January 26, 2013

Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?

The Washington Wizards played their 41st game of the season last night, a 114-101 thrashing of the Minnesota Timberwolves. With the end of the last night's game, the 2012-2013 season is officially halfway over for the Wizards. Based on my expectations at the beginning of the season, I'd have to say that I'm not thrilled with our 10-31 record which is good for second to last place in the Southeast Division, Eastern Conference and, well, the entire  NBA. The 0-12 start to the season in all likelihood killed our season. Based on the winning percentage of the Boston Celtics, who currently sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, we would need to go 29-12 in the second half of the season to qualify for the postseason. But there is hope: our record in the last nine games is 6-3, including two wins on the road and victories over three teams with winning records. It would still take a near miracle to make the playoffs though.

There have been positives in addition to the negatives. Here are ten things I get from the season so far.

1. Our Early Season Offense Was Offensive
The Wizards rank 29th (of 30) in the NBA in points scored per game at 91.5 per contest, down 2.1 points from our 93.6 point average last season. Our leading scorer is averaging only 14.9 points per game and we have had no player score 30 points in a single game. We also rank last in field goal percentage, 24th in three point percentage and 24th in free throw percentage. None of that is good. However, in the silver lining category, all those numbers are trending up and our defense is much improved. The Wizards currently rank 12th in points allowed per game at 96.8 points per game and while we may not be putting up 30 point individual games, neither are our opponents. Only three players (David West, James Harden and Kobe Bryant) have scored 30 in a single game on our team this year.

2. Thank God for Jordan Crawford
Seriously. And I never thought I'd ever write that. I always thought of JC as an undisciplined chucker who could pass but just chose not to. There's a guy behind us at VC who yells "Jack it up, Jordan!" every time he checks in. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking Nick Young territory here but Jordan has definitely never met a shot he didn't like. But this season, Jordan really carried the team in the first third of the year. When our offense was struggling (and in the first third of the year, when was our offense NOT struggling?), Jordan was the spark to at least keep us close. He's been our leading scorer most of the year, has the team high in points in a single game (27) two times, has the team's only triple double and have you seen some of the insane stuff he gets to go down? Check out the January 4 Nets game or the buzzer beater against the Trail Blazers this past Monday if you need proof. I'd put Jordan in my top three Wizards list this year so far.

3. The Okafor/Ariza for Lewis Trade May Be a Mistake
Empahsis on "may be." I realize we are only a half season with tons and tons of injuries into this trade but when it was made, it was made to go for it, to get us over the playoff hump NOW. Clearly, 41 games in, it doesn't look like we are making the playoffs this year. That means in the offseason instead of having $23 million or so come off the books for Rashard Lewis' contract, we have $22 million or so of salary cap space tied up in Emeka Okafor (the highest paid player on the team by the way) and Trevor Ariza. That's more than a third of the total cap spaced tied up in two guys who are not huge contributors (yet?). This trade still frees up money when we need it to re-sign some of our 2010 draft picks so ultimately it may make little difference in the long run and I actually think Ariza at $7.2 million is a decent contributor; he's without doubt our best one on one defender. Unfortunately, Okafor is stuck in my least favorite player status, which probably doesn't really make any difference to Emeka. I actually really like him as a person, just not as the highest paid player on the team.

4. We Can Beat Good Teams
True, we have lost to the Charlotte Bobcats twice. Considering the Bobcats' 7-5 start, that didn't look so bad. Considering the Bobcats' 3-27 record since then, it doesn't look so good. But we have wins over the top team in each conference (Miami and Oklahoma City) and we managed to beat the Denver Nuggets on the road, a place we haven't won a game in almost a decade. And the wins against those teams were not flukes, or the result of a letdown by the other team as LeBron James and Kevin Durant might have implied. They were good, team basketball wins which show we can play with anyone in the league. There were no end of game questionable calls or anything like that. There's something immensely satisfying about beating an elite team when your record suggests your team is not an elite team.

5. Rotating Point Guards Didn't Work
Training camp this year featured a point guard battle that to me originally looked like a fait accompli. Just before the start of training camp, it was announced that John Wall would miss about two months of action (it actually ended up being three months) due to a knee injury. So the team brought Jannero Pargo into training camp when we already had Wall, A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack at the point guard position. I figured we'd keep both Jannero and Shelvin (both on non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals) and then throw whichever one wasn't working out to the curb when Wall returned. Instead, we decided to keep Pargo and big man Earl Barron instead of Shelvin and then re-considered the Pargo choice after a particularly bad three point shot decision against the Dallas Mavericks in favor of Shaun Livingston, who had resurrected his career in DC but was released by the Houston Rockets just before opening day. But Shaun didn't work out this time and with the Wizards down to zero point guards after releasing Livingston and with A.J. Price injured, Mack was brought back (along with fellow D-League call up Garrett Temple) but was released shortly thereafter for a second time. Got all that? Temple stuck but while all this was going on, we clearly struggled at the one, and our record reflected that struggle.

6. Martell Webster is a Find
Martell joined the Wizards pretty much as late as you could a team before training camp at a time when the Wizards appeared to be taking applications for good players at the veteran minimum only. Somehow, Martell managed to wrangle a one year deal at more than the veteran minimum and he's proved he's worth it. Martell came with perceived baggage: back injuries and surgeries over the past few years had limited his effectiveness. Not so this year as he's settled in at the starting three spot after Trevor Ariza missed time with injuries. He's averaging 10.1 points per game, shooting 42% from three point land and 86.2% from the charity stripe. His three point and free throw shooting percentages are both career highs and he's the best on our team from the line. Martell, like Jordan Crawford, is a top three Wizard for me this year. We should have wrapped him up for a couple of seasons.

7. The 2011 Draft May Not Be So Good
Our 2011 Draft class featured two first round picks in Jan Vesely (6th overall) and Chris Singleton (18th overall) and one high second rounder in Shelvin Mack (34th overall). Due to a slew of injuries to just about everyone except those three last season, all three received heavy minutes as rookies, even without the luxury of a true training camp due to the lockout and delayed season start. Mack is no longer with the team after two stints this season. Vesely and Singleton are but they are not high production guys.

Last year, Vesely averaged 18.9 minutes per game with 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He also shot 53.7% (good) from the field and 53% (bad) from the free throw line. This year he is averaging 13.1 minutes per game with 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, so his numbers have dropped more than proportionally to his minutes. His shooting has declined too: this year he's shooting 49.4% (not good for his position) from the field and 22.2% (not good under any measurement system) from the line. Now that most all our guys are healthy, I wonder how much time Ves is going to see on the floor.

Chris Singleton, on the other hand, has gone from a guy who started 77% of our contests last year to a forgotten man, logging only 6.7 seconds of meaningful game time over the last nine games. His point production per minute and rebound production per minute are actually up over last season but the play of Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza are keeping Chris on the bench for now. Maybe a D-League assignment would do some good for Chris at this point?

8. Wall and Nenê are Difference Makers
When healthy. John Wall has played in only eight of our first 41 games and Nenê has played in just 28. The two are clearly the best two players on our team yet have only 18 starts between them (all but one are Nenê's). They are both averaging around 25 minutes per contest in the games they have played. During the eight games John has played, our scoring has jumped to 100.8 points per game; before John re-joined the team, we were averaging about 92 points per game. That's a huge jump. He's clearly speeding up the pace, making our team more effective (witness the 5-3 record when he plays) and is far better at breaking down opposing defenses than anyone else on our team. Nenê just makes the whole game easier. He can score, rebound, pass, run the offense and defend. He's the complete package. He's one of only three Wizards with a positive plus/minus this season and he's more than tripling John Wall's numbers who is in second place. During our December 26 game against Cleveland, we outscored the Cavs by 25 with Nenê on the court but managed to lose the game by three. Read this article if you want to understand more about just how good he is.

9. Bradley Beal is the Real Deal
After looking a little overwhelmed in his first month or so, Bradley is really coming on strong. What a difference a couple of months in the NBA makes when you are 19! In October/November, Bradley averaged 10.9 points per game. In December and January, he has averaged 13.4 and 16.6 points per game respectively. He's also shooting an astonishing 53.4% from beyond the three point arc in January which has raised his season average in that category to 36.1%. The Wall/Beal backcourt looks great and despite a couple of trade rumors regarding Bradley, it appears the team loves him and he's here to stay. And his game is not all about scoring. He appears to be the complete package. Any doubt? Just watch this block on Luke Ridnour from last night's game.

10. Losing the MLK Day Matinee Sucks!
On this point, I don't mean losing to another team, I mean losing the game to an entire other city due to the presidential inauguration. I know the point of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is not to hold matinee basketball games. Still, the MLK Day game is one of the highlights of the season for me. It's about friendship and basketball in addition to never forgetting that at one time not so long ago this country was inexplicably a segregated society and I miss all three of those things on that day every four years when the presidential inauguration takes place. Already looking forward to 2014.

During the 2008-2009 season, the Oklahoma City Thunder started the season 5-32 before going on a season ending 18-27 tear to finish at 23-59. The following year they went 50-32. That's my hope. On to the second half. Chicago up tonight at home.

January 24, 2013

The New Orleans Pelicans

Today, the New Orleans NBA franchise announced they are ditching the Hornets nickname that they brought with them from Charlotte, NC and are becoming the New Orleans Pelicans, starting in the 2013-2014 season. It's only the third time an NBA team has changed its nickname without relocation so it's not like this sort of stuff happens every day. The other two times a team changed only their nickname occurred in Chicago in 1962 when the Chicago Packers became the Chicago Zephyrs and in Washington in 1997 when the Washington Bullets became the Washington Wizards. The Zephyrs name lasted one year before the team relocated to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Bullets so the Zephyrs and Wizards are in fact the same team, just way removed from one another.

I know not everyone will be a fan of the new Pelicans moniker but I love it. The brown pelican is the state bird of Louisiana and the new name is therefore a great location-specific name for New Orleans. It should come as no surprise that I have strong opinions about team nicknames as I do about most everything related to the NBA. To put it quite frankly, I believe all teams should have location-specific nicknames and should change their nicknames if they relocate and the original impetus behind the name selection no longer applies.

I love the fact that a team name can reinforce the identity of a team as being from a definite place in the United States. I also find nicknames which are not tied to teams' cities to be generally unimaginative and boring. For me, the name doesn't have to work ONLY in that city but it should work in that city and maybe a handful of other cities. The Spurs nickname, for example, works well in San Antonio and would work equally well in any town associated with cowboys in the west, but it won't work in somewhere like Cleveland or Orlando. And yes, I am calling the Wizards nickname "generally unimaginative and boring," although it's no worse than the Bullets.

Admittedly, the Pelicans nickname is not the most impressive city-inspired nickname in the NBA. It doesn't compare to the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks or Denver Nuggets but it's making the required effort. Hopefully, the renaming opens the door to allow the Hornets nickname to return to Charlotte. The Hornets name was selected based on a quote from Lord Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War in which he described the city of Charlotte as a "veritable nest of hornets" due to their fierce resistance against the British. The current Charlotte Bobcats name is absolutely awful and seems to be born strictly out of vanity of the original Bobcats' original owner, Bob Johnson. Now that Johnson has bailed on that team, the team should bail on his name. I think it would be great if the Bobcats became the Hornets.

By the way, as bad as the Bobcats name is, I'm not sure it's as bad as the Raptors nickname in Toronto. What were they thinking naming their franchise after the number one grossing movie of the year? Unconscionable!

So now that the Pelicans have made this move, it would be wonderful if other NBA franchises took a cue from them and also renamed their teams. There are some franchise names that work despite relocation. The Pistons name from Fort Wayne works just as well, if not better, in Detroit and the Houston franchise couldn't have asked for a better name when the San Diego Rockets moved to town, considering Houston's association with NASA. But others just don't. The former New Orleans franchise, now in Utah, is the poster child for great nicknames moving to inappropriate places. How much Jazz is there in Utah? The Utah franchise should have given this name up decades ago. If they had, we'd have the Jazz back in New Orleans instead of the Pelicans. Now that would be a win-win for everyone.

There are three other franchises which probably need to change their names, although the Lakers should have made that decision in 1959 when they left the land of 10,000 lakes (Minnesota) and relocated to southern California. There's probably just too much history there to overturn that non-decision. And if the Utah Jazz won't rename themselves (and what's the point now?), I think the Memphis Grizzlies could take a hard look at their franchise name. The Grizzlies started out in Vancouver but relocated to Memphis following the 2000-2001 season. I know there are bears in Tennessee but not really any grizzlies. It might be time for them to consider following the Pelicans. Just as long as they don't adopt the old American Basketball Association Tams name, which tried (in vain, I believe) to promote regional support for the team by taking the first letter of Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi and jamming them together to make up a name. The tam-o-shanter logo made the name even worse. I might prefer the Raptors name. The Tams name lasted two seasons before they became the Sounds.

Despite my overwhelming approval of the renaming, there are two things I'll miss. I'll temporarily miss Hugo the Hornet, one of the best mascots in the NBA, until he reappears in Charlotte (please, please!). I'll also miss the fleur-de-bee logo (below), which has to be one of the best logos, if not the best logo, in NBA history. They can't move that one to Charlotte. In the meantime, let's go Pelicans (except when playing the Wizards)!

January 16, 2013

Wow! It's A Winning Streak!

Wizards with John Wall > Wizards without John Wall. 8-0 in his last eight games.
After winning only four games in their first 32 tries this season, the Wizards have managed to win in each of their past three tries and have their first winning streak of the season. This winning streak is legitimate. It's not like last year's season ending six game winning streak against teams resting their starters for the playoffs and the hapless Charlotte Bobcats. This streak is against good competition. OK, maybe not Monday night's win against the Orlando Magic but when you own the worst record in the league, every team is good competition from a certain point of view. The result of the last three games is the Wizards' longest in season winning streak since April of 2011. It certainly feels better than losing.

I guess I'd like to say I saw this coming but I didn't exactly. Not in these three games even though things didn't really look as bad as the win-loss record suggested. Despite having a 7-28 record, the Wizards have been competitive in most games. 19 of our 28 losses have been by single digits. Five of our 35 games went to either single or double overtime. Unfortunately, all those overtime games were losses, including a game where we led Brooklyn by eight at home in overtime with less than 90 seconds to go. This past week, John Wall finally returned to the lineup against Atlanta and Nenê had recently moved into the starting lineup. Even with all those positive signs, there was still the fact that we had just failed to finish a number of games we could have won and even though we had a full complement of players for practice for a day or two, injuries to Cartier Martin and leading scorer Jordan Crawford seemed to balance what could have been seen as a glass half full situation.

Nene > Josh Smith last Saturday night.
We had already come close to beating Atlanta a couple of times this season and had notched a win against the Orlando Magic so the notion of being able to topple one of those two teams in the current three game stretch wasn't completely implausible. But beating the defending Western Conference Champion and pretty-much-best-team-in-the-league Oklahoma City Thunder seemed very improbable. Add the news that we had only nine healthy players, two of whom were playing for the first time in several weeks, and it seemed downright hilarious that we even could remain competitive. But our guys came out strong, shared the ball and competed, just like they did against the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat the month before. And at the end of regulation, after a fortunate bounce off an ill-advised A. J. Price shot got us the ball back, Bradley Beal managed to hit the game winner with 0.3 seconds on the clock to send us home winners and make us two for two in games against last season's NBA finalists.

After the euphoria of the big win over the Thunder and a season long four whole days off, the Atlanta Hawks arrived in town for the final game of four against the Wizards (the first three all Hawks wins). Our team was buoyed by the return of franchise player John Wall in that game but how he fared in his first game back was better than I expected. John looked both sharp and rusty: he was clearly faster than most guys on the court despite an almost three month absence from game play but his jumper showed signs of getting back into the groove. We seemed to be ahead almost the entire game. The lead ebbed and flowed from about three points to nine points behind a good team effort and a domination of Hawks' star Josh Smith by Nenê. Nenê is just obviously way smarter than Smith and he killed him on the offensive and defensive ends. The result was our first double digit victory of the year. Oh, and I continued to chip away at my Wizards 15 minutes of fame with about a two second appearance on TV. Adding that appearance to my stints in Las Vegas and Indiana I think gets me up to about a minute and half.

And then Monday night the struggling Orlando Magic came to town. After a surprising start to the season following the blockbuster Dwight Howard trade, the Magic have fallen back to Earth hard. Our team jumped on the Magic early, riding a spectacular first half from Emeka Okafor (I know...who knew?) to a 19 point lead with a few minutes to go. But then the whole thing seemed to collapse. In a stunning turnover filled run, including a failed walking the dog attempt by John Wall (never seen that fail before by the way), Orlando cut the lead to six at the break. I was stunned for the entire halftime, wondering if we had blown our chance at three in a row. Turns out I didn't really have anything to worry about because we turned it on in the second half behind spectacular plays from Wall including an insane dribble misdirection that literally floored the Magic's Ish Smith and an alley oop to Bradley Beal for a vicious slam. Jan Vesely showed his best overall performance and the team rolled, winning going away by 29. We even had our first good garbage time of the year when forgotten man Chris Singleton closed out the game.

Now that was more like it! I'm thinking this is what I signed up for when I bought into owner Ted Leonsis' rebuilding plan. Now we just need to keep it up on the road, where we have managed only a single victory this year. The team left DC yesterday for what could be a brutal west coast swing, although I think there are a couple of winnable games in there.

Up tonight: the Sacramento Kings. Despite the 10 p.m. Eastern start, I think I'm staying up to watch it. Hopefully my hopes aren't too high.

January 11, 2013

David Stern And Wolf Blitzer Talk Hoops

I may look back on this week as one of the the most optimistic weeks in the 2012-2013 basketball season: the Wizards are coming off a thrilling Monday night victory against the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder and John Wall is tentatively scheduled to make his season debut on Saturday at home against the Atlanta Hawks. If the latter turns out to be true, and with Trevor Booker tweeting his return from injury earlier this week, it may be the first time all our guys are healthy enough to play. That doesn't take the sting off our current 5-28 record but it doesn't hurt either.

In between Monday and Saturday nights' games, the team has four days off, the longest layoff in the season other than the All-Star break, which I believe will feature a main event without Wizards participation again this year. While I managed to catch the Spurs-Lakers game Wednesday night, I was really looking for something to satisfy my basketball yen during the team's four days off. Fortunately, the Smithsonian stepped in and hosted a panel discussion with NBA Commissioner David Stern, CNN anchor (and Wizards fan) Wolf Blitzer and the Washington Post's Mike Wise and Michael Lee to discuss the state of the NBA.

I'd have to say when it comes to David Stern, I am not your typical NBA fan. Most fans, just like they did at the NBA Draft this past June, will boo David Stern at any chance they get. I, on the other hand, think Stern is an awesome NBA commissioner. Considering where the NBA was when he took the reins of the the league (arguably the fourth most popular sports league in the country with a drug problem image which couldn't get their finals broadcast live on television) and where it is now (the second most popular sports league in the country with a global following), I think he deserves most of the credit for the transformation that has happened these past 30 years.

However, knowing how cagey and reserved Stern can be, I expected very little of substance to emerge out of Thursday night's panel discussion. Boy, was I wrong. He was incredibly candid, shedding light on subjects in a way I wouldn't expect him to and had never heard in interviews or press conferences before. He talked about the history of the league, the growth in popularity of the game, hopes for the future and some things he'd just as soon not relive or just plain forget. He may have even let his guard down a little.

It's clear to me after Thursday night that Stern was, and probably still is deep inside, a New York Knicks fan. It was great to hear about his memories of watching the Knicks play as part of doubleheaders at the old Madison Square Garden (there have been four Madison Square Gardens; Stern's memories are of the third which was located on 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets). The Knicks in those days featured Harry "the horse" Gallatin, who was Stern's favorite player growing up. It's also clear that one of Stern's favorite people ever associated with the NBA was Red Auerbach, the legendary coach of the Boston Celtics, whom Stern relied upon for counsel about the game.

He spent most of the time appropriately talking about his tenure as NBA Commissioner. While he stopped short of naming Michael Jordan as the best ever, he gave me the impression that he believes Jordan (and not Magic Johnson or Larry Bird) was the player most responsible for popularizing the league. He talked about his veto of the New Orleans Hornets trade with the Los Angeles Lakers that temporarily netted the Lakers Chris Paul, calling that decision his alone and noting that it is probably the one decision he received the most criticism for making. He still believes that the decision was the right one to make. He also spent time discussing the globalization of the game, including the prevalence of international players in the league and possible foreign expansion of the NBA or the National Basketball Development League (NBDL). I'd heard talk of possible European expansion of the NBA before but his notion of expanding the NBDL into Latin America was new to me. I'd never heard the idea of D-League expansion south of the border before.

He then spent some time on some of the less pleasant times: Kobe Bryant being accused of rape; the brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers at the Palace of Auburn Hills; the Pacers' Stephen Jackson firing shots into the air outside a strip club in the early morning hours in Indianapolis; and the Tim Donaghy betting scandal. Donaghy was an NBA referee who admitted to betting on NBA contests for himself and others; Stern described this episode as the "absolute worst."

He also discussed the fine he levied against the San Antonio Spurs earlier this season for sending some of their star players home before a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat. The fine was controversial because it was not the first time teams decided to rest their players but it was the first time they had been fined for it. Some in the media thought Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich did it deliberately to get under Stern's skin. Stern indicated the fine was his decision and that the fine was a result of the team not notifying the league of the players' absence ahead of time. In a revealing moment though, he described the Spurs' actions as a "strategic ploy to throw a game they would have lost anyway." The Spurs, without three starters and their top reserve, lost the game by only five.

Finally, there were some funny moments. The best was when Stern wished he could invent a totally painless tattoo removal process which he could market to retired NBA players who had managed to save some of the money they made. He said he'd make a fortune. I believe he thinks the Knicks' J.R. Smith is a potential customer.

It was Stern's first appearance at a Smithsonian event in more than 25 years and I'm glad I got the chance to go hear what he had to say. Oh and one last thing...Wolf loves the Washington Wizards. I'll have to start tuning in to the Situation Room.

Thumbs up from/for David Stern!

January 5, 2013


Of all the useless Wizards related things I collect (and I do collect a lot of useless Wizards related things), my favorite thing to collect is promotional bobbleheads. This past New Year's Day I added our first round draft pick from this past June, Bradley Beal, to my collection, just before the Wizards fell to the Dallas Mavericks and a franchise worst 4-26 through 30 games. Bradley is bobblehead number 23 (if you include bobblebellys and bobblehands in that number and you count Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier as two bobbleheads) and is now sitting comfortably among the other bobbleheads and nesting dolls on the shelf in my hallway.

Kwame Brown, Gilbert Arenas and Steve Blake nesting dolls. In this case, sort of a cousin of the bobblehead.
In case it doesn't become abundantly clear in the next few paragraphs, let's get one thing out in the open: I LOVE bobbleheads. I'd say I love bobbleheads more than my friend Larry loves robots, which if you asked Larry, is saying something. I base this observation, by the way, on the fact that when I go to Larry's I see no robots, but when I come home, I see a lot of bobbleheads.

I remember the first time I ever saw a bobblehead. It was shortly after we moved to this country and settled in Connecticut at my friend Greg Taxin's house back in my hometown. Greg's family were transplants from Los Angeles and I remember Greg had an L.A. Dodgers bobblehead. I'd never seen anything like it; we just didn't have anything like bobbleheads in England. It was one of those uniquely American items that fascinated me after I first moved to the U.S. Little did I know at that time, but bobbleheads had sort of come into the mainstream of American culture through Major League Baseball in the 1960s and early 1970s but they were totally off the coolness map by the time we arrived here in 1979. But from that first Dodgers bobblehead, I knew I had to have one someday. I've definitely completed that goal.

The 2004-2005 team's starting lineup. How did our best team in the last 12 and a half years have Jared Jeffries starting at the 3? The Gilbert Arenas bobblehead still talks. And in case you are wondering, iPad face detection does pick up the faces of bobbleheads.
The first bobblehead I ever owned was a bobblehead of Pete Slosberg, who was the co-founder and namesake of Pete's Wicked Ale. I saw it either in a catalog or more likely on the bottom of a six pack holder and just had to have one. That bobblehead actually has a plaster head. It took me about four tries to get one shipped from the manufacturer to my apartment in Cooperstown before I got one with an intact noggin. I still have that bobblehead somewhere at home but it doesn't sit in my Wizards bobblehead collection, which has become sort of a mini-obsession. I will not miss bobblehead giveaways at Verizon Center. I believe I have every Wizards bobblehead given away by the team since the 2002-2003 season with the exception of Jerry Stackhouse, which I did own at one point. When Stack shut himself down in the 2003-2004 season I got so disgusted with his lack of commitment to the team that I pitched that one. My standards have relaxed since then; I still have my Andray Blatche bobblehead even after his pathetic display last season.

In case my love of bobbleheads seems extremely unusual, let me point out I'm not alone in being extremely unusual. Dan Grunfeld wrote an excellent article last year about his grown-man love of bobbleheads. Dan is a former Stanford basketball player who has player professionally in Europe and Israel. Just like me, he is drawn to the shoddy promotional bobbleheads given away at basketball games which sometimes look nothing like the players they are supposed to be. If you read the article, note that Dan has many of the same bobbleheads I have in my collection, probably gifts from his dad Ernie Grunfeld, who is the Wizards' general manager. I'm sure Dan didn't earn all his Wizards bobbleheads by showing up early to games, of which half or more were likely miserable losses. Yes, I'm a little resentful here. I suffered for some of these bobbleheads.

This is the worst starting five I could assemble with my bobbleheads: Juan Dixon and Mike Miller in the backcourt; Jarvis Hayes and Andray Blatche at forward; and former number one overall pick Kwame Brown at center. Blatche's bobblehead is the most lifelike I have. At least Dray got something right in his time in DC.
I like my bobblehead collection because it reminds me of some of the players who have gone through our organization and have contributed to past successful seasons in the event I can't really remember back that far. They are also really cool pieces of Americana so even though they do absolutely nothing other than sit on a shelf, they make me happy in their own small way. There are some great players in bobblehead form on my shelf: Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler all made multiple all-star appearances while in Wizards uniforms and Wes Unseld and Earl Monroe have had their numbers retired by the franchise. I also have our current television announcers, Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier, as well as our mascot, G Wiz, who is arguably the best mascot in the NBA.

But despite having franchise legends in bobble form, my favorite bobble in my collection is actually the bobblehand of DeShawn Stevenson. That's right: bobbleHAND. The team created this essential piece of Wizards memorabilia because DeShawn used to wave his hand in front of his face in a "I can't feel my face" motion when he hit big shots. Over the years, DeShawn provided Wizards fans with some of our best moments in our on and off court rivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. For his unwavering commitment to hating that rival, I will love D-Steve forever. I was actually offered $100 for this bobble right after the game they were given away, a vicious beatdown of the Cavaliers in the 2009-2010 season. I declined the offer which I considered a joke and would have even if I thought it was a serious offer. No way would I part with this one.

23 and counting. I'm hoping for a set of five Wizards bobbleheads to add to my collection later this season.

DeShawn Stevenson: I can't feel my faaaaaaace!