NBA AM: Wall Fires Off On Former Teammates
Fans of the Washington Wizards franchise haven’t had much to wrap their hopes around since the end of the 2008 campaign, which was the last time the team was even remotely close to sniffing distance of the playoffs.
If you evaluate the recently concluded lockout condensed regular season solely based on the team’s won-loss record (20-46) there would seem to be much less to be excited about the future – with the exception of the Wizards’ chances in the upcoming draft lottery.
However that is not the case.
The second half of Washington’s season has been about growth, maturity, team chemistry and ushering in a culture change.
The March trade at the deadline which sent the team’s talented young prospects JaVale McGee (Denver) and Nick Young (Los Angeles Clippers) packing for veteran center Nene was the start of the process.
The team finished the season on a six game winning streak, the second longest current active streak in the league, went 7-4 in games Nene was in uniform and clearly showed more maturity on the court over the last month of the season.
John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft, showed even more leadership by publicly backing the front office’s decision to package his peers McGee and Young in the Nene deal and move away from the me-first era which had dug its roots in around Washington.
“At times it was tough because you had guys like Nick and JaVale; they wanted the ball a lot and took a lot of shots. It [was] kind of tough to find what kind of team it was with them,” Wall told Michael Lee of the Washington Post while throwing his support behind management’s decision to bring in Nene. “I think it was the right decision. We had a lot of jokes and stuff going around the locker room, but [now] the energy is more serious, everybody is being on time, taking things more serious, being professional about everything. [We’re] just interacting more as a team.”
The departed players were much closer to Wall’s age range and he clearly enjoyed their presence off the court, but also quickly grasped the true reality that the team couldn’t win long term with them as part of the equation.
Most younger guys would have sulked in a similar situation, unlike Wall’s decision to embrace the culture shift – even if it meant less off the court fun.
Since arriving in Washington Nene has embraced the role as veteran leader and says the strong end to the season was a refreshing lift.
“That’s the reason they brought me here,” Nene said of his veteran leadership role. “To share my experience. Make this team take another step, everybody together, everybody working hard to get better this summer. The plan was to finish strong and we did. We did it together. We played hard. All the players, they did an amazing job. They pushed through. Everybody is happy. Everybody enjoy. Everybody had fun.”
Despite the strong finish, Washington finished the season with the second worst record in the league, which bodes well for them as it relates to the upcoming draft lottery.
Rick Adelman Wants “In” On Timberwolves Personnel Decisions: The Minnesota Timberwolves flirted with their first playoff berth since the 2004 campaign for the most of the season before stumbling down the stretch after rookie point guard Ricky Rubio suffered a season ending knee injury.
After a 21-19 start, the club compiled a 5-21 record without Rubio serving as the floor general.
The team will enter this summer with the sole intent of adding the necessary pieces to not only flirt with, but clinch a playoff spot in 2013.
Head coach Rick Adelman wants in on some of this summer action the Timberwolves’ front office will be partaking in shortly.
“I better have some input,” Adelman told Jeff Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “When I signed on here, it was pretty well understood that between David [Kahn] and Glen [Taylor] and myself, we were going to talk things through and decide what is best, and I think that’s going to happen. I didn’t come here just to say, ‘Here, gimme these guys, I’ll coach them.’ I think I have a pretty good understanding, and I have a really experienced staff that has evaluated these guys.”
The Timberwolves currently have $59.6 million in salary commitments on the books for the 2013 season. Next season’s salary cap will be no lower than $58 million, but also could be increased.
In veterans Brad Miller and Martell Webster, the team has two non-guaranteed contracts for 2013 worth roughly $10.8 million which can create additional salary cap relief.
Adelman believes the team should be as aggressive as possible this summer and bring in impact players to add to the growing nucleus.
“It’s going to be a really big summer,” Adelman said. “I don’t think we can be nonaggressive this summer. We have to strike and see who we can add to this group. I really believe if we come back healthy — that’s a big thing — and you add a couple pieces, then we’re in the mix because we were in the mix before all these injuries.”
The team currently does not have a first round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Utah Jazz GM Not Shocked By Club’s Success: Quite sure there are basketball enthusiasts out there who predicted a playoff spot for the Jazz this season, but would be surprised if many were located outside the state of Utah.
“I don’t ever want to sound like ‘I told you so,’” O’Connor told Jody Genessy of the Deseret News during an end-of-season interview. “But at the beginning of the year, I think we talked about not being in a rebuilding year. “We just felt we were better than everyone else thought we were. That’s nice to come out of that and prove it. You have to prove it on the court and I think we did.”
The team surprised many, locked up a postseason appearance earlier this week and will face the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs which begin this weekend.
O’Connor firmly believed it was the team’s decision to keep their assortment of talented big men when most have been clamoring for the club to swing a trade to reduce the logjam.
The Jazz’s frontcourt features Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and rookie Enes Kanter.
“You (media) guys are the ones that all want me to trade somebody,” O’Connor said. “You’re talking about our big guys. I don’t think you can ever have too many. You can have too few. If you look at the teams that have won it over the last couple of years, I think they’ve all had pretty good big guys.”
Nest up for the eighth seeded Jazz, a first round matchup with the top seeded Spurs who were eliminated in the same position by Memphis Grizzlies a year ago.
Will the Jazz keep silencing their skeptics?
Link of Interest – Full NBA Playoff Schedule Released
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