The Crystal Ball is a weekly Monday feature forecasting the future for the Wizards week ahead..
This week’s games:
April 1st, vs. the Philadelphia 76ers
April 3rd vs. the New York Knicks
April 4th, at the Memphis Grizzlies
Lets go Wiz!
Wednesday, April 1st, HOME vs. the Philadelphia 76ers
Friday April 3rd, HOME vs. New York Knicks
What to watch: We are combining the Sixers and Knicks into one preview here for several reasons:
The Sixers and Knicks have a combined total of 32 wins. The Wizards have 41.
You thought the Wizards road record of 15-21 (0.417 win percentage) was bad? The Sixers and Knicks combined road record is 21-53 (0.284).
Neither the Sixers or Knicks individually have enough to point out anything to watch.
The Sixers and Knicks combined have barely enough NBA quality talent to field ONE NBA team.
I really just don’t want to write a preview for both the Sixers AND Knicks. Watching the two games separately will be bad enough.
So what to watch? Watch the Wizards play the two worst teams in the NBA. There is no other choice.
OH! One other note: Both these teams play in the Atlantic division, with the Raptors. So when you look at the standings, and notice the Raptors will have home court, remember that they got to play the Sixers and Knicks EIGHT times. Go ahead. Slam your head on the desk. You know you want to.
Key match-up: You vs. Apathy.
Look. As a Wizards fan, playing these teams at home is a lose-lose scenario. Obviously for the team, a win is a win. But as a fan, how are you really going to feel when the Wizards beat these two teams. Are you really going to care? Are you really going to feel any better about the Wizards and their first round chances against Toronto even if they pummel both teams with 10-20+ point blowouts? (The Raptors just beat the Rockets by the way, with 42 from DeRozan). And aren’t you just going to feel worse if they win these two games by anything less than double digits? There’s really no result in this game that can make you happy. It’s basically gonna be “meh,” or worse.
X-factor: #SoWizards. Yup. I just spent the previous paragraph acting like two Wizards wins were a given, and that the only question was the margin of victory. But you’re a Wizards fan, you know better! Just because the Wizards have the much better team, the far superior talent, the home court advantage, and THE MUCH BETTER TEAM, does that mean the Wizards will win? Of course not! As a fan you’re probably thinking, “if anything, that means they’ll probably lose!”
But how? Will it be turnovers? Will it be a lack of #effort? Or a lack of focus? Will it be a slow start, or a horrendous collapse? Will it be players running plays the coach has never seen before? Will it be the coach designing plays that have no actual purpose? Will it be an endless construction site of midrange bricks? Will it be random subs playing starter minutes while healthy starters look on? Will it be an up and down game where Wittman doesn’t #FreeOtto or an ugly slugfest where he does? And finally, the question I’m most looking forward to: Will Wittman adjust to the lineups of the Sixers and Knicks?!?! I swear if the postgame press conference includes the phrase, “Well, they went small…” phones are going to get chucked at his head mid-tweet. IT’S THE SIXERS AND KNICKS! THEY HAVE NO ONE TO ADJUST FOR! Yet, I won’t be surprised. Where’s the vomit bag?
Fun factor:The New Philayork Seventy-Knicksers!
Here is a randomized list of the players who will be healthy and potentially playing for the Sixers and Knicks in these games. If you can correctly identify the team of every player, give yourself a cookie.
Luc Mbah a Moute
Bonus exercise: See if you can correctly predict which of these guys will randomly turn into #WizardsKillers!
Prediction: Honestly, I think the Wizards will lose one of these games. It just seems like the #SoWizards thing to do. In fact, I’ll probably be more surprised if they win both than if they lose both. Ugh.
Saturday, April 4th
AT the Memphis Grizzlies
What to Watch: I tried this once before. Then the Grizzlies benched all their star players for “rest.” They claim it was not disrespectful because “they’d had the plan to rest players in advance.” Isn’t that MORE disrespectful. It’s one thing to bench your starters to rest against a bad or struggling team, hoping you can still get the win, and knowing a loss doesn’t dramatically hurt you. But it’s another thing to look at the schedule in advance and say, “hmm…the Wizards…yea…that’s always a good team to rest against.” JERKS! (Also, I don’t blame them).
However, the starters should all be good to go in this game, which means at least one thing: Wittman will NOT have to adjust to small ball! This may be shocking revelation, but the Grizzlies are a big team that….wait for it….makes other teams adjust to them! What a concept! In fact, I would love to see the Wizards go small in the fourth quarter of this game; Run out Wall, Beal, Butler, Pierce, and Nene/Gortat. Then watch how Dave Joerger reacts. Something tells me he’d keep his star-studded starting line-up in the game.
Key matchup: Grizzlies vs. Rockets. See figure below:
Last time the Wizards and Grizzlies faced off, Memphis consciously took an L. This time, they’re locked in a virtually even battle with the Rockets for the 2-seed, otherwise known as “The Battle to Avoid the Spurs in Round One.” That should be a very powerful motivating factor for the Grizz, and very big problem for the Wiz.
X-factor: Courtney Lee. Courtney Lee stats…
In Wins: 11.2 ppg, 50% FG, 51% 3FG
In Losses: 7.7 ppg, 34% FG, 21% 3FG
I won’t go as far as to say “as Courtney Lee goes, so go the Grizzlies.” But I will say that if Courtney Lee is going, the Grizzlies are probably rolling to a win.
Fun factor(s): Watching Zach Randolph. Try to put your fandom aside and just watch Z-Bo play basketball. The guy is a career 17-10, a career 47% shooter, and regularly near the top of the league in offensive rebounds. His vertical at the draft combine was measured at 0’0″ and has been steadily falling ever since. (OK, his feet technically do leave the floor when he “jumps” but not much). By NBA standards, the guy is not athletic. But he is awesome. What will stand out most is his hands. The best way to describe Randolph’s hands is the exact opposite of #GortatHands. He combines these hands with excellent positioning to suck in rebounds on both ends. But how the F*%& does he score?! He’s not tall for an NBA power forward (6’9″) and he’s not “long” like those 6’7″ guys with 7’3″ wing spans. He’s just the round definition of savvy. He creates space and angles with his top heavy frame, and uses both hands effectively to maximize the use of that space. As an unbiased observer, watching Zach Randolph is a fun trip. As a Wizards fan…we’ll see how it goes.
Prediction: Grizzlies win easy.