Friday, April 6, 2007

Exactly What the Wizards Needed

Caron Butler breaks his hand. Arenas tears his meniscus and has season ending knee surgery.

Wizards fans everywhere throw in the towel.

Are their actions wrong? Probably not. I, too, happen to think it would be very unlikely for the Wizards to even win a game let alone get out of the 1st round of the NBA playoffs set to start in a few weeks. No team in the NBA relies on its top 3 scoring threats more than the Wizards.

It won't really matter who they play. Bulls, Cavaliers, Heat, Pistons, Raptors, whatever. Either one of those teams will present a huge mismatch in talent without Arenas and Butler, 2 of the top 3 Wizards players, on the floor.

But let's look at this from another perspective. Were the Wizards going to make it that far in the playoffs this year? Would they have even won a series with everyone healthy? It's possible, but it's not like they've been playing their best basketball for most of the season. There may not be a more inconsistent team in the league that frequently plays down to its competition. Injuries have contributed a lot to that, sure. But it's more than that.

With Arenas and Butler now out, the rotation that Eddie Jordan has to work with is significantly smaller. Jordan has a knack for employing his "small ball" approach when he would play Arenas, Daniels, Butler, Jamison, and Songalia/Ruffin, etc. on the floor together or some type of combination like that. Without his 2 best players to lean on, the lineup Jordan uses will have to be significantly bigger, and possibly, he may be forced to play 2 power forwards or 2 centers together. It will be interesting to see how that works, even though it may not.

This season has been a very strange one. Arenas's blog on, the feud between Haywood and Thomas, the injuries to all of the big 3, the competition between Stevenson and Arenas, and the numerous close games and crazy finishes have contributed a very different feel to this season. The team just never seemed to get comfortable at any point.

It would seem like the pressure is off. Everyone thinks the Wizards will lose. Every NBA analyst has more than written them off. Maybe they can take some pride and develop a chip on their shoulder.

Because I am a realist, the Wizards probably will lose, but there are things to learn and knowledge to gain about this team before the season is over.

When they get to the playoffs, Jordan will have to rely on guys on the team who he hasn't before. Daniels and Hayes will more than likely start. Songalia has also earned a starting spot with his recent strong play. Daniels is usually a solid guy for this team, but Hayes hasn't and a lot of fans are frustrated with his poor and inconsistent play. Now he gets his time to prove he either deserves minutes on this team or not. He gets to show what he's really got to offer this team.

Will he seize the opportunity? Only time will tell. Will Haywood stop being a baby and realize that he should try playing up to his potential instead of whining whenever he gets taken out of the game? Who knows.

I also hope to see Andray Blatche healthy enough to play during the playoffs as well. He has the chance to be an important piece to this team's future with his versatility and rebounding skills.

More importantly, though, Jordan and GM Ernie Grunfeld get to preview these pieces that they will either choose to keep or get rid of for next season. Can some of these guys really step up when they're needed, or will they just hide behind the shadows of Arenas, Butler, and Jamison while those 3 provide leadership and winning talent next season?

Undoubtedly, there are more questions than answers. Maybe over these next couple of weeks as the season shifts to the playoffs, some important questions will be answered. They need to be.

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