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Top Stories of the Week: Otto rises, Wizards keep slumping, Leonsis talks eSports

There have been some good stories here and there for the Wizards, but they’re getting far and few in between.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long week for me, so sorry for this post coming out a day late. That said, the Wizards played a big game last night and still have another one later today. So maybe it wasn’t a totally bad thing.

Anyways, I still have a lot of links to share with y’all, so let’s go through this week’s top stories.

The Wizards are the second worst team in the East

I think we all figured that the Wizards would be below .500 give how brutal their first ten games are. But I don’t think many of us would expect to see them 2-6, 14th in Eastern Conference as of today.

So, let’s go through the rundown of what happened in the past week:

  • Last Saturday, the Wizards lost to the Magic, 88-86. John Wall was absent due to precautionary rest measures. But this was a game that they had enough talent to win with, even with Wall.
  • Last Monday, we saw Nene, Trevor Ariza, and the Rockets come to town Houston won 114-106 because they made 17 threes. Mike Sykes has more insights from the locker room.
  • On Wednesday, the Wizards played a Boston Celtics team without Al Horford or Jae Crowder. They beat them 118-93. Otto Porter also had a career night with 34 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks.
  • And on Friday, the Wizards hosted the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. They played well for the most part, but three point defense did them in once again in a 105-94 loss.

Tonight, the Wizards play the Chicago Bulls on the road. They have a starting lineup of some NBA stars who were rockin’ and rollin’ not very long ago like a backcourt of Rajan Rondo and Dwyane Wade, as well as center Robin Lopez. Chicago is currently 5-4, so I’d imagine they’re probably going to get their sixth win tonight.

Things just aren’t good.

Wall’s temper is too hot, too often

NBA: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I’d like to start out Wall’s last week on a positive note. He became the Wizards’ all-time leading assister on Monday during the Rockets’ game.

But between that moment and Friday’s game, he also managed to get ejected in two consecutive games.

He was ejected with 33 seconds left in the Rockets game due to a call that was questionable. The second foul was due to bumping into and cussing at a referee after receiving a technical foul earlier. There were concerns about whether Wall could get suspended because he bumped a referee, but he was just fined $25,000 on Wednesday.

You would think that Wall would be on his best behavior Wednesday against the Celtics. In the fourth quarter, he pushed Marcus Smart to the ground with just under 5:30 remaining in the game. As a result, he got a flagrant 2 and an early trip to the locker room.

I get that anyone could get ejected from a game once. It happens. But seeing this happen twice in a row isn’t acceptable. Wall leads the NBA in technical fouls with three and flagrant foul points with three (two for a flagrant 2 and one for a flagrant 1). He will need 16 technical fouls to “earn” a suspension, but he’s well on his way as we speak.

The emotional intensity isn’t seen as a bad thing if the Wizards were like the Golden State Warriors. But they’re the second worst team in the East. Wall can’t afford to be very emotional because the technicals are going to bite the Wizards in a bad place sooner than we’d like.


NBA: Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards are losing. And Wall can’t play back to backs or even finish games he does play in. But Otto Porter has been a bright spot despite teammates’ shortcomings.

Jake wrote a bit more about Porter’s play on Wednesday against the Celtics. And Steven asked a question about his future: Is he worth a maximum level contract? After all, he’s playing at a high level, is healthy, and has improved every year, even if it’s just incremental.

Greg Ballard passes away

One of the players from the Wizards’ long championship squad in 1978 passed away last Wednesday after battling prostate cancer. He was 61. R.I.P.

More team analysis from here and elsewhere

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards
Opponents look happy, while the Wizards feel wary. This picture kinda sums things on a team level, right?
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In short, things are looking bad. Very bad.

  • Jake gave a quarter by quarter analysis of the team. The Wizards have been a very good team in the first through third quarters. Thanks to that, I’m able to get a McGriddle sandwich and drink for just a buck at McDonald’s on the regular with their mobile app. But they are woefully pathetic in the fourth quarter — which means Papa John’s call volume isn’t up to where it should be during this time of year. In other words, the Wizards haven’t won and scored 100 points very often. They just did it once this season so far...
  • Kevin Broom gave some early insights on the Wizards early this week. He would disagree with me that Markieff Morris is off to a good start based on the PPA rating. But I assume that he concurs with me that Porter is looking like the male Emma Meesseman, at least so far.
  • We’ll go from something Meessemanesque to something that isn’t — the Wizards’ long-term direction. Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post wrote a blunt assessment that they are “built merely to maintain mediocrity.” This is a good piece that places Washington on the “Treadmill of Mediocrity” and doing whatever they can to stay on it. While Brewer didn’t sound overtly critical of Washington’s “hold for Durant pattern” strategy in the 2015-16 season, he still stated that their performance then did nothing to help them today.
  • With Kevin Durant no longer a Wizards target, some fans want the team to go after Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. Though many — if not most — player rankings consider him to be a better overall player than Wall, there has been a movement to reunite the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic champion with the Wizards’ franchise player in some way. Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post lays out a case why the Wizards should go after Cousins. But the Kings just moved to a new arena, have a relatively new owner, and are looking to get out of the NBA’s doldrums. As much as some fans in D.C. would like to see Cousins be Wall’s sidekick, couldn’t we also make a strong case for Wall to be Cousin’s sidekick and “reiner” in Sactown? Still, it’s food for thought for the #DC2DC (or #WalltoSacTown movements).

Ted Leonsis talks about eSports being the future

As you may know, Ted Leonsis, Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber, and Los Angeles Sparks owner Magic Johnson recently led an investment group that bought a controlling interest in Team Liquid, a North American eSports organization that sponsors professional gamers.

Pete Volk of SB Nation’s Rift Herald interviewed Leonsis on esports and its future. Leonsis believes this could be a mainstream thing, just like the NBA. Also, give gavalon55 a h/t for the original FanPost.

I’m kind of surprised about the rise of professional video gamers. I just play Xbox One to blow off some steam, such as to play as the Wizards in virtual reality after a bad loss.

But we live in a world that is more digital than ever before. And anything, including playing video games has become a professional skill. If you’re really good at it, you can get paid quite handsomely.

Leonsis, Guber, and Johnson are far from the only sports figures who invest in eSports teams or players, but note that they are doing this as a joint venture. Teams elsewhere are already doing this on their own, at least in soccer.

Last September, Eredivisie power AFC Ajax in Amsterdam sponsored EA Sports FIFA-gaming superstar Koen Weijland (pronounced Koon Way-lahnt) its official eSporter because he’s damn good at it (link in Dutch). Weijland is a five-time national champion in FIFA video gaming.

But get this. He is a three-time FIFA video game World Champion in 2010, 2011, and 2015. Ajax even gave him an official jersey number!

Before Ajax gave Weijland his deal, he traveled from Amsterdam down to Belgium where their men’s national soccer team was preparing for the EURO 2016 tournament. While there, he played FIFA 16 against Belgian national team and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, but there’s a twist. Lukaku was tricked, thinking that he was playing Cécile De Gernier, a striker on Belgium’s women’s national soccer team. He lost the contest 3-1.

Below is a video that shows what happened, and where you can see Belgium’s multilingualism firsthand. Weijland and the Flemish Belgian players in the video like Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen, and Thibaut Courtois spoke in Dutch. De Gernier, a Walloon Belgian player, spoke in French. But regardless of language, English, French, and/or Dutch subtitles are in the video where appropriate. It’s actually pretty entertaining:

I realize that I went off a tangent from Wizards basketball to their owner talking about eSports, to this contest where one of Belgium’s biggest sports stars loses to the world’s best FIFA video gamer, who just happens to live next door in the Netherlands.

But the main takeaway is this: video games are big, and the world’s best gamers have made it a profession. It also shows just how technology has evolved our forms of entertainment from watching games, to simulating games on our own in virtual reality, to seeing gamers as entertainment.

I’ll leave this section with some food for thought: who will or could be the Wizards’ official eSports gamer for NBA 2K? I’m not familiar with this space at all, but if Ajax can have their own official eSports gamer in Amsterdam, the Wizards could as well in D.C.

Wizards take part in Veteran’s Day Week activities

The Wizards hosted military families as part of the NBA’s “Hoops for Troops” week. The biggest highlight was when they gave Army Sergeant Timothy Goodrich a new house, mortgage-free during Friday’s game against the Cavaliers. That is probably one of the best gifts I can think of, especially during Veteran’s Day. CSN Mid Atlantic also has a video here.

They also hosted military families the day before at the Verizon Center after practice, which included hosting lunch for the kids, and taking pictures. You can see a photo gallery here.

The USA women’s gymnastics team was already in town this week since they were on their nationwide champions’ tour and performed at Verizon Center last Thursday and took part in a T-shirt toss during Wednesday’s Celtics game.

They also were part of the even with the Wizards. And here’s a picture of Wall with 2016 Olympic All-Around champion Simone Biles:

Mystics offseason news

Here’s the most recent update to see how their players are doing in overseas leagues in Europe, Korea, and Australia.

Bria Hartley isn’t overseas due to pregnancy, but she’s still very active in other ways. Over the last week, she spoke to students at Hoosac School located about 30 miles north east of Albany, New York. While there, she ran a basketball clinic for boys and girls. And in case you are wondering how far along she is, I see the baby bump!

Hartley will be in Washington next week for Wizards and Mystics season ticket holders for a cycling class at Flywheel in Adams Morgan.

Former Mystics player Tamara James elected Mayor of Dania Beach, Florida

Last Tuesday was Election Day in the United States. The biggest news was on the Presidential Election where Donald Trump won the Electoral College to be the next President. A number of NBA players, including LeBron James and coaches like Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich gave public remarks. Scott Brooks mentioned that he spoke to the players about that race, but didn’t add details according to WizardsXTRA.

That said, one former Mystics player ran for office and won!

Tamara James, the Mystics’ 2006 first round pick was elected Mayor of Dania Beach, Florida. James played for the Mystics in 2006 and 2007 and spent her college years at the University of Miami. Read more on reaction to her election here from the Miami Herald.

So, those are some of the many stories from this past week. If you have another link you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments or in a FanPost!

Let’s hope for a Wizards win tonight.