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Game Thread #38 -- vs. Washington

One of my fellow SB Nation bloggers, pradamaster over at Bullets Forever, suggested we exchange questions about our respective teams instead of writing our typical game previews. Excellent idea, obviously.

I answered his questions and then posed five of my own.

Pounding the Rock: Do you ever get possessive about Agent Zero? He's the best player on your team, yet every blog by Tom, Dick and Harry has posts about him. Is that a drag as a blogger; because what can you say that hasn't already been said? Would you trade him for LeBron (or anyone) straight up right now? Doesn't pure entertainment value figure in there somewhere?

Bullets Forever: How can you get possessive about Agent Zero? He's such a cute little teddy bear. I mean, look at that face. Why would I trade him for a guy who looks like a grandfather at age 22?

Seriously, I really can't say I get possessive about him. It just makes blogging a bit harder and easier at the same time. It's easier because if I get lazy, I can just rehash a tale of Arenas' lunacy. It's harder because that angle has already been played so many times, so why would anyone want to read it again on this site? When I started the old blog, there was only Wizznutzz, but now, everyone's trying to get it on the Gilbert Arenas act. It makes blogging challenging, that's for sure.

PtR: I assume, based on the title of your blog, that you wish the Wizards would go back to their old name. I tend to agree. I like the idea of a wizard as your mascot, but your logo should be more in your face wizardry, like this feller. And come on, "Bullets" isn't all that violent. It's not like you guys used to be the "Washington Bloody Knife Fights" or something. There's a question in there somewhere, I promise.

BF: Totally agree, we need to go back to Bullets. Honestly, the Wizards nickname has been a copout for nearly a decade, and it signaled the downfall of one of my favorite teams. Nine years ago, the team was very image-conscious, and was more concerned with the character of their players than their ability. Crime in DC was at an all-time high, so the Washington brass was uncomfortable with the team's nickname. They then decided they would change it, and allowed citizens to pick the new nickname. The nickname `Wizards' came up more often than any other one. Shortly thereafter, the Wizards traded a young, blossoming Chris Webber to Sacramento for a decaying Mitch Richmond, on the basis that Webber's character was suspect. Yeah, whatever.

Obviously, the players and city were of bad character because of the team's nickname. Change the nickname, and everything will magically become pure again. We'll all live in happyland.

PtR: Do you get mad bitches with your blog? Because I don't. And I was promised "crazy mad bitches like woah" when I signed up. Seriously. It was in the contract, right under "year supply of peanut brittle or fifteen 20% off coupons at Bed, Bath and Beyond." The peanut brittle was actually quite pliable, so I hope you went with the latter. Their selection of hand towels is simply sublime.

BF: Apparently, you're compensating by posting pictures of cheerleaders. You seem to be doing a lot better than I am. Don't be so down on yourself.

And I don't know about you, but I'm currently drying my hands with this awesome hand towel.

PtR: Does Etan Thomas' poetry make you cry? Is he serious? Are you working getting a slap-fight between him and Brendan Haywood schedule as half time entertainment for an upcoming game?

BF: I'm torn on Etan, because on the one hand, how many NBA players would even think to go public about the issues he discusses in his poetry. On the other hand, have you read his stuff? It's like he expects us to live in a perfect world, a world that will never come to fruition. In the end, it's really just another weird thing on this team, and I don't really try to pass a judgment on it.

As for the slap-fight, this actually bothers me a bit. Everyone assumes that, because of one fight early in the season, Haywood and Thomas hate each other, and one has to go. Well, since the fight, both have been model citizens, and neither has had a problem with the other starting. A lot of people assume the Wizards need to deal one to make the other happy. It's just not true. The two have been a solid, if unspectacular, center duo inside. Now, against Tim Duncan, all bets are off, but seriously. Would you rather trade one and save his money to get a comparable replacement for twice as much on the open market, or stick with both and use the money to upgrade perimeter positions (sayonara, Jarvis Hayes!)? Ernie Grunfeld's not stupid.

PtR: What are your highest expectations for this year's Wizards team? What do they top out as? Eastern Conference Finals? Better? Worse? What would it take for them to make it out of the Eastern Conference?

BF: Oh man, a serious question!

If you had asked me this yesterday, I would have said that they have as good a chance as anyone to make it out of the East. The East is so bad that picking a champion at this moment is like playing the lottery. There's no reason that the Wizards can't beat teams like Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando, Chicago, and Indiana. But after losing to New Orlenas last night, I need to temper my optimism a bit. They could just as easily lose in Round 1 as go to the conference finals.

The problem is that they aren't as bad as they showed in November and they aren't quite as good as they showed in December. This month, they're 3-2, with 3 home wins (including one on a buzzer beater) and two bad road losses. They still can't defend on the perimeter, and their offense still can go cold when Gilbert Arenas is struggling. To get to the next level, they need to win more games when their opponent takes away their strengths. New Orleans employed a soft full-court press to prevent the Wizards from fast breaking, and the Wizards didn't know how to respond. Meanwhile, New Orleans ran a number of basic sets, threw the ball into Desmond Mason every time, and let him go to work. The Wizards didn't start bringing double teams until late in the game, letting the Hornets stay in a comfort zone on offense. It's this passivity that concerns me.

In the end, my expectations still are to come out of the East. When this team is playing well, nobody in the conference is better. Nobody has three bona-fide scorers and solid surrounding parts (Stevenson, Daniels, the centers, a healthy Songaila, Blatche, even Hayes) in the East like the Wizards. But when the team is struggling, anyone can beat them. It would take a good matchup (e.g. Detroit, New Jersey/Toronto, even Cleveland) to get them far in the East.

I will update the contest standings after posting this. Frow now complete standings will be posted as a diary. Tonight's lines:

Washington @ San Antonio: SA -9.5
Miami @ Utah: UTA -8

Post away.