Friday: Wiz get ready for Knicks

Andy Lyons/ Getty Images

Andy Lyons/ Getty Images
















No D.C. teams in action yesterday, so we’ll start off with an article from ESPN about the NBA draft. For those of you who don’t have ESPN Insider, Chad Ford is breaking down the best fit for each of the current lottery teams, if they were to win the No. 1 overall pick. It’s a mixture of Ben McLemore, Marcus Smart and Nerlens Noel, with McLemore the choice for most teams. However, Ford’s choice for the Wizards is Noel. Interesting.

I’ll grant you that neither Smart nor McLemore makes sense for the Wizards, given that the backcourt of Wall and Beal looks set for the next decade. However, I’m not sure that means Noel is the go-to choice here. In a draft so weak at the top, what’s the big deal with reaching for someone who might be a better fit for your team (like an Otto Porter or Cody Zeller)?

Noel is clearly a talented big man, with a lot of upside. And the Wizards don’t have any young big men at the center position (Booker, Singleton and Vesely are all essentially 3/4 hybrids. Kevin Seraphin sucks). So this is an area of need. However, I’m not sure the Wizards are at the stage where they want to spend a high-value pick on a developmental big man with little to no offensive game. If this was really an area that they wanted to address, they should have asked for Fab Melo in the Jordan Crawford trade. Both Melo and Noel are defense-first players with an extremely raw offensive game.

Even if Noel does have more upside than Melo, he might not even be ready for the start of the season. His development is going to be pushed back. Expectations for him to be anything more than a mop-up player in his rookie season seem unrealistic. And Wizards’ management has openly talked about aiming for a “playoff-type situation” (aspirations for the No. 9 seed! Shoot for the stars, guys!). Does Noel really profile as a guy who can come right and give this team that extra boost to make the playoffs? I’m skeptical.

All of this is probably a moot point, considering the Wizards’ play of late. My guess is they’ll end the season somewhere in the middle of the lottery, picking in the 6-9 range. So we’ll probably be discussing players like Zeller, Shabazz Muhammad and Alex Len (don’t get me started) come April, not Noel.

On a related note, I think right now there is a clear drop-off after the top 9 players in this draft. Consider:

  • Top 9 (in any order you so choose): Marcus Smart, Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo, Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Len, Anthony Bennett
  • Next 5 players (according to Ford’s Big Board): Gary Harris, Michael Carter-Williams, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, Mason Plumlee. Yuck.

So if you’re wondering how far the Wizards can rise without affecting the player they get in the draft, I would say anywhere through pick No. 9. After that, there is a drop-off.

Anyway, that’s just food for thought from an off day.

  • Next game: tonight vs. Knicks 7 PM ET/ 6 PM CT

Nationals: The Nats and Mets tied 4-4 yesterday. Some box score thoughts:

  • Anthony Rendon continues to rake. Another extra-base hit. Can’t wait until this guy is in the show. “Superstar if he stays healthy” -Andrew Struckmeyer, driver of the Rendon Bandwagon. All aboard.
  • Stephen Strasburg gave up another run, but he struck out six batters in his three innings of work. I think he’s a guy that is just going to give up runs in spring training because guys are gonna run into his fastball, and it’ll go a long ways. No cause for concern.
  • Carlos Rivero continues to see time in the outfield. He still is an extreme long-shot to make the club but it’s interesting that he’s really embracing the utility player role.

In other news, apparently Alex Meyer looked great against the Red Sox the other day. You had better be good, Denard Span.

Capitals: Just a quick link to pass along: Filip Forsberg, one of the team’s top prospects, was named the top Under-20 player in the Swedish league he’s playing in this year. It’s a nice sign that there is real talent in the Caps pipeline. This year just might not be the year.

Also, if you thought this year’s draft was just a two-player draft with Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon, check out this video (near the bottom) of the third-best prospect in this draft, Jonathan Drouin. Impressive stuff.

  • Next game: Saturday @ Winnipeg 3 PM ET/ 2 PM CT


Thursday: A bad night for Monumental Sports

Source: Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Source: Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Last night was a truly awful night for D.C. sports, with the Caps and Wizards delivering poor performances. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect is that the worst performances came from the two most recognizable players: John Wall and Alex Ovechkin. Both guys stunk up the joint. No way around it. We’ll start with the Wizards, who fell to the Pistons by the slimmest of margins. This team opened the game with little attention to detail, basically allowing the Pistons to have free layups on every possession. They only kept it close thanks to Bradley Beal’s hot start from the field. The second unit came on and performed quite well, sparking the Wizards to a lead. A.J. Price was miles better than John Wall in this game, which is a bad thing for the Wizards. Kevin Seraphin had a nice game, just a few days removed from getting his first DNP-CD of the season. He was active on the glass and didn’t settle for long jumpers. He actually played like the bruising big man that he is.

And, of course, Trevor Ariza was sensational off the bench. He led the team in scoring on the night, pitching in 22 points. Ariza came into this season with a reputation as a gunner, prone to awful shot selection, but I honestly haven’t seen it. He’s been a perfect bench guy for this team, coming in and playing tremendous defense, knocking down timely shots and being a nice “glue guy.”  Probably still not worth what he’s getting paid, but who is these days?

The Pistons opened up a big lead to start the fourth quarter, but the Wiz wouldn’t go away. They even had a chance to win it after an ill-advised clear path foul from the Pistons. Their last possession was a classic botch-job, as Bradley Beal’s inaccurate pass led to a rushed Ariza corner three that came up short. Buck and Phil thought the shot was good, however, leading to some awkward television. For the record, I’m a huge fan of both of these guys. They’re the best in the business. Slip-ups happen sometimes. Keep on fighting the good fight, guys.

The story of this game, though, was the continued horrid play of John Wall. Wall was 3-9 from the field, with seven turnovers and a -11 while he was on the court (compare that to A.J. Price’s +12). His jump shots were typically atrocious, his driving game was forced and resulted in a lot of bad shots, he was lazy on defense and didn’t move to the basket to get rebounds. Basically, he was as bad as you can be. And then he had the nerve to blame his teammates for his turnovers after the game.

I’m getting really sick of this act from Wall. It just comes off as immature from a guy who is supposed to be the face of this franchise. I think part of what drives me crazy about Wall’s game is that there is such a high degree of difficulty on all of his shots, because he can’t make a simple, wide-open 18-foot jump shot. He’s forced to get his points by driving into the lane, contorting his body around three defenders and putting up some wild shot (which DOES, occasionally, go in, it should be noted). Star players shouldn’t have to work so hard for their points. And Wall wouldn’t have to either if he could just make a jump shot.

In short, grow up John Wall. There’s real talent on this team for once, and the team is winning IN SPITE of your performance (despite what the simplified narrative may tell you). It’s time to improve your game and stop pouting after bad performances like a five-year-old.

Capitals: At leas the Wizards put up a fight. The Caps looked completely disinterested from the start last night, losing to the Flyers in embarrassing fashion.  True, this was the second game of a back-to-back set, but this team had no spark or drive of any sort. And with the Caps being in last place in the Eastern Conference, they can’t really afford those types of lapses.

The only players who looked like they MIGHT be interested in playing hockey last night were Joel Ward, Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. Ward had the team’s only goal, Holtby was unfortunately pulled in the second period after his teammates utterly abandoned him and Grubauer made a couple of nifty saves in his NHL debut, after replacing Holtby. If there is any sliver of silver lining to this game, it’s the play of Grubauer who showed why there is so much faith in him in the organization and that the Caps continue to develop quality, young goaltenders.

But that’s about where the “good” from this game stops. Alex Ovechkin was wandering around the ice, putting forth little effort and tripping over himself when he was trying. As you might have expected, Mike Milbury loved this opportunity to rip into Ovechkin.

Look, Milbury is a troll and a dick. He’s also got a terrible track record of success in the NHL. So I don’t know why we have to treat him as an expert. That being said, he raised a lot of valid points last night. For the first time in a long time (ever?), I actually agreed with Milbury’s ripping of Ovechkin (this isn’t his first foray into the subject matter). Ovechkin’s performance was dreadful last night. At least he didn’t blame his teammates after the game (the search for silver linings is the theme of this post).

  • Recap: RMNB
  • Standings: Caps are tied with Buffalo for the worst record in the Eastern Conference
  • Next game: Saturday @ Winnipeg 3 PM ET/ 2 PM CT

Nationals: The Nats lost 5-1 to the Marlins in spring training. Some notes from reading the box score:

  • Lots of regulars in the lineup. Not a lot of hits to show for it. It’s early.
  • Tanner Roark gave up 4 runs in 1 1/3 innings. He’s probably in the same area as Ryan Perry (who got lit up the day before) in the No. 8-11 starter range. C’mon Chris Young!
  • Drew Storen with a scoreless inning at the end. Good for Drew!


Wednesday: Caps close the gap

Source: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Source: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Caps followed up their impressive win over the Devils with a nice shutout of Southeast division foe (and leader) Carolina, winning 3-0. The first star of the game was Braden Holtby, a no-brainer after he made 33 saves to keep the Hurricanes off the score sheet. Holtby’s first-period breakaway stop on Alexander Semin (off a terrible, terrible mistake from Mike Green on the power play in the neutral zone) was the momentum-turner for this game. You could see Semin got way too hyped up and skated too close to Holtby before making his move. The young goaltender, on the other hand, kept his cool and didn’t panic and try to poke-check Semin (like he did in the Tampa Bay game a couple weeks back). He let the play come to him, and easily thwarted Semin’s attempt. Great stuff from the Caps goalie.

This game also saw a resurgence of sorts for Nick Backstrom. I’ll say it again: for as much has been written about Alex Ovechkin “slumping,”  Nick Backstrom has been practically invisible on the ice. It makes me wonder whether he was really healthy when he returned from the KHL. It probably doesn’t help matters that he’s playing on a line without one of the Alexes (Ovechkin and Semin) for the first time in a long time. While Troy Brouwer and Eric Fehr have both had outstanding starts to the season, they don’t possess the same jaw-dropping raw talent as Semin or Ovechkin.

Still, a world-class center, as Backstrom has been, should be able to play through that. Short of playing with Joey Crabb and John Erskine on a line, Backstrom should be putting up points.

Well, last night Backstrom had a goal and an assist and was the game’s second star. The goal was a little flukie, as Mike Ribeiro just flung the puck at Backstrom in front of the net and it took a weird bounce off Backstrom and past Cam Ward (who was spectacular last night in defeat).

However, Backstrom showed the strong puck possession skills that have made him such a weapon over the past few years in the NHL. He was setting up his teammates, creating opportunities and couldn’t be pushed off the puck in the corners. The Caps need THIS Backstrom to show up the rest of the season.

  • Recaps: RMNB, JapersRink
  • Next game: tonight @ Philadelphia 7:30 PM ET/ 6:30 PM CT. Will be interesting to see whether Adam Oates continues to ride the hot hand in Holtby, even though it’s a back-to-back set.
  • Standings Update: Caps still sit tied for last place in the Eastern Conference, but only four points back of first place in the dreadful Southeast division.

Nationals: The Nats lost to the Braves 9-5 yesterday. Some notes from the box score:

  • Bryce Harper was 3-3 and is now 6-8 to start the spring. Looks like he is picking up right where he left off last fall.
  • Anthony Rendon was 2-4 and continues to scorch the ball this spring. I’m sticking to my prediction from yesterday
  • Ryan Perry gave up 5 runs in 1 2/3 innings pitched. It’s only spring training, but that’s not so good.

Perhaps more importantly is the news this morning that Javier Vazquez is NOT going to try and pitch in the major leagues this year, instead opting to stay in retirement. This takes away another possible depth signing for the Nats. Vazquez would have represented a significant step-up from Chris Young, who is probably the Nats current “sixth starter.” It’s even more significant now that Young is in the fold. Hopefully the Nats can stash him and/or Ross Ohlendorf at AAA for a good chunk of this season.

Wizards: Game tonight, vs. Detroit 7 PM ET/ 6 PM CT. Another opportunity for the Wizards to prove they can beat the middling teams in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards currently sit two games back of the Pistons in the standings, so this provides a nice opportunity to gain ground as well.

Tuesday: Wizards win again

Ronald Martinez/ Getty Images

Ronald Martinez/ Getty Images

The Wizards keep on chugging, beating the Toronto Raptors last night 90-84. This is the seventh win out of the last nine games for the Wizards, and finally a win against a team that they “should” beat, if they really think they’re capable of being in that 7-10 range in the Eastern Conference. Bradley Beal led the way with 20 points, and is quietly (or maybe not so quietly) taking over this team. He played 39 minutes last night also, as Garrett Temple played a lone minute and Jordan Crawford doesn’t wear the red, white and blue anymore.

Maybe this is the reason that Ernie Grunfeld was SO ready to kick Crawford to the curb: he thought that, even if Crawford did serve his time in the Wittman doghouse and come out a reformed citizen, Beal needed to start carrying the load more and taking ownership of this team. So far, the results have been great, but you’ve got to think a backup point guard and shooting guard are going to be options the Wizards look into this offseason.

Speaking of backup point guards, A.J. Price played 24 minutes last night, which, if you’re keeping track at home, is the same number of minutes as John Wall. Price scored 12 points, including a few wild prayers that were answered and didn’t actively hurt the team. Price isn’t a GREAT second option, but he has been serviceable this season.

We’ve already talked about Beal, but Nene also had a nice game with 11 points and he was a +10 while on the floor (Beal checked in at +11, the best mark on the team). On the other side of things, Emeka Okafor shot 4-14 from the field last night, while John Wall was 3-11. Not so good.

But a win is a win. The Wizards keep on plugging away, and they are starting to make their way up the Eastern Conference standings. They won’t make the playoffs, but they’re not going to be one of the top three teams in the lottery (which is actually a bad thing, but that’s a topic for another day).

  • Recaps: Bullets Forever
  • Standings Update: Wizards move past Cleveland with last night’s victory and now sit in 12th in the Eastern Conference, 8.5 games back of 8th place Milwaukee
  • Power Rankings: Wizards hold steady in the 21st spot.
  • Next game: Wednesday vs. Detroit 7 PM ET/ 6 PM CT

Capitals: The Caps didn’t play yesterday, but that didn’t mean they weren’t busy, as they signed both D John Erskine and G Braden Holtby to extensions.

I like the Holtby extension: he’s been playing well lately, but his stock is by no means at a peak. He’s clearly a talented, young goalie and they’re getting him for the affordable price of 2 yr, $3.7 million. It’s also a nice pat on the back for Holtby’s confidence.

The Erskine signing on the other hand, at 2 yr, $3.9 million, seems like we overpaid. Erskine is having a nice season filling in on an old and injury-depleted defense corps. But ideally Erskine is a third-pairing defenseman or maybe even a depth player. And now we’re playing him more than our goaltender of the future? Also, it’s not like there is a lot of projection to Erskine’s game. He’s as good now as he’s probably ever going to be.

Again, I like the guy and value his contributions to the team, I’m just not sure I would have given him this much money. Oh well.

  • Caps play tonight against the Hurricanes, 7 PM ET/ 6 PM CT. Huge divisional implications on the line. Also, some fellow named Semin returns to Verizon Center tonight
  • Power Rankings: Capitals drop two spots to No. 27, despite Ovechkin’s Saturday hat trick
  • Speaking of Mr. Semin, you should read this article from JapersRink, looking back on Semin’s time with the Caps. If nothing else, there’s old YouTube clips (dating back to the old black Caps jerseys!).

Redskins: The Skins have apparently hired former Chargers GM A.J. Smith as a consultant, to help in the personnel department. This seems to be a really curious move to me, as Mike Shanahan isn’t exactly a Socratic Seminar, let’s hear from a lot of voices kind of guy. At the end of the day, the head scout is the GM is the head coach (sorry Bruce Allen). Smith obviously commands a lot of respect from his days in San Diego and he’ll definitely have some opinions about players. Wonder how that will go over in the war room. Also, the Redskins already have a well-respected Director of Player Personnel in Morocco Brown, so well-respected, in fact, that they almost lost him to the Cardinals this off-season.

Hopefully, this isn’t Dan Snyder meddling and bringing in another buddy. But you can never rule it out. In any case, this further enforces the idea that Bruce Allen spends about five minutes a day on football-related things (kidding).

I think it’s a good idea to have more voices in the room, especially one with as much knowledge as Smith. However, if the opinions voiced aren’t received well and merely discarded, as they might be with Shanahan running the ship, this could be counter-productive.

Nationals: Nats beat the Mets 6-4 yesterday in spring training. Sounds like a lot of action for minor leaguers, and Anthony Rendon just missed a homer and had a single, while Nathan Karns pitched two innings. I’m really encouraged by Rendon’s play so far. I know I’ve been driving the bandwagon on this guy for a couple years, but I think he’s going to have an impact on the Nats this season. In fact, I’m going to make the bold prediction that Rendon is in the big leagues before August. Davey Johnson loves playing talent, no matter how young as we saw with Bryce Harper’s early call-up last season. I think if Rendon starts making noise in AA or AAA, Davey will be beating the drum for Rendon, as Boz suggested yesterday in his chat. And it’s certainly not hard to imagine a scenario where Danny Espinosa’s shoulder bothers him and the team wants a little more pop than Steve Lombardozzi offers. Just a thought.

Weekend roundup: Caps, Wiz win

Patrick McDermott/ Getty Images

Patrick McDermott/ Getty Images

Not too shabby of a weekend for D.C. sports. We’ll start out with the Caps 5-1 victory over the Devils on Saturday, easily their most impressive game of the season. Not only was it their first victory over a quality opponent, but they did so in dominant fashion. Alex Ovechkin resembled the Ovechkin of old, tallying 3 goals and an assist. Braden Holtby continued his strong performance of late, making a huge stop on a Devils penalty shot. Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer chipped in with strong performances as well, not surprising they’re two of the (few) Capitals that are exceeding expectations this season.

Ovechkin skeptics will point out that two of his goals Saturday were basically put on a tee for him with a wide open net. However, it still takes a hard, accurate shot to convert those chances. In addition, his second goal was a thing of beauty, using the defender as a screen as he raced up the right (!!!!) side of the ice, before firing a shot past the goalie. It’s this type of variety that is going to be key if Ovechkin really wants to get back in that elite category of goal-scorers. Now defensemen will have to prepare for more than two moves from Ovechkin.

Ovechkin was also active all game long, throwing his body around and bringing the physicality that he’s capable of. And honestly, he should have had a couple of goals in Thursday’s game, so I don’t begrudge him the fact that he had some easier opportunities Saturday.

Also interesting to see that head coach Adam Oates finally demoted winger Wotjek Wolski, bumping him down to the third line. Wolski has been snake-bit all season long, failing to convert golden opportunities into points. This reached a head in the first period as Wolski missed a wide-open net. Frankly, I’m not sure why the media is giving the guy such a break. At a certain point, it’s not just bad luck that is causing you to miss the net, right?

In his place, Oates moved Eric Fehr up to play with Nick Backstrom and Troy Brouwer. Fehr fit right in, continuing his strong play this season. Fehr even tallied a short-handed goal, a great hustle play where he stole the puck from Johan Hedberg behind the net, reminiscent of one of his goals in the Winter Classic.

What a find Fehr has been for the Caps. Signed off the scrap heap, Fehr has played some of the best two-way hockey of his career. Who knew this guy could kill penalties too? It’s tough to advocate a contract extension because his shoulders are made of glass, but based on his play alone, Fehr has certainly earned another year or two in D.C.

  • Other recaps: RMNB, JapersRink
  • Standings Update: Caps are tied with Buffalo for the worst record in the Eastern Conference (but not in the NHL! Suck it Columbus!)
  • Weekly look at player performance from JapersRink
  • Monday Mock Draft update (from Caps pick LW Jonathan Drouin with the third pick
  • Next game: Tomorrow night vs. Carolina, 7 PM ET/ 6 PM CT. This is a big one.

Wizards: The Wizards had two impressive victories over the weekend, beating the Nuggets Friday night and the Rockets Saturday night. I watched the first half of the Rockets game, and thought the Wizards were going to get run out of the gym, while the Rockets set the record for most three-pointers in a game and Chandler Parsons breaks Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record. That didn’t happen, so huzzah!

This is just a different Wizards team from year’s past. There is a resiliency present that was non-existent with the Steez and the Swag and the other nonsense. This team is still learning how to play together, but at least they can all agree on playing hard. It’s quite refreshing.

Now if this team could just transfer some of their energy against playoff teams over to the games against the dregs of the NBA, we’d be getting somewhere.

On an unrelated note, I watched the Gtown-Syracuse game Saturday afternoon, and it was hard not to come away from that game impressed with Otto Porter Jr. Porter was clearly the best player on the floor, and carried the Hoya team to victory. He did everything in that game: shoot the three ball, distribute, play in the post, rebound the basketball, calm the team down when the Orange made a run. If the Wizards continue to win games at their current clip, they may not have the luxury of picking a Shabazz Muhammad or Cody Zeller. However, I think Porter could be an excellent consolation prize. He’s 6-8 and has the skills I listed above. That sounds like a great NBA small forward to me and another guy, along the lines of Zeller, who can come in immediately and mesh with this team. He won’t need the ball in his hands every possession. He can play the 3, or I think he could play that “stretch 4″ position that Randy Wittman has Chris Singleton in right now. Either way, he’s definitely a player I’ve got my eye on for the rest of the college basketball season.

  • Friday recaps: Truth About It, Bullets Forever
  • Saturday recaps: Truth About It, Bullets Forever
  • Standings Update: Wizards sit in 13th in the Eastern Conference, nine games back of the 8 seed, Milwaukee
  • Monday Mock Draft update (from Wizards pick Cody Zeller with the third overall pick. Also, for those interested, they have Porter projected as the No. 7 overall pick)
  • Next game: tonight @ Toronto, 7 PM ET/ 6 PM CT

Nationals: The big news from the weekend is the story published Friday afternoon by CBS’s Jon Heyman about Drew Storen dealing with back spasms during last year’s NLDS. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. It’s interesting.

However, after letting the news settle for a few days, I don’t think it really changes anything. We already knew that Storen was a warrior, a guy who truly adopts the closer mentality, and someone who came out of the season with a lot of admiration and respect for the way he handled such a crushing defeat.

The Nats didn’t mishandle Storen by letting him pitch. It’s not like this was an arm injury where Storen could have done further damage to it. Besides, he had the velocity and was making good pitches. The Cardinals hitters just bested him on that night in Game 5.

One thing I worry about is that Storen clearly didn’t want this story to get out. Now it did, and it’s another thing that he has to answer questions about. This guy has been through a LOT this off-season, and you wonder about his mental state coming into the season. Doesn’t help that he got roughed up in his first spring training appearance. Let’s hope he can use spring training to find some peace from last season and put those sorts of questions to bed.

  • Other stories: Anthony Rendon piece from Adam Kilgore. Can’t wait for this kid in the big leagues
  • Boz chat from today. This goes in the Nats section of the blog, because Boz hearts the Nats, but he touches on a number of different topics.

Redskins: The Redskins hired a wide receivers coach over the weekend, Mike McDaniel. I like going the internal route here. I’ve got to imagine the former Yale WR, turned coaching assistant is going to be a pretty smart hire. And the ex-NFL player route was not working, with neither Keenan McCardell nor Ike Hilliard being particularly impressive. The Redskins have some untapped talent with guys like Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson, so let’s hope McDaniel can get the most out of them.

Also, I should note that the NFL Scouting Combine was this weekend. Meh. We could sit here and speculate about every player in the draft, but it’s such a crapshoot. It sounds like the Redskins visited with just about every top safety and cornerback in the draft (maybe not someone like Dee Milliner, who will be off the board), which is a good thing. I’m holding out hope that the Redskins double-up with their second- and third-round picks on secondary players and then look for value after that. As we’ve covered extensively, the Skins just can’t deal with another year of Madieu Williams.



Friday: End of the Jordan Crawford Era

Mark Murphy/ Celtics Notebook

Mark Murphy/ Celtics Notebook

Big day in D.C. sports yesterday, but we’ll start off with the most controversial bit of news: the Wizards dumping Jordan Crawford for a six-pack of beer, some used basketballs and a deck of cards. Ok, that’s not accurate. The Wizards got LESS than that for Crawford: they got Leandro Barbosa, who will never play in a Wizards uniform, as he currently does not have a functioning ACL or MCL in one of his knees (if you think I’m looking up which knee Barbosa tore, you have come to the WRONG blog) and Jason Collins, a journeyman backup center who presumably provides a good locker-room presence.

My initial reaction was bad deal for the Wiz. The plus side is $2.2 million in savings next year for the Wizards, a fairly pedestrian number by anyone’s standards. But how is that all the Wizards are going to get for a guy who is averaging over 13 points per game on the season? Oh wait, because he’s a gunner who can’t defend anyone to save his life. He’s a malcontent trapped on the bench of a bad team. And everyone in the league knows how desperate the Wizards were to get rid of him.

Upon making this revelation, I was ok with this trade. Crawford forced the Wizards hand on this one. Instead of behaving like a rational adult when he was benched, and going back in the gym and looking at what he can improve, Crawford threw a temper-tantrum. Look at Chris Singleton: he started a majority of the games for the Wizards last year. This year, he  got benched for a prolonged period of time (longer than Crawford’s most recent benching). He took it to heart, worked on his game and has now worked his way back into the rotation.

Crawford, on the other hand, had a great month of December. Then he had a couple of bad games and found himself in the doghouse. Unfair? Maybe. But that doesn’t excuse him behaving like a petulant four-year-old who didn’t get the toy he wanted for Christmas (albeit a four-year-old who is QUITE passive-aggressive).

So I’m ok with getting rid of a malcontent for nothing. Addition by subtraction. Besides, it’s not the Wizards could have gotten Fab Melo in the trade, right? Right?! Wait, what’s that? We COULD have gotten Fab Melo?!

You’re right Ernie, we probably don’t have enough D-League spots available to take back a first-round pick and stash him while he develops. I mean, who wants a 7-foot, shot-blocking presence anyways? Melo might not be the answer in the middle long-term, but you don’t think he could have developed into a quality backup center, who played 20 minutes a game and wreaked havoc at the defensive end? Nah, let’s take the bag of bones instead! Besides, it’s just unconscionable to pay a guy a salary who doesn’t play for you at all right?

I hesitate to say this because it’s a borderline ad hominem attack, but this feels like a move that was made because this franchise is cheap. I mean, what are the Wizards really going to do with $2.2 million in saved cap space? And it’s not like Melo had a gigantic contract. You’re telling me we couldn’t take back $1.3 million next year for a project big man? Did that break the budget?

A lot of sites are skewering the Wizards, and I think it’s only partially deserved. This team had to get rid of Crawford’s toxic presence, but expecting another team to suddenly give up riches for the Wizards’ garbage was unrealistic. That being said, Melo would have been about as good of an asset as you could have hoped for. And Ernie said No.

I’m giving this trade a C. Ultimately, it’s a nothing trade. The Wizards won’t miss Crawford, but they get ABSOLUTELY NOTHING back. The reason the grade drops so low is this trade represents yet another missed opportunity for the Wiz.

Other takes on the trade:

The first game of the Jason Collins era is tonight against the Nuggets, 7 PM ET/ 6 PM CT

Capitals: The Caps played one period that resembled “Caps Hockey,” but otherwise were the same ‘ole Caps from this year, taking terrible penalty after terrible penalty. It caught up with them in the third period as they gave up two goals and lost 3-2 to the Devils.

At this point, what more can you say other than that the Capitals CANNOT keep taking this many penalties? It’s a broken record, but it’s something the Caps have to fix before they can make any kind of dent in the standings.

The Caps had bad first and third periods, stymied by the Devils’ neutral defense, resulting in a litany of Caps turnovers and no sustained zone pressure.

Some positive take-aways: Alex Ovechkin was buzzing around the ice all night, laying the lumber, creating opportunities and forcing the Devils to take penalties. It didn’t pay off on the score sheet, but otherwise this was a vintage Ovechkin game.

Braden Holtby had another strong game, and was one of the reasons that this team was able to keep it close. John Carlson had a strong defensive game and is starting to look more like the John Carlson we expected to see this season. The power play unit is still humming and getting great puck movement and opportunities, and they tallied twice more last night. So there’s that.


Standings Update: Caps are DFL in the NHL.

Nationals: On a brighter note, the Nats have a GM who is actually competent and it’s just a pleasure. The Nats inked Chris Young to a minor-league deal yesterday, making a great depth signing. The Nats had historic good fortune last year, with almost all of their starters staying healthy the entire season. To expect that again this season is probably unrealistic, although obviously they are independent events. In any case, having a guy like Young, who can eat-up innings and allows guys like Zach Duke, Craig Stammen and Christian Garcia to stay in their existing roles, could prove to be invaluable. A shrewd move by Mike Rizzo.

Also, if you’re interested, here is the pitching lineup for the team’s Grapefruit League opener Saturday.

Thursday: NBA Trade Deadline Day

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Washington Wizards

Geoff Burke/ USA Today Sports

The day has arrived: NBA trade deadline day. The rumors can stop after today regarding Jordan Crawford, Josh Smith, JJ Redick and countless others. To kick things off, Truth About It wrote an interesting summary of Wizards trade possibilities for today. Trouble is, I don’t think any of the deals debated are likely (as Truth About It basically admits within the piece).

We’ve covered the Josh Smith trade in depth, and now it sounds like the Wizards are “cooling” on the idea of trading for Smith anyways. If I had to guess, the Hawks probably asked for one of Nene/Wall/Beal and the Wizards said no, and that was the end of that.

The Danny Granger idea gets me excited, but I don’t understand why the Pacers would do that trade. Why trade your best player, when healthy, for spare parts? Maybe I just don’t understand the salary dimensions of NBA contracts, but that seems like grand larceny for the Wizards.

Finally, there is the Jordan Crawford for Fab Melo trade. Again, why would the Celtics do this deal? They have a litany of backup, combo-guard types (Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry). Why would they add one more to that list, and one that needs both playing time and the ball in his hand constantly?

My official prediction is that the Wizards do nothing substantive today. They’ll trade Crawford for a second-round pick, which, in Wizards lingo, means a shitty foreigner who will never make an impact in the NBA. But hey, maybe the Wizards will surprise us and do something bigger. The waiting game begins… (trying to up the suspense factor here at threetwozone. Keep the readers on the EDGE of their seats)

Capitals: Caps are at home tonight against the Devils, who come in with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. This is another opportunity for the Caps to prove themselves against a top opponent. Braden Holtby gets the start in net. Game is at 7 PM ET/ 6 PM CT

Nationals: Not much to see here. Spring training continues. Christian Garcia’s forearm tightness doesn’t exactly have me feeling peachy. I think that, as much as we’ll debate on the blog who should comprise the opening day bullpen, this situation will just work itself out organically, based on injuries and spring-training performance (say, for instance, one of our pitchers couldn’t throw a strike all spring. That MIGHT decrease his chances. Might). To review though, the candidates are:

  • Rafael Soriano- lock
  • Drew Storen- lock
  • Tyler Clippard- lock
  • Zach Duke- while he may not be the fourth-best pitcher in the ‘pen, he’s a lock because he gives the Nats the long relief option that Davey loves.
  • Craig Stammen- has an option, but was dominant for most of last year. Can pitch situationally, long relief, even start in a pinch. I think this versatility means he’s a near-lock to make the squad.
  • Ryan Mattheus- Again, this guy was so good last year, he should be on the team. Has an option remaining so can’t rule anything out
  • Bill Bray- lefty with funky delivery. Matchup-only pitcher, as far as I can tell, and pretty sure Davey is philosophically against those kind of guys. We’ll see.
  • Christian Garcia- supremely talented, the ultimate wild card in camp, as I’ve talked about previously.
  • Cole Kimball- sounds like he’s healty again, but looks bound for AAA. Encouraging sign though for the Nats, as Kimball showed great promise a couple seasons back
  • Henry Rodriguez- ???????? (that’s my expert opinion there, folks).

That’s a lot of options, and it’ll be an interesting battle all spring.