September 20, 2014

Washington Wizards Add Assistant Coach Howard Eisley

On Thursday afternoon, the Washington Wizards announced via a team press release that they have added Howard Eisley to their assistant coaching staff.

A 12-year pro that ended his playing career in 2006, Eisley has spent the last four years as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers. As a player, he averaged 6.5 points, 3.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds. [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Rightfully Reward Randy Wittman With Three-Year Contract Extension

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

For the Washington Wizards this offseason, that is the philosophy they should stick to when maneuvering through the laundry list of decisions that face them this summer. They have several high-profile people in need of new contracts, and on Tuesday evening they checked one of them off the list. [Read more...]

Looking Back On The 2013-2014 Washington Wizards: The Dawning of a New Age in D.C.

Before the season, if you would have walked up to any Washington Wizards’ fan and told them that this team would get to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals before it was all over, you would have been met with many wide eyes and disbelieving shaking heads. With the recent history of the franchise, it would be hard to blame them. [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Game 6 Recap: Wizards’ Playoff Run Ends in 93-80 Loss to Pacers

All the fire and energy that powered the Washington Wizards through Game 5 seemed lost Thursday night as the Wiz Kids fell 93-80 to the Indiana Pacers in an elimination game at home to end their playoff run.

Marcin Gortat came nowhere close to his career high playoff points this time around, but he did lead the Wizards’ scoring efforts with 19 points. Bradley Beal and Nene added 16 and 15, respectively, and John Wall rounded out the double-digits club with a mere 12 points as Washington’s 39.2 percent field goal percentage proved too low to pose a threat.

Indiana jumped to an early – yet surmountable – lead early in the first quarter, but Lance Stephenson and David West helped the Pacers to a 29-23 lead in the first 12 minutes of play.

The Pacers continued to tack onto their lead in the second quarter, largely with the help of nine free baskets off poorly timed Washington fouls.

The Wizards regained just a bit of momentum in the third quarter as the Gortat-Beal duo breathed life back into the offense. The two combined for the Wizards’ first eight points of the quarter in under three minutes before Nene added a free throw and Wall sank a two.

But, West continued to pester Washington with back-to-back baskets before George Hill’s three gave Indiana a 67-55 lead with 4:26 remaining in the third. Washington trimmed the deficit to 10 on free throws before Trevor Ariza and Drew Gooden added a pair of baskets to help the Wizards climb back within eight points.

For a brief moment in time, Washington actually regained the lead in the fourth by way of two Gortat free throws, a pair of baskets by Wall, and two long jumpers – including a lead-changing three-pointer – from Beal.

With the next shot, however, West regained the lead for the Pacers. From there, Indiana continued to outrun the Wizards – so much so that Washington endured a stretch of more than five minutes without a basket in the fourth. West and Stephenson took advantage of the slow-to-awaken offense to help the Pacers to their 93-80 win.

“We’re definitely disappointed,” Beal said after the game. “This loss hurts more than anything just knowing that it all just came to an end just like that. But at the same time, nobody really thought we would be this far. For us to actually make it here and for us to believe in ourselves and make Indiana earn it, we should be proud of ourselves and there’s nothing we should hang our head about.”

“Nobody expected us to be here,” Wall said. “I just want to thank God for giving me this opportunity to be here and compete as a team. Like [Beal] said, I think we got a lot of effort from a lot of teams. I think a lot of teams respect us now. We definitely made Indiana earn it. Give them a lot of credit for coming out and just giving us a lot of experience to know what it takes to win and compete, and close out games and get to the next level. We just want to say thanks to everybody that supported us, and our family, friends, the organization and definitely our fans.”

The loss makes further evident the Wizards’ playoff struggles at home. The end of their run caps off a 1-4 record at the Verizon Center – compared with a 5-1 record on the road this postseason.

“We have to look on the flip side of it and the things that we did on the road is a huge step for this team,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. “There is no question you have to take care of home and that is the next step. I mean we win 44 games and we win more games on the road than we do at home. You even take a little bit of care at home and you are at 50 you are at 52 and that is the next step we got to take. Continue to be what we were on the road this year. Take care of home and continue to grow.”

Wizards vs Pacers Game 5 Analysis: John Wall Quiets Critics In Blowout Win

On a night when his team needed him most, Washington Wizards’ All-Star point guard John Wall broke out of his recent slump to lead his team to a 102-79 win on the road against the Indiana Pacers.

It’s a game that many of us had been waiting for since the Wizards knocked off the Chicago Bulls in round one. After a 24-point performance in the decisive Game 5 of that series, Wall put together his best effort yet of round two as Washington staved off elimination. [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Game 5 Recap: Gortat, Wizards Crush Pacers to Send Series to Game 6

After enduring three demoralizing losses to the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards came back with a vengeance Tuesday night to take Game 5 by the score of 102-79.

Marcin Gortat led the charge with a spellbinding 31 points and 16 rebounds to mark arguably the greatest game of his career. His 31 points tied his career high, while his 16 boards earned Gortat a new playoff career high. And, as if in response to recent criticisms regarding his subpar playoff performance as of late, John Wall added a commanding 27 points to Washington’s efforts.

That’s right – combined, Gortat and Wall accounted for more than two-thirds Indiana’s point total on the night.

Washington enjoyed a hot start as the duo combined for six points before fans saw three minutes of basketball. [Read more...]

Wizards vs Pacers Game 5 Preview: It’s Time For John Wall To Be An All-Star

On Tuesday night in Indianapolis, the Washington Wizards will be fighting for their playoff lives as they’ll take on the Indiana Pacers down 3-1 in the series. The NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals series between these two has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride.

While the dynamic of this series has changed many times, one thing has stayed the same and that is the (lack of) productivity by Wizards’ All-Star point guard John Wall. As myself and fellow DSP writer Dave Nichols have touched on recently, Wall has pulled a Roy Hibbert in this series and disappeared.

After averaging a team-high 19.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists in the regular season, Wall was able to carry that momentum into the Wizards’ opening-round series with the Chicago Bulls. In five games, the fourth-year guard averaged nearly 19 points, seven assists and four rebounds per game. In the decisive Game 5, it was Wall’s 24-point effort that propelled them to victory.

In their second-round series with Indiana, Wall seems to have, well, hit a wall. His shooting percentage has dropped to 31-percent and he’s averaging just 11.5 points and barely three rebounds. To his credit, he has managed to up his assists to 7.5 per game, but that’s a small consolation as it hasn’t amounted to much success in the grand scheme.

At the free throw line, Wall has seen his percentage go down (from 76-percent against Chicago to 72-percent against Indiana), but has also seen his attempts decrease. In round one, he averaged nine free throw attempts per game. Through four games against the Pacers, Wall has seen the charity stripe an average of just 4.5 times per game.

While you can easily accredit that stat to poor officiating, it’s important to remember that the officiating wasn’t exactly spectacular in round one, either. Rather, I think that stat has more to do with what Wall is doing with the ball when he drives. Instead of rising to finish at the rim, he’s looking to pass the ball out. He’s playing unselfish basketball, but it’s backfiring.

It would be one thing if Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza were knocking down the open jumpers that he’s setting them up for, but they’re not. Collectively, the sharpshooting duo are averaging just 47-percent from the floor and provide an average of five threes per game. Those are solid numbers, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been inconsistent shooting from them overall.

As a shooter, Wall has never really been that guy. He only averaged 43-percent shooting from the floor in the regular season and was usually good for just one made-three a game. All along, his game has been to quickly put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. His shooting struggles in the postseason, particularly in round two, are nothing new.

Wall’s biggest attribute is his speed. No matter who else is on the floor, he’s the fastest. When the ball is in his hands, he’s like lightning in a bottle. In round one, Wall used his speed to his advantage to get to the rim. The Bulls’ defenders had two choices: let him score or foul him. It was his mindset to constantly attack the rim that led the Wizards to victory in the series.

Against Indiana, he’s stopped using that speed. Rather than putting his head down and flying through the paint looking for nothing but the rim, he’s looking around at who he can pass to. Even when he creates an open look at a layup, he’s looking to dish the ball back outside. He’s losing his identity and it’s costing the Wizards this series.

For Washington to have a chance in Game 5, Wall needs to be that lightning-in-a-bottle player he’s capable of being. He needs to go at Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi and get them into foul trouble. What good is a 7-foot big man if he’s sitting on the bench? Both Hibbert and Mahinmi have taken control of the paint and it will be Wall, not Nene or Marcin Gortat, that can take back that control.

It’s almost as if Wall is okay with being the number three, or four, guy in the lineup. He’s had no issues allowing Ariza and Beal to do the work and Nene has certainly been in the forefront of the game plan. However, neither of the three brought the Wizards to this point. Rather, it’s been thanks largely to the effort of Wall that they made the playoffs in the first place.

Of the Wizards’ starting five, Wall has been here the longest by nearly two seasons (Nene was acquired in the middle of the 2011-2012 season). If there’s one player that deserves all the glory and credit, it’s him. There’s no reason why he should be looking to pass the ball. He is the man on this team and it’s time he play like it. The others are there to support him and he’s trying too hard to get them involved.

Before the start of Game 5 on Tuesday night, Wall needs to find himself again. A first-time All-Star this past year, he needs to find that player agin. Rather than focusing on not making mistakes, he needs to relax and just play his game.

Time and time again, the old saying of “speed kills” has been proven true. At 7 PM on Tuesday night in Indianapolis, John Wall will need to use his speed in order to keep the series alive and force Game 6.

OPINION: Wizards need Wall to elevate his game to go to next level

The Washington Wizards held a 19-point lead in the third quarter of their 95-92 Game 4 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Like Oklahoma City found out earlier in the day, no lead is safe in the NBA Playoffs. Unlike the Thunder, though, the Wizards are still waiting for their young superstars to really, finally and assuredly, lead this team to victory.

When the Wizards needed it most Sunday evening, head coach Randy Wittman turned to veterans Andre Miller, Drew Gooden and Al Harrington, with Bradley Beal reduced to more of a support role and John Wall — this team’s All-Star — planted firmly on the bench.

Miller, Gooden and Harrington combined for 28 points and twice led the Wizards to double-digit leads, only to see the starters hand that lead back over time. Gooden was +5 in 27 minutes, Harrington was +8 in 22 minutes and Miller, playing just under 16 minutes, was a whopping +18, while Wall, in 32 minutes, was -21 on the night.

You’ve got to give the Pacers credit. They realized what was working and kept feeding it, as Paul George showed why he was an early MVP candidate as he shot 12-for-20, including 7-for-10 from beyond the arc to finish with 39 points and 12 boards. Roy Hibbert had another solid performance late, with 17 and 9, and the admiration of those wearing stripes and doling out free throws.

The Pacers — the road team and No. 1 seed in the conference — went to the line 29 times in total, 10 more than the homestanding Wizards.

It’s hard to focus too much on Beal. He contributed 20 points, had five boards and five assists on the night.

Wall, on the other hand, was fairly ineffective. He finished with 12 points and seven assists, but on multiple occasions was reckless with the ball, seemingly afraid to drive to the bucket, and deferential when confronted with defensive pressure.

That he avoided taking a wide open 3-point shot with less than a minute left in the game trailing by three, instead dishing to a more covered Beal for the pressure shot, spoke volumes about where his confidence must be at this point.

The bottom line from Game 4 is when the head coach is relying on veterans like Gooden, Harrington and Miller in a must-win game, your young superstars aren’t quite ready for the next level.

If someone has said at the beginning of the season that the Wizards would give the No. 1 seed in the conference a headache in the second round, with a double-digit leads in all the games they lost, you’d have happily taken it.

Why, then, does it seem to be a huge letdown now as we’re experiencing it?

Wizards vs Pacers Game 3 Preview: Where Did John Wall Go?

On Friday night, the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Indiana Pacers and the Washington Wizards heads to D.C. for Game 3 with the series tied at 1-1. The Wizards have been a team on a roll this postseason, but their brightest star has been rather quiet as of late.

In the regular season, All-Star third-year point guard John Wall averaged a team-high 19.3 points, 8.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. His player efficiency rating (PER) of 19.6 was best on the team and he was the only Wizard to start, not just play, in all 82 regular season games.

Now that we’ve hit the postseason, however, Wall’s numbers have been on the decline. He’s averaging just 16.1 points per game and is shooting a mere 32-percent from the floor, including 16-percent from behind the arc. All three statistics are a far cry from the regular season where he averaged 43-percent from the floor and 35-percent from downtown.

When you break it down series-by-series, there’s a noticeable downward trend in some areas. After shooting 36-percent and averaging 18.8 points per game against Chicago, Wall is shooting just 22-percent and averaging 9.5 points against Indiana. He’s only averaging three rebounds per game, but to his credit his assists are up to 8.5 a game against the Pacers.

Where he has struggled to put points on the board, he hasn’t struggled to setup his teammates. Averaging 7.3 assists per game throughout the playoffs, Wall seems to share the ball best when his shooting is the worst. In his three worst shooting performances of the postseason (Game 4 against Chicago and Games 1 and 2 against Indiana), Wall is averaging nine assists per game.

It’s a testament to his selflessness and leadership, really, that a player that young in his first playoff appearance has the presence of mind understand when it just isn’t his night. However, at some point in their current series, it needs to become his night. Through two games against the Pacers, he’s just 6-for-27 with 19 points. Not to be overlooked, Wall is 0-for-7 from behind the arc.

Throughout the regular season, Wall was a player that Washington could rely on to carry the team when it was down. His ability to take over a game late and lead the Wizards to victory is what got them this far in the first place. It was much in part to his 24-point effort in Game 5 against Chicago that won them the game and the series.

Washington has proven that there are other players that can step up when Wall is having trouble scoring, but eventually that will come back to be the Wizards’ demise. While he is certainly doing a great job directing the offense and leading the team, at some point does Wall need to have a break-out 20-point game for them to advance to the conference finals.

Since being drafted first overall in 2010, Wall has been the leader of the Wizards and deserves much of the credit for their success. If they want to continue their success in the postseason, he’ll need to break out of the shooting slump he currently finds himself in. Should he do so, Washington has the ability to put away Indiana in a big way on Friday night.

Wizards Hand-Deliver Game 2 Victory to Pacers

Say what you will about Roy Hibbert’s 28 points and 9 rebounds, the Washington Wizards were not defeated by the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Rather, Washington simply lost the game. (Yes…there is a difference.)

The proof is in the pudding, folks, and it’s painfully obvious. Honestly, the fact the Wizards shot themselves in the foot as many times as they did and still had a chance to win should be very encouraging. As the series heads back to D.C. tied at 1-1, there is absolutely no reason to worry about this team.

After three quarters of play, Washington was down just four, 68-64. By no means had they played a solid three quarters of basketball, but Indiana had allowed them to hang around. For a team as explosive as the Wizards can be, that is the last thing you want to do.

Washington then opened up the fourth quarter on a 7-1 run to take the lead 71-69 with 9:00 left. The two teams then traded shots and with five minutes remaining, the Wizards were still up three. Already this postseason, they have proven they are team that can hang on to a late lead.

On Wednesday night, however, everything completely fell apart for Washington in the final five minutes of the game, mentally and physically.

Over the final five minutes, Washington went just 2-for-9 from the field including 1-for-5 from behind the arc. It was their unnecessary desperation on a sloppy sequence of possessions that ultimately did them in.

Down just three with 2:25 left, Washington then proceeded to shoot (and miss) a desperation three on each of their next three possessions. While you can argue that they were trying to tie the game, it’s also fair to say that there was no need for that kind of desperation with so much time left on the clock.

It’s not like the Pacers were scoring at will, either. On the other end of the floor, Washington played solid defense and held Indiana scoreless over that span of possessions. In fact, Indiana would score just four more points in the final 2:25 and two of those were free throws with 10 seconds left. The Wizards essentially spoiled all of their hard work done on defense when they had the ball on offense.

When you look at the box score, it’s obvious to see that the Wizards gave this one away. Washington shot just 5-for-12 from the free throw line while the Pacers shot 18-for-21. Wizards’ big man Nene failed to hit a freebie in his four attempts. For Hibbert, his breakout night continued at the line where he was a perfect 8-for-8.

Now let’s back up to the three-point line, a place where the Wizards also struggled mightily. In the regular season and throughout the postseason, Washington has been a reliable three-point shooting team. They shot 38-percent in the regular season, but that was certainly not the case in Game 2.

Collectively, they went 5-for-21 from behind the arc. John Wall missed all four of his three-point attempts en route to his underwhelming six-point effort. Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza combined to go just 4-for-13. In the regular season, both players shot 40-percent from downtown.

As stated at the beginning of this post, the fact that the Wizards still a chance to win this game in the final minutes is very encouraging. Even with all their struggles, they were able to keep pace with Indiana thanks in most part to their defense. While they struggled offensively, they did out-rebound Indiana (43-38), pick up five steals, three blocks and force seven turnovers.

The series now heads back to D.C. and there honestly isn’t much that needs to be changed with the Wizards. While they do need to figure out a defensive answer for Hibbert, much of their Game 2 problems were on the offensive end of the floor. In the final 2:25 of the game, it was a painful reminder of how young this team is as they fired bad shot after bad shot.

In Game 3, Washington simply needs to settle back down offensively. Set up the high screen and rolls and give Marcin Gortat (who poured in 21 points and 11 rebounds) and Nene a chance to hit those jumpers at the top of the key.

The Wizards just need to get back to what their good at, something that propelled them to their Game 1 victory and has brought them this far in the playoffs.

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