Posts Tagged ‘Nene’

One Team, One Stat: One Great Lineup For The Wizards


From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Washington Wizards, who had something to build on last season.

The basics
WAS Rank
W-L 29-53 t-23
Pace 94.4 15
OffRtg 97.8 30
DefRtg 100.6 8
NetRtg -2.7 20

The stat

84.4 - Points allowed per 100 possessions by the Wizards’ lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene and Emeka Okafor, the league’s best defensive lineup among 158 that played at least 100 minutes together.

The context

Not only was that lineup ridiculously good defensively, but it was pretty strong offensively, scoring 108.4 points per 100 possessions. Overall, only one lineup around the league was better in as many minutes. That Knicks lineup included Jason Kidd, so you could say that the Wizards’ lineup is the best returning lineup in the league.

The unit allowed opponents to shoot just 50 percent in the restricted area and 13-for-53 (25 percent) from 3-point range. It didn’t force a lot of turnovers, but kept its opponents off the free-throw line and was great on the glass.

The video above is from a Jan. 26 game in which the Wizards’ starting lineup outscored the Bulls 27-16 in 12 minutes. It turned into a 13-point win for the Wizards, who went 11-7 in games that this lineup played together. That included a 6-1 mark against playoff teams.

The issue, of course, is that 18 games and 142 minutes isn’t a lot. Wall missed the first 33 games of the season, Beal missed 24 of the last 39, and Nene was in and out of the lineup all year. The lineup wouldn’t have been able to sustain a +24.0 NetRtg over 1,000 minutes, but the Wizards would have been a much better team if these guys were all healthy.

This year, Okafor is already out with a neck injury and Nene says his knee is “still sore” and his foot “still hurts a little bit.” The two were a big reason why Washington ranked eighth in defensive efficiency last season. The Wizards allowed 97.1 points per 100 possessions in 912 minutes with the bigs on the floor together.

Wizards opponents attempted only 43.8 percent of their shots from the paint last season, the lowest rate in the league. That number was just 41.2 percent with Nene and Okafor on the floor together.

With those guys protecting the paint, the Wizards’ perimeter defenders were allowed to be more aggressive. And when the Wizards got stops, Wall was able to get out on the break. He ranked third in the league with 5.5 fast break points per game. If Okafor isn’t healthy, Washington will have a difficult time remaining a top 10 defensive team and Wall will get less fast-break opportunities.

But the developing chemistry between Wall and Beal is still something to look forward to. Beal shot 50 percent (33-for-66) from 3-point range and 47 percent overall with Wall on the floor last season. He shot 34 percent from 3-point range and 39 percent overall with Wall off the floor.

One final note: Given the success of this lineup, it was surprising to see Randy Wittman start Trevor Ariza instead of Webster in the Wizards’ first preseason game on Tuesday. Even if you ignore the bigs, the Wiz were a plus-18.7 points per 100 possessions in 303 minutes with Wall, Beal and Webster on the floor together.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Wizards Hit With Early Injury News

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Mid-September is the time when basketballs start bouncing at a more frequent rate in NBA gyms around the country, a sound that brings hope and joy to all involved. But when players get back to playing full-speed basketball, they also get back to getting injured.

For the second straight season, the Washington Wizards got a head-start in the injury race. Last September, they announced that John Wall would miss two months with a stress fracture in his left knee. This September’s news isn’t as bad, but it could certainly affect Washington’s outlook.

Early Wednesday afternoon, the Wizards announced that Chris Singleton has a Jones fracture in his left foot and will be out 6-8 weeks. An hour later, they announced that Emeka Okafor has been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck and will be out indefinitely.

The Singleton injury is tough, but he could be back for the start of the season and the Wizards have depth at the forward positions. The Okafor injury is obviously a lot more worrisome.

Washington is a team that promised to improve this season and possibly snatch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Last season, they were 22-19 in games where both Wall and Nene were healthy, had a top-10 defense, and had a starting lineup that was excellent in limited minutes. Only four lineups that played at least 100 minutes had a better NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) than the unit of Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene and Okafor.

So the hope was that Washington could maintain its top-10 standing on defense while improving its offense with the development of Wall and Beal. But the defensive part of that equation looks a little more doubtful with the Okafor news. He was a big part of that top-10 defense, anchoring the middle for more than 2,000 minutes last season.

Kevin Seraphin can step out an hit a mid-range jumper, but his shooting numbers were barely better than Okafor’s last season. And Seraphin is obviously not the defender that Okafor is. So the Wizards will have to help that Okafor isn’t out too long.

Qualifying For ’14 World Cup Is Wide Open

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Eurobasket has just begun and we’ve already had plenty of surprises across FIBA’s regional tournaments, with teams looking to qualify for next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

In Asia, defending champion China was knocked out in the quarterfinals. In Africa, Nigeria and Tunisia — the two teams that repped the continent in last year’s Olympics — both failed to make the semis. And in the FIBA Americas tournament, Brazil lost all four of their first-round games and was sent home after blowing a 10-point, second-half lead to Jamaica on Tuesday.

Thus far, 10 teams have their tickets punched for Spain (see below). Another 10 (four from the Americas and six from Europe) will receive automatic bids in the next 17 days. Later this year, four wild-card berths will be awarded, giving teams like China and Brazil a shot.

And if Brazil is awarded a wild-card berth, they certainly have the potential to rebound from this year’s performance and make some noise at the World Cup. They have four big men in the NBA: Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Vitor Faverani (signed by the Celtics this summer). But none of the four was in Caracas this week, leaving Marcelo Huertas without a competent big man to run the pick-and-roll with.

Their 0-4 performance was still a shock. Brazil gave the U.S. its toughest game at the 2010 World Championship and finished second to Argentina at the 2011 FIBA Americas tourney.

But give credit to Jamaica for it’s comeback, led by former Cav Samardo Samuels, who led all scorers with 21 points and who hit all nine of his fourth-quarter free throws. A pair of freebies by Akeem Scott won the game for Jamaica in the final seconds.

Brazil’s ouster gives Canada a better shot at one of the four automatic berths. The Canadians are without Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, but went 3-1 in the first round. They still have some work to do, as the eight teams remaining in Caracas will play four games — Thursday through Sunday — against the teams they’ve yet to face, and after that, the top four teams in the standings will qualify for the semifinals and next year’s World Cup. Canada’s most important game could be Saturday against the Dominican Republic.

The lack of NBA players participating has made the FIBA Americas tournament wide open. And the same may hold true at Eurobasket, which tipped off Wednesday in Slovenia. With Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez on board, Spain is still the clear favorite. And France, with Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, is a lock to get one of the other top six spots.

But after that, things will get interesting. And Exhibit A is Finland’s tourney-opening victory over Turkey, the team that made a fantastic run to the gold medal game in 2010 and has a frontline of Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik.

If you need a basketball fix with another month to go before training camp, there’s plenty of international hoops for you over the next three weeks. NBA TV will have some games, and the others can be seen on ESPN3.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

Rick’s Tips: Players Who Need Minutes

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Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for the triumphant return of “More Minutes Please!”

Step right up as we list 10 players who simply need a little more burn to breakthrough in fantasy basketball.

Anthony Davis, Hornets: Can someone please explain to me why the Hornets are not playing the top overall pick 30+ minutes per game? Davis is clocking just 28.6 minutes and still managing to put up 13.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.2 steals.

Andre Drummond, Pistons: In a measly 20.2 minutes per game, he is bagging 7.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 0.9 steals. Not sure why Lawrence Frank is resistant to starting Drummond and Greg Monroe together, but I do know that Jason Maxiell shouldn’t be starting over the UConn rookie.

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: I don’t understand limiting him to 28.8 minutes per game (9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 threes). Why not run him out there for 33-36 minutes and let him blossom into a star that could help the Spurs win their first title since 2007?

JaVale McGee, Nuggets: The Nuggets gave McGee over $40 million in the offseason, then they mysteriously play him 18.7 minutes per game? Imagine what his stat line of 10.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks would look like in even 28 minutes.

Derrick Favors, Jazz: I fully expect the Jazz to unload Paul Millsap before the trade deadline, freeing up starter’s minutes for Favors, who is averaging 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 0.9 steals in 21.8 minutes.

Patrick Patterson, Rockets: In 25.4 minutes, Patterson is averaging 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 0.8 threes, while shooting 51 percent from the field and 77 percent from the line. Patterson is the perfect finesse 4 to Omer Asik’s dirty-work 5, but the Rockets are taking a long look at 2011 lottery pick Marcus Morris.

Markieff Morris, Suns: Marcus’ twin brother needs more minutes in Phoenix, as Markieff is averaging 7.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20.2 minutes. The Suns’ rebuild demands 28+ minutes from Morris, who has the potential to be a 1-1-1 guy in the blocks, steals, and threes.

Harrison Barnes, Warriors: The time has come for Mark Jackson to lengthen his leash on the prized rookie, who is averaging 25.7 minutes, 9.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.7 threes, and 0.7 steals. In 30 minutes, Barnes could average 13 points and 6 rebounds, with 1+ and 1+ in the threes and steals.

Marcus Thornton, Kings: How did Lil Buckets go from the Kings’ closer to basically out of the rotation? I think it’s a joke that Thornton’s hustle and big-shot ability is left on the bench in most games. In 23.9 minutes, he’ still averaging 11.4 points, 1.7 threes, and 1.0 steal.

Nene, Wizards: Brace yourself, as what you are about to read may shock you. Nene is averaging – ehem – 25.6 minutes per game. 25.6!?! I leave you with this: Wizards coach Randy Wittman isn’t to blame here.

Who’s Sitting On A Hot Seat Now?


HANG TIME, Texas — Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

In the NBA that familiar line from the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” has a different twist.

Every time the bell rings a head coach gets his walking papers and a handful of others start looking over their shoulders.

It’s a tenuous life.

Of course, this season has already been quite unusual with Mike Brown fired by the Lakers after just five games. But now that the schedule has reached the one-third mark and claimed Avery Johnson, it’s time to look at some others down around the bottom of the standings.

Randy Wittman, Wizards (3-23) – No, he hasn’t had John Wall all season. Yes, he’s had to play at times without Nene and Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal. But the Wizards are the only group in Washington that makes Congress look competent by comparison. After a recent 100-68 thumping by the almost-as-hapless Pistons, even Wittman seemed to have enough. “That was an embarrassment, and I apologize to our ownership and to our fans,” he said. “I especially apologize to anyone who watched that entire game. I would have turned it off after the first five minutes.” It would seem to be a matter of when, not if.

Monty Williams, Hornets (6-22) – It’s hard to see the Hornets turning right around and cutting Williams loose just months after giving him a four-year contract extension. There has been the matter of Eric Gordon’s injury and the fact that No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis was on the shelf for 13 games. But there are rumblings in New Orleans about his constantly changing rotations and collapse of his defense, which ranks 29th.

Byron Scott, Cavaliers (7-23)
— The Cavs are likely headed to their third straight trip to the lottery under Scott, but that doesn’t mean that he’s headed to the exit. The key to his previous success at New Jersey and New Orleans was having a top-notch point guard and Scott has an excellent relationship with maybe the next great thing in Kyrie Irving. This was always a long, heavy lift from the moment LeBron James bolted and that has not changed.

Mike Dunlap, Bobcats (7-21)
– What a difference a month makes. After beating the Wizards on Nov. 24, the Bobcats were 7-5, had matched their win total from last season and their rookie coach was getting praised. Now 16 straight losses later, Dunlap is preaching patience with his young core of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens and Jeffery Taylor. He has earned that. A dozen of Charlotte’s 21 losses have come by 10 points or less, a dramatic change from the historically horrible last season when the Bobcats were rolled in one-third of their games by 20 points or more.

Lawrence Frank, Pistons (9-22)
— Frank insists that his Pistons are a better team than they were a year ago. The record — identical then and now — does not back that up. He says that his club now is more competitive, but just doesn’t know how to finish games. Some of the players have grumbled that there is also a failure of coach to make the right calls and adjustments when games get late. When push comes to shove, it’s the coach that gets nudged out the door.

Dwane Casey, Raptors (9-20)– Another one of those seasons when the Raptors were supposed to turn things around and make a push for the playoffs in the lesser Eastern Conference has gone south. Injuries to Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry and Linas Kleiza. Amir Johnson gets suspended for throwing his mouthguard at a referee. G.M. Bryan Colangelo says the talent is there, but the Raptors lack focus and attention to detail. The Raps’ offense is mediocre (ranked 17th) and their defense just bad (27th). Even in Canada during the winter, that all puts Casey on thin ice.

Keith Smart, Kings (9-19) – Smart got the job to replace Paul Westphal specifically because of what was perceived as an ability to work with the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins. So he turned Cousins loose last season, let him do just about anything he pleased and got enough results to earn a contract extension. Now that Cousins has abused his free-rein relationship with his coach and another season is sinking fast, it would be easy to just blame Smart, which the Kings eventually will do. But this is a bad team with a knucklehead as its centerpiece and ownership that can’t tell you where they’ll be playing in two years.

Alvin Gentry, Suns (11-18) — It was at the end of a seven-game losing streak when Suns owner Robert Sarver told ESPN.com that Gentry’s job was safe. “We’ve got confidence in our coaching staff and we’re not considering making changes,” he said. Of course, that usually means start packing your bags. It was all about starting over in this first season post-Nash in the desert. He’s changed lineups more than his ties and the result is usually the same. Gentry is a good bet to last out the season, but it’s probably going to take a big finishing kick to return next year.

Wizards Fall To 0-12 … And Counting

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Along the maddening trail to 0-12, there have been the gut-punches — three points combined in consecutive overtime losses to Charlotte (double OT) and at Atlanta, a near-22-point comeback at Dallas, four points at Indiana, OT at Boston and a three-point home loss to the Celtics.

Close was not the case Monday night at Verizon Center. The still-winless Washington Wizards, still without point guard John Wall, were run out of their own gym by the surging San Antonio Spurs, 118-92, the largest margin of defeat in an already defeated season.

Adding insult to injury, former Wizards big man Andray Blatche, who’s still pocketing $23 million from the franchise after being amnestied in July and eventually signed by Brooklynis taking cheap shots at his old team in the media and through his own brand of bastardized English on Twitter:

Such is the depressing life of the Wizards. Team president Ernie Grunfeld‘s dumping of high-priced Rashard Lewis for veterans Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor has been a disaster. The hailed return of Nene lasted two games before yet another departure to rest his problematic foot. In Nene’s limited floor time of 49 minutes, Washington is a plus-31, so the big fella can definitely help pound out a ‘W’ if he can stay on the court.

Still, Randy Wittman‘s bunch must now be viewed as a serious contender to crash the league record for consecutive losses to start a season. Just two seasons ago, the Wizards lost 25 consecutive road games to start the season, the third-longest such skid in NBA history. Last season they started 0-8.

Now they’re two-thirds to 0-18, the worst start ever by an NBA team and owned by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets. The lockout-shortened 1999 Los Angeles Clippers and the 1988-89 expansion Miami Heat started 0-17. These Wizards are the 12th team in NBA history to start a season with 12 consecutive losses.

They’ll try to avoid a baker’s dozen at home Wednesday night against a smarting Portland team that dropped an ugly one at Detroit on Monday night.

How realistic is 0-18 or — gasp! — worse? Here’s their next six: vs. Portland, at New York, vs. Miami, at Atlanta, vs. Golden State, at New Orleans. Those six teams are a combined 49-34, and the worst of the lot, the Hornets (4-9), beat the Clippers in L.A. on Monday.

Then comes this hefty four-pack: at Houston, vs. Los Angeles Lakers, at Miami, vs. Atlanta.

Before the Wizards fell to 0-7 nearly two weeks ago following a 107-101 defeat at Dallas where they reversed a blowout, but couldn’t tie it up in the final minute, first-year Washington forward Martell Webster said he and his teammates, many of them new to the team as well, are determined to turn around the moribund franchise.

“Who else is going to do it?” Webster said. “It’s easy when things don’t go well to start blaming and start pointing fingers, but I don’t believe in that. When you think about it with your family, when you have problems you don’t point fingers, you work to resolve the problem as a family, as a unit, and I think that’s the most important thing. We’re a family, a unit and we’re not going to point fingers. We’re going to take accountability and responsibility for all of our individual actions, but at the end of the day we’re settling the problem ourselves.”

Still, there’s little doubt that as the losses mount so does the mental anguish.

Beal Balances Breaking In, Criticism And A Charge Of Flipping a Franchise

 

DALLAS – Washington Wizards rookie Bradley Beal is 19 years old, a solid month still from 19 1/2. An anonymous college sophomore in another life. In this life, he’s an over-analyzed, scrutinized and criticized No. 3 draft pick starting on the NBA’s worst team. Worse yet, the team’s star point guard and its proven veteran center are injured and no one knows when they’ll be back.

Beal’s introduction to the man’s game long before he can legally down a postgame cold one has force-fed him both to the spotlight and to the wolves, when in reality, his beaming smile can’t hide that he’s as bright-eyed about balling in the same arenas as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as are the kids who scream for his autograph during pre-game warmups.

Pressure? Heck, yes. And believe it, the 6-foot-3 shooting guard feels it and his teammates hear it.

“I hear it all the time, you see it on Twitter and stuff like that,” Beal said Wednesday night before the Wizards fell to 0-7 after nearly eradicating a 22-point deficit against Dallas in a 107-101 loss. “People expect you to score 50 every night and it’s almost impossible. I’m really not focused on what people on the outside are saying. I’m really focusing on what my team needs to do, and I’m really focusing on what my coach wants me to do as well. As long as I’m doing that I think I’ll be fine.”

With no John Wall to break down defenses and no Nene to anchor their own, the Wizards rank as one of the worst scoring offenses in the league and near the bottom in field-goal percentage defense. They’re also the league’s most irrelevant big-market franchise. With early hope for this season’s revamped roster dimmed by injury, fans have little else in which to deposit their faith than to bank on the youngster Beal, the team’s leading scorer — despite four single-digit games and shooting just 32 percent — and, appallingly, its most recognizable healthy face.

“I’m handling it fine,” Beal said. “Honestly, I mean, from the outside looking in, people pressure me. They think I’m supposed to be the savior of the team, so to speak, but I don’t view myself as being the savior. There’s me and 14 other guys on this team. We’re a team, so not everything is just placed on me; the scoring’s not just placed on me, or it’s not placed on any individual player, it’s a team effort. That’s the way I view it and that’s the way I’m going to keep playing.”

As important as his athletic superiority and scoring prowess were to climbing the draft boards to No. 3 after one season at Florida, Beal is equipped with a big-picture maturity and honesty that will serve him well during his crash course of inevitable hard knocks.

He’s writing a rookie column for SLAM Magazine and in this week’s edition he writes how he misses going to class because he’s always liked school, “especially math and science.” He calls himself a geeky guy and then proves it again by writing he hasn’t done much with his first paycheck: “I haven’t made any big purchases, honestly, besides the apartment I live.”

Teammate Martell Webster weighed in: “You see his potential. The kid is good. He’s been dealing with the criticism and the pressure very well. He hears how he’s not being aggressive; I think he’s been extremely aggressive.”

When Wall returns, and there remains no target date, it will ease the burden on Beal, who is averaging a team-best 11.6 points. Until then, defenses will hound him, as the Mavericks did on Wednesday night, limiting him to eight points on 3-of-14 shooting. The night before at Charlotte, he missed 10 of his 11 shots.

“It’s tough because, one, it’s not easy to win in this league,” Beal said. “Coach (Randy) Wittman always tells us that. You can ask any player, like LeBron says that, says it’s hard to win every game. Every game that we’ve lost besides (Tuesday at Charlotte), I think you can literally say that we gave it our all and we should have won the game.”

Four of the Wizards’ seven losses are by six points or less. He had a season-high 22 points on 50 percent shooting and eight trips to the free-throw line against Milwaukee; 16 points in an overtime loss at Boston; and 17 points on a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in another heartbreak loss of the season at Indiana.

“He’s going to be somebody that makes shots for us, runs the floor,” said Wall, well-versed in the pressure of flipping a franchise. “Every game is not going to be his best, and I think we understand that and he understands that, but he’s just got to keep taking shots, keep being aggressive for our team.”

His next opportunity is Saturday night at home against the Utah Jazz, a notoriously poor road team that’s now 1-6 this season away from home. It will be only the Wizards’ third home game in the opening weeks, a road-weary start that has had Beal waking up not knowing which city he’s in or forgetting what day it is.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old rookie goes to sleep still attempting to absorb both his breathtaking quantum leap to the big stage and the bleakness of the franchise with which he landed.

“This is my rookie year so I’m really just enjoying it all. To actually play in these situations and these environments, I mean, I’m taking it all in, honestly,” Beal said. “We’re more than capable of winning games. We just have to deal with what we have and when John and Nene get back we’re going to be that much better.”

Early Run Of Injuries Taking Its Toll


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks signed journeyman big man Eddy Curry out of desperation at the center position with Chris Kaman injured. When he returned, Dallas cut Curry and signed out-of-work Troy Murphy because power forward took top billing on the depth chart with Dirk Nowitzki rehabbing from surgery.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, down four starters and six rotation players to injury, signed Josh Howard off the street Thursday. The Toronto Raptors are reportedly looking into unemployed 3-point shooter Mickael Pietrus to plug into their injury-depleted roster.

Entering just the third week of the 2012-13 season, injuries — many to some of the game’s biggest and brightest stars — are the overwhelming story line as overworked team medical staffs are on 24-hour notice.

Both conferences can field a veritable All-Star team, position-by-position, of players that have recently returned from injury, were injured prior to the season or are injured now.

The West: Steve Nash, Ricky Rubio, Eric Gordon, Shawn Marion, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Love, Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut.

The East: Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade, Danny Granger, Amar’e StoudemireAndrew Bynum, Nene.

Yet that’s hardly all of the NBA’s wounded. Here’s more of those who have been, still are or just got injured: Gerald Wallace, Gerald Henderson, Mario ChalmersDevin Harris, A.J. PriceNikola Pekovic, Kirk HinrichGrant Hill, J.J. Barea, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Anthony Davis, Steve Blake, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Channing Frye, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, Alan Anderson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Avery Bradley.

When Minnesota came to Dallas earlier this week with five players out (and Pekovic’s sprained ankle in the third quarter would make it six), coach Rick Adelman engaged in something of a “Who’s on First” rapid-fire Q & A with beat writer Jerry Zgoda.

Jerry: Who’s your backup 3 and your backup 2?

Rick: We don’t have a backup 3. I’m going to start Malcolm (Lee) tonight at the 2 and bring Alexey (Shved) off the bench at both spots. And then at the 3, I don’t know, we’re going to slide somebody there.

Jerry: Have to play AK (Andrei Kirilenko) 48 minutes?

Rick: I don’t want to do to that. We don’t need to wear him out, too.

Jerry: Can you get five or six (minutes) out of (assistant coach Terry) Porter?

Rick: I don’t think so.

A year ago, the worry around the league was how an abbreviated training camp following the hasty resolution to the lockout and then a compacted, 66-game schedule would affect player health. With a full, month-long camp this time around and a complete slate of eight preseason games, this spate of injuries is as unexpected as unfortunate.

Entering this weekend’s games, only the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder among the league’s 30 teams boast clean injury reports, and 22 list more than one injured player.

When the Mavericks play the Indiana Pacers tonight, they expect to get Marion back after a five-game absence with a sprained left knee. Nowitzki will remain out as will Indiana’s Granger. For Dallas, it’s been a strange run of not only playing shorthanded, but facing teams with at least one starter sidelined. They played, in order: Toronto (Lowry), New York (Stoudemire), Charlotte (Henderson), Minnesota (Love, Rubio, Roy, Budinger) and Washington (Wall, Nene).

“The league’s not going to stop and wait for you,” Adelman said the other night about his team’s rash of injuries. “A lot teams are having the same issues with major injuries. As a coaching staff you can’t coach the people that aren’t there. You only can coach the people that are there.”

And so it goes in a very strange first month in the NBA.

Wall’s Frustration Intensifies As Still No Target Date For His Wizards Return

DALLAS – Washington Wizards point guard John Wall said Wednesday that he still doesn’t have a target date to join his teammates for the first time this season. He continues to rehab from a stress fracture in his right knee, a daily grind that  isn’t getting any easier with which to cope.

“Still tough and frustrating,” Wall said as he laced his sneakers to go put up some jump shots with assistant coach Sam Cassell prior to the Wizards’ game against the Dallas Mavericks.

The final days of November will mark the eight-week period that Wall was expected to miss after being diagnosed with the early stages of a non-traumatic stress injury in the knee just prior to the start of training camp. However, it’s apparent that Washington’s young potential star won’t make the deadline.

When the team is at home, Wall pushes through rehab and then does little else.

“Just lock myself in my house and listen to music,” he said.

Wall, as well as injured center Nene (who also has no timetable for a return from plantar fasciitis) travels with the team, sits in on film sessions and remains in close contact with coach Randy Wittman and his teammates, who are battling their own frustrations with six consecutive losses heading into Wednesday’s game.

“We talk, he’s with us all the time. That’s why we bring him with us, he and Nene,” Wittman said. “They’re around the team, they’re with us in all the meetings, we talk and I want them to talk to their teammates, as well, seeing what they’re seeing. It’s a different game sitting over there (on the bench) than when they’re out running up and down the floor, and they can be a help in that area.”

Wall, 22, would rather be running up and down the floor and getting his third season off the ground. For the first time in a long time, excitement was building heading into training camp. The roster had been overhauled. Gone are the knuckleheads and underachievers that not only made the Wizards hard to watch for so many years, but hard to root for, too.

They were replaced with veterans such as Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, A.J. Price (a career backup in his fourth season charged with running the point in Wall’s absence) Martell Webster and promising rookie Bradley Beal, who is leading the team in scoring. There’s also improving big man Kevin Seraphin, who started to come on last season and is averaging 9.7 points and 3.8 rebounds.

The 6-foot-11 Nene and the play-making Wall would serve as huge additions.

Wittman, when asked if doctors have given him a target date for Wall’s return, pursed his lips, shook his head and said, “I don’t have one, unless you’ve got one.”

Wall and the Wizards have no choice but to wait, and hope to keep from digging into an irreversible hole.

“Yeah, it’s tough, but nobody’s making any excuses,” said Wall, who averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 assists in his first two seasons. “We think we’ve got enough talent on this team to go out there and play with what we have. We just haven’t closed out games. We’ve been in a lot of games, we just haven’t closed them out. We believe in our teammates, some guys are injured, some guys are not, but it’s a great opportunity for other guys to step up and prove themselves.”

Pistons, Wizards Still Stuck On Zero

The Toilet Bowl, if it comes to that, would be played Friday, Dec. 21, at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Followed 24 hours later, at the Verizon Center, by The Payback Bowl.

That’s the worst-case scenario, at least, for the Detroit Pistons and the Washington Wizards, the two teams remaining that have yet to win a game. The Wizards (0-5) have a shot on the schedule Tuesday night at Charlotte, based on their five-game winning streak against the Bobcats, though this is an improved Charlotte team.

The Pistons (0-8) are off to the worst start in franchise history, faltering in the fourth quarter Monday at home in their 92-90 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They play at Philadelphia Wednesday, then get Orlando at The Palace Friday.

At the Wizards’ and Pistons’ combined pace, the Buss family would have fired three coaches by now. But lofty expectations weren’t in place for either of these teams. No one expected blistering starts. Neither the Pistons nor the Wizards were projected by most NBA insiders to challenge for the playoffs this season. That’s particularly true for Washington, which has been playing without point guard John Wall (knee injury) and Nene (plantar fasciitis).

But it’s equally valid for Detroit, which is rebuilding brick-by-brick with pieces Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and rookie Andre Drummond — just not swiftly enough for a lot of fans.

Drummond, the raw 19-year-old who has shown signs of being a monster (22 points in 20-plus minutes at OKC Friday), frustrated Pistons followers again Monday. Or rather, it was the care and nurturing of the 6-foot-10, 270-pound man-child. He had an impact on both ends to help Detroit to a double-digit lead in the first half. But the UConn product got on the floor for only 3:20 in the second, with the Thunder going small to pull the game away from him.

But just because a team is losing doesn’t mean that it is developing. Knight had a turnover and a forced shot down the stretch that proved costly against the Thunder. His decision-making has been suspect, there are folks who feel the rookie leash on Drummond is hamering Monroe’s progress as a power forward and, from Rodney Stuckey to Jason Maxiell to Tayshaun Prince, enough Pistons haven’t been in sync on the same nights to get the job done.

For Detroit, defense has been its most glaring issue; it ranks 29th with a 110.4 defensive rating. With Washington, the defense is better (11th, 100.5) but the offense ranked last (93.5). And for the coaches, the Pistons’ Lawrence Frank and the Wizards’ Randy Wittman, the desire to reverse direction pales next to the urgency to remove those goose eggs. One-and-anything sounds way better than 0-for-2012-13.