JaVale McGee's departure from Washington at the trade deadline was a tacit admission that he never quite grew into what the Wizards thought he would when Brendan Haywood was dealt away two years ago. But the vacuum he left behind has come at a perfect time for Kevin Seraphin.
It was supposed to have been a blip when the second-year reserve center had a dominating performance in an upset win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Mar. 7. Instead, he has been the perfect complement next to Nene as part of Washington's transformed front line. In the last 10 games Seraphin has averaged 10.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in nearly 27 minutes per game, double the minutes he had been playing before the trade of both McGee and Ronny Turiaf.
"Watching the team throw the ball in to Kevin Seraphin or Nene and allowing them to work down low was a refreshing sight to see," Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said on his blog, Ted's Take, after his team systematically dismantled Philadelphia 97-76 on Friday night.
|Wizards at Raptors|
|When » Sunday, 6 p.m.|
|Where » Air Canada Centre,|
|TV » CSN|
It was exactly what the Wizards had in mind when they acquired Nene a little more than two weeks ago. Instead of occasional freakish athletic moments and frequent confounding stretches from McGee, Washington has welcomed every unselfish, intelligent and tough play it has gotten from the veteran Brazilian.
But there also has been hardly any drop-off when Nene goes to the bench. Against the Sixers, Seraphin was sharp from the outset. He hit a running hook shot. He didn't hesitate to knock down a turnaround 11-footer. He fiercely dunked over two 76ers in the lane on an inside feed from Shelvin Mack.
A year ago, the 22-year-old from French Guyana would have spent half the game trying to figure out where he needed to be on the floor and the other half looking toward the bench uncertainly to find out whether he was. Now the bench looks to give him high fives when he comes out of the game.
Deprived of summer league when he was drafted in 2010 because of a knee injury, Seraphin credits his growth in confidence to the lack of an offseason. While the NBA was locked out, Seraphin worked out in Washington, joined up with the French national team and played for Caja Laboral in Spain, a team led by notoriously tough coach Dusko Ivanovic.
"That helped because the way he teach me, I had to read the game," Seraphin said. "That wasn't only on the physical. It was about (points at head)."
That poise now exudes in his every move from the moment he begins his pregame warmup at Verizon Center. In games it has resulted in the emergence of a reliable pick-and-roll defense, which had been the Wizards' Achilles' heel.
"We got exploited," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "Since the trade, which then cultivated Kevin more into playing time, we've solidified that."
Washington has held eight straight opponents under 100 points for the first time since 2003. With Nene and Trevor Booker both hampered by pulled fascia ligaments in their left feet, Seraphin's presence will be crucial to extending that streak to nine games, which would match the third longest in franchise history.