Opening night and there were enough MVP awards inside two arenas that if you laid them end-to-end they might stretch all the way from American Airlines Arena in Miami to Staples Center in Los Angeles, which is where we’ve already got the 2013 NBA Finals scheduled for next June. Don’t we?
There was LeBron James with his three trophies, Steve Nash with his two, then Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett with one apiece. Toss in Dirk Nowitzki recovering from knee surgery back in Dallas and there were eight MVP seasons represented in the two marquee games that everybody was watching.
But if the parlor game was to pick out an opening night candidate to be named MVP five years from now, maybe it was little ol’ Kyrie Irving hiding in the shadows of Cleveland. (more…)
Not perfect for the senses as a 20-46 team last season visits a 21-45 club, but a very good beginning for a rookie class coming off a much-hyped draft, with Washington’s Bradley Beal facing off against Cleveland’s Dion Waiters. Both shooting guards, both taken in the top four in June, both projected to become major offensive threats, and both in the same building tonight, head-to-head with the chance to make a good early impression.
It is an opportunity for Beal in particular, and not just for one game. Try several of the early days of the season. Maybe the entire first month.
With John Wall scheduled to be sidelined until late-November by a knee injury and Nenedoubtful for at least the season opener while continuing to work back from a foot problem that has plagued him for months, Beal will get more scoring chances now than at any other time in his rookie campaign. He has a clear path to the forefront unlike most first-year players, considering A.J. Price, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker and Emeka Okafor is the projected opening lineup if Nene sits, with Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton as the top two reserves. That’s a lot of non-scorers, creating an even bigger opening for Beal. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Well, it might not be Heat-Celtics, Lakers-Mavericks or feature any of the marquee individual matchups that signal the start of something huge, but the official start of the 2012-13 NBA season only happens once.
And that’s tonight in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers host the Washington Wizards at 7 p.m. ET in the real opener (the TNT doubleheader between the aforementioned blood rivals doesn’t kick off until 8 p.m. ET). So for at least the first hour of this season, all eyes will be on Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving and his crew as they usher in the new year (so to speak).
He won’t have Wizards point guard John Wall to square off against since Wall is out with a knee injury that could sideline him well into December. (Wall, center Nene [plantar fascitis] and forward Kevin Seraphin [strained right calf] are all officially listed as “questionable” tonight.)
But that won’t matter, not to a competitor like Irving (ask Kobe Bryant how competitive he is) who has his sights set on leading the Cavaliers back to the playoffs after a two-season absence.
LAS VEGAS –Bradley Beal was still smiling after his five games in Las Vegas, but hardly satisfied.
“It was fun and at the same time it was a learning process,” said Beal, who the Wizards took with the No. 3 pick in the 2012 Draft. “The working doesn’t stop. I always have to get better. I was happy, but I wasn’t happy with my performance.”
Beal had a solid but not spectacular Summer League, averaging 17.6 points and 4.6 rebounds while struggling at times with his shot, finishing at 41.7 percent from the floor. Beal averaged 30 minutes of action, giving the Wizards staff a long look at their shooting guard of the future.
“He’s got great composure,” coach Randy Wittman said. “You can’t tell if the kid scored 30 points or one point. He makes right decisions. He makes the extra pass if he doesn’t have it — almost sometimes too unselfish. But when you’ve got a guy with that character, a coach likes to have that.”
Wittman spoke highly of the Florida guard for his ability in the pick-and-roll and looks forward to seeing how he and point guard John Wall work together in the backcourt.
He’s not the only one.
“I think it will be great, honestly,” Beal said of playing with the Wall, who sat courtside for Tuesday’s game. “We just want to win. That’s our mentality. We want to try to make each other better every day. That’s what he wants, that’s what I want. I think our chemistry is already building. I really can’t wait to play alongside him.”
Beal showed off his ability to score in a variety of ways and seemed to improve in the pick-and-roll throughout the Wizards’ five games. Beal found success using the high screen, repeatedly knocking down the elbow jumper or continuing down the lane for the easy layup or dunk.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see him use pick and rolls,” Wittman said. “At Florida, he didn’t really play the pick-and-roll game much because he was playing small forward so we wanted to see that. I like what I saw.”
Beal says he’s looking forward to settling in to the D.C. area, and hopes to move in at least a month before training camp opens in the end of September.
“This was just a taste for him,” Wittman said. “You hope to see a guy get comfortable as the week goes on and I think he did. Now we’re going to be able to show him some things that we can work on so at camp he’ll have an idea of what to expect”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We go through this in the days leading up to the NBA Draft every year. One college star always seems to generate buzz and you start hearing the rumors about teams falling over each other to trade up and get him.
Former Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal is that player this time around. The Cleveland Cavaliers are fans of the player some Draft pundits compare favorably to Ray Allen when he was just a teenager and rumored to be interested in doing whatever it takes to trade up by Thursday night to acquire that No. 2 pick so they can select Beal before someone else does.
Since landing the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery the Charlotte Bobcats have made no secret of their desire to move down from the #2 spot and try to secure multiple assets in this draft in efforts to rebuild the team around a youth movement.
The Bobcats met with Kansas big man Thomas Robinson over the weekend and are debating their options with the #2.
MIAMI – The Washington Wizards have been down this road before, making moves as the draft approaches and preparing themselves for what could be, if everything falls into place.
Their ongoing real franchise makeover that began at the trade deadline with the addition of Nene for JaVale McGee wasfollowed up with this afternoon’s announcement that the Wizards have acquired Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza from the New Orleans Hornets for Rashard Lewis and the No. 46 pick in next week’s draft.
“We are pleased to add two more solid pieces as we continue to build our roster with a balance of proven veterans and the core of young talent that we have developed,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement released by the team. “Emeka’s defensive presence and rebounding ability will combine with Trevor’s versatility to add new dimensions to our frontcourt, and both players fit in very well with the type of team-first culture that we have been working to establish.”
The Wizards get two starters to flank John Wall and Nene from the Hornets in exchange for Lewis and the cap flexibility he will bring. Lewis can be bought out for $13.7 million by the June 30 deadline, which is roughly half of the nearly $23 million he is owed next season. The Hornets have not indicated what direction they plan to go with Lewis, but his expiring deal will give them some room to work with in free agency sooner or later.
CHICAGO – More than any of their NBA peers, the nine members of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee gave the most – in time and effort – toward salvaging this post-lockout season. Everyone dealt with the uncertainty and inactivity of the elongated offseason prior to, finally, this hectic 2011-12 schedule. It’s just that the NBPA exec committee dealt with it in coats and ties, in hotel ballrooms, from morning to night (and sometimes on to morning again), enduring all the rhetoric that took most of five months before it distilled into true negotiating .
Too bad they’re not enjoying it more.
Washington’s Maurice Evans, one of the union VPs, had a rare upbeat night against the Bulls Monday at United Center. He scored 14 points in 26:28 off the bench to help the Wizards bag a road victory, 87-84, over the team with the NBA’s best record. It was just his 19th appearance of the season (his third over the past four weeks) and only the second time he has scored in double figures.
But it has been that way for Evans, a journeyman on a team committed to a) young players and b) lottery position. He has averaged 3.4 points and 11.4 minutes when he has participated, down from 9.7 and 27.4 in 2010-11.
He has company among the union brass. NBPA president Derek Fisher, of course, was traded from his beloved Lakers, then cut loose by Houston before landing nicely with Oklahoma City. Fisher’s stats are off a bit too: 5.5 ppg, 24.4 mpg now, 6.8 and 28.0 then.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In a day filled with moves both major and minor, obvious and perhaps not so obvious, one complex deal stood out above the crowd here at the hideout.
The Denver Nuggets traded Nene to Washington for JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf, with the Clippers helping facilitate the deal by sending Brian Cook and a future second-round draft pick to Washington for Nick Young.
The Clippers clearly got what they needed in Young, a scoring machine who can play alongside Chris Paul in the backcourt but also has the size to work at small forward as well. But what the Nuggets and Wizards get out of this deal remains a little a murky at this point.
McGee is a talented but enigmatic player who has struggled to put it all together in Washington, But he does offer the Nuggets some size, athleticism and big-time defensive potential for a very reasonable price. Toss in the fact that he’s a restricted free agent after this season, the salary-cap relief alone provided the Nuggets with a financial opportunity they simply could not pass up.
But it throws their December signing of Nene to a five-year, $67 million deal onto the top of the buyer’s remorse pile. Apparently Nene’s injury history and struggles this season overshadowed his value (13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds) to a Nuggets team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase.
On paper it seems to make good sense, but is Nene the low-post anchor the Wizards needs to help point guard John Wall come into his own? And does McGee, even in the short-term and at such a discount compared to Nene, really make the Nuggets better in a playoff series in the rugged Western Conference?
There simply are not definitive answers to either one of those questions right now. That’s not acceptable for the Nuggets, a team that has to mind its money in the wake of their work at the trade deadline last season, when they sent Carmelo Anthony to New York in a blockbuster deal that many observers feared would decimate their team.
What’s not clear is what impact rookie Kenneth Faried‘s play had on the Nuggets’ decision. He’s played so well as of late (11 points and 8 rebounds in his last 10 games and scored a career-high 20 points to go with 12 boards in 34 minutes Monday in a 119-116 overtime win over the Kings), the front office has to take notice and wonder if they could get the same sort of production from Faried as they have from Nene.
If this deal for the Nuggets was more about the future of Faried than anything else, then it makes much more sense for the Nuggets. Because for all of the dollars they might have saved by trading Nene, they also needed a deal that makes sense for a team that’s already a playoff squad.
There were no Cadillac Eldorados or steak knives to be had, a la “Glengarry Glen Ross.” In the ruthless world of the NBA, at least as it pertained to the woeful Washington Wizards Tuesday morning, there was only third prize: You’re fired.
Oh, and fourth prize: You’re hired. As the interim replacement for coach Flip Saunders, terminated after a 2-15 start in his third season with Washington. Assistant Randy Wittman will take over for the rest of the season in a move that figures to bring more aggravation to Wittman than change to the Wizards’ failing, flailing culture.
This move was, of course, only a matter of time in coming. When I wrote this earlier this month about Saunders and the dysfunctional team that soon would cost him his job, I didn’t even have the confidence to wait for Washington to come to me in Chicago; I jumped on it a day early because the ax seemed that ready to fall. Two weeks later, it did, a 2-7 mark since then and looking little different from the disarray, lack of purpose and absence of development that preceded it.
The Wizards — especially Andray Blatche, Nick Young, JaVale McGee and increasingly John Wall — seem like raw, incorrigible talent, oblivious to the value of coaching, committed only to their knucklehead ways. They knew that Saunders was a dead man walking, whether he stayed or went, because they had tuned him out. There are no old heads on the roster, no veterans both respected enough and involved enough to act as the coaches’ trustees in that locker room. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You want to talk Washington politics, go somewhere else.
But if you want to talk Washington basketball, everything from the Dallas Mavericks’ visit to the White House to whether or not John Wall and the Wizards can keep Flip Saunders from getting stuck on the hot seat, you have come to the right place.
Episode 64 of the Hang Time Podcast has a decidedly Washington flavor, courtesy of two of our guests:
– Our main man Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com joins us to talk about the reigning world champions and their recent visit to the home and workplace of President Barack Obama, among other things. (He comes on after our debate about what the Magic need to do with Dwight Howard and what the Chicago Bulls could have to do with it, courtesy of our guy Shaun Powell from NBA.com)
– Michael Lee of The Washington Post put the finishing touches on this episode, helping us break down what’s gone wrong with the Wizards, who still have issues to sort through after winning their first game of the season.
– Sandwiched between those two is an entertaining stint with Denver Nuggets strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess, who is a must-follow on Twitter (and who is trying to get to 10K followers — help the man out!). Hess gives us the scoop on the challenges teams are facing in regards to keeping their players healthy and energized on a nightly basis during this abbreviated season with the compressed schedule.
There is also a new item on the agenda (you need to listen to find out) that we’ll need your help with. So make sure to share your feedback with everybody in the comments section and on Twitter.