Dec 19, 2010

Hellllooooooo Rashard!

So, you think everything's fine and dandy now that Gilbert's gone? You think there couldn't possibly be another contract out there as bad as the 4 years and 80 million left on Gilbert's? WRONG!

Fun facts about Rashard Lewis, the player the Wiz received from Orlando in a trade for Gilbert Arenas:
  • Rashard Lewis is averaging 12 points a game.
  • Rashard Lewis has some funky, King Tut style facial hair that escapes comment most of the time (not here Rashard!)
  • Rashard Lewis is averaging 4 rebounds a game. He is 6 foot 10.
  • Rashard Lewis is averaging .4 blocks a game. See above.
  • Rashard Lewis has three years and 63 million dollars left on his contract.
That last one is a real kick in the pants. Turns out, Rashard and Gilbert have basically the same contract, although Rashard's ends a year before Gil's. Which means at least two years of watching that stupid Erector set style three pointer.

Here at ZA, we get why the Wiz made the deal. Gilbert was a big, distracting reminder of the past who, despite saying the right things, did not play well with the future (Mr. Wall). But Rashard?

The Wiz have two huge problems. They don't rebound, and they don't play defense. Rashard is THE WORST REBOUNDING POWER FORWARD IN THE LEAGUE (sorry, when you're the worst, you get all caps) and a bad defender. At 31, his production has declined steadily for the last three seasons.

So you know what, let's not talk about this trade in terms of Rashard. He'll get some time at the 3 and the 4 and eventually he'll go away and we'll have a whole bunch of cap space. Really, this trade just frees up playing time for Nick Young in the backcourt. That's great and all, but man, imagine if someone told you in 2007 that we'd eventually trade Gilbert Arenas to get Nick Young more PT. Crazy.

Sweet Sorrow

Well, Gilbert's gone.

Most of the Zards fanbase is probably happy to see him go, and that makes sense. Gil has three seasons left on a massive contract, one that was supposed to go to an incandescent offensive talent, a fiery franchise player who would fill the Verizon Center in the depths of winter and carry the Wiz into May, season after season after season. Sadly, that's not how it worked out.

Two knee surgeries transformed Gilbert. The lethal long range threat was replaced by a wildly inconsistent shooter who mixes makes with an astonishing number of airballs and hard bricks. The unstoppable force that streaked to the basket is now a step slower, struggling to shake his man and clueless about how to finish at the rim.

Most of all, the swag is gone. Gil used to play basketball like he was speaking a language only he knew. His game was never graceful, but it was coherent and electric and fluent. He knew what he was doing, even if you didn't. Now he looks awkward and lost.

Throw in last year's felony charges and the arrival of John Wall, and the Wizards were desperate to ship Gilbert away, if only they could find a taker. Now they have, and an era is finally over. Everything over the last seven seasons, one good, three great, and three terrible, was shaped by Gilbert. He and Caron and Antawn are pretty much the reason Zards ALards! even exists. So before moving on, excuse us if we take a moment to say goodbye.

Dec 2, 2010

Chalk Up?

The Miami Heat play the Cleveland Cavaliers at 8 tonight on TNT. You should watch.

Forget the NBA and forget basketball. You can even change the channel before the opening tip. But watch the pre-game introductions, because they will be as emotional as television gets.

Tonight is Cleveland's last appearance on the national stage for quite a while. The Cavs stink, their owner is a psycho, and when Lebron left he turned the lights out on an entire city. Not only that, he did it on national television. Down in Florida the Heat may be struggling, but they'll figure it out. Whether or not they win championships, Miami can bank on great, entertaining basketball played in the spotlight for years to come.

By the next time the Heat play the Cavs, the rest of the country will have moved on. Cleveland gets it. This is their "Decision" moment. More than the t-shirts, more than the YouTube videos, more than the jersey bonfires, this is their best shot at letting James know how they feel with everyone watching.

So if you're into catharsis and raw emotion, find a television at 8 tonight. Because it's gonna be a 20,562-person group therapy session.

Oh and if he does this?

Look out

Dec 1, 2010

Too Early to Quit

November has come and gone, which means the season is now roughly 20% over (the NBA: blink and you miss it). Although by no means definitive, each team has produced a body of work on which to reflect and prognosticate. As they head to Toronto, the Zards are 5-11, good enough for last place in the Southeast division and second-to-last in all the Eastern Conference (hat tip: Philadelphia). Among those losses were four discouraging blowouts, while two of the wins were squeakers in OT. Digging into the statistics, we find the Wizards are 26th on both offense and defense in a 30 team league. If you're discouraged, that's ok.

But we know you don't visit Zards ALards! for a daily dose of disappointment. Your high fiber cereal and the realization that law school is 3 years long takes care of that all by itself! Here at ZA we're in the sunshine business, and business is good. With that in mind, your ZA Official Forecast with 64 games left to play:


The guards are the biggest reason to hold out hope that the Wiz can turn this thing around. John Wall was sensational out of the gate (18 points, 9 assists, 2.8 steals per game) before missing 6 of the last 8 games with minor injuries. Gilbert hasn't played consistently in four years and it shows, but in the last 8 games he's flourished (20 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds per game). The engaged reader will note that the return of Arenas has taken place mostly without Wall on the court. Happily, there's no reason the two shouldn't play well together. Arenas still doesn't look comfortable handling the ball and gets most of his points off assisted jumpers (1/2 his buckets are assisted, before the injuries it was 1/3). Wall thrives with the ball in his hands but can't really shoot. Provided Kirk Hinrich doesn't muck things up, this could be one of the top five starting backcourts in the league.


Ok, even the sunshine factory has trouble here. Al Thornton stinks and ZA wants no part of his breakout year. Flip has discussed a three guard offense, but what about a three guard defense? That doesn't sound as good. In theory, Josh Howard (if you forgot he was on the Wizards, that's ok) could be the answer. Before arriving in Washington, Howard posted three consecutive seasons of at least 18 points and 5 rebounds as the no. 2 option on a consistently excellent Mavs team. But he's also 30, still recovering from knee surgery, and has never played with the Wizards. It's just tough to see him meshing with the team.

Best case scenario, the NBA decides to play 4 on 4 after Christmas.

The Bigs

Andray Blatche and Javale McGee are going to dominate the discussion here, because Kevin Seraphin pronounces his own name wrong and Hilton Armstrong has the smallest head in the league.

Andray Blatche has braces. Also, Andray Blatche is fat right now. Also, Andray Blatche is 6 feet 11 inches tall and shooting 42% from the field. Also, one time Gilbert Arenas pooped in Andray Blatche's shoe.

So there's a lot of reasons to dislike Andray. But the thing is, he's also 24 years old, averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds a game, and getting better.

As for JaVale, well, basketball is a game based largely on jumping. And JaVale McGee can jump higher than anyone else.

JaVale's been having a great season (10 points, 9 boards, 2.7 blocks per game), but on Monday against the Heat he was frustrated all night long, fouling out in just 26 minutes. McGee stormed to the bench after his sixth foul, absolutely furious. But when Flip called him over for a talk, he immediately dropped the scowl and began listening intently. It was a beautiful moment for a player who sometimes looks like he's never met the coaching staff.

The truth is, both Andray and JaVale make a staggering number of stupid mistakes. Andray's are usually lazy (defense, passes), while Javale's are usually exuberant (goaltending, attempted goaltending), but they can be equally frustrating. Accept that those mistakes are like the price of admission for watching the funniest frontcourt in the league. These two are very young, very talented, and very fun to watch. Enjoy it.


Looking forward, it's clear the Wizards are flawed. Luckily, so is everyone else. In the East, ZA admits that Orlando, Atlanta, Miami, Boston, Chicago, and Indiana are better than the Zards (at the moment). After that, we concede no ground.

With a high scoring backcourt of Wall and Arenas, productive wackiness from Blatche and JaVale, and Nick Young lighting things up off the bench, Zards ALards! still believes that the Wizards will contend for the seventh and eighth seed come playoff time.

And with that vague and easily defended proclamation, thanks for reading.