This happened Saturday, but I just saw it, and it’s so enjoyable. Watch as Vegas Summer League MVP Glen Rice Jr. hits a buzzer-beater to send the game into triple OT, right there in front of John Wall, Bradley Beal and everybody.
After a surprising Elite Eight appearance last season, the Wiz are on a bit of a roll. First they re-signed Marcin Gortat, then they landed Paul Pierce, and now they’ve made a series of sensible moves:
*Kris Humphries, PF — 3 years, $13 million (third-year team option)
*DeJuan Blair, PF — 3 years, $6 million (third-year team option)
*Drew Gooden, C — 1 year, $1.5 million (veteran minimum)
*Garrett Temple, G — 2 years, $2 million
*Kevin Seraphin, C — 1 year, $3.8 million
Well, maybe the Seraphin move wasn’t sensible, but the other four shore up the bench nicely, especially in the frontcourt behind Nene and Gortat. Trevor Booker left for $10 million over two years with Utah, but that’s all right. The Wizards got better this week, and they figure to be better next season.
In concert with adding/re-signing the aforementioned and along with expected improvement from Wall and Beal, Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. are looking good in Vegas. It’s just Summer League, but they’re averaging 40 per, and Porter’s development is sorely needed.
The East is also more wide open now. Miami lost LeBron and Indy lost Lance Stephenson, so the top two teams come back to the pack.
Cleveland will emerge with LeBron, and Chicago could be very good with a healthy Derrick Rose. Toronto, Brooklyn, Charlotte and Atlanta figure to return to the playoff mix, but the Wiz have better NBA championship odds than all of them.
So 2014-15 is looking good, and it’s not at the expense of pursuing Kevin Durant in 2016 either. But that’s a long way off. For now, let’s celebrate this summer, and a job well done by Ernie Grunfeld.
There are probably better texts regarding Kevin Durant’s free agency in the summer of 2016 and the possibility of him signing with the Wiz, but this is one I happened to read. From a Sports On Earth exchange between Michael Pina and Patrick Hruby, here’s Pina:
Washington has flexibility, especially when you consider the projected salary cap bump to $80 million in 2016. Nene’s contract expires then, and it’s tradable if they need to move it. This team is on a path to incrementally improve from within, while building around the margins. The foundation is set. And from a team-building perspective things aren’t too different from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Washington isn’t as talented, but they successfully used the draft to find their core. I’m not a Grunfeld fan by any means, but the Pierce signing is significant. This team will be attractive in two years, with Beal and Wall hopefully All-Star Weekend regulars by then. If they keep the cap sheet clean enough to offer Durant a max contract, there’s honestly no reason to assume his interest heading East won’t be piqued.
There’s also this, from CSN Washington:
The hiring of David Adkins, who coached Durant in high school, from the University of Maryland’s women’s team as assistant coach to player development for the Wizards this past week isn’t a coincidence.
See? The Wizards will have a decent team, cap space, his old coach … WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT, DURANT? COME HOME!
I’m sure he won’t tire of hearing that for the next two years.
The Wizards surprised everyone late Saturday night by signing future HOFer Paul Pierce for two years and $10.2 million. The move is a good one in all sorts of ways, as outlined over at Bullets Forever.
I’m thrilled about it myself, and much prefer The Truth at two and 10 to Trevor Ariza at eight and 32. Not that Pierce is a better player at this point in his career, but look at what this does for the Wiz:
*Gives them both short-term value and long-term flexibility.
*Helps them to keep spreading the floor. (Pierce is 37% from 3.)
*Gives them a crunch-time option and savvy postseason operator.
*Enables them to develop Otto Porter without really relying on him.
The only downside, aside from Pierce being almost exactly my age, is he can’t defend the perimeter like Ariza. But whatever, it’s not like defense wins championships or anything.
Plus, I think he kinda hates LeBron. Okay by me!
(Image taken with love from The Score, which is very good on Instagram.)
Here’s guest writer Bryan Frantz, back with another crack for Mr. Irrelevant.
So, the Wiz re-signed Marcin Gortat, as you may have heard.
That’s fine, he was a huge part of the team last season, and he brings a toughness and interior presence that nobody else on the roster can offer. His 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game were vital to the Wizards’ regular-season run, as was his particularly stellar play in April and May, and there was little else available in free agency if they didn’t bring him back.
However, did you see those numbers? Five years and $60 million? For a 30-year-old big man? The wrath of Ernie Grunfeld strikes again.
A deal for $12 million annually is a bit much, but it wouldn’t be an issue if Washington was off the hook in 2017 or maybe 2018. Instead, the Gortat is on the books until 2019, when he’ll be 35.
This is a win-now move, but is Gortat really the player that they need to contend for a title? Does Grunfeld believe that this team, as currently assembled, is one role player away from a championship? Because it’s not.
Handing out labels following the Wizards’ best postseason run since before I started rooting for them nearly 30 years ago.
Bradley Beal — Had a couple clunkers against Indiana, including 7-19 shooting in the decisive Game 6, but check out his numbers across 11 playoff games: 19.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.6 SPG and .415 3P%. Also, and you probably didn’t hear about this, he’s only 20.
Two players in NBA history have 3 25-point playoff games prior to turning 21 years old. Magic Johnson and Bradley Beal (@EliasSports)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
Randy Wittman — He does not seem to be a very good coach, but he did take this team further than they’ve been since 1979.
Ernie Grunfeld — Same for Ernie, right Wise?
Ted Leonsis — Same for Ted, who benefits in this regard, in a strange way, from the Caps bottoming out on the other side of the ledger.
Marcin Gortat — Replicated his rock-solid regular season averages of 13 and 10 and, though he was inconsistent from game to game, went off for 31 and 16 to stay alive vs. Indiana, giving us this John Wall quote for the ages:
— Zac Boyer (@ZacBoyer) May 14, 2014
Drew Gooden and Andre Miller — I was not expecting these two to make meaningful postseason contributions. Old guys rule.
Trevor Ariza — Had a great regular season, and more or less lived up to that in the postseason, averaging 8.9 boards, 46 percent from three and 52 percent overall. Even though he disappeared in a few games, he led the team in win shares and probably made himself a considerable amount of money in free agency. What the Wiz end up doing with him and Gortat will be fascinating.
John Wall — I hate to do this to the man, because I really want him to put it all together, but he was hard to watch at times and inconsistent throughout. After finishing top-20 in scoring and second in assists, his playoff numbers dropped across the board. He seemed unsure of himself and confused with the ball. But the glimpses were there; Game 5 against Indy was goddamn beautiful. Hopefully he learns from this. I think he will.
Martell Webster — Another guy I like a lot, so this brings me no joy. He was good last year, got paid, regressed a bit and then really fell off in the playoffs, shooting 23 percent from three.
Otto Porter — The No. 3 overall pick played six minutes total.
Wizards fans — Not a great showing! Nor did they get much to cheer for, as the Wiz went 1-4 at home (vs. 5-1 on the road).
Let's call it like it is: This @WashWizards crowd is pathetic.
— J.E. Skeets (@jeskeets) May 16, 2014
Nene — After being generally regarded as the MVP of Round 1 for winning his matchup with DPOY Joakim Noah, he was pretty bad against Roy Hibbert and David West in Round 2, shooting .395 from the field and grabbing 4.5 boards per game. I will never understand what he did to Jimmy Butler.
Trevor Booker — Didn’t figure into the Indiana series but played 24 minutes per game against Chicago, running around like a wild man. Not sure how effective he was, but it sure was fun to watch.
The Wiz looked so good last night. The Wizznutzz are good forever.
here a visual incite impression from we bout las nite's Wiz win pic.twitter.com/EgsnU8Ka8F
— WzzzzzzzNtzzzzzzzzzz (@wzzntzz) May 6, 2014
Beal’s six-game playoff stat line, BTW: 20.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .441 FG%, .829 FT% and .481 3P%. That’s just super-awesome, especially considering the Wiz are a balanced team and have gone 5-1, with four of those games happening on the road. He’s 20!
PS: John Wall blocking Paul George deserves a mural of its own.
While the rest of the league has been kind of FREAKING OUT, the Wiz have been on chill mode since dispatching Chicago last Tuesday. That’s a feat, considering the only other team to enjoy a long break is the three-peat Heat. More about those bastards in minute.
Here’s what the schedule looks like for Wiz-Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals:
#wizards will play Game 1 of 2nd rd on Mon., Game 2 on Wed., Game 3 on Fri., Game 4 on 5/11, Game 5 on 5/13, Game 6 on 5/15 & Game 7 on 5/18
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) May 3, 2014
As is known, the Pacers are the No. 1 seed in the East. As is also known, they’ve been struggling for some time, to the point that the man Kevin Broom heavily favors the Wizards.
Current estimates for possible #Wizards playoff opponents: Wiz with 67% chance of beating IND; 78% chance vs ATL, 27% vs MIA.
— Kevin Broom (@Broom_Kevin) April 30, 2014
If you take their 67% chance vs. Indy along with their 27% chance vs. Miami to be true, the Wiz have a 18% chance of making it to the NBA Finals. Those are fancy stats talking.
If you look to Vegas, the odds are 10/1 they beat the Heat and 25/1 to win it all. That seems more in line with the general perception.
First things first, though: Beat Indy and make it further than I’ve seen them go. And I’ve watched this lost franchise for three decades, waiting for the magic to happen.
Wave the wand, Wizards.
This data comes from Mr. Irrelevant Tickets partner TiqIQ, and I don’t deny it:
This season, Wizards tickets had an average secondary market price of $65, second-cheapest in the NBA. The playoffs are a different story.
Over the last three days and two wins in Chicago, Wizards playoff tickets increased to an average of $306, fifth-most expensive of any team in the NBA Playoffs. It also gives the Wiz the highest playoff ticket price premium in the league. With their run-up in prices, the Wizards have a playoff premium of 348%, dwarfing the next highest (the Raptors at 269%).
Bradley Beal, all of 20 years old, disrespected Chicago-style pizza during the day (“I can’t eat the fat pie”) and dropped 26 on the Bulls at night to propel the Wiz to a 2-0 series lead. Now they return to Washington, hoping to close it out Friday and Sunday.
What a turn of events, considering this is how the experts picked the series:
— Kal (@kaldc49) April 23, 2014
Now people are all like:
Randy Wittman the playoff GOAT: pic.twitter.com/v6zlFFXq44
— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) April 23, 2014
And making Photoshops like:
— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayCSN) April 23, 2014
Of course, we all would have seen this coming if we’d just paid attention to regular-season head-to-head matchups, with point differential as the tiebreaker (via FTW):
And because that’s all a bit ridiculous, I’ll close with this: Games 1 and 2 really could have gone either way, and Game 2 *really* could have gone either way. Can’t wait to see how the Wiz respond to being up, and the confidence that comes with that.