Prior to tonight's Wizards vs Timberwolves game the buzz in the air, or for that matter, the lack of buzz was simply jaw dropping. That is of course if you were talking about the arena and not the press room. You would have thought from the amount of local media that the Wiz were playing the Lakers or Celtics, until you walked out and saw a crowd that looked like....
Flip Saunders usually comes out and addresses the media for a few minutes prior to the game and he did come out briefly but was quickly called back into the locker room by the Wizards PR to what could only have been the announcement of Antawn Jamison being traded. We were all left starring at each other, left to imagine what had just happened until Flip came back and addressed us. Still nothing was mentioned about a trade and Jamison's name remained on the scoreboard in the starting lineup. Then with 5 minutes to go before tip off, it happened, the Washington Wizards continued the implosion of a team that before the season was said to be "ready to compete for a championship".
What followed was an exit video of Antawn Jamison and according to Michael Lee from the Washington Post, his last words to fans which were, "I love them more than they love me." So the Wizards would take the court with a lineup that included Mike Miller, Randy Foye, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Nick Young.
What ensued was a back and forth game that saw the Wizards go up by double digits going into the 4th quarter and then finish off a not so good Minnesota Timberwolves team. The Wizards were led by Andray Blatche who poured in a career high 33 points, JaVale McGee who had season highs 14pts, 11reb and 5blks. However, we have to mention the contributions from the newest Wizards, James Singleton, Josh Howard and in a limited role Quinton Ross. You won't really be impressed by the stat line as much as the hustle, energy and overall basketball sense these guys brought to the game tonight. Singleton was out-jumping everybody around him, Howard looked to be playing with a chip on his shoulder and as you'll see in his post game interview, I believe he'd love to stick it to the Mavericks. Look, nobody is going to claim that the Wizards have arrived and I don't believe the roster purge is done, but for one night, the Washington Wizards gave the fans something to cheer about.
They looked like a team playing with some desire. What started off looking like it might be a high school basketball game in an NBA arena, ended up being an overhauled Wizards roster leaving to a standing ovation. What's next? Who knows, but if this is the way the Wiz are going to play for the rest of the season, with passion, energy and hunger, Wizards fans might just enjoy these last two months of basketball. Then again, let's put this into perspective, they beat the Timberwolves, let's see what happens when a grown ass basketball team comes to town on Friday. The Nuggets ain't no Timberwolves. Catch a copy of the transcript from tonight's ComcastSportsNet Live chat here..
Heard after the game:
WIZARDS HEAD COACH FLIP SAUNDERS
On Andray Blatche:
“Dray was a lot different. He was a more aggressive player and a more intense, consistent player. Sometimes when you bring people in, they take the guys that you have and bring them along right with them.”
On the last couple of days:
“If I hadn’t been in the CBA and gone through that I probably would have gone crazy. I told the guys beforehand, ‘this doesn’t change going through games.’ I plan to stick around to compete and win. Everyone in the NBA is a good player. There are bad teams, but even bad teams have good players. What has to happen is you have to learn to play well together and sometimes the whole can be better than the parts and that has to be our marching orders on how we have to play.”
On tonight’s game:
“Tonight was emotional for the players, but even during the game and at the end there was as much emotion in the new guys as the guys we’ve had all year, so I would say we have pretty good chemistry at this point. But that’s one game, now we get to play Denver and that’s a pretty good team, so we’ll see where we are.”
On the locker room:
“Our younger guys are standing up. Nick and those guys are different right now. Whether they are finally realizing that this is a business, or that if you don’t perform at a certain level things can happen no matter who you are and that you have obligations to live up to, those guys have had a different sense of urgency as far as on the court. They know there’s not a comfort level. I think in this league the teams that have success are the ones that play with a sense of urgency. Even if it’s a team that’s good, there are only so many opportunities to win a championship so you have take advantage of it at that point because it may not come again, so you have to create that sense of urgency.”
On the younger players:
“Just because they’re there that doesn’t mean they are going to play. They have to play the right way in order to earn their merits. This way nothing is given to you and you have to earn everything.”
WIZARDS FORWARD ANDRAY BLATCHE
On career night:
“I can’t remember the last time I played 32 minutes and got 22 shots so it was a lot different for me but I stepped up to the job and I took care of my business and I had a lot of great guys around me chipping in.”
On gaining confidence:
“This gives me a lot of confidence. It gave a lot of our players confidence. I don’t want this whole thing focused on me because we are a team. Mike Miller played great, James played great, JaVale played great. I just happened to catch fire and things were rolling for me.”
On tonight’s play:
“I’m just knocking down the open shots when it’s available and trying to be aggressive on the block… It was a good feeling. All my moves I have been practicing were working for me so I kept going to them and taking advantage.”
On the fans:
“I don’t want to let them down. I love it here in D.C., I’ve been here for five years. I’m going to try to make the organization happy.”
WIZARDS GUARD MIKE MILLER
On his shooting:
“I picked my spots. I told you from the beginning I’m going to pick my spots. Fortunately tonight, I made a few. I got aggressive there for a little bit when the game got close down the stretch.”
On tonight’s game amidst distractions:
“We’re going to play basketball. The ball was popping tonight, which is a good thing to see. We played hard. We got on the ground for loose balls. That’s what it’s going to take for us to win.”
On moving forward:
“It’s going to take a bunch of us. Obviously, with where our record is at, we’re going to need to bring everyone together and go out and play hard. We played hard tonight. We have Denver on Friday and we’ll be able to test ourselves there.”
WIZARDS GUARD RANDY FOYE
On his expanded leadership role:
“I always try to be in a leadership role as a point guard just trying to be vocal and trying to direct the team in the right way.”
On the rest of the season:
“I think the focus now is to try to go out and win as many games as we can – stay focused on the little things and get the job done.”
On team recording 24 assists:
“The ball was moving. We got the ball moving around and when guys were open, we passed it to them. We had confidence in them to knock down shots, especially in that third quarter. Josh was in the open area - the mid range - and he was knocking down shots.”
On the youth of the Wizards:
“The main thing for us as young guys is to try to get better every day. You have to know this season is a grind. There’s ups and downs. There are still 31 games. The main thing is that we have to understand that we have to go out there every night and try to do that. Even when you’re not scoring or you’re not grabbing rebounds you have to do other things to make your team win. ‘Dray did an unbelievable job tonight attacking their guys and getting their bigs in foul trouble. JaVale did a great job on the boards.”
WIZARDS GUARD/FORWARD JOSH HOWARD
On his first game:
“It means a lot, a whole lot to just come into a new organization and show them that I want to be here.”
TIMBERWOLVES HEAD COACH KURT RAMBIS
On tonight’s game:
“The game did not feel any different for us tonight. I felt that we had a lack of effort and we were not doing the right thing. We didn’t get as many stops as we should have gotten. We didn’t put on the defensive pressure. We turned the basketball over a lot and we didn’t rebound well either. In critical moments we did not do the right defensive things.”
On Darko Milicic:
“As of right now I don’t know what to expect from him. He was drafted pretty high in the draft and he has great potential. He’s a 7-footer with a lot of capabilities at both ends of the floor. This is a great opportunity to see what he can do.”
TIMBERWOLVES FORWARD KEVIN LOVE
On tonight’s game:
“The whole game felt weird. Washington went on a big run, then we went on a big run. They came back, then we came back, and then Washington pulled ahead for good towards the game. It was just a weird game. Antawn didn’t play because of the trade and they made a huge trade earlier in the week. It was just a little different feel for both teams.”
On Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee:
“Andray (Blatche) and JaVale (McGee) both stepped up and played well for Washington tonight. After not playing big minutes early in the season they stepped up into bigger roles tonight.”
Goodbye Antawn, you will be missed!
- JoeG signing off!