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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.


The Author


Ringmaster at Bet Big DC, Shae is a devout food enthusiast who soaks in the misery of yelling at the TV from the couch. He takes pride in schrewd sports investing, is a sucker for the arts and is brimming with useless pop culture knowledge. When he’s not drudging away behind his outdated laptop, Shae enjoys eating, traveling and rooting for teams that usually don’t win


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  1. jared jeffries has done enough to be a rotation player for years. tayshaun prince- 12 picks later, John Salmons and Roger Mason Jr are the only 1st rounders who were contributors. Boozer at 35, Matt Barnes at 46 and Luis Scola at 56 sums up all the post-Jeffries highlights from that draft.

    The guy always took too many long 2s & 3s, but nowhere near as many as you’d think, it’s just the ones he took were always so cringe-inducing. Jeffries is routinely in the top few guys as far as offensive fouls drawn. He’d be one of those players viewed as a valuable glue guy, but he was victimized by his draft position and the huge contract he got at one point.

    sorry i realize this is a really old post. i was just wondering where ‘Air Wolf’ came from. i love Jan. i think he’ll have a big year next year once he’s acclimated. very few Euros come over this early in their life. Imagine if Rubio came over before last year and stunk up the joint the way he did in Europe! And i’m sure Jan is getting more valuable experience over here- even with knuckleheads like Blatche, Young, Lewis & McGee around there are also super hard workers like Wall, Booker and Singleton who are much more likely to have a future with this team. Hell, even Crawford seems to have added new dimensions to his game at a rate that’s leaving the Nick Young comparisons behind- (This is coming after the Golden State blowout where NY had 25pts and a -16 or something, and Crawford shot 2/13 and only had a -3)- lots of hustle plays.

    I kinda like this young core. They’re role players for sure, but I think they’ll fit very well around Batum & Anderson if Leonsis mans up and overpays the hell out of them

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