Wizards Weekly - Week 2
Remember how geeked we were in June and July, when free agents started signing? This season’s been even better than we thought! Brandon Ingram has emerged as the bucket he was projected to be. He’s averaging 26 through seven games (and he just gave the Nets 40 in Brooklyn). You could miss your girlfriend, and Andre Drummond will catch you. He just ran off four straight 20-rebound games. And Trae Young--man this is a Wizards’ update, but I could do the whole piece on that kid’s first two weeks.
Even with a 2-4 record, your Wizards are fifth in the league in points (116.8), assists (26) and offensive rating (110.6) per game. Bradley Beal is averaging 26.5 points a game, good for just 10th in the league because Harden, Irving, Lillard & nem have no chill. The rook is proving to be a great investment. He plays hard, confident, and takes only good shots, shooting 47.6% en route to a 15-point, 6-rebound stat line.
Last Wednesday, as we were live on air discussing robots as presidents, as the Nationals were busy winning the World Series, the Wizards we’re hosting the Houston Rockets in a home opener that featured more points than a lengthy trial. In a one-point Houston win, the teams combined to score 317 -- in regulation. The stars were definitely out. James Harden treated the D.C. crowd to an efficient 59-point show, shooting 56% overall and 43% from three. Russell Westbrook did what he does, tallying 17 points, 12 assists and ten boards.
Entering the game, people thought Washington was set up. A three-game road trip to start the season was bad enough, but to then open your home court against the same Houston Rockets who traded for Westbrook? Man. Like the proud moment a kid has when he stands up to a bully, Washington came out swinging and matched Houston punch-for-punch. They dropped 158, the second-most a Wizards team has ever scored, but reality set in and the bully prevailed.
As for the punches...Beal led the team with 46 points and cashed seven of the twelve threes he took. Rui Hachimura, is here. He’s serious about this NBA career thing, too. The supporting cast with Davis Bertans, Moe “Swag” Wagner, and Troy Brown Jr. make up the second-best bench unit in the game, only trailing that team from Houston. (I’m telling you now; look out for Troy Brown Jr.)
In fact, of the four double-digit scorers in Saturday’s game against Minnesota, three of them came from the bench. That game was a 22-point loss to a team most expected to miss the playoffs. The Wolves jumped out the gate with a 42-point first quarter and won the third quarter by 20 points. So I have one question: what’s going on with the starters?
Beal’s the star. He’s 95% of the scouting report. Hachimura has emerged as a reliable inside-out threat with a mean midrange game that drives the analytics guys insane. Thomas Bryant has played his role well, challenging bigs for rebounds (9.7rpg) and being active in protecting the rim (currently 10th in contested shots per game). Isaac Bonga has performed defensively, but I expect Troy Brown Jr. to earn those small-forward minutes. He’s a natural playmaker with a guard’s feel for the game -- at 6’7”. I’ll tell you without parentheses, watch that kid.
Back to the question at hand. Isaiah Thomas is on the bench, that’s what’s going on with the starters. Coach Brooks must’ve had enough, and he started Thomas in Monday’s 115-99 win vs. Detroit. The guard known as “I.T.” is a former All-Star and MVP candidate, but the last game he started was in March 2018. Furthermore, this was just his 16th start in two seasons after an All-NBA selection.
Poor health wasn’t the only thing attacking his morale. Away from the game he loves, Thomas also dealt with tragedy. "I'm never going to quit. No matter what,” said the feisty point guard. “I've been through real-life situations that are bigger than basketball." Thomas didn’t have the most spectacular game in his return, but it was another checked box on his way back to the I.T. we used to know (and root against, because he was so good, that I.T.).
Thomas and the Wizards will take on the Pacers in Indiana Wednesday night and come back to host the Cavs Friday night. Listen live on Wednesday nights from 10-11 PM on 94.3 FM or live stream us on www.takomaradio.org.