Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Last year's record?
26-56, missed the playoffs. Missed the point.

Significant departures? Randy Foye(notes) and Mike Miller(notes).

Significant arrivals? John Wall(notes), Kirk Hinrich(notes), Trevor Booker(notes) (he just sounds like a Washington Wizard), Yi Jianlian(notes).

Projected record, as predicted three months ago in time to publish in Yahoo! Sports' NBA Preview Magazine? 31-51

Why I think that sounds about right?

Because it seems like the right average between what could really go wrong with this team (the worst record in the NBA), and what could go right (.500).

Nobody really has a handle on this team, because there are so many pieces that have to come together, an unorthodox lineup is running the show, and you can't really count on its most significant players to come through consistently for various reasons. Gilbert Arenas(notes) will be up and down, depending on his moods and how well his legs are holding up. Kirk Hinrich's shooting comes and goes. John Wall is a rookie, and a rather young one at that. Andray Blatche(notes) is the model of inconsistency.

All of these guys can play, though. This is a team, especially if Flip Saunders can re-introduce some of that guard-around magic he sparked up in Minnesota, that you can really talk yourself into.

Why I think I might be terribly, terribly wrong?

Because this could honestly be a terrible, terrible basketball team.

This group's rebounding issues could wreak havoc on the good things those guards bring, the team defense is pretty scary, and you could see a few 12-turnover nights just from those three guards alone, combined.

Washington has competed well during the preseason, but there are just so many bad mistakes to go around with this team, so many plays that are miles away from cerebral, that you just can't help but wonder how well they'll hold up to the 5 1/2-month slog.

Dan Devine's Corner Three

Step up or step off

You're not an All-Star, Andray. Not with Chris Bosh(notes), Amar'e Stoudemire(notes), Carlos Boozer(notes), Josh Smith(notes) and Kevin Garnett(notes) all playing power forward in this conference, too. Not now.

But this is the year for you to make the argument that those guys had better bring it every night, because if they don't, a 6-foot-11-inch 24-year-old with the quickness to take opposing fours to the basket and an improving touch (his field-goal percentage improved in every shot location last season, according to Hoopdata, though the Wiz would likely be better served if the number of 15-feet-and-in attempts went up and the number from 16-to-23-feet went down) is going to be gunning for their spots. This is the time to thank God for an all-world newbie at point guard, an all-erasing shot-blocker in the paint and an all-time distraction in the spotlight, and just to go to work. To get buckets like you can, to move your feet like you should and to prove that 22.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game after the All-Star break is less a usage-inflated, someone-has-to-get-stats-on-a-bad-team fluke and more a sign of what's to come.

If the time to get better is when the eyes of the world are elsewhere, then with the curtain about to go up on the John Wall and Gilbert Arenas show, this is Andray Blatche's time. Take it and get closer to entering that elite group, or don't and start making reservations for your annual mid-February vacation. Your call.


Five things about the Wizards that furrow Ol' Man Howard's brow

1. Love it or leave it, Josh. Simple as that.

2. That gap-toothed kid had better stop smiling at me, or else I'll give him something to smile about. I mean exactly what I said, except the opposite.

3. In my day, we faked being healthy so we could keep other guys from playing. Not the other way around. No work ethic left in this country, and I'll tell you what else, no good jazz singers, neither.

4. "Hilton Armstrong." Sounds like old money to me, and I don't much care for that. Give me a man with dirt under his nails, who's worked a day in his life and felt the sting of sweat in his eyes. You can have your "Hilton Armstrongs."

5. You call that dancing, Wall? Next time I see you, I'm going to show you how it's done. I've got three words for you: Twenty. Three. Skidoo. I don't care if I said it to Orton already, it's the damned truth. I'm a damned marvel on the dance floor, just you wait and see.


The worst season ticket appeal ever

"Just look into those eyes. Look. Such depth. So many stories to be told. So many secrets to reveal. An entire world, just aching to be released, begging to be watched. Will you be the one to set it -- to set him -- free? ... Season tickets start at just $399 per seat."

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