If you were to give the Wizards a 3-game assessment, you’d probably conclude that it was satisfactory. For example, we have yet to see John Wall produce less than 10 points or assists in a game. We’re seeing good 3rd quarter play. Guys like Garrett Temple and Otto Porter have risen to occasions.
An identity is gradually taking shape and after just three games, we’re unquestionably yearning to see more.
But what hasn’t fit the bill for the Wizards early this season is the their bench performance. Here’s a story.
Nursing a 6-point lead at the beginning of the 2nd quarter on a muggy late-October evening in Miami, it was the season opener against the Heat and the moment had arrived for Randy Wittman’s first major deployment of the team’s second unit players on to the American Airlines Arena floor. The initial selections from the bench were assembled as such: Andre Miller, Rasual Butler, Otto Porter, Kris Humphries and Kevin Seraphin. Sadly, the first four minutes they spent together on the hardwood produced only a shooting percentage of 20%, one turnover, four fouls and just two points scored. They were quickly disbanded as the Wizards lead diminished along with any momentum, integrity, dignity, or what have you.
Later in the evening, that same lineup were to be reunited on the court to begin the 4th quarter, this time with our faint hopes lying on them helping to maintain a close game while John Wall, Paul Pierce and company rested before the final stretch.
Yeah but that wouldn’t happen either. What was a 2-point lead for the Heat at the start the final quarter quickly turned into a 7-point lead and after James Ennis buried Rasual Butler at the bottom of the Biscayne Bay, Wittman had again seen enough.
That was also the last time we’ve seen Butler this season. Monetary donations for his family are now being accepted after rescue teams aborted their search following the Bucks game.
Things weren’t AS dreadful for the bench in Orlando, though. With Nene back in the lineup after the one-game suspension, Wittman conveniently took the liberty of staggering him into second unit operations. The results produced reasonably. Nene created nice opportunities for guys like Glen Rice to make easy passes down low and into the post for buckets, which as a result gave the Wizards just enough offense to sustain. The 30 points and 12 assists from Wall helped take care of business that night as well, as did Pierce’s heroism in the 4th.
What hasn’t provided sustenance has been the play of Kevin Seraphin. After producing nothing but one assist in 8 minutes against Miami, Snakey almost single-handedly lost the game in first two minutes of the 4th quarter in Orlando after committing a turnover, an offensive foul, and one more personal foul to go with his one missed shot.
I’ll now give you a minute to soak that in because things didn’t get better for anyone against Milwaukee on Saturday. Again, Wittman turned to guys like Miller (who was a minus-14 that night), Glen Rice (-7), and Humphries (-4) to relieve the starters for a stretch, but instead watched them allow a 16-point Wiz lead get minimized to 4 in the first half, followed by a 17-point lead in the 4th quarter cut to 10.
Wittman talked about this concern during his post-game presser after the Bucks game, but he in fact wasn’t very concerned. As he noted, he’s admittedly – and understandably still ‘experimenting’ to find the right combinations of players to rotate. This is evidenced by the 12 different lineups Wittman played against the Heat and Magic, and 15 different lineups against the Bucks on Saturday.
“I’ve got to find the right combination of guys. I’ve got to find out nuances of combinations of guys playing together, and that’s the thing right now. I’m looking.”
Below is an outline Randy Wittman’s lineup experiments and results.
Observing Randy’s Lineup Experiment
In science, the concept of experimentation is delivered via the “Scientific Method”. It’s actually one of the easiest things you’ll learn regarding science and it’s probably very similar to how a conversation between Wittman and..probably himself goes. The steps are as follows:
Purpose: I want to know how to improve the production of my bench.
Hypothesis: Will rotating a starter with my second unit help improve their production?.
Test your hypothesis: Insert either Nene and Gortat with second unit players. Remove Seraphin or Humphries.
Lineup of Miller, Rice, Porter, Humphries, Gooden: 7 minutes, 8 points, 21% FG, (-10)
Line up of Miller, Rice, Porter, Nene, Gooden: 5 minutes, 11 points, 66% FG, (-1)
More oft-used lineups:
Miller, Butler, Porter, Humphries, and Seraphin: 7 minutes, 7 points, 27% FG, 6 fouls, (-13)
Miller, Temple, Porter, Gortat and Gooden: 5 minutes, 6 points, 50% FG, (-1)
As evidenced in the numbers above, tossing in a starter like Nene or Gortat who can create more offense is a start to resolving some of the bench issues.
But the question is: will the bench actually get better, and when? Well, it’s hard to tell because it is too soon. Miller has surely underperformed so far in three games and especially against Milwaukee, but it may be a bit unfair to judge him as a 38-year old whose sputtering motor may need a little greasing before smoothing out. I’m being serious. Kris Humphries has a numb pinky after nearly losing it during a bizarre basketball rim accident. He’s also the ‘fucking new guy’ at the office so it probably takes time for him to grow on folks. Meaning a lack of chemistry is expected. DeJuan Blair, the man who cised us with the whole ‘DC Bad Boys’ thing (haha remember that), hasn’t played more than three minutes all season and I’m not exactly sure why. Then there’s Seraphin again. Send him to Israel.
Listen. I mean, read carefully. We’re seeing that some lineups are producing well, such as the ones with their wonderful tour guides Nene or Gortat, while other lineups produce absolutely nothing. Not even a 5-ticket Chuck E. Cheese prize. Yanno, the shitty ones like the plastic spider rings. But the number of different lineups Wittman is putting on the court is also sure to drop significantly as the games wear on and once some consistency has finally surfaced. In the meanwhile, let’s be a little patient and at least enjoy the stars on the team that have helped blanket the bench’s shortcomings thus far. Hopefully, the rest will all fall in place. Hopefully.