3 PTs: Nats Rolling, RGIII Debut, and Dwightmare Over
1. The Nationals are the best team in baseball and have won 6-straight.
They continue to find ways to win even with Bryce Harper in a major league slump, spotty bullpen performances, and no Ian Desmond.
The other day I asked our ESPN 980 Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman who the Nationals MVP was this season. I had him stumped until he said well maybe it is Ryan Zimmerman since the cortisone shot in the shoulder.
There really is no right answer because so many Nationals position players have either missed time with injury or had some big struggles this season. You could name one of the starting pitchers but they only work every 5 days.
The point is there is no one player it has been a total team effort this season by these Nationals. Davey Johnson has pushed all the right buttons and of course Mike Rizzo has given him the pieces to be a success.
Rizzo picked up two important pieces after the non-waiver deadline with the additions of Catcher Kurt Suzuki and middle infielder Cesar Izturis. The biggest thing Rizzo did to set up the Nats for success was the deals he did not make.
He did not bite on the big priced free agent Prince Fielder instead opting to stick with Adam LaRoche, who his having a strong year at the plate and in the field too. Rizzo also deserves credit for keeping Roger Bernandina around too.
The Nationals still have a long way to go before we get to October, but there is no denying has been a fun ride to this point and fans should enjoy continue to enjoy it.
2. Shortly after the Redskin’s moved up to acquire RG III and he became the most famous Redskin never to play a game, I came up with a saying about the future franchise quarterback “he better not suck.”
He certainly did not in preseason game number one. Not only that he lived up to the hype in limited time on the field with a 4-6, 70 yards and a touchdown performance in the Skin’s 7-6 win at Buffalo.
It was reassuring for Redskin fans to see their quarterback look under control albeit in a small sample size. Most importantly he never took a hit.
The offensive line was not awful and certainly the rookie quarterback’s quick release made their job easier. It also looks like Pierre Garcon is more than ready to be the #1 guy and already has chemistry with RGIII.
On the other side of the ball the Redskins defense showed off their defensive line and linebacker depth against the Bills. Again it is just preseason I totally get that but some encouraging things.
There will be bigger challenges ahead for RGIII and the offense, but for starters give the Redskins coaching staff credit for having him ready for his first outing.
3. This summer’s drama in Orlando is finally over. Dwight Howard is headed to the Lakers. The “Dwightmare” is officially over.
The deal is another case of the Rich getting Richer in the NBA. The Lakers are now stacked with Kobe, Nash, Gasol, Artest, and Howard, plus veteran Antwan Jamison coming off the bench.
Are they good enough to take down the young Oklahoma City Thunder? They certainly closed the gap thanks to this four team deal that does not seem to benefit the Orlando Magic at all.
The 76ers came out better with Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, the Denver Nuggets with Andre Iguodala, and the Magic get… well not much. In the end they got a bunch of protected first round picks and Arron Affalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, and rookie Moe Harkless from the 76ers.
This is hardly a blockbuster deal for the Magic despite trading the franchise player in the 4-team deal, which ultimately could be good news for the Wizards in the Southeast Division.
The biggest winner in this “Dwightmare” could be Lebron James. He no longer wears the black hat. Certainly part of that is the NBA Championship that he led the Heat too.
However, much of his public redemption has been this round the clock Dwight news and fair or not much of it is perceived to be on Howard.
The good news for Howard is he can redeem himself just like Lebron all it takes is an NBA title. The best deodorant in sports is winning now Howard has to help Kobe get it done.
3 PTs: A Title for a King, Wizards Dealing, and Wiz Draft Decision
1. Lebron James is no longer the best player to not win a Championship.
Lebron and the Heat took out the OKC Thunder and DC Native Kevin Durant in 5 games. James was dominant the entire series and rightfully named the series MVP.
He did get plenty of support from Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Plus role players like Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, and Mike Miller well at least in Game 5.
President Pat Riley and Head Coach Eric Spoelstra can now breathe a little easy and not deal with an off-season of being second guessed. Riley won't have to hear about his flawed roster and Spoelstra about his inability to coach the league’s MVP to a title.
However, the most vindicated in all of this is Lebron obviously. He no longer has to hear the heckles of a King with no Championship crown. Whether you like Lebron or not you have to give him his due. He showed up BIG on the NBA's biggest stage. He had a triple double in the closeout game.
Now if you know a Cleveland it is probably better to give them some space. This can not be easy for them. I don't blame them for "Hating" on Lebron still. It has not been enough time yet for them to let it go. Come to think of it there may never be enough time for those fans.
The tough thing for Cleveland and for anyone else in the NBA for that matter is Lebron still has many more years of winning in him. Unless he suddenly decides to play minor league baseball this may be just the 1st, of not one, not two, not three, not four....ok you get the point.
As for the Thunder they should be good for years to come. Kevin Durant certainly has some things to work on and he's now had a taste of it. He along with Russell Westbrook will be great for years to come. They will learn from this and perhaps be back battling the Heat next season for the title.
So sorry Lebron Haters you might have to get used to seeing James
2. Wizards dealt Rashard Lewis and the 46th overall pick to the New Orleans Hornets for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.
The deal is surprising because it was assumed the team would buyout Lewis at $13.7(M) and keep some cap space. The problem with cap space and being a bad team is you are shopping with "confederate money."
Here's what bad teams get with cap space...bad players or stuck. Sure they Wizards would have had more flexibility in trades, but until the team gets better no star free agents are coming to DC.
So what are the Wizards getting besides two contracts that run through 2014? Well if healthy Okafor is a solid post defender and good rebounder, which is needed because Nene is not.
Ariza is also a good defender and athletic perimeter player. He was playing pickup basketball the day before the deal in LA with John Wall. Both Okafor and Ariza bring a professional approach to the court and in the locker room.
John Wall was on "Inside the Locker Room" right before the draft lottery and mentioned several times he would like to see the Wizards sign some veterans to the roster. Well Wall got his wish. Hopefully he will bring an improved jumper to the court this upcoming season. He can't afford just to play fast.
The Wizards are in "The Wall Window" the next two years, they need to make the franchise better or Wall could opt to walk instead of signing long term. Over the next two seasons they have to show the franchise player they are headed in the right direction.
Wall also can't just be good, he needs to be great. He could be the biggest attraction to free agents. Other young players on the roster like Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, Jan Vesley, Jordan Crawford, and Chris Singleton, all need to show serious improvement this off-season.
The front office also needs to continue to look for the right opportunities to upgrade the roster. Next order of business is to make the draft count.
3. The Wizards can not afford to ignore their greatest need with the 3rd overall pick at the NBA Draft.
They must take a shooter with the third overall pick. The worst kept secret in the draft is the New Orleans Hornets will take Kentucky's PF Anthony Davis with the number pick.
What the Charlotte Bobcats will do with the second pick is a mystery. They could go with Kansas PF and DC Native Thomas Robinson, North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, or Kentucky's Michael Kidd Gilchrist.
It is hard to get a read on the Bobcats especially after Michael Jordan's out of left field hire of Mike Dunlap as coach. The need pick would be Thomas Robinson, the upside pick would be Michael Kidd Gilchrist, I would bet on Harrison Barnes.
Not just because of MJ's UNC connections, but Barnes is a safe pick and the Bobcats are in dire need for someone or something to move the needle with the fan base.
As I stated in this space last week I really like Kansas PF Thomas Robinson (DC Native). He no longer seems to be a fit for the Wizards at #3 after trading for Power Forward Emeka Okafor.
Harrison Barnes (if available) and Michael Kidd Gilchrist also seem to no longer fit because of the addition of Trevor Ariza. The Wizards are still desperately lacking shooters, which seems to make Bradley Beal the perfect fit.
Beal not only can knock shots down, he can rebound, defend, and has a high basketball IQ. One Front Office Executive from a Western Conference team told me that Beal is "not just a good kid, he's a great kid."
Draft night will be Beal's 19th birthday and the Wizards taking him third overall would make a memorable gift. The Wizards just need to make sure whoever the pick is at #3 is memorable for all the right reasons.
3 Pts: Wizards Could Go Big at 3, Bryce an All-Star and Reality TV at its Best
June 15, 2012 | By Scott Jackson
1. The Wizards are in dire need of shooters on their roster. However, that does not mean they should sleep on DC Native Thomas Robinson from Kansas.
The Wizards had the second worst record in the NBA. That means they have needs everywhere. Also, they were among the worst rebounding teams in the NBA.
Robinson has a high motor and possesses the athleticism and power to be an effective power forward in the NBA. He averaged 17 pts a game and just under 12rbs for Kansas this season.
Robinson does not fit the profile of a bust. He believes he is the best player in the draft. He has work ethic, maturity, and high character. So in other words he won’t flame out like so many other knuckleheads have here in the past.
His grandfather, grandmother, and mother all died his sophomore season within a 25-day period. Robinson left school early for financial stability to support him and his 7-year old sister Jayla, who is already in DC living with her father.
Robinson grew up idolizing Wizards like Michael Jordan and Gilbert Arenas. Being selected by the Wizards would be a dream come true for Robinson and he would likely not disappoint them.
2. Nationals Rookie Bryce Harper is making a compelling case to be on the NL All-Star Roster. He is also on one of the best teams in baseball and arguably their best offensive player right now.
However, he currently does not qualify for the minimum at bats rank statistically. By the time the All-Star comes around he will though.
Harper heading into the Yankees series this weekend is hitting .303 with a .384 on base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage. He has also set the standard for hustle in Major League baseball.
The Nationals will surely have Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and perhaps Adam LaRoche. Also, keep in mind each team must have a representative. So that could work against Harper on the roster.
The game of course does have meaning (home field in the World Series), which is ridiculous. That is a topic for another day. Manager Tony LaRussa though could use a player with Harper’s ability to make things happen on the base paths.
Whether it happens this year or next it is just a matter of time before Harper is a regular at the mid-summers classic.
3. I hate Reality TV. I don’t care what the Kardashians are doing or the House Wives of Beverly Hills, or the Bachelor.
I will admit that I watch the #1 Sports Reality TV show the Miami Heat. They have more self inflicted drama than any pro sports franchise outside of the NY Jets.
They put the target on their chests the day after “The Decision” with their WWE stay pep rally where Lebron predicted up to 7 Championships. There is no grey area with the Heat, you love them or you hate them. I hate!
I do respect them though. They seem to flourish under the largest of microscopes and they are hardly a “perfect team.” However, you have to give Lebron and company credit for their resiliency for tying the series at 1.
OKC led by DC Native Kevin Durant is the polar opposite of the Heat. They have drafted their way atop the Western Conference. Durant is also the guy who tweeted out nonchalantly he signed an extension to stay in OKC the day before “ESPN’S The Decision.”
The two games have been great competition and great theatre. The league’s two biggest stars Lebron and KD have not disappointed with their play. I still like the Thunder despite their uninspired start in the Game 2 loss.
OKC is the deeper team and more balanced team. Usually at this stage of the season the stars cancel each other out and the role player’s end up deciding who wins the series. However, unlike the other “Reality TV” Shows this one doesn’t have a script. Unless of course you are one of those NBA Conspiracy theorists.
You can follow Scott Jackson on twitter @JacksonSports and listen M-F to "Inside the Locker Room" from 2-4pm on ESPN 980