The biggest moment of the Washington Wizards' one-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks was when coach Randy Wittman elected to sit JaVale McGee, Trevor Booker and Nick Young in favor of Jordan Crawford, Mo Evans and Kevin Seraphin to start the second half. Booker soon got back in and played well, Young played sparingly and McGee didn't play at all in the second half.
It was a bold, bold move for sure. I'm guessing some of you aren't too thrilled about it, even though the Wizards made a major comeback in the third quarter doing it. I have some sympathy to this line of thinking, because the Wizards were already rallying in the first half and because they had already rallied in the fourth quarter. But every time I read that stuff, I come back to what Wittman said in his introductory press conference.
"You have to prove that you deserve to be on the floor and continue to develop," Wittman said. "There becomes a point where if you know you're going to be out there, you'll play however you want to play. We've got to change that."
Every coach says something like that, but how many coaches follow it up with action? Flip Saunders sure didn't, and Saunders is a much more accomplished coach in terms of wins. Wittman certainly isn't lighting up the scoreboard with wins, but his team is playing better and the message seems to be getting through. Last night, it certainly worked.
Benching players the organization drafted and painted as potential franchise cornerstones is not easy. You may not get the support of your bosses. You will have to deal with fans like us who have our favorites. But none of these things should scare a coach into doing what he believes is right. That's why I appreciate Wittman's move.
Some other lingering thoughts on the game (links, Wall assist tracker, clipboard, etc all coming later):
- See, folks? That's what happens when John Wall's teammates hit shots. Truth be told, several of Wall's 15 assists probably were bad passes that his teammates converted into assisted field goals. I haven't run the tracker yet, but I suspect that 9.7 average will be going down.
- The shooting display by Roger Mason and Evans kind of made me salty, in a way. For one night at least, Evans and Mason nailed those shots, but given that both players are getting old and neither has shot over 38 percent from three-point range since 2008-09, the Wizards probably can't count on that consistently. Now, imagine if Evans and Mason are more consistent three-point shooters that can soak up more minutes. Imagine they're, for example, Carlos Delfino and Reggie Williams. (Just two names, point still stands). We can expect Wall to have higher assist totals and for the Wizards' offense to score far more points.
- Chris Singleton played a lot better than he has over the past month, which is great, but he still made two fairly important mistakes late. One was on an air-balled three-pointer in the fourth quarter. Instead of boxing out Delfino, he half-heartedly went to the ball. Delfino beat him to it and kicked out to Mike Dunleavy for a critical three-pointer. Then, on Ersan Ilyasova's tip in, Singleton didn't jump up high enough to divert Brandon Jennings away from the basket. This allowed Ilyasova to properly time his dive to the basket and get prime rebounding position. If Singleton diverts him wider, Jennings either gets off a worse shot or no shot at all, and Ilyasova can't grab the rebound.
- I'm honestly starting to wonder when I have to write the "How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Live With Jordan Crawford's Shot Selection" post. He's not taking good shots, but they're going in more recently. Perhaps he just eventually develops into a Jamal Crawford-type that can be used to provide a spark off the bench.
- The Wizards were awful at defending Dunleavy in that second quarter. I need to re-watch the tape to see who was to blame.
- Delfino is a free agent I'd like the Wizards to look at if he comes somewhat cheap. As Steve Von Horn from Brew Hoop pointed out to me on Twitter, he's an above-average shooter from every single spot on the floor in every situation except at the rim. He's also a really underrated playmaker, can run a pick and roll, knows the plays and defends his position well. I'd pay him $4-5 million a year for sure and watch him space the floor, guard top perimeter threats and act as a playmaker outlet when teams shut down Wall.