Wizards Weekly - Week 1
The NBA season started with the battle for Los Angeles last Tuesday night. Since, the other 28 teams have tipped off their respective seasons. Rookies Ja Morant and RJ Barrett are serious about this NBA thing. Kyrie Irving had a 50 point game and Anthony Davis just had a 40-20 game...in under 30 minutes. Previously unknown guys like Kendrick Nunn are popping onto the scene. So with all of this, how does the home team look? Stick with me every week of the season to find out.
The Wizards started their season on a road trip. They opened up with a 100-108 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, where Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis introduced their European-made tandem to the league. They combined for 57 points, with Doncic shooting like a Navy Seal (63% from the field, an impressive 44% from three) en route to his 34-point season debut.
The next matchup was a 97-85 win against the new look OKC Thunder. The Thunder traded for star point guard Chris Paul over the summer, but it was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who looked like their prized new toy. He was a thorn in the Wizards’ gameplan all night. Finishing with 28 points, seven boards, three blocks and two steals while shooting 59% from the floor, SGA has the feel of a great player; the game comes to him, he plays both ends, and he’s a big guard who can score and pass.
To end the trip, the Wiz put their 20-year winless streak in San Antonio to test. They come home extending that streak another year after falling 122-124 in a nail biter bookended by a questionable no-call. With the score tied, the Spurs’ Demar DeRozan sliced through the lane to take the lead, leaving five seconds on the clock. Wizards’ coach Scott Brooks knew what to do: give the ball to your superstar guard in Brad Beal. Instead of pulling up for a midrange jumper, Beal drove to the cup looking for a foul where none would be called. Good take, but refs don’t want that pressure, even in week one.
Rui Hachimura, the Japanese rookie who’s drafting bore some mixed emotions, has been eeeeating. Well, he’s averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds, but his play has been encouraging to say the least. He’s been smart, making his presence known through effort, finesse and sometimes brute strength. He looks like he belongs.
In the Wizards’ first week of action, their biggest flaw has been outside shooting, with both the volume (for a team without a heap of shooters) and percentage. They haven’t shot well at all three phases. So far, they’ve shot 43% from the field, 33% from three and 78% on free throws.
Without John Wall, coach Brooks is employing a point-guard-by-committee approach, spitting point guard minutes between Ish Smith, Beal and Isaiah Thomas. With that being the case, the playmaking on the court has not produced easy baskets. Smith does his part, but if Beal and Thomas are focused on playmaking rather than scoring, it’s taking away from the best parts of their games.
Speaking of Beal, he’s had an underwhelming opening week. He was ejected in game one for a competitive scuffle with Doncic and is averaging 20 points and eight assists per, shooting a nauseating 30.6% from the floor and 23.3% from deep. Last year, he shot 47.5% and 35%, respectively.
On a better note, you’d be happy to see the play, and growth, of second-year big man Thomas Bryant. Ending last year with an average of 10.5 points and six rebounds a game, Bryant is scoring 15 points and grabbing around 10 boards a match in this first week. Against an established big in Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams, Bryant dropped 21, 11, and shot 3-7 from deep. Your starting center shooting seven threes a game is ill-advised but if he makes three of them, keep shooting big guy.
The Washington Wizards will take on the Houston Rockets tonight in a home opener, while the Washington Nats take on the Houston Astros in game 7 of the World Series. Let’s hope for a Halloween sweep. Listen live on Wednesday nights from 10-11 PM on 94.3 FM or live stream us on www.takomaradio.org
See ya next week!