Hurting Wiz. Unfortunately for the Wizards, not much has changed since these teams' preseason meeting a couple weeks ago: franchise point guard John Wall is out (stress fracture knee) and big money big man Nene is out (the dreaded plantar fasciitis). On top of that, scoring sparkplug Jordan Crawford is also questionable with a sore ankle, none of which will make the Wizards' job tonight any easier. All of that makes it fairly understandable that the Wizards enter tonight's contest at a perfectly imperfect 0-3, though they haven't been embarrassing themselves either. They've lost two games to the Celtics by a combined nine points (the last in OT), and their season-opening loss in Cleveland was by a not-horrendous 10 points either. Defensively, the rather small sample size we have says they've been damn good (see their 2nd overall defensive efficiency rating).
On the plus side, Wall's knee is on the mend and he's expected back within a month, while the start of the season has offered some very encouraging signs from bench big/enormous French dude Kevin Seraphin (17.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 32 mpg, 57% shooting). Defensive ace Chris Singleton also made a good case for increased playing time in Boston on Wednesday, hitting his first five shots on his way to 14 points and five boards.
Wizard upside? All of this leaves it remarkably unclear how good this team is actually going to be this year--even if Wall and Nene get back to 100% in the coming weeks, I'm not sold on this roster being a legitimate playoff contender, though it seems some people think they could be. Fair enough, though the youth of this roster will always make it more appealing to the wishful thinkers than the pragmatists.
One thing is clear: Ernie Grunfeld is evidently no longer under the impression that surrounding Wall with a bunch of dimwits is a good thing (Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee...hey did I mention Andray Blatche?), so that's a positive. Example: I'm not sure if Emeka Okafor can still be a very effective NBA basketball player, but he's not going to embarrass you on or off the court at least. Speaking of Okafor, I can't help but think that the former #2 overall pick and teammates Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster are the youngest over-the-hill guys in the league.
While there's much to like in a long-term sense for the Wiz, I'm not sure I envy head coach Randy Wittman, who seems to have about 12 guys on his team who are young enough to still be "promising" but not effective enough to be consistent starters--I'll throw Seraphin, Singleton, Jan "White Darvin Ham" Vesely, Trevor Booker, and Crawford in that bunch, and third overall pick Brad Beal probably goes there as well. Everyone seems to think Beal has all the talents you'd look for in a shooting guard, but he's more an eye-test guy at this point; his numbers weren't particularly impressive in Vegas and he's had a slow start to the regular season as well. I'm not sure I'd call myself a skeptic--he's still just 19 and the physical tools and fundamental skills seem to be there--but I'll wait until he does productive things before I start getting too worked up about him.
Beno back? Never doubt the mystical plus/minus powers of Beno Udrih. With Udrih in street clothes due to a thigh contusion, the Bucks were hammered by the Grizz 108-90 on Wednesday, pushing up Udrih's net on/off to a sparkling +14.1 pts/100. He's listed as probable for tonight's game and would be a welcome addition to a Bucks' roster thin on guys who do typical point guardish stuff--you know: run P&R, pass first, etc. I'm rooting for Brandon (and Monta I suppose) as much as the next Bucks fan, but Udrih always seems to bring a necessary change of pace with the second unit, doesn't he?
Loving Larry. While the Bucks were generally well off their game against Memphis, don't blame Larry Sanders. The spaz-tastic third year big man generated plenty of buzz for his impressive opening weekend of the season, and he kept it up on Wednesday with his third career double-double (10 pts, 11 rebs, 3 blocks). Through three games there's not much to dislike: 12.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.0 bpg and 71% shooting (both in raw terms and TS%) in just 26 mpg. OK, so he still fouls way too much (once every five minutes, about the same as last year) and is a turnover machine, but we can live with that, right?
The flip side of Sanders' ascendancy has been the increasing irrelevance of Drew Gooden, who will be inactive tonight (hold your applause, it's not polite) along with the injured Luc Mbah a Moute. That means John Henson will be active again after making his pro debut on Wednesday against the Grizzlies. Gooden had an awful preseason and I never understood why Skiles gave him such a long leash after Bogut went down a season ago, but it's still kind of weird that he hasn't played at all.
Not that I'm complaining.