Wittman on Wizards: 'I gotta find 5 that can play'
Hours after losing their seventh straight game and falling to an NBA-worst 3-22 record, the Wizards announced the release of guard Shaun Livingston and center Earl Barron.
As a standalone scenario, the transactions are not monumental. More on the players in a second, but Barron has been largely a backbencher -- though the fact he started just started on Wednesday says a lot about the team's lineup situation - and Livingston's contribution and minutes have been limited despite being the only healthy point guard on the roster.
The intrigue lies in what comes next. Two players waived, but none signed, leaving the roster at 13. Don't forget of that 13, John Wall, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker and A.J. Price are injured with only Ariza potentially back in the coming days. That leaves nine active bodies, an unsustainable number.
So, now what. Adding bodies from the D-League is certainly an option. So is opening up roster space to take on players in a trade.
Let us start with the basics. The roster as it stands has two actual guards in Jordan Crawford and Bradley Beal. That's it, that's the list - and neither of those two are natural floor leaders. Cartier Martin and Martell Webster can swing down into the backcourt as needed. Nene, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely are the remaining forwards with Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin at center.
Even before this moment, the team needed another point guard, especially when Price fractured his right hand two weeks ago and even more so now that the roster doesn't actually have a healthy one. Regardless of what comes next, a point guard is coming to town (for those thinking maybe this is a signal Wall is close to a return from his left patella injury, before Saturday's loss to Detroit Wizards coach Randy Wittman said the third-year guard is progressing, but is currently only working with the training staff. Wall has yet to practice with the team since receiving the last of three Synvisc injections on Nov. 14.).
Let's now move to the least sexy of the transaction options, the free agent signing. Following Price's injury, the Wizards worked out a pair of veteran point guards including Ben Uzoh out of the NBA's Developmental League, but passed on both. According to the D-League's own website, the 24-year-old Uzoh now ranks as the No. 2 prospect in the league. The 6-foot-3 guard -- Uzoh plays for Springfield after starring collegiately at Tulsa - is averaging 15.8 points and 5.3 assists.
Former Wizards guard Shelvin Mack* ranks fifth on the D-League list, but the Wizards passed on brining back the 2011 second-round pick once before. Other notable D-League prospects include former Georgetown guard Chris Wright, ex-Hoya center Henry Sims and former Pistons point guard Walker Russell.
[Sunday AM update - *Yahoo! Sports is reporting that in fact the Wizards will callup Mack. I checked with a league source who could not confirm the move, but said nothing likely to happen until Monday.]
Finally, let's talk trade. The obvious name folks will mention in this realm, DeMarcus Cousins. Wall's former college teammate at Kentucky was suspended by Sacramento “indefinitely for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team.” The suspension, Cousins' third this season, followed a verbal altercation with Kings coach Keith Smart and subsequent in-game benching.
There is no denying the 6-foot-11, 275-pounder is extremely talented, but also rather volatile. After averaging 18.1 points and 11 rebounds last season. the 22-year-old has regressed in his third season while his baggage has grown. Again, plenty of upside exists, but the Wizards just moved on from a trio of immature players. Jumping back into that pool so quickly is undoubtedly a risk. So is staying pat at 3-22.
Other names consistently mentioned in trade rumors include Pau Gasol, Amar'e Stoudamire, Andrea Bargnani and Al Jefferson, but none of those big men seem likely to land in Chinatown. In addition, none helps the point guard position directly. Same is true of Cousins, though larger trades involving multiple players on both sides could be worked out. Outside of Wall, Beal and realistically Nene, hard to imagine any player on the Wizards roster not being available if needed.
Originally signed as a free agent on November 15, Livingston averaged 3.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 17 games including four starts. He scored two points and had three assists in 12 minutes against the Pistons on Saturday, a game Barron never saw action in.
The 7-foot journeyman made the roster out of training camp and averaged 2.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11 games. Barron grabbed 14 rebounds off the bench against Atlanta on Dec. 18, which led to his first start of the season the following night. He had two points and five rebounds against Orlando and then played 10 minutes at Detroit. In those three games with Washington, Barron shot 3 of 18.
The Wizards are expected to practice on Christmas Day with their next game coming Dec. 26 against Cleveland. Unless the plan is going forward with an iron man, heavy minutes scenario for the active players (it isn't), then whatever is going to happen will happen by then.