Wizards Extreme: The Spurs haven’t had a losing season since 96-97, how do you rank this season so far now that we are 1/3 of the way through against the other successful campaigns you’ve had in the last 13 years?
Project Spurs: First off I did not expect this from the Spurs at all. Sure I knew they be above .500 but not leading the NBA record-wise.
Second, I still feel it's way to early to rank this team to other successful seasons. Why? Well one it's too early in the season and in the last winning streak the Spurs had, some chinks in the armor are starting to show. Their lack of size is still an issue, in their 12 game winning streak they had soft teams and in their last winning streak they began to show they may have peaked too fast. Just barely holding on to games as opposed to their 12 game win streak.
But so far so good and the question becomes can they sustain this level of play for the entire season?
Wizards Extreme: As a fan of a successful team like the Spurs, arguably one of the most stable and best run organizations in the league, what advice could you give to Wizards fans who think that the years of losing will never end?
Project Spurs: Patience, luck, and coaching.
Patience. Keep solid players who buy into the TEAM concept and let them jell for a few seasons.
Luck. Spurs were lucky to draft David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Two fantastic players to build around. Wizards got that piece with John Wall.
Coaching. Wizards must have a coach who will reach their players. Flip doesn't have a great track record as a coach but management must stick with him unless it gets really bad (see Larry Brown in Charlotte).
Wizards Extreme: Having a new owner in place now in Ted Leonsis, there is a new hope for the Wizards franchise. How much stock do you put in the success of the Spurs coming as a result of great ownership and a strong front office versus that of the talent on the roster and coaching?
Project Spurs: Very much so. Spurs' owner, Peter Holt, believes in coach Pop and provides him with the tools necessary to have a winning program. And buy "tools" I mean not being a Mark Cuban-type, opening his wallet to bring in players (Richard Jefferson) and is pretty much hands-off. Let the coach to the coaching and the owner do the owning.
Granted the players and the coach got to put it all together on the court and produce but without the owner like Holt, then it doesn't work. Pop would walk, and the Spurs would have a bad reputation as a team not to go to. Case in point, look at the Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Yeah it could be that bad for any team.
Wizards Extreme: Three of the four losses for San Antonio have come to legit playoff and championship contenders in New Orleans, Dallas and Orlando. How do the Spurs not overlook a Wizards team that is only 1 game better than the Clippers, the Spurs only other loss, with an important stretch coming up against the Lakers, Mavericks and Thunder?
Project Spurs: Two words: no complacency. The Spurs had an "easy" early schedule and one thing I said over and over is this team cannot be complacent against sub .500 teams like the Wizards. This is the perfect rebound game from the loss against the Magic entering the rough stretch of teams.
Wizards Extreme: What are the keys to tonight’s game through the eyes of the Spurs?
Project Spurs: As said before they cannot become complacent. They do that then they are in trouble. Also, the Spurs must do something with Rashard Lewis and Hilton Armstrong. The Spurs have a tremendous drop-off when it comes to big men. After Duncan, they got an undersized DeJuan Blair, an aged Antonio McDyess, a still-adjusting to the NBA Tiago Splitter, and a one-dimensional player like Matt Bonner.
Also Nick Young will probably get more touches with McGee and Blatche suspended for tonight's game so to limit his penetrations and shots will be key as well.
Wizards Extreme: What’s your prediction for the game?
Project Spurs: With no Blatche and McGee the Spurs should take this game easily. The open it up in the second quarter and put the Wizards out early.
Project Spurs: Obviously I have to ask you about the trade. Losing Arenas was kind of the obvious seeing how John Wall is a rising, young star. Likes, dislikes and how does if impact the Wizards season?
Wizards Extreme: We all knew that the Gilbert Arenas - Washington Wizards marriage was coming to an end, but its another thing to actually finally see it come true. I think at first a lot of Wizards fans were torn, but understood it had to be done, and then you have those that were happy to see him leave. Our website was dominated by those wanting Arenas gone while those of us who cover the team, namely Asad and Matt Naqvi as well as myself were left to think of what was Bullets/Wizards basketball before Gilbert got here, what we had while he was tearing up the league, and now what we are left with.
Speaking for myself and not for the whole, I’m actually at this point indifferent to the trade. You basically traded two former max players whose skills have declined so much since they signed their respective deals that they are now solely looked at as contractual numbers instead of value they can bring to their new teams. When the first question a fanbase asks upon the arrival of a new team member is “when does his contract come off the books”, I think you can get a solid understanding that we’re not looking to get a whole hell of a lot out of our newest Wizard, Rashard Lewis.
I wish Gilbert the best of luck and an injury free career, will remember him for the great plays he made, and at the end of the day hope the Magic destroy the Heat.
As far as the impact on the Wizards, this accelerates the rebuild process. Our young guys, namely, Nick Young, is going to now have the chance to play starter minutes and show what he’s got as evidence by his 22.17 ppg average since Arenas departed. We are all now looking forward to getting Wall healthy and on the court with Young to see what kind of chemistry these two athletic freaks can put together.
Project Spurs: Aside form the trade, seems there is some internal dysfunction with the Wizards' JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche getting into a scuffle at a Washington D.C. night spot. What is the latest on this?
Wizards Extreme: Dysfunction seems to be a commonality between all the DC pro sports teams but the Wizards don’t come close to what the Redskins show the world on a season by season basis. I’m not going to sugarcoat this and say there is no friction and all is hunky dory in the locker room but especially with the departure of Arenas, this is the most cohesive I’ve seen this Wizards team since we began covering them this time last year.
As for the said altercation between McGee and Blatche, we really can only go on what we’re told by the team and what we’ve heard. According to Michael Lee, the Wizards beat reporter for the Washington Post, witnesses have said that the players were screaming expletives at each other, but two league sources added that Blatche and McGee also exchanged several punches at the Shadow Room in Northwest Washington.
Early Saturday, a Wizards spokesman released a statement late Friday that read, "The team looked into the matter earlier today and determined it was simply a disagreement between teammates."
According to one source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not at liberty to speak on behalf of the team, teammate Al Thornton tried to step in and separate Blatche and McGee but was punched by a club bouncer. No arrests were made and no one was injured.
However, late Saturday night, Wizards GM, Ernie Grunfeld suspended Blatche and McGee for the game against the Spurs with the following explanation…
“After further investigation into an incident on Thursday night, we concluded that Andray and JaVale conducted themselves in an unprofessional manner,” said Grunfeld. “As a result, both players will be suspended for tomorrow’s game at San Antonio.”
That being said, what you should also know about the not so Big 3 of Blatche, Young and McGee is that they have all been together for a few years now and any scuffling or altercations at this point could just be the result of having to go through another losing season, mounting frustration and the realization that the two bigs have taken a step backwards in regards to their career progress.
For now, I’d rather concentrate on all things basketball, you know the things that happen on the court instead of the crap that happens off of it. If people want to talk about McGee and Blatche and their off the court antics I’d rather remember this video that was shot a few years back called “The Commercial”.
Project Spurs: The Wizards have had a less-than-stellar month of December. What can you pin-point is the issue with this team?
Wizards Extreme: Less than stellar would be one way to describe it, Jekyll and Hyde would be another way to talk about this season to date. Pin pointing one issue would not come close to addressing the issues with the Washington Wizards. We can start with the fact that our #1 pick and star in the making - John Wall has missed 12 games to date with all sorts of nagging injuries, some even apparently mis-diagnosed. Other issues would be lack of focus, lack of energy, inability to play a full 48 minutes, and I believe more than anything else I would have to say, this team is extremely young and still figuring out how to play together.
When Wall gets back, I believe we will see a more consistently competitive team but with the same game results. This team is in complete rebuild mode and if done properly, that is a process which takes a few years and a little bit of draft luck to accomplish.
Project Spurs: Let's talk about the game tonight. The Spurs have been the hottest team in the NBA. What would be your game-plan for the Wizards tonight in San Antonio?
Outside of a Christmas miracle, I don’t see the Wizards breaking their 0 for 13 losing streak on the road in San Antonio tonight. The Spurs have won the last nine overall games against the Wizards and Washington hasn’t won in San Antonio since a 99-89 victory Dec. 11, 1999, having lost their last 10 visits there. Not exactly a recipe for success.
Since we are talking about a team (Spurs) who has only lost 4 times in nearly 30 games, the Wizards only game plan whether Wall plays or not should be to compete hard, keep the Spurs off the boards and hope that Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have off nights. Luckily, the Wizards have a tendency to play up to competition so we will all be hoping for Washington to at least make the game competitive. Rashard Lewis cannot have another 0 for 5 night from the 3pt line, Hilton Armstrong will have to have the game of his life, rookies Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker will have to contribute big on the boards as well as on defense and Young will have to continue his recent scoring streak.
Project Spurs: Which matchup tonight would you tell Spurs and Wizards fans to watch for?
Wizards Extreme: The two matchups we’ll be looking for as the keys to the game would have to be Nick Young on Manu Ginobili and whoever has the assignment of Tim Duncan. Young is going to get his points, what will determine success with this matchup will be how good his defense is on Ginobili, who can pretty much get an open shot and to the basket when he wants.
The matchup of the Wizards bigs and Duncan won’t be a matter of Washington stopping Duncan, because they have no one in the front court that can, but more so how much Duncan can be contained. Again, Wizards fans will be grasping in hopes of a win but these two matchups will go a long way towards determining how close this game will be.
Project Spurs: What's your prediction for tonight's contest?
Wizards Extreme: Prediction for the evening will be a Wizards loss. I believe in light of the latest off court issue to hit Washington, the Wizards will come out flat in the 1st and 2nd quarters, they’ll try to get back in the game in the 2nd half and will ultimately lose in a blowout, 107-88. As I stated before, I don’t see Washington breaking its road losing streak, especially to a team like the Spurs coming off an embarrassing loss to the Magic 3 nights before.