Tag Archives: John Wall

John & Marcin & Earl & Bronson

 

On March 24th the hip hop world was blessed with two very different albums dropping. One was an insular and imaginative work, the other was boisterous and fun. Although the two artists seem diametrically opposed to, they’ve collaborated and have each other’s back. They make for an odd pair, but their independent gyroscopes can cross paths and still make sense. In a way, they remind me of a pair of players in Washington DC.

Earl Sweatshirt’s second album is titled I Don’t Do shit, I Don’t Go outside and is fundamental to understanding the way Earl considers his craft. After the initial boom of Earl’s running mates in Odd Future, he was whisked away from the group and the limelight by his mother and was in a boarding school in America Samoa. He was only 16 at the time, and once his mother discovered his abrasive raps and Odd Future videos that showed him doing any number of mom-fainting activities, he was gone from the group.

Since then, his albums have been creative, lurking pieces of double stacked wordplay over murky and weird beats. Where Earl’s early bars spit with ferocity at a high rate of turnover, the post-fame Earl went a little slower, but still wound up with a high level of vulnerability. Considering he also handles production duties for his album (half of the songs on Doris, and the entire second album were his productions) he takes what he does very seriously and very personally. Lyrically, Earl goes deep into what makes his life tick, as he watched his friends become household names while he was off the grid in Samoa.

John Wall rose to fame early with his tenure on a championship winning University of Kentucky Wildcats team. Selected Number 1 overall by the Washington Wizards, he was set on a team that occupied the basement for a number of years, despite a blip of popularity in the Gilbert Arenas era, the team was quickly flushed down again as the Arenas and his teammates wound up in controversies over guns and shoes full of excrement. Wall watched as his friends and teammates become the centerpieces and his team went through a fire sale, re-building sure, but seemingly miles away from where Wall was in Kentucky.

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But last year saw John Wall lead his Wizards to the furthest they’ve gotten in decades and his opportunity to surpass his fellow Wildcats and become one of the top faces of the league. Wall is also subject to his increasing sensitivity towards his gameplay. Not consistent with being a speedster who gets to the basket in an untouchable gear, Wall set assist records for himself throughout the season, getting his teammates more involved. He has a crew and wants them to be a part of his fame, but knows how much of it results on him being at the top of his game.

Wall’s approach to his game could be as literal as Earl’s album, I Don’t Do Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. As meticulous as you have to be to dredge up the lofi beats that Earl creates, you have to put in the hours to perfect the yo-yo/lasso dribble. Unlike some of the past stars of the Wizards, Wall doesn’t really find a need for the DC nightlife, choosing instead to keep a very low profile outside of a music video appearance. Wall’s attention to his game, and his game trying to incorporate his teammates is sometimes even to his detriment. Whereas some fans want Wall to be the next Allen Iverson, he continually looks for that extra pass or move, even if the rest of the team isn’t expecting it. Just watch for his dribble to the top of the key, jump to fake the defender and shift to find an open man move, and you’ll go crazy just wanting him to go to the basket. But John Wall’s nature has him never really calling out teammates or coaches in the media, he is the first to accept blame for his faults. He is the strongest of himself when he knows how he fits in the team, even if he is the leader. That doesn’t make it any easier for him, as that same kind of mindset is reflected in Earl Sweatshirt’s rhymes. Earl was easily the biggest talent out of the initial wave of Odd Future, but by being whisked away from that ascension, he missed out on the team effort of fame. Now he’s attempting to drift into his own, but there is a sense of melancholy throughout his new album that wouldn’t necessarily be fixed by his friends, but would be easier to swallow if they were on the same level.

On the other side of the March 24th coin was Action Bronson. An oversized Albanian from Queens, Bronson’s Mr. Wonderful was a major release on a major label and features his stream of conscious raps over a friendly-but-not-pop beat selection. Bronson’s MO is not to take himself too seriously, which is apparent in the frequent stop and start of opening track “Brand New Car”. That isn’t to say Bronson doesn’t take himself seriously, but he’s going to be braggadocios and silly in the same breath. He’s well aware of his talent and will let you know at the drop of a hat, complete with IROC-Z and fine dining references. Bronson sees the rap game, and his success in it, and leverages it into an online cooking show. He uses the vast resource of being on a Warner Brothers affiliate and uses it to score a Billy Joel sample, and relegates it to an opening track that is under three minutes. Regardless of what you think of Bronson and his chops, he is doing the whole thing the way he wants to.

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Marcin Gortat, the 8th year Center from Poland and current Washington Wizard also has no reason to not brag about his performance. After signing a five-year $60 million contract in the offseason, he’s viewed as a key piece to the Wizards performance. However, head coach Randy Wittman has pulled him from a number of fourth quarter appearances over the likes of Kevin Seraphin, DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries. Gortat has not been quiet about these moves and has expressed his frustration without being too aggressive towards the decisions. Gortat enjoys basketball, but enjoys his life just as much. Follow his Instagram and he’s showing off his collection of cars. Follow him on twitter and he interacts with fans and, in the offseason, tried to court other players to join him in DC. He uses his position as being the most famous Polish player in the NBA to ride tanks back in his native country.

Gortat has the size and skills of a center, but he rarely posts up with enough consistency for those plays to be called. Gortat at his best is in transition, or coming off the pick-and-roll, but either way, Gortat’s power is in his ability to move and improvise, even if the call is made for him. Like Action, he doesn’t work great in a set parameter of “This play is about this set” or “This song follows one topic”. The big men have strength in their self-centeredness because the drive to make it about them is the one power they have. Marcin Gortat is a 6’11” Center with mediocre hands from an area not known for producing basketball talent. Action Bronson is a hefty white guy with a beard down to his chest who sounded a lot like Ghostface Killah when he first started. But they both drove themselves into an upper echelon of work that transformed what their parameters of perception would take them. Gortat could have been a serviceable backup behind any number of talented big men (and was for a while) and Action could have turned into a posse guy, appearances here and there, second or third fiddle to a rapper with a better look.

After almost two entire seasons together, the differences were apparent after the Wizards defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 106-93. When asked about the success of Gorat’s 23 point & 14 rebound night, he put it simply “They were passing me the ball.” When John Wall was asked about that comment he laughed and explained that most of the offensive half court calls were for “post-ups, a lot of our plays are for two-guards and a lot of plays are for me.”

Whereas Wall broke down the science of the offensive system, and also slyly called out Wittman for his lack of inventive play calling, Gortat’s explanation was simple: Get him the ball. Where Gortat looks for success he sees himself, where Wall looks for success he sees the system in front of him. They make for a great pair (anyone who has seen their pick-and-rolls can attest to this) and although their personal styles clash, the combination of the two is a solid one-two hit in the airways.

Last Nights Number: Washington Wizards vs San Antonio Spurs

17

Not since November 12, 2005 have the Wizards defeated the Spurs. For 17 straight games San Antonio owned them, but last night, the Wizards defeated Tim Duncan and crew 101-93.

And not one of those Poppovich-Sits-Everyone-Spurs. Kawhi Leonard and Marco Bellinelli were out, but Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Danny Green, et al were there to play.

John Wall had 25 points, 8 assists and this bonkers yo yo fake out dribble

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Kevin Seraphin came off the bench and took over the paint with 17 points and 8 rebounds for his season high in both.

Washington Wizards and the No Good, Very Meh Road Trip

The Washington Wizards were soaring high as the holidays came to around. A marquee game against the New York Knicks on Christmas Day. But their holiday plans were cut short because they started a brutal five-game road trip against some of the top teams in the Western Conference. As the Atlanta Hawks start to soar, the Wizards sputtered. I take a look at these games and examine the past as to what happened.

Wizards at Houston Rockets 104-103

Bradley Beal had took over the game to hold off a furious return from the Rockets. He scored 33 points on 5 for 11 shooting from beyond the arc and made all ten of his free throws. John Wall had 13 points and 12 assists. James Harden ran wild on the Wiz defense for 33 points, while Corey Brewer had 15 points off the bench.

The Wizards bench went dead cold with three players not scoring at all and Rasual Butler had his hot streak slowed down to just 8 points. This was one of the first appearances for Josh Smith and he already started to regress from his Houston start.

Wizards at Dallas Mavericks 114-87

The next night, the Wizards moved the party to Dallas where they were going to release Martell Webster from his injury purgatory. Webster played 14 minutes, missed all 4 shots from the field and the one shot from three points. He made 3 of 5 free throws. Dejuan Blair also took time out of the cryogenic freezer and played 12 minutes to attempt to slow down the Mavericks domination in the paint. Blair had 5 rebounds and 9 points.

The Wizards couldn’t do a thing to stop the Mavs with 50 points being scored in the paint and Monta Ellis got 20 points off of John Wall. Chandler Parsons racked up 14 points and Dirk Nowitzki grabbed 13 points and 8 rebounds. It was an ugly game for the Wizards, even if the turnout got Randy Wittmann to open up his bench for once.

Wizards at Oklahoma City Thunder 109-102

How much narrative can you take?  This game was Durant’s first game back from a break with a sore ankle. It was also his first game against hometown favorite Washington Wizards. And, maybe, I dunno, you’ve heard that there’s a whole group of people in Washington who want Durant to come back home? It’s the kind of news that is filed behind a certain dysfunctional football team.

And Durant wanted to make his hometown boys remember him, so he put up 34 points on 12 for 18 from the field, 4 for 7 from three and 6 of 7 from the free throw line. It countered the awful shooting night from Russell Westbrook where he went 8 for 23.

John Wall pulled another double-double on 14 pts and 12 assists. Beal grabbed 21 while Andre Miller taught the Thunder bench a lesson with 15 points on 5 for 9 shooting.

Wizards at San Antonio Spurs 101-92

Once again the interior defense of the Wizards collapsed under the pressure of a better Western team. Spurs went HAM in the paint, getting 52 points. Boris Diaw had 14 off the bench, and Tiago Splitter had 19 points and although Tim Duncan only got 4 points, his 9 rebounds to lead all players.

Wall and Beal had 15 points a piece, while Butler was stopped in his tracks again, ending with only 3 points. Nene was shut down around the hoop and got zero rebounds.

Wizards at New Orleans Pelicans 92-85

The Wizards end their five days with a win, wrapping up their record as 2-3. The Wizards took it to the Pelicans hard at first and kept Anthony Davis in check for most of the first half.

Bradley Beal had another inconsistent game, only 6 points and three made field goals, only three three-point attempts and he didn’t make it to the line at all. In fact, the entire team only shot 20% from three, only hitting 2 of 10 attempts. Both of those came from Paul Pierce who ended with 14.

The bench unit once again saved the night with Andre Miller putting on a class with 12 points on 100% shooting. Kris Humphries went after the boards like mad and  finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds. And in 20 minutes, Otto Porter had 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks to go with his 6 points.

John Wall blew two turnovers in what is becoming a bad habit. Wall comes down half court, the team is down in the post, no cuts are being made and Wall tries to make an acrobatic move, hoping someone comes to his aid. They don’t and he leaps in the air, tossing the ball carelessly and into the hands of an opponent. It’s still a really bad habit that he can’t shake and he did it in almost back to back possessions.

Other Observations

Paul Pierce’s mixed bag scoring nights, in order: 21, 9, 12, 5, & 14.

The Wizards interior defense, a long concern of mine, gave up at least 50 points three times. And the other time they gave up 42 points. But in that stretch Dejuan Blair, who was brought in to be a rim protector, only played 14 minutes. Which is actually a huge bump in his production, but still not the amount of time he expected when he signed up. The bright spot in the trip was holding the Pelicans to 38 points in the paint during that last game.

Rasual Butler, the bench relief that has been so dependable for the Wizards, also went cold in the stretch. He only scored in double digits once and in two games he only scored 3 points.

Total Team Turnovers for the Five games, in order: 21, 23, 15, 9 & 12. Way to clean up your act on the road!

Martell Webster finally appeared in a Wizards game, for only two of the games. In 19 minutes he scored 4 points.

And yet his return was enough for the rumors to come afloat that second-round 2nd year man Glen Rice Jr is going to be waived if a trade partner can’t be found. Rice couldn’t ever get on the floor and had a blowup with coach Wittman during a blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors. It’s another nail in the coffin that Washington is unable to develop second round players. And the fact that they can’t find a trade partner for the Summer League MVP gives a league wide impression on how the Wizards can screw up a young guy. The fact that Beal and Wall are as good as they are seem more as an anomaly than anything else.

Last Nights Number: Washington Wizards vs Houston Rockets

33

Bradley Beal had the highest scoring game of his season and tied James Harden in the game with 33 points. Beal kept the Wizards in it as their bench was anemic on 5 for 11 shooting from three and 10 for 10 from the free throw line. The Wiz got to the FT line 28 times and knocked down 26 of them.

The game was an intense dive into playoff-esque basketball as the two teams slugged it out over long runs in the 4th quarter. John Wall ended with another double-double on 13 points and 12 assists where he barely started shooting until the 4th quarter. Corey Brewer proved to be a much needed saviour off the bench with 15 points.

Last Nights Number: Miami Heat vs Cleveland Cavaliers

4 for 5

As LeBron James returned to Miami to face his old squad. One familiar face and one new face chipped in 4 for 5 FG shooting to push the Heat to a 101-91 win over the Cavs. Chris Anderson went 4 for 5 with 8 rebounds, 2 steals and one block. While Danny Granger matched that field goal record and got 7 rebounds. Granger ended with 9 points, Anderson with 12.

Bonus Number

50

The Wizards went into Madison Square Garden and dominated the Knicks at home, especially in the paint. The Wizards got 50 of their 102 points in the paint with Wall leading the bunch on 24 points and 11 assists, now tied for the lead in players with double-doubles to lead the league.

Bonus Bonus Number

21.4%

The Los Angeles Clippers held the Golden State Warriors to 21.4% shooting from three point line last night giving the Dubs their second straight loss. The Warriors went 6 for 28 behind the line, with Klay Thompson making only 2 of his 10 attempts and Steph Curry made 1 for 5.

Elevator Doors Answers the Q+A to Lil B from Slam

Lil B was recently interviewed in Slam about the Kevin Durant curse, as I am want to do, I decided to answer those questions as if I was Lil B. No disrespect to the Based God of course (please don’t put a curse on me)

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People don’t realize the burden of someone who made a curse has to carry too. Everywhere I go I get calls from the oracles asking me if it’s still on. You know they never talk to each other so you gotta answer like 4-5 calls a day. I don’t know what else those guys do, but their cellular plan has to be on point.

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I want him to come to DC obviously. If he wins in Oklahoma, his chances of coming back home become slimmer I think. He might still do it as a victory lap thing if the Thunder does win, but c’mon, a starting lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Durant, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat? So based.

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Boogie is based. Jabari Parker is based. Monta Have it All.

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Master P was selling No Limit tapes out of his trunk and mid-range jumpers out of the passenger side. I think he should really become an owner, so he can employ all the leftover No Limit rappers. Plus can you imagine the color schemes of that team?

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Nah, I keep him in a box at home.

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It will in 2016 when he comes to DC. You know what to do, Kevin.

Last Nights Number: Boston Celtics vs Washington Wizards

7

The Wizards were down 7 points in the first Overtime period and stormed back to tie the game. In the second overtime, they were down 7 points and then John Wall took over the period with swift cuts to the basket. The Wizards won 133-132.

Wall ended the night with 26 points, 17 assists, 3 steals and 9 turnovers. Bradley Beal had a poor shooting night, ending with 14 points, on 5-12 shooting. The Celtics bench was other worldy, Brandon Bass & Kelly Olynyck both had 19 points. Marcus Smart, in his first significant game since returning from injury, logged 35 minutes and got 23 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Smart looks great and had a ton of confidance for playing that deep into a double overtime game as Rajon Rondo sat in the third quarter and never came back.

In the post-game interview, Wall was very emotional about the loss of his friend, 6 year old Miyah Telemaque-Nelson to cancer.

John Wall Forever.

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