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Top Stories of the Week: Wall’s honors, Oubre’s YMCA confrontation, and low All-Star returns

Let’s check in on the Wizards as the first week of 2017 comes to an end.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Hope you enjoyed the start of 2017 and that you have some realistic new year’s resolutions. Things like, being nicer to your friends and family, saving more money, and living a healthier lifestyle.

For the Wizards, we’ve seen them have a great week because of their 10-5 December, but not such a great one in the State of Texas. With that, let’s get to the top stories of the week.

Wizards lose two games in a row with WizKillers being WizKillers, beat Wolves on Friday

NBA: Washington Wizards at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
  • Last Monday, the Wizards lost to the Rockets, 101-91. To Washington’s credit, they kept James Harden under control for the first half when he scored six points on 2 of 11 shooting. However, in the third quarter, he gradually woke up out of a slump to get a triple double. Eric Gordon was on fire and led Houston with 31 points off the bench. He was the runaway “Wiz Killer” of the night.
  • The Wizards didn’t have much time to dwell on Monday’s loss. They traveled to Dallas to play the Mavericks the following day. Dallas is having their worst season since the 20th century, but the Wizards managed to lose this one as well, 113-105. Harrison Barnes (who accepted his Team USA invitation despite being in similar circumstances as as Bradley Beal) scored 26 points to lead the Mavs to victory. That said, John Wall scored 15 of his 27 points in the last two and a half minutes of the second quarter to give Washington the lead at halftime.
  • The Wizards returned to the friendly confines of Verizon Center where they had an eight-gam win streak on the line against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It wasn’t easy, but the Wizards ultimately won 112-105 with John Wall dishing 18 assists like it was just another day in the office.

John Wall named Player of the Week, Player of Month in two straight days

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Wall won Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors because he was awesome during the last week of 2016. Then the very next day, he won Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors because he was awesome during December 2016. The Wizards were 10-5 in December, and won nine straight games at home. That, and his career high scoring, assisting, and stealing averages have all played a part toward those honors.

But John Wall still gets no love from fans outside of D.C.

Wall ranked 7th in the East among backcourt players in fan voting returns despite being the player of the month. I kind of anticipate this and said why the new starting lineup voting weights could play in Wall’s favor.

So though you may feel like this because NBA fans would rather see Kyrie Irving and a past-his-prime Derrick Rose:

You still need to vote.

And by the way, Beal didn’t make the Top 10 for guards in the East. You may not like that he has a max contract, but you know you want to see him there with Wall too, right?

And the same goes for Marcin Gortat didn’t make the Top 10 either. You may want to see DeMarcus Cousins start with Wall one day, but I personally don’t see it happening. And the man’s having an All-Star season. Retweet this if you haven’t already:

Otto deserves his vote too. He’s so underrated that people forget to vote for him. Even fans in the D.C. area:

And Markieff too:

Believe me, we’ll vote for every Wizards player into the All-Star game, because we can.

Wizards won’t make any cuts, will let all contracts become guaranteed

NBA: Preseason-Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Next Tuesday, all NBA player contracts will become guaranteed. For the Wizards’ starters, this means almost nothing. But for the Wizards’ end of bench reserves, it is significant. According to sources, they will not make changes before Tuesday.

They haven’t played very well this season, but none of them were cut last Friday. So for guys like Sheldon McClellan, Danuel House, and Daniel Ochefu, they can all breathe a sigh of relief that they’ll be on an NBA team for the rest of the year.

Though the Wizards front office has confidence in them:

the data says otherwise. The bench is awful. They’ve given up leads that an otherwise average bench wouldn’t have given up. Their net efficiency is -11.3 per 48 minutes this season, worst in the league. The second worst were the Timberwolves at -9.3, and every other team’s bench is -5.4 or better. As Jake noted on Friday, the Wizards bench is historically bad.

When your bench is that bad given the Wizards’ postseason hopes, you have to do something to spark it. What Brooks said yesterday was not much better than an outright slap to the face because it’s painfully obvious to see that changes have to be made with the bench. But apparently, they think things are fine.

Dallas YMCA basketball league players had a spat with Kelly Oubre

NBA: Washington Wizards at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Sometime before the Wizards’ game against the Mavericks, Kelly Oubre Jr. was practicing free throws at a downtown Dallas YMCA during lunch hour. There was a little problem however, because there were adults waiting to play full-court pickup basketball. The grown, dues-paying players decided to play full court anyway to disrupt Oubre.

According to D Magazine writer Tim Rogers, here’s how it went down:

As you might imagine, the game ground to a halt. Ten guys milling about, cursing. Nothing violent, mind you. Just pissed off dudes who’ve been playing pickup ball at this gym for years and want to get in their exercise. Pissed off dues-paying dudes.

At that point, I walked up to Kelly Oubre and said, “Welcome to Dallas. Now get off the court.”

Kelly Oubre was actually quite polite. I kinda felt bad for him. He didn’t say anything, just shrugged. Really, it was his trainer (maybe an assistant coach?) who seemed the most insistent. He said management had told them they could occupy that basket. So I myself went to get management.

Oubre was asked about the incident afterward, where he said it was a “funny story,” according to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Maybe it was funny to him, but for the players — who only have limited time during their lunch hour to play basketball — they’re probably still a bit peeved.

To be fair to Oubre, he probably wasn’t the primary culprit in this. Drew Hanlen, his trainer arranged the session at the YMCA.

More analysis

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There was a lot of analysis here and elsewhere on the Wizards. Let’s go through some of those pieces:

  • The Wizards were 1-2 this past week thanks to two road losses which could have easily been wins. The Wizards are just 3-12 on the road this season, well under their records on the road in each of the last three seasons. The biggest culprit is that their starters are playing considerably worse on offense when they aren’t at Verizon Center.
  • Even before the Wizards’ back to back losses in Texas last week, Jake Whitacre (we have three Jakes now) wrote that the Wizards are going to have a tough time making the playoffs this season. Those two losses to the Rockets and Mavericks earlier this week do nothing to make life easier in D.C.
  • The Wizards’ third quarter performances have been one of their biggest determinants as to whether they won or lost games this season. On Friday, they did buck the trend of losing thanks to a poor third quarter, but the result was still too close for comfort.
  • Marcin Gortat has been accused of being a declining player, and some Wizards fans are counting down the days until he is traded for another piece. But I think the Polish Machine is having one of his best seasons this year, and his decline doesn’t appear to be because of age. It’s because he isn’t involved as much in the offense.
  • The Wizards are 17-18 but they have done quite well in the clutch.
  • One of the narratives we like to write about great teams is that they have hustle. The Wizards have a lot of it once you look at the stats. But they just aren’t winning despite having hustle.
  • The Wizards could have considered adding some extra firepower to their bench. Players like Hollis Thompson, Jarrett Jack, and Mario Chalmers have played solid minutes during the course of their careers, but it appears that Ernie Grunfeld and Scott Brooks are fine with Trey Burke, Sheldon McClellan, and Tomas Satoransky for now with the guaranteed contract deadline passing last Friday.
  • The Atlanta Hawks are apparently starting a rebuild though they are currently one of the East’s better teams — right now. As a matter of fact, they traded Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers for spare parts today. Paul Millsap is another player who is probably heading elsewhere, but he’s probably not a long term fit in D.C.
  • Ben Mehic of Wiz of Awes also wrote about what Millsap could provide to Washington. Whether he’s in D.C. or not, it’s still clear that the Wizards need to add more talent on their bench.
  • Jen Smith, also of Wiz of Awes, added that the Wizards can’t afford to waste another one of Wall’s best years and that they need to make a move soon. Otherwise, the clock is ticking on Wall’s time in D.C.
  • The Wizards do have a bad bench, but Wall, Beal, and Gortat have held the fort because they’re playing more minutes than they otherwise would. Adam Rubin of Truth About It explores this more in depth. He writes that the Wizards have “little to show for it” because they are ultimately a sub .500 team. Maybe my perspective is just different, but I think Wall, Beal, and Gortat have a lot to show for their performance this season. Without those three, Otto Porter, and Markieff Morris, the Wizards would probably be the worst NBA team right now. The Wizards’ bench is really bad against other benches. I shudder to think how they would be against starting units.
  • And if you want to catch up on our best pieces of 2016, here’s our three part round up (Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3)
  • Here’s a New Year’s Resolution for you all, especially for those of you who love listening to podcasts. Add Ben Standig’s Locked on Wizards podcast to your bookmarks now!

And that’s this week’s summary. These pieces give us a good summary on how the week went, but there are many more links besides these. If you have another link that you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments or in a FanPost.

Enjoy the rest of your weekends everyone!