Dec 10, 2009

ZARDS ALARDS: What, You Thought We'd Quit?

Thoughts from game 20, Washington-Boston:
  • I would be a better commentator than Reggie Miller. So would you. What's that? You don't follow the NBA? You thought this was a cooking blog? It doesn't matter. If you can speak English, or a mellifluous foreign language, TNT should give you a shot.
  • Gilbert's not that good at basketball right now. He's good at parts of basketball (shooting when open and dribbling when not pressured are actually the only two things that come to mind). But he's not very good at the sport of basketball. For now.
  • Kevin Garnett blocked Randy Foye's layup and screamed "Get that shit out!" loud enough for the TV mikes to pick it up. Wow Kev, you blocked Randy? All by yourself? Stop the presses! If you're not the most mocked NBA star, I am disappointed in today's players.
  • We probably shouldn't let Ray Allen take wide open looks. I'm all for playing head games, but not with Jesus.
  • I wonder if anyone on the Wizards coaching staff spends any time with Javale anymore. That man is no longer playing basketball. He's playing that basketball-based sport that was on TNT for a while, the one involving trampolines (Slamball?). He is leading the lead in goaltends per 48 hands down. And while that's kinda cool, it's mostly kinda sad.
  • Andray Blatche came in to the game and got yammed on by Ray Allen. His body language screamed defeat. But then, somehow, he took Rasheed for a layup. Then he shook Sheed for a jumper. THEN the Wiz went back to Dray for the third straight possession and he drew a foul on Sheed. Flip Saunders punked Rasheed Wallace with Andray Blatche. I am delightfully confused.
  • Is there any great NBA player you'd enjoy playing with LESS than Kevin Garnett?
  • Why can't Gilbert make free throws? (p.s. unintentional foreshadowing is a mother...)
  • Kevin Garnett is a punk. I feel the most appropriate way for his career to end would be to rupture his Achilles jumping to snare a shot after the whistle has blown. Just childish.
  • That third quarter run was weird. Every time we did something wrong the officials just called a foul on the Celtics. Um hello NBA? There's a book about this? Lay low for a while.
  • If you weren't surprised by that fourth quarter, please contact ZA about becoming a semi-regular contributor. The Wiz got toyed with for three quarters, and then they went toe to toe with the champs.

FINAL: Wizards 102 Celtics 104


The Wizards lost that game because Gilbert Arenas can't make free throws. There's no need to discuss transition defense, or Randy Foye's failings, or Rondo's joy when he turned the corner and realized it was Blatche and not the Hulk lurking beneath the rim. The point is, we were down two points with less than a minute to go and Gilbert got to the line. So far so great. Then he missed both free throws, the second one by a country mile.


Gil, it hurts to see you hurting

Thanks for reading

Oct 27, 2009

Zards Projected Record: 82-0!

And that's factorial.

Thoughts from a therapeutic, ecstatic Game 1:
  • Start with the obvious: for one game, Agent Zero was back. Attacking Jason Kidd on the first play gave us hope. The back to back pull up J's were nice. The three pointer in transition brought back memories. But it was when he got irate at the officials and took it out on JJ Barea, slamming his shoulder into the smaller player's chest while banking in the layup, that we allowed ourselves a smile. It's been over two years, but Gilbert flippin Arenas was finally back in the house.
  • Speaking of smiles, did you see Phil Chenier at halftime? Barely holding back an ear to ear grin as he tried to break down the first half. The most shocking display of Chenier emotion on record, and utterly infectious.
  • Who was that guy wearing the Andray Blatche mask? Cause he was good. Like, really good. Active on D, grabbing boards, knocking down everything the defense gave him. Going into the game everyone thought we'd be hurting without Antawn. Thanks to Dray, we didn't even notice he was gone.
  • Not only did Nick Young not start, he DIDN'T PLAY. Not one second. Obviously, Flip hasn't started following ZA. Yet. But incredibly, despite completely ignoring our endorsement, the Wiz still won by 11! That's enough to shake most young bloggers to the core. Not Zards Alards. Because somehow, we don't think finding 18 minutes for Nick is going to be that hard.
  • Things don't look as rosy for Javale. He got 41 seconds of burn and it's not clear who more would come from. Brendan looks great, Oberto has already begun winning hearts and minds with that blind bounce pass to Arenas, and the Wizards clearly have the talent to go small for long stretches. The hype is about to be put on hold. This won't be the Year of Epic Vale.
  • Mike Miller (+12) and Randy Foye (+16) were huge. Miller was aggressive on the glass, snatching 8 rebounds to help the Wiz win the battle of the boards, something approximately zero people expected going in to this game. Randy was deadly from the perimeter, piling up 19 points, and frequently knocking down shots just as the Mavs thought they'd started a run.
  • On the other hand, the play of Mike Miller and Randy Foye raised concerns. Flip has to crack the Miller conundrum and get him more involved, because every time he touched the ball something good happened. Randy's game was all 21 footers. Maybe that'll hold up, but his career percentages don't inspire confidence.
  • This game was awesome. For anyone who endured last season, who suffered through the injuries that ultimately ruined the two seasons before that, it was almost unbelievable. The Wizards played well. Not for a quarter. Not for a half. For 48 minutes.
  • Finally, Deshawn played terribly, but he still grabbed our attention. Already visually arresting, his new hairdo is something else. I can't find a photo, but it's virtually identical to the look sported by Drew Gooden. First the beards, now the Barcode. If Deshawn and Drew ever start a barbershop, believe I'll be in line when they open for business.

Oct 25, 2009

Zards Alards! Who's Number Two?

The Washington Post reported this morning that head coach Flip Saunders "remains guarded about his rotation, refusing to announce his starting shooting guard." Flip, the season starts tomorrow! Make up your mind!

Imagine it's 3 AM and Flip Saunders is still awake in the living room, trying to finish the puzzle he started back in April (by the way, in my family, that is not an implausible timeline for puzzle completion). He's down to his last empty spot, generally the time you discover a piece is missing, freak out, then realize you're sitting on it. But Flip's got the opposite problem. He's got one spot and four pieces left. I don't know who blew it at the puzzle factory, but the point is, he's got to make a choice.

Everyone and their mom assumes that Flip is choosing between Mike Miller and Deshawn Stevenson. But that's boring, and Zards Alards would never dream of denying you, the reader, our take on a hypothetical starting five. So without further ado, a breakdown of what each candidate brings to the table:

Randy Foye


Randy Foye had the best scoring average (16.3 ppg) of the four last season and put up a respectable 4.3 assists per game. He's entering his fourth season in the league, which would suggest he still has room to grow. It's hard to argue he could take that next step coming off the pine. Foye's also been running the point in preseason, which would ostensibly give the Wizards another creator in the backcourt.


Have you watched the preseason? Randy is really, really good at dribbling between his legs. Penetration, not so much. As for taking the next step, things were simpler for him in Minnesota. Growth for Foye on the Wizards won't be increased production, it'll be greater efficiency. He might as well learn that on the bench.

Nick Young


Nick Young is supremely confident. He's confident enough to shoot when the game's on the line. He's confident enough to shoot when Gilbert is calling for the ball. He's confident enough to shoot despite the Big 3 looming over him. Nick Young really likes to shoot and, despite what seemed like strong initial evidence to the contrary, he's pretty good at it. He is also super goofy (note which category that's in) and if you don't separate him, Andray, and Javale, this is what they do with their time.


Despite spending his entire career (two seasons) with the Wiz, Nick is the least proven commodity of the bunch. Perhaps because he's so young, he has yet to exhibit consistent starter quality. Even if he is for real, the starting five don't need another scorer. Antawn and Gilbert get buckets in their sleep, and Caron is lethal in his own right. Put Young on the bench and you've got instant offense.

Deshawn Stevenson


Deshawn Stevenson has excellent facial hair, and has shown a willingness to experiment within that format. He is rumored to have played good defense in the past. Starting Deshawn would indulge every Wizards fan greatest fantasy and turn back the clock to the 06-07 season when, for a brief and shining moment, the Washington Wizards sat atop the Eastern Conference standings. If there's any of that old magic left, this move would capture it.


Everything else. That aforementioned defense? Check the numbers from last season. The Wizards D was consistently awful, but it actually got worse when Deshawn was involved. Also he can't shoot. Or create. And he just had back surgery. Remind us why people think it's him or Miller? Gotta be the neck tats.

Mike Miller


Mike Miller is the best outside shooter of the bunch, the pure 3 point threat these Wizards have never had. He's 6' 8", which would create tremendous defensive flexibility and hopefully take some pressure of the frontcourt on the glass. Miller's unselfish to a fault, which would make Flip's life easier. He's also an excellent passer who could create for others if Gilbert needs a blow or finally decides to fire up the Hibachi.


Mike Miller could be the natural leader of one of the most potent second units in the league. Randy Foye, for one, seems to improve markedly in his presence. Also, if Miller starts, our shooting guard is taller than our small forward, which is embarrassing for everyone involved.

The Envelope Please

Enough idle talk. The NBA is experiencing a statistical revolution and Zards Alards refuses to be left behind. Using our top secret computational statistical analysis (no it does not involve NBA Jam, who have you been talking to?) we've exhaustively broken down the options and arrived at our unassailable conclusion.

In the 2009-2010 NBA season, Zards Alards, after great deliberation, enthusiastically endorses Nick Young as the Washington Wizards starting shooting guard. Yes, the risk is great, but the upside is greater. We firmly believe his hunger will push the Big 3 to new heights while his own game is simultaneously elevated. The time has come. Let the young fella play.

Oct 23, 2009

Setting Sail

To anyone living outside the District, Deshawn Stevenson, if he registers at all, must seem an idiot. This is a man who, at his apex, was perhaps the fourth best player on the fifth best team in the NBA's second best conference (a long but lovely definition of mediocrity). Who, from this lofty perch, deigned to label the King "overrated." Who showed up to camp this year with a P tattooed (tattoos, by the way, are forever), on his face, backwards, because he does not grasp the intricacies of perspective. Who once made a three pointer during a blowout loss, on the road, en route to a third straight postseason dismissal at the hands of the Cavaliers, and indicated to the rabidly hostile crowd that no, even then, he could not feel his face. In short, a fool, a clown, an embarrassment and a distraction.

But nothing is black and white, and certainly not a portrait of Mr. Stevenson. For when that triple splashed the bottom of the net the District shuddered with delight, and not because a 19 point deficit had suddenly been trimmed by 3. And when he threw up his hand, as we knew he must, in an outburst of defiant swag, our delight turned to pure joy. For we knew, along with Deshawn, what would come next. Retribution, swift, terrible, delivered by the one they call Lebron. Regardless, Deshawn allowed us to share with our Wizards a moment of fierce and silly pride.

Now, after a bewildering year in which Murphy's Law brutally asserted itself, the Wizards have returned, expected once more to figure in the Eastern equation. Gilbert, Deshawn, Caron, Antawn, and Brendan are reunited in health, free to resume their merry play. And yet, there is already a sense that something both subtle and fundamental has changed, or perhaps vanished. Agent Zero has disappeared without a trace, replaced by an Arenas who eschews the dagger for the dime, bereft of zaniness, and, some whisper, aggression. Caron and Antawn have endured a 19 win season that both brought them together and forever scarred them, like survivors of a shipwreck who float for endless weeks, eating their boots and inventing a private language. Brendan has looked at the last two seasons and concluded he's personally worth roughly 23 wins. Ok, so nothings really changed with Brendan.

Then there are the up and comers and the new additions. Nick Young has apparently dominated in off-season competition, despite the notable handicap of running down the court like a duck. But he also independently decided to continue emulating his lost older brother Gilbert and set aside childish things (this we will believe when we see). Flip Saunders has arrived with an unprecedented air of easy professionalism and an understandable desire to start fresh. Everything about Saunders is like a gentle admonishment that excitement about the future should trump nostalgia for the past.

Finally, there is Mike Miller. Last season on the Minnesota Timberwolves, Mike Miller refused to shoot. In the league as we know it, not shooting is unheard of. Outside of Brevin Knight and Jason Kidd, before he moved to Dallas, everyone shoots, whether they have the percentages to back it up or not. Only the truly atrocious will hesitate to pull the trigger. Is Mike Miller atrocious? No. He is sublime. In a league in which technically deficient gunners convince themselves to hoist 10, 15, 20 shots a night, Mike Miller, an assassin, could barely muster 7.

Now Mike Miller the nonconformist has come to Washington. And along with his sweet outside touch and panoramic court vision, he has brought with him something else: Lebron's sneakers. From Mars Blackmon to Charles Barkeley to Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, shoes are always more than just shoes. And Miller is wearing the Chosen One's. A more direct rejection of Wizards culture would be difficult to conceive.

Who has stood up and addressed this affront? Not Gilbert, he's not talking, not to the media, not on his blog, probably not even to his teammates. Not Antawn or Caron, they're too happy the Coast Guard showed up. Not Flip, he would probably encourage the blasphemy. And certainly not the youth.

That leaves Deshawn. Deshawn on a team in which suddenly finds himself an outsider. No longer the Locksmith. No longer Arenas' three point shooting pal. Now just another past his prime role player coming off back surgery and scrapping for a spot at the bottom of the rotation. A lesser, or perhaps wiser, man would no doubt survey the situation and hold his tongue. But Deshawn, as always, remains unbowed.

Stevenson has made it clear that on his team, those sneakers have to go. What is unclear is whether or not it remains his team. Not literally, that point was rendered moot with the return to health of his betters and pointed off-season upgrades, but figuratively. Are these still the Wiz Kids? Do they still consider self styled Mohawks the ultimate in playoff preparation? Or, in their return to respectability, have they lost their quirky, lighthearted spirit? Are these Wizards Stevenson's or Miller's? The season may not hang in the balance, but, perhaps more importantly, an identity does.