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Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum: A Modest Proposal for the Wizards Center Rotation

The NBA center is a dying breed. But the Wizards are resurrecting the position.

Once upon a time, the NBA was dominated by towering Giants. The one who towered over them all was Wilt Chamberlain. From 100 points in a game to tallying more than 20,000...umm...points in his black book, scores of fans worldwide are familiar with tales of The Stilt and his scoring prowess.

The only knock on this otherwise remarkable resume is that he didn’t win more titles. Why?

Constantly thwarted by his adversary Giant, Bill Russell. In a non-biblical sense, it proved that it takes a Giant to defeat a Giant.

Ever since (and before), the NBA has been dominated by Giants — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, George Mikan, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Shaquille O’Neal, to name a prominent few, have reigned. Championships, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards, Finals MVPs, scoring titles — these Giants did it all…until the NBA phased them out. Or tried to. (Sorry Roy Hibbert, you were two decades too late).

The modern game emphasizes players who can score from the perimeter. But apparent adherents to Darwinian theory, the Giants adapted and evolved. Learning to shoot, dribble, handle, and pass—the Giants came storming back! Once again, they dominate the league. The reigning MVP twice over is the Giant Giannis Antetokounmpo; the frontrunners for this season’s MVP award are Giants Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. The Giants are back.

But those guys are all multi-talented do-everything Giants. What about the working stiff? What about the man in the middle who stays in the middle because...well...he’s not so good at all that shooting, dribbling, passing stuff? For those guys, there’s Scott Brooks.

This season, Brooks found a way to win with a three-center ecosystem that embodies toughness (Alex Len), energy (Daniel Gafford), and unstoppable at-rim offense (Robin Lopez). Taking turns with short stints on the floor, these Giants leave opponents quaking, and not just because of their earth-shaking lumbering run-trots.

What was once a ragbag of discarded bodies has helped Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal save the season from the Lottery Wasteland and propel the team into the Play-In Tournament. All this without Thomas Bryant, the best Giant on the roster, who brings energy, unstoppable offense, and spacing — when not sidelined with a bum knee.

And that brings us to point: If a three-headed Giant is this effective, why not four? There’s strength in numbers, and maybe in Giants too. Just call it the Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum lineup.

Fee — Alex Len

In this system, Len has one job: BRING. THE. BOOM. As the strongest of the quartet, his role is to beat up opposing bigs and anyone foolish enough to drive into the forbidden paint. While he can’t grind their bones (that’s a Flagrant 2 and a 10-game suspension), Fee can make those bones rattle with some hard screens and well-timed hip checks to free Westbrook and Beal for feats of derring-do.

Fi — Daniel Gafford

If Len is bringing The Boom, Gafford is lowering it. From the heavens. His job: run the floor, catch passes thrown to the rafters and turn them into dunks that shatter the opposition’s will. He’ll block shots too with those spring-loaded legs and Inspector Gadget arms. With Gafford’s natural bent to channel Jim Jones's mantra to ‘fly high,’ highlight-reel plays await!

Fo — Thomas Bryant

Every army needs artillery and true believers. That’s Bryant — when he shoots, the ball goes in, from wherever he’s shooting. And no one plays with the maniacal intensity Bryant brings, not even Gafford. True, that might one day result in a ref losing a tooth, but that’s a small price to pay for a screen-and-three sidekick for co-Batmen Westbrook and Beal.

Fum — Robin Lopez

Captain Hook plods the hardwood, head down as if unsure whether the floor will rise to meet his feet. Then he anchors himself inside, as immovable as a redwood until he gets the ball. When the Wilson hits his hands, he suddenly has the footwork of a Soul Train dancer until he can get to that inerrant hook, which he catapults from the bowels of Middle Earth.

How will the Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum rotation work? Here are some of the top options:

  1. Leave it to Brooks to sort out the details. He figured out the three-headed hydra approach, surely he can manage four.
  2. Bring in the fans. Let fans vote for the starter game-to-game. We offer BulletsForever as the official voting location for a nominal* fee. (Nominal in this usage refers to what would be a pittance for Ted Leonsis and his co-billionaire owners.)
  3. Each of the four gets a six-minute shift in the first half. In the second, they each get a four-minute shift. The final eight minutes is coach’s choice — shared between whoever played the best and whoever matches up with what the other team is doing.
  4. Stick to the three-center rotation Brooks established, but rotate one guy out each game.

This modest proposal for deploying Giants has multiple ways to bring the Wizards success. Let the other teams go small. Innovate up. Make what’s old new again.

What’s that you say? Add a FIFTH Giant to the rotation?

Don’t be ridiculous.