Everything I've learned in sportswriting boils down to finding a moment that encapsulates a story and describing the hell out of it at the top of the article. The problem today is that there are too many of those moments to describe JaVale McGee's game. The two-handed stuff on Mike Taylor at the end of the game. The throwdown on Blake Griffin late in the game that Javaris Crittenton insisted I note. The myraid times when he stayed on his feet instead of going for pump fakes.
Indeed, McGee was the key to this game, swatting seven shots and altering many others in what was easily the Wizards' best defensive performance in a Summer League game since ... well, since I can remember. He had the whole package, playing great man-to-man post defense on DeAndre Jordan, as well as solid help defense on everybody else.
The major thing I noticed was that that JaVale was staying down on pump fakes rather than flying around like a maniac whenever somebody flinched. Sam Cassell noticed it too. He told me that he tells McGee all the time that he doesn't need to jump around on pump fakes because he's the tallest guy on the court. Clearly, it resonated.
As for Blake Griffin, he had 19 points, but needed 16 shots to get there as the Wizards swarmed him with double- and triple-teams. The key to me was that he scored very few of his points in isolation or even in the flow of the half-court offense. He scored a bunch in transition and had some points on broken plays, but for the most part, the Wizards shut him down in halfcourt sets. It also helped that, without Eric Gordon, the Clippers had nobody who could make the Wizards pay for doubling Griffin.
Javaris Crittenton had a really solid game running the offense, with 17 points, nine from the free throw line, and just one turnover. I spoke to Crittenton for a while after the game about learning Flip Saunders' new offense. He told me that he was thinking all night last night about how to balance setting people up and still getting to the rack (yes, those were his words). He admitted to me that he wished he could watch some film right now to get better at that balance. He broke a couple plays today, but all in all, I think he did well with it. He created when necessary, drew enough fouls to shoot 12 free throws and didn't commit too many turnovers.
- I asked Crittenton about his jumper. He told me, predictably, that it's all about confidence, not technique necessarily, and that right now, he feels very confident with it. He talked about not passing up shots that he should take because it hurts his confidence.
- The other bigs on this team (Josh Heytfelt, John Edwards, Brandon Wallace Alade Aminu) all had strong games on defense taking turns guarding Blake Griffin. In particular, I really liked Heytfelt's post defense. He kept Griffin in front of him and made him shoot over the top. Cassell told me he thought they all played extremely well today.
- Question to ponder: Is it a coincidence that JaVale's best game came with Andray Blatche sitting out? I mean that not to bash Blatche, but only to add more personal doubt to whether Blatche and JaVale can ever complement each other well on the court.
- A couple of you guys told me through the site or Twitter how much you think Sam Cassell is a huge addition to the team as an assistant coach. This was Cassell's first game as a head coach, and I asked him about how it compared to playing or being an assistant. He smiled wide when I asked the question and told me this is something he's been looking forward to do, and that he's honored to be working under one of the best in Flip Saunders. (His words, not mine). He sounded like a guy who genuinely wanted to get into coaching, and not somebody who just became a coach because he has nothing else to do.
I'm catching a plane in a few minutes back home, so I won't be here for tomorrow's game. I'll throw a post up about Nick Young's development on running through screens tomorrow, but otherwise, this concludes BF's Summer League coverage.