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Keys To The Palace: Veterans Help The Wizards Stay Competitive During Tough Week

With Gilbert Arenas Tribute Day pushing back last week's Keys To The Palace to Tuesday, Monday's game against Charlotte got tacked on with last week's edition. That means we've only got Wednesday's game against Chicago and Sunday's game against the Spurs to deal with this week.

In both games, the Wizards simply didn't have the firepower to keep up with two of the NBA's best teams, but they kept both games tighter than expected. These are the defeats you can live with during a rebuilding period. After the jump, we'll take a look at who stepped up this week and who most certainly did not.

Keys to the Palace

Player Week 9 PER Week 8 PER Difference Comment
Rashard Lewis 12.9 N/A N/A The best part about Lewis' great outing against San Antonio was that he showed his game hasn't become as one-dimnesional as his days in Orlando may have suggested. Yes, his three point shooting and rebounding were outstanding, but he also did a solid job defensively and was able to create his own shots inside. No one is expecting him to return to the same level he played at with Seattle, but if he can at least show that same diversity, that's a positive for the Wizards moving forward.
Kirk Hinrich 13.5 12.9 0.6 When Kirk Hinrich was brought in, no one was expected him to log the minutes he's been playing the last week since Arenas was traded, but he's played far better on the offensive end than anyone could have asked. His defense has understandably slipped a little bit, as he's had to handle more offensive duties, but he still did a good job with Derrick Rose, keeping him from hurting the Wizards from beyond the arc and holding him to five assists. That said, it's a good thing John Wall is back, because the heavy minutes he has been logging appeared to be catching up with him in the second half against San Antonio.
Hilton Armstrong 7 7.9 -0.9 Armstrong reminded everyone of his value to the team as he helped keep the Wizards competitive against San Antonio with his stout defense until he was forced out with a foot sprain in the closing minutes. If he doesn't make a quick recovery, we could see lots of easy baskets around the rim in the coming weeks.

Guest Passes

Player Week 9 PER Week 8 PER Difference Comment
Al Thornton 11.3 11.3 0 Another steady week at the office for Thornton, who is still playing almost 30 minutes a game, even with two former All-Stars, Josh Howard and Rashard Lewis, joining the roster.
Josh Howard 13.3 12.5 0.8 Flip Saunders has kept Howard's minutes steady since returning from injury, averaging 20-25 minutes per game since coming back last week. In all, he's been a great addition to the team and a big part of why the Wizards have avoided being blown out against Miami, Chicago and San Antonio. The one area of his game that needs some work, it's his shot locations. 17 of his 36 field goal attempts have been long twos (16-23 feet from the rim, according to Hoopdata) and he's only made six. Once he can either hit that shot more effectively or phase it out of his repertoire, he'll have an even better impact on the team.
Trevor Booker 12.9 13.1 -0.2 Booker was only twenty seconds away from a DNP against the Bulls, but came back with a good outing in San Antonio. He only had two points, which came on a nice put-back dunk, but his five rebounds were a welcome sight.
John Wall 16.6 17.3 -0.7 Wall wasn't 100 percent against the Spurs in his first game back from injury, but he wasn't gimpy either, which leads me to think it was more an issue with being rusty than still injured. Because so much of his game is predicated on speed, it's going to take him longer to shake off the rust than other players, but it's nice to see he's gotten a little craftier, which will certainly help on the nights when he isn't at his best physically. 
Nick Young 15.6 16.9 -1.3 Nick Young has responded well to extra attention defenses have been giving him lately, including a nice 22 point effort against the Bulls, but he had a little too much on his plate against San Antonio. Not only did he have to try and make up for Blatche and McGee's output, but he was being asked to slow down Manu Ginobili at the same time, which by itself is a full game's worth of work for most players. Given those circumstances, his rough outing in San Antonio shouldn't be surprising, but the effort on this possession could have been better. 

Locked Out

Player Week 9 PER Week 8 PER Difference Comment
Kevin Seraphin 8.8 8.2 0.6 Just about every big man has problems with fouls coming into the league, especially international players, who have a steeper learning curve with NBA referees. So it shouldn't come as a shock when Kevin Seraphin commits four fouls in nine minutes against San Antonio, but it should serve as a reminder that development is a long and winding road, especially for players from overseas.

Go Sit In The Timeout Corner

Player Week 9 PER Week 8 PER Difference Comment
Andray Blatche 14.2 14.9 -0.7 Between his botched layuphis terrible performance against the Bulls and the altercation, I'm not sure there's been an easier case to lock someone out in the history of Keys to the Palace.
JaVale McGee 18 18.5 -0.5 I know I've already aired this grievance, and I probably sound like a curmuddgeon when I bring it up, but this is the kind of play that reinforces everything the coaching staff thinks about McGee, for better and worse. But right now, the bigger issue is that over his last four games, McGee is averaging a measly 4.3 points and 7 rebounds per game. Hopefully, the fight serves as a big wake up call for both players, who have been in downward spirals as of late.

NOTE: Lester Hudson, Cartier Martin Hamady Ndiaye and Yi Jianlian were excluded from this week's Keys to the Palace since they all received little or no playing time.