Wizards' moves minor, but symbolically on point

Wizards' moves minor, but symbolically on point
December 25, 2012, 1:00 pm
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The calendar reads Christmas Day, but it's another practice day for the Washington Wizards with the 3-22 squad's next game during this lump of coal season coming Wednesday against Cleveland.

Today is also the day the Wizards unveil their latest backcourt addition with the return of Shelvin Mack. Comcast SportsNet's Chris Miller is also reporting the team will also add another former NBA point guard in Garrett Temple. The former LSU guard's Twitter account pretty much confirms the move.

(Updated, 6:12 p.m. - The Wizards made both signings official early this evening before practice ended)

Will these new pieces help end the Wizards' current seven-game losing streak? Maybe. Will the new ball handlers help pep up the NBA's lowest scoring offense? Eh, couldn't hurt to try. Will they transform this franchise into a winning program? The Magic 8-ball says unlikely.

Still, there is little reason to dismiss the transactions or at least what they represent. Sure, adding a pair of D-League guards including one the team deemed not ready for significant minutes at point guard just two months ago is hardly a sexy move. Of course, the Wizards have many roster problems - and those problems will remain until John Wall and the other injured Wizards return, until Nene can play without limits, until confidence can be restored.

However, adding actual point guards or at least willing passers needed to be done. Since A.J. Price suffered a fractured hand four minutes into the Wizards Dec. 8 home loss against Golden State, the offense been increasingly erratic. Starting with the Golden State loss, Washington has dropped eight of nine including the last seven. That's actually in line with the rest of the season. The following stats, less so...

* The NBA's lowest scoring team averaged 85.5 points in those nine games, even worse than its season-average of 88.8.

* The Wizards scored fewer than 80 points on three separate occasions including the stunning season-low 68 at Detroit on Friday. During the opening 16 games, Washington scored under 80 points twice.

* Though Jordan Crawford posted some prodigious individual games totals at times, four of the team's seven lowest assist totals came over the last two weeks.

Let's also be clear that while decent, nobody is confusing Price with Wall or other high-end point guards. He's just better than what's been left behind. Sure Crawford's had his moments, including a triple-double along the way. Even the most optimistic of analysts have surely realized by now that the volume shooter and the rare Wizard able to generate his own offense is not ideally suited to do the same for his teammates

Sandwiched around his triple-double (with only one turnover) against Atlanta on Dec. 18, Crawford committed six turnovers against Miami and seven versus Orlando. Not only are both turnover totals Crawford's most this season, but the most by the third-year guard in any game since his rookie season.

Shaun Livingston has those pass-first, value-possession gifts, but showed little else during his short stay in Washington. Despite Livingston being the only point guard on the roster since Price went down, Wittman stuck with Crawford at that point. That portion of the plan is unsustainable.

After Crawford's triple-double, Wittman said, "Jordan's going to always keep fighting. He might not always take the best shots. I might scratch my head and look to the ceiling sometimes, but I do know he's going to compete. That's who he is." There is praise for effort in that quote, but also some knocks by the coach - and after a big statistical performance.

Mack posted strong numbers in the D-League and is familiar with Wittman's schemes, but is still learning the point guard ropes himself. The 26-year-old Temple's vagabond resume includes six stops with five NBA teams since the 2009-10 season. Again, we are not looking at saviors, but likely only placeholders. We can also assume that by bringing in two point guards, Wall won't be making a miracle return before year's end.

However, with those two on the roster, Crawford can move back off the ball, where he belongs. There is a better chance that offensive flow sticks around for more than just brief interludes and isn't solely dependent on hot shooting streaks. In a season that is becoming increasingly lost by the game, keeping Bradley Beal, the other youngsters and even the surely frustrated veterans in their desired roles, their ideal spots on the court is now what matters.

We'll see if Mack and Temple are the answers, even short-term, but there is symbolism within the manuever beyond the appearance of shuffling deck chairs. Everyone wants the big move, the bombshell transaction or announcement. Until Wall returns or his injury situation becomes clearer, not sure that is the wise move on or off the court. More to the point, unless an incredibly obvious situation presents itself or we're talking salary dumping, little else can be done for the team's long-term benefit, for now, outside of helping the current players. There is a difference between doing little and doing nothing. In the grand scheme of the Wizards' troubles, these specific additions are minor, but necessary.