Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Seeing It For Yourself

We’ve got every statistic we could possibly want at our fingertips, and thank the lord for that. We can get play-by-play updates of every game, as it happens, on the computer. We’ve got it all. But sometimes, it’s nice to be able to see things for yourself. There are some things the box scores don’t pick up that can help you out. So here are some observations from last night’s Wizards-Nets game.

Vince Carter looks good, but not great. There was a lot to like from his performance last night, sort of obvious considering he hit 15 of 23 shots en route to 31 points. He had back-to-back alley-oops from Jason Kidd, and didn’t always settle for jump shots, as he took the ball to the rim on a few occasions (as well he should, considering the sorry state of the Wizards interior game). But there’s still reason to be concerned. On one play during the second quarter, Carter hustled back on defense to try and block a layup attempt by Brendan Haywood. The two former Tar Heels went down, and Carter stayed down for a minute before getting up and staying the game. He was obviously fine, but Carter has a knack of taking falls and getting up slowly. And you just know that one of those times he won’t get up at all. He is definitely the Ken Griffey, Jr. of the NBA now – capable of performing at about 75-80% of his old self, but a risk to go down at any time.

Jason Kidd’s shot was back, at least for one night. In fact, it was much better than it usually is, as he was hitting jump shots left and right. He’s certainly not at full speed yet; he was still playing with very obvious caution. But you can tell he’s already starting to develop a serious rapport with Carter, and he should be back to being a top-5 PG within a couple of weeks. Would I rather have him or Baron Davis from here on out? Interesting question. Perhaps because I’ve been screwed so repeatedly by Baron, I’d be inclined to go with Kidd. The Nets will stay in the playoff hunt in the East, so Kidd will have no reason to shut it down. A 15-game winning streak would get the Hornets up to next-to-last in the West, so he’s got much more reason to shut it down if (when) his next injury occurs.

Richard Jefferson was basically invisible last night. This is what RJ owners feared would happen with Vince in town. Kidd and Carter were obviously the first options on offense, and even Nenad Krstic had more plays that called his number than RJ did. Let’s take a quick look at RJ’s numbers in the five games with Carter: 18.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, .6 steals, 1 block, 1 3, 33% FG. Not bad, but that 33% from the field is brutal, and is also surprising. Everyone knew that his usually excellent FG% would take a hit this year, especially at the beginning of the season without Kidd and K-Mart. He’s at 43% on the season, which is about right all things considered, although owners probably wish it was closer to 45%. He’s probably just in a slump now, and his FG% should get back to the mid-40s, but his days of averaging 23 ppg are very likely over.

The Nets have NOTHING besides those three guys. Well, next to nothing. In the first few minutes Nenad Krstic seemed to have it going, but he disappeared after that. On one hand it’s disappointing because the Wizards have no inside presence, so he should have been able to do some damage, but with both teams using smaller lineups, he was only on the court for 31 minutes, after seeing 40 or more in 3 of the last four games. For a 7-foot foreigner he’s not all that awkward. But hopefully you aren’t counting on him for more than bench upside at this point. Other than that, the Nets are a mess: Travis Best, Jacque Vaughn, Jason Collins, Jabari Smith and Rodney Buford. Yikes.

Larry Hughes is slowly creeping into Antoine Walker territory. Now they play different positions, so it’s not the best comparison, but they are guys that love to get in the box score as much as possible. We’ve pointed out on multiple occasions that Hughes is a free agent, and you can certainly tell, as he knows every steal he gets is worth another $1,000 or so. He gets plenty of assists, but he is almost always looking to score. The 12 for 22 was great last night, and his shot has been falling lately, getting his FG% up to 43.5%, but the 41% career shooter will end up around that number.

Jarvis Hayes had his shot working last night. I’m a Jarvis fan. The Wizards certainly have their Big 3 that will do the bulk of their scoring, but when it gets to the end of the game and a shot has to be made, I want Jarvis coming off a screen and taking that shot, as he is clearly the best jump shooter on this team. (Actually, it might be Anthony Peeler, but he rarely gets off the bench for some reason.) Jarvis will continue coming off the bench, and even if he got into the starting lineup he probably wouldn’t have much value, but if Hughes bolts in free agency after the season, Hayes could be a very key part of the Wizards offense next year.

Brendan Haywood is just not a good basketball player. It’s true. He tries hard, and he certainly has his moments. But nothing comes naturally to him, and this being his fourth year, I doubt it will get too much better. He had that nice November where he went for 10.7 and 8.2 with 2.4 blocks, but that went down to 9.2 and 6.6 with 1.8 blocks in December. He’s not a horrible guy to have on a team, as he can give you about 20-25 minutes of decent play, but he just doesn’t know enough to be that good.

Antawn Jamison is slumping, but he’ll pick it back up. In a Dec. 4 game against the Bulls, Jamison got elbowed in the face and had to receive a couple of stitches, and just 11 days later against the Heat he had a collision with Udonis Haslem that resulted in five more stitches. Nothing major, but enough to see him dip from 23.6 and 9.4 in November to 19.1 and 7.9 in November. His track record is proven, though, and he should settle in at about 22 and 9 from here on out.


Blogger Rambuncle said...

Ben, are you going to sit back and let him say bad things about Mr. Haywood? He's gonna turn it around.

6:42 PM  

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