Second gear in second year for Wizards?

Second gear in second year for Wizards?
February 28, 2012, 12:26 am
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It could be argued that the Wizards JaVale McGee should have won the slam dunk contest at the 2011 All-Star Game over the Clippers Blake Griffin. McGee was not a part of this years event, but John Wall used the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday to wow the crowd with his own dunk-fest.

With 33 games left in the season, there are more important things for the Wizards to consider than All-Star fun. The goal for the Wizards is to have players that are a part of the main event at All-Star Weekend. When that happens, it will be a sign that the Wizards have matured into a competitive basketball team.

We need to have our second-year players show progress, and they have, Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "It is a part of the process that is essential. The toughest part is to have patience to see the process through.

Beyond the glitz and glitter of the All-Star Weekend in Orlando, Wall is showing progress. Whether it was the lockout-challenged off-season or the shortened training camp, Walls season did not start well. He struggled through the first 13 games, and in a 120-89 loss Jan. 13 in Philadelphia, he had as many turnovers, five, as he did assists.

Since that loss in Philadelphia, Wall has been remarkably consistent over the 20 games that led to the All-Star break. Only twice did Wall not reach double figures scoring during the stretch, and in one of those games, a loss in Orlando, Wall still recorded 10 assists on a strange night when he did not get to the free-throw line.

Developing drafted talent is a key component in the Wizards rebuilding plan. In that sense, Wall heads a sophomore class that has made strides. At forward, Trevor Booker is now a fixture in the starting lineup, and over the last seven games has averaged close to eight rebounds per game.

Jordan Crawford averaged 24 points over the final three games before the break and is playing his best basketball overall. Crawford is not short on confidence, and he will take bad shots. The key for Crawford is to limit the bad shots in both number and time of game.

Center Kevin Seraphin is also in his second year. With Ronny Turiaf injured, Seraphin has received more playing time, but has been inconsistent. Seraphin is 22 years old and has good understanding of pick-and-roll defense, something the Wizards struggle with. Turiaf is due to return from a hand injury, and Seraphin will have to fight to get his minutes.

The Wizards have three rookies who are getting significant minutes. Forward Chris Singleton is part of the starting lineup and, as expected, has been strong on defense. Singleton has demonstrated an ability to make outside shots, but probably needs to look to attack the basket more often.

Shelvin Mack has been solid as a backup to Wall and is careful with the basketball. In 31 games, Mack has only 20 turnovers.

As the highest draft pick of the rookies, there is pressure on Jan Vesely. To start the season, Vesely was bothered by a hip injury, and in the first week of the season was slowed by a bout with the flu. In 26 games, including five starts, Veselys numbers are modest at 2.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

He does a lot of little things, Grunfeld said. He helps out defensively, makes the extra pass and sets good screens. He makes a lot of hustle plays, but he has a lot of things he has to work on. His strength has to improve, and he is just getting used to the NBA game. For that matter, he is just getting used to English.