Embracing the AirWolf: Giving Credit Early and Often
Courtesy of John McDonnell / Washington Post
Often times, when good things happen, discovering the source or reasoning isn’t necessarily atop the priority list. For example, if you found a lotto ticket on the ground and found out it was a winner, the last thing to cross your mind would be how and why it made its way to the ground.
In a time when the Washington Wizards are by far one of the worst basketball teams in the NBA this season, perhaps fans have the same sort of feeling about rookie forward Jan Vesely. Although we should encourage the baby steps that Vesely is taking as a pro, we couldn’t care less about how they came about or how quickly their improving.
Since the team fired Flip Saunders as head coach and promoted assistant Randy Wittman to head the asylum, Vesely has started in three of the last four games. And this much should be expected–especially after Wittman noted that the guys who show the most dedication in practice will be repaid with quality minutes during real game action.
The Wizards are 1-2 with Vesely in the starting lineup and the team’s most recent win over the Charlotte Bobcats pulled Washington out of the cellar and within 13 games of the Eastern Conference lead. Yes, seriously.
Do I expect the Wizards to make a run at the East? Of course not. But I do have a feeling that the Eastern Conference is so bad that the final two seeds to make the playoffs could very easily have losing records. So let’s call that a miniscule chance of something.
My argument that the Wizards are better off with the 6’11 Czech swingman in the starting lineup is a hard one to support. Unless you’re an avid fan and have somehow managed to get through an entire Wizards game this season, the box score isn’t going to work as the slightest bit of convincing.
In his three starts this year, Vesely is averaging three points per game, a little over four rebounds and two assists. Not to mention–albeit on limited shot attempts–the kid’s only hitting 30 percent from the field.
Which is why I found it somewhat necessary–in some weird fandom kind of way–that I posted something that acknowledged the play of the Airwolf (which is the nickname given by my well-respected partner in crime, Gheorge). I know it may not show up on the stat sheet, I understand that the young man has a long way to go, but I can’t help but notice the potential.
Vesely shows some impressive basketball knowledge for a 21-year-old Euro and he has admitted to the learning curve he’s facing here in the states. Airwolf is also showing signs of a solid defender with his unique (a lot of Euros have this build, though) combination of length and athleticism. This is particularly exciting when you think of his potential on defense with fellow-rookie Chris Singleton locking down guys on the perimeter.
I can understand if you think I’m crazy. At the end of the day, we’re talking about a greenhorn that was drafted sixth-overall and has less than ten combined points in three starts. But if you knew Wizards basketball and the type of drafting we’ve seen over the last decade or more, you’d understand.
After watching the Wizards take guys in the top-20 like Jared Jeffries, Jarvis Hayes and
Stewie Griffin Oleksiy Pecherov, seeing someone like Airwolf that rivals the potential of JaVale McGee (arguably our best first-rounder of the last ten years, aside from John Wall) really makes for some excitement and intrigue.