Ledell with finesse games.), Mitchell Butler (2 reasons: 1) Blue Chips, 2) His random reappearance in 2004 after an 8-year hiatus) , Manute Bol (That picture with Muggsy is simply amazing.), Rex Chapman (Damn that white boy could jump. Especially compared to some of the other white guys Wes Unseld and Jim Lynam threw out there with him in 1994 and 1995. Scott Skiles, Brent Price, Don MacLean, Tom Gugliotta, Jim McIlvaine, and Gheorge Muresan weren't competing in any dunk contests, that's for sure.)

Least Favorite:

5. Pervis Ellison: "Never Nervous" Pervis was supposed to compete with Patrick Ewing. Unfortunately, the best battle Pervis ever had with another NBA center was late in his career when he tried to grow out better dreadlocks than fellow ancient stiff Sam Perkins.

4. Ike Austin: We traded Ben Wallace for Ike Austin. He was going to be our new centerpiece for years to come. Instead, he ate alot of donuts.

3. Mitch Richmond / Otis Thorpe: I was excited when I saw that we got All-Stars in return for Chris Webber. I got nervous when I checked their profiles and noticed how old they were. I cried when the season started and I realized that we had actually traded for Richmond and Thorpe's corpses.

2. Chris Webber: I've never seen a guy that big, that strong, and that unstoppable in the post, avoid the low-block like he was allergic to it. If you watched 10 plays of a typical game for Chris Webber as a Wizard, it generally looked like this...

1: Webber gets the ball on the block. Drop step, baby hook, money.
2: Webber gets an offensive rebound, viciously stuffs it over 3 opposing big men.
3: Webber gets defensive rebound, ignores our PG, dribbles the length of the court, goes behind the back 3 times, flings a no-look pass off the back of Gheorge Muresan's head.
4: Webber floats around the top of the key until he finally gets the ball. Pump fakes 4 times. Shoots (and usually misses) 18-foot jumper.
5, 6, 7, 8, 9: Ditto.
10. Offensive rebound and dunk again, just to remind you that he can do it.

C-Webb was a very good NBA player for a very long time, but I will always hate him because he could have been one of the most dominant post players of all-time, and it should have been in a Wizards uniform.

1. Wes Unseld (and guilty by association, Abe Pollin): Wes brought the team it's last championship (in 19-freaking-78), and for that Abe Pollin constantly forgave Wes as he repeatedly smashed the Bullards franchise with a sledgehammer over a span of 20 years as Head Coach, General Manager, and/or Chief Demolition Officer. I don't even know where to begin when describing what this man did to my team. Webber for Richmond & Thorpe? Rasheed Wallace for Rod Strickland? Ben Wallace for Ike Austin? I mean, at one my point we had Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Ben Wallace, and Rasheed Wallace. Sweet mercy! And Wes turned that into Rod Strickland, Ike Austin, Mitch Richmond, Otis Thorpe, and a 7 year / $105 mil contract for Juwan. I'm gonna start freaking out if I keep writing about this, so I'm ending this one here. I'm sorry I can't expound further.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Duckworth (Fat. Bad.), John "Hot Plate" Williams (Fatter. Badder.), Juwan Howard ($105 for 7), Michael Adams (what a gunner, good god), Tom Hammonds (so hyped, such a stiff), Rod Strickland (for Rasheed??? WHY???)

Wow, what a depressing list. Focus on Gilbert... focus on Gilbert...

-- UPDATE --

Several people have asked me if I forgot about Kwame. The somewhat surprising answer is that I don't actually hate Kwame. This may be a unique opinion of him among Wizards fans, but I just feel sorry for the guy. The best kept secret among all the people out there who booed Kwame, belittled him for lack of effort, etc... is that the guy just can't play. He has terrible hands, bad instincts, no feel on his jumper or his short game (hooks, tip-ins, and such). Yea, he has a sculpted 7-foot body and cat-like quickness, but his body hides the fact that he stinks at basketball. The blame in all this shouldn't fall on Kwame, he is who he is. The blame belongs to Michael Jordan's horrible judgment of Kwame's talent, and the subsequent pressure of going #1 was too much for an emotionally immature teenager who just couldn't play at that level and never will. (And for the record, I thought about putting MJ up there on the "Least Favorite" list, but in the end, I prefer to just pretend like the MJ Era never really happened. The ill-fated MJ experiment was a "no harm, no foul" situation as far as I'm concerned, since Abe realized it had turned into a circus and righted the ship by bringing in Ernie Grunfeld.)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

No Rest for the Weary

After a beating at the hands of the Miami Heat on Saturday night (Box Score), a banged up Wizards squad could use a few days of rest. Unfortunately, the schedule isn't going to cooperate, as we have a 4-game week ahead. We're on the road all week: Monday at Philly, Wednesday at Milwaukee, and Friday at Chicago. And on Sunday, we return home for the Cavs.

Antonio Daniels returned on Saturday from his wrist injury, but Caron Butler was still inactive, and Etan Thomas took AD's place on the bench with a back injury. Etan could be out up to a week, and Butler hopes to play on Monday night. Gilbert reported before the game that he was only at "35%", and he couldn't bend over or jump off his right foot, but he still came out and put up a typical Gilbert performance. Just like in the Atlanta game though, the problem was Antawn Jamison. Antawn was 2 for 11 in the first half, and finished with just 8 points. We're not going to win a lot of games with Butler on the bench and Antawn scoring 8 points, even when AD drops 25.

Two things really bothered me about this game:
  1. It was our 16th consecutive loss to the Heat! That's 3 regular season sweeps and a playoff sweep. We've taken down the Pistons and the Spurs this year, so why can't we beat the Heat? Is it just a mental thing at this point? Are they in our heads? Or do we just have no answer for Shaq? Watching Yao Ming have his way with us in Houston a few weeks ago makes me think that we just can't compete against a team with a dominant Center. Luckily only Houston and Miami have one.
  2. Dwyane Wade was a non-factor. If we can't play with the Heat when Wade is sick and in foul trouble, how we will we ever be able to hang with them come playoff time? Wade reportedly had a touch of the flu on Saturday, and he even skipped the shootaround and warmups to rest. When he did play, he was in foul trouble the whole game and only logged 21 minutes. Unfortunately, we let back-up SG Derek Anderson come off the bench and nail 5 wide-open threes. Anderson hadn't scored 20 points in a game since November 23 when he was a Houston Rocket. That's just unacceptable.
Luckily for the Wizards, Milwaukee and Indiana continued to struggle this weekend. Both teams lost on Sunday, and the Zards maintain a 2.5 game lead on the Bucks with 6 games to play. A strong week could clinch us the 5th playoff spot and allow us to rest some of our banged up guys for the last 2 games to get ready for the playoffs.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Rough Night in Atlanta

Well... that certainly sucked (Atlanta 114 - Washington 101). Caron Butler (thumb) and Antonio Daniels (wrist) both missed the game due to injury, so we started off the game with a handicap. It also became pretty clear early on in the game that Antawn Jamison didn't have his shot going, so it was all up to Gilbert to carry the load. He was up to the challenge in the 1st quarter as he scored 15 points and led the Zards to an early lead. In the 2nd quarter however, Arenas came up limping and was in obvious pain. He had to leave the game and head to the locker room, and I was so panicked that I thought my heart was going to explode. With Gil in the locker room, chaos ensued. Our offense was a complete and utter disaster without Gilbert, Caron, or AD on the floor, and the Hawks easily took the lead. Thankfully, Gilbert emerged from the locker room (albeit with his back heavily wrapped), but he clearly wasn't the same player. His explosiveness was gone, and he continued to grimace for most of the game. Gilbert still managed to pour in 41 points, but he also shot just 40% and had 8 turnovers, and it never felt like the Wizards really had much of a chance in the 2nd half. Hopefully he'll be ready to go against Miami tonight and this back injury won't linger.

Josh Smith had a terrific game for the Hawks and continued to show why he has as much potential as any young player in the league. He hit 3 of 5 from three point land, blocked 4 shots and changed several others, and had a huge impact on the game on both ends of the floor. It's easy to forget that this is only Smith's 2nd season out of high school, and he's just 20 years old. In 25 games since the All-Star break, he's averaging 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. In a few years, he should be a perennial All-Star.

On the bright side, Brendan Haywood had a nice game inside. He posted a double-double and was especially active in the 2nd half. However, I'm not expecting that to continue tonight against the Heat, as Shaq should toss him around like a rag doll as usual.

Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels are both listed as day-to-day, and both said they would try to go tonight at home against the Heat. Gilbert complained of a pinched nerve in his back, and he said his status tonight will be a game-time decision. I have a bad feeling we might get pummeled, so it's a good thing Milwaukee and Indiana both lost last night.

Enjoy tonight's game and the rest of the weekend. I'll be back on Monday.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Gil on TNT, Hawks Preview, Notes

I'm not gonna lie, Gilbert's appearance on TNT was a little bit disappointing. He looked like a deer in the headlights, and he didn't really bring much to the table. Then again, my friend Maxico put it in perspective for me when he said: "The analysts sweated him for a few minutes while they showed Wizards highlights. That's nothing to complain about." Gotta give it up to my man Maxico on this one. Complaining about national media attention for the Wizards would be a lot like complaining about Eddie Jordan's coaching this season after he led us to our first playoff series victory in 23 years. Speaking of which, if you ARE one of those EJ complainers: A) I hate you. B) Stop reading this immediately and check out the "Recent Resurgence" section of the Wizards' page on Wikipedia to refresh your memory.

Now, on to business. Tonight we face the Hawks at 7:00pm in Atlanta. The Hawks are a sad, sad franchise. Mostly because of General Manager Billy Knight. They're stocked with athletic young swingmen who can all play. Unfortunately, they don't have anyone to get them the ball (maybe Billy Knight didn't realize Chris Paul had declared for the draft?), and on the interior they have exactly one player in their rotation that is taller than 6'9" (Zaza!). That said, this game makes me nervous for two reasons:

1) The Letdown Factor: We've been playing well the last few weeks, we've beaten the Hawks 3 times this year, and we have Miami on Saturday. It would be really easy to look past this game.

2) The Hawks Can Shoot: The upside to a team full of wing players is that you have alot of guys who can stroke it. Josh Childress, Tyronn Lue, Joe Johnson, and Al Harrington all shoot over 35% from three, and red-hot Josh Smith has been at 34% since the All-Star break. Granted, they don't have a Point Guard who can consistently get their shooters the ball in optimal position in the half-court offense (case in point: the Hawks are 7th in the league in 3pt %, but they are just 21st in the league in 3-pointers made), but that's not always a problem against the Wizards' vaunted "Awkward Switching on the Perimeter" Defense. Unless Hawks Coach Mike Woodson is a moron, which he very well might be since he was hired by the inimitable Billy Knight, I think you'll see alot of on-the-ball screens at the top of the key by Hawks big guys. When the Zards switch (and they always do. dammit.), guys like Joe Johnson and Tyronn Lue will have the ball in their hands on the perimeter with one of our big men trying to cover them. Our big men will back off, giving them a look from 3. If they pass that up and blow by, Al Harrington and Josh Childress will be spotting up in the corners for kick-out 3s when their men rotate to stop penetration. To make a long story short... if the Hawks have 2 guys hitting their 3s (top of the key off the dribble, corner on kick-outs), this game will get interesting.


> Ivan Carter has two Zards articles in the Post today: Wizards Guard Against Letdown, Practice Intensity Ratcheted Up

> The Washington Times says that the Wizards Have Found Chemistry. According to Caron Butler, the Wizards "were a mess" chemistry-wise during the first half of the season. The article doesn't dig in much beyond vague comments like that, but I'd be interested in knowing what exactly the players are referring to? If I had to guess, the issues were probably:

A) Chucky Atkins complaining about lack of playing time.
B) Caron taking a while to understand the Princeton O.
C) Jamison and Daniels stinking up the joint offensively in December, making it harder for Daniels to integrate into the offense, and making it harder for the new Big 3 to learn how to play together.

> Over his last 5 games, Gilbert is averaging 10 assists per game, while still dropping 27 pts/gm. I love love love to see that from Gil. In the past 2 seasons, it seems like he either focuses on passing the ball, or he focuses on scoring. His big thing last year was playing pass-first in the 1st half, and then letting it rip in the 2nd half. The problem was, you could ALWAYS tell which mode he was in. You knew exactly what to expect from him when he had the ball (not that that helped people stop him). The more he can learn to integrate the two all the time, the deadlier he'll be. If opposing defenses can't stop him when they KNOW he's shooting, imagine how lost they'll be if he's a true double-threat on every play.

> You gotta love the "playoff beard" that Jared Jeffries is working on. I wonder if he was inspired by Bears QB Kyle Orton?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wizards @ Celtics, and more

The Boy Wonder (Gilbert's self-given nickname) was absolutely phenomenal last night in Boston. It was one of those games where even when the opponent keeps the game close, you don't worry because Gilbert clearly has things undercontrol. He finished with 38 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals. He did whatever he wanted, and in the final quarter he was simply unstoppable as the Zards put the Celtics away, 108-91 (Boxscore:

Last night’s win was big for the Zards. We need to play well on the road to finish out the season and hang on to the 5th seed for the playoffs (6 out of our last 9 are on the road). If we fall to the 6th seed and play the Nets, we're in trouble. They've been red hot, and our defense can't stop one guy of Carter and Jefferson's caliber, let alone both of them. We've had success against the 4 seed Cavaliers this season as well. If we beat the Cavs, we'd face the Pistons in the 2nd round, who we've also beaten twice. On the contrary, a first round win as the 6th seed would get us a date with the Heat, and we wouldn't stand a chance with our shoddy perimeter defense (Wade) and black hole in the middle (Shaq vs. Haywoodustopsucking?).

Here are the updated standings after last night's games:
5. Washington (39-35)
6. Milwaukee (37-38, 2.5 games behind)
7. Indiana (36-38, 3)
8. Chicago (35-40, 4.5)
9. Philly (34-40, 5)

We play Milwaukee twice more this season (April 12th and 18th), but we're done with Indiana.

In other news, Brendan Haywood was re-activated last night. For those who missed it, Wood was inactive for the past 3 games. He missed the first game with what was reported as "lower back soreness", and then Eddie Jordan kept him on the inactive list because EJ said he wanted to make sure Wood was 100% ready to return. Meanwhile, Wood was telling reporters that he was ready to go. It seems pretty obvious that EJ was trying to send him a message (for about the 5th time this season) that his soft play inside was unacceptable. Quotes such as this from EJ only encourage that theory: "I want him to give 100 percent effort," Jordan said. "Take a physical approach to the game and compete at the rim. The other guys are doing it and we want him to do it, too."(

To be honest, I prefer the way this team plays when Etan Thomas and Michael Ruffin handle the inside duties, so Haywood's soft play doesn't upset me that much. I just don't think he's mentally wired to be an aggressive force, so why keep hoping he'll turn into one? Put Etan and Ruffin out there, tell them to play tough D and crash the boards, and let the Big Three run up and down and gun it. It's a formula that worked for the Sonics last year (Reggie Evans, Danny Fortson), and I think it's our best bet to make a run in the playoffs until we can make a move for a legitimate interior presence in the off-season. I know there a ton of teams who would gladly overpay for Haywood, just ask Jim McIlvaine, Travis Knight, and Jerome James. And I have faith in Ernie Grunfeld to make the right move.


> Gilbert is the guest host on TNT tonight with Sir Charles and Kenny the Jet. I can't even explain to you how excited I am to see Gilbert interact with Barkley.

> Playoff tickets go on sale on Saturday at 10am:

> According to the Washington Post, Gilbert has been collecting autographed jerseys from his opponents on the past few roadtrips. His goal is to eventually build a glass-floored basketball court with the jerseys underneath the floor. GOD I LOVE GILBERT ARENAS (

> Courtesy of and an Australian genius named Thumbboy, here are two photoshop masterpieces that feature ex-Zards.

The least handsome man in the history of the NBA, Popeye Jones:

The family photo of current Detroit Wizton Rip Hamilton is also quite lovely:

When I look at these, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

NEXT GAME: Friday night at Atlanta

Welcome to Gilbert's Arena

I've been frustrated for WAY too long about the lack of quality Wizards blogs on the web, so I decided to start one on my own. At a minimum, I'll update it daily with links to Zards news on the web, so check in to keep up with the team. I'll chip in with my own thoughts/commentary as often as I can (stupid full-time job). I'll also touch on other NBA news and DC sports news whenever possible (especially if it's related to Clinton Portis) .

I hope all 27 Bullets/Wizards fans out there enjoy this!

- Coach