So much for carryover and extending the six-game winning streak that ended last season.
The Wizards may have fought back from a 16-point deficit to take the lead and make it close in the fourth quarter in their season opener against Cleveland – at least that was somewhat familiar. But so much else looked strange and unlike the preseason and the end of last year in the 94-84 loss to the Cavaliers that it’s hard to reconcile all that changed.
Without spending too much time on the therapist’s couch, since it’s just the first of 82 games, some quick hitters:
On the positive side….
*Trevor Ariza looked good early, confident running the floor and in his understanding of how to play with Washington. He still struggled in the paint, but so did nearly everyone in the game who wasn’t named Anderson Varejao.
*Martell Webster and Jordan Crawford sparked the fourth quarter comeback with defense and energy, closely followed in contribution by Chris Singleton. Even if Wizards coach Randy Wittman doesn’t move Webster into the starting lineup over Ariza, Crawford will continue to make him think twice. Crawford’s shot selection at times is still less than ideal – he was 0 for 6 from 3-point range – but he’s an all-court player and most of the time unselfish. If tonight’s game was any indication, Wittman has no choice but to keep his rotations fluid, and there’s an argument that it should apply to the starting five as well.
*Welcome to the Wizards, Earl Barron. He squeaked through the door onto the Wizards roster and proved his worth with eight points, eight rebounds, a block and a steal in 16 minutes. Let’s face it, though, the Wizards had no choice but to give him some run after the way Varejao manhandled everyone else in the paint.
*The Wizards were 1 for 10 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter, 8 for 32 for the game.
*Since when does Trevor Booker press? The third-year power forward had no rhythm offensively early and played his way out of the game before halftime. Part of it has to be a product of the lack of offensive options that Washington has due to injuries, but Booker can’t transform himself. He’s an energy four, and that’s the foundation from which he must build.
*The point guard situation isn’t going away. A.J. Price stood out for the wrong reasons (2 for 13 shooting) despite six assists and amazingly just one turnover. His shot selection was poor (2 for 13) and his execution lacked. Instead of singling out Jannero Pargo, a reminder: the Wizards were 8 for 32 from the arc.
*Bradley Beal will get better, but it’s pretty disappointing to finish with the worst plus-minus (-16) on the team in his NBA debut. If it’s not nervousness, it’s simply the need to be laser-like focused. Beal has to be locked in to be effective.
One other thought: Kyrie Irving (29 points) is fantastic and will vault himself from rookie of the year into all-star territory if he can keep that pace. He won’t play against the Wizards backcourt every night. Neither will Varejao, who set career highs in rebounds (23) and assists (9) to go with nine points.