The Bobcats take on the Wizards in Charlotte this evening for their last game before the All Star break. I got a chance to exchange questions and answers with JakeTheSnake of Bullets Forever. He'll post my answers to his questions sometime today. Enjoy.
How would you describe the Wizards' basketball style? Is there a dramatic analogy that makes sense to describe what they do on the floor?
The Wizards' style has been interesting to say the least. For the last few years all I had to do was say "Princeton offense" and that would usually suffice. But since Eddie Jordan got fired, everything has been thrown out of whack. There are still elements of the Princeton in use because it's difficult to completely abandon a system mid-season, but there have been plenty of changes as well.
The big thing that Ed Tapscott has emphasized is running everything through Butler and Jamison, which makes sense since they're the only two guys who should be starting on a competitive basketball team. The other notable thing he's done with the team is try to simplify everything to help the younger players out. The Princeton offense is a hard system to learn and I think a big part of why the Wizards struggled early in the year under his reign is because it takes so long to get the system down. I don't think it's a mistake that some of the younger players like Andray Blatche and Dominic McGuire have played better in Tapscott's simplified system.
For an analogy, I was tempted to go with Jekyll and Hyde comparison, but with Jekyll and Hyde there was a good side and a bad side. Here there's just two bad sides that are bad in different ways, so that won't work. So instead, I'm going to go with a cooking analogy. Imagine that you're a chef that specializes in baking apple pies and your boss wants you to prepare an apple pie for the big baking contest against all the other top restaurants. On the day of the contest, you come in and realize that you have no apples or sugar to work with, but you're convinced that someone will come in with those goods at some point so you decide to prepare your pie like you normally do and hope that you'll be able to insert the apples and sugar whenever they show up. Then your boss comes in, takes a look at the situation and decides that since there's no apples or sugar around, it would be a better idea to just make do with the ingredients that are there so he fires you and brings in a guy that can take the flour and use them to make some tortillas. Sure, tortillas are basic and the new guy doesn't have a lot of other ingredients to work with to make them taste decent, but at least he can salvage something with what he's got left to bake with. It'll probably end up finishing close to last in the baking contest, but a pie full of air wouldn't have done any better. (Can you tell that I wrote this right before dinner?)
From the outside, it seems kind of odd to me that the Wizards reupped with Gilbert Arenas even though they were demonstrably competitive with Roger Mason, Jr., running point, DeShawn playing Other Combo Guard, Caron and Antawn as the primary scoring options, and the revolving cast of centers. Agent Zero is an entertaining personality, but he ruined his knee! He's got arguably the worst contract in the league now. What am I missing?
(First, a minor clarification. Antonio Daniels ran the point for the Wizards last season, Roger Mason Jr. was the 6th man. Mason filled in for Daniels when he was injured, but AD was the one running the show most of the time.)
The cast you just mentioned is a good one. They played hard, worked together and gutted out some quality wins against some very good teams last season. The thing is, they needed career years from just about everyone on that list and some lucky breaks to get to 43-39 last year. Basically, they had to catch just about every break possible in order to finish two games over .500.
With Gilbert Arenas, you run the risk of a year like this where everything goes wrong while he sits on the bench unable to help. But you also have the chance to do some real damage if he can get back and show that he can play at the level he did before his injury, or somewhere close to it. It's a huge risk, but after seeing guys like Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, and Richard Hamilton slip through the cracks here and become stars in other places, I can live with the Wizards taking the risk of trying to retain a star player. Though I have to say that my opinion will probably change if he gets injured again.
I don't think it's really controversial to say Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are the Wizards' best players, but which one is better? Are either among the fifteen best players in the league? If so, describe what makes him particularly special. If he's not, is there something about him and the rest of the team that indicates they'll be title contenders while he's still around?
I've gone back and forth on who's the better player this season. I know I should say Caron Butler: He's younger, he's cheaper, and his better is better than Antawn Jamison's better. His performance against the Pacers on Sunday showed that. On the other hand, it's hard to ignore what Antawn Jamison is doing this year. At the age of 32, he's still a nightly threat for a double-double, his field goal percentage has gone up after getting a nice contract in the offseason. He's also a little more consistent and less prone to injury than Butler, but at the end of the day I'll take Tough Juice.
I wouldn't put either player in the top 15 in the NBA right now, because if the Wizards had a top-15 player they wouldn't be 11-41 right now (they wouldn't .500 either, but they'd be better). Even though neither player is in that elite group, they're both guys that can any title contending team would love to have. Caron strikes me as a guy that can follow a similar career arc of another small forward that felt snubbed when he was selected 10th overall in the draft: Paul Pierce. They both showed early that they were better than their draft slot and quickly rose to fame as gritty players with loads of talent. Pierce had some lean years with some bad Celtic teams and Caron is going through similar times right now with an injury-depleted team. Also like Pierce, Caron isn't a franchise 1A guy that can carry a team by himself, but with the right cast I think that he can have the same kind of impact that Pierce did during Boston's championship run last year. Antawn probably can't fill as big of a role on championship team as Caron can, but his ability to post up and hit the outside shot without being a ball-stopper or a black hole is something any contender can use. Gilbert's health will be the deciding factor in whether or not Caron and Antawn will be able to be contenders in Washington, but there's no doubt in my mind that if they can't get it done here that they have what it takes to be key cogs on a championship team.
Which bands or other musical outfits have a catalog that most represents what the DC is all about?
I'm not the best music critic, so this might not be the best comparison ever, but I'm going to say that Washington D.C. is a lot like Nickelback. D.C. is a city with a lot of famous places and a bunch of guys that like to blow hot air and say things that sound very repetitive after you listen to them talk for a while. Nickelback is a band with a lot of famous songs by guys that like to blow hot air and sing songs that start to sound very repetitive after you listen to them for a while.