I imagine Rashard Lewis wakes up each morning, admires his grizzly goatee in the mirror, thanks God (or Otis Smith) for his $118 million contract and then spends 45 minutes throwing darts at a board adorned with photos of Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Jordan Crawford. It took just 18 seconds for Young to launch his first step-back, contested jump shot of the night. Blatche continued to waste his considerable amount of god-given talent. Crawford is less likely to throw a pass than Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light. And I haven’t even mentioned JaVale McGee, who’s tough to dislike because he displays a certain amount of joie de vivre while running and jumping like a blind deer, but exhibits nary a wink of basketball knowledge.
Lewis used to be Dwight Howard’s 2a or 2b, depending on how you rank him against Hedo Turkoglu, but now he is a part of Washington’s rebuilding project, a rebuilding project that still needs mountains of work and in the meantime often results in hideous displays that only slightly resemble basketball, such as tonight’s 94-86 loss to the Boston Celtics. Now Lewis watches considerably less accomplished teammates fire away from outside without any hint of a conscience. He watches teammates flee the paint when Rajon Rondo enters the vicinity. He watches the Celtics, with whom his Orlando Magic used to battle for Eastern Conference supremacy, humiliate the Wizards in every way short of tap-dancing on Flip Saunders’ face. And when I think about it, they did tap-dance on Saunders’ face, just not literally. And the Wizards are currently in such disarray that Boston didn’t even have to play a flawless game to do so. And the final margin seemingly was only eight points because the Celtics lost a considerable amount of interest at halftime.
This was one of the nights when Rondo was a queen and his opponents were mere pawns, when Rondo played like he can move in every direction but his opponents can only move one space forward. By the time Rondo received a substitute eight minutes into the game, the Celtics had nine made field goals — Rondo had scored two of them himself and assisted on six others. When the defense came his way, Rondo dished to a teammate with the most open look. When the defense stayed home, Rondo looked to finish himself.
On the path to a triple-double of 18 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds, Rondo threw passes over his shoulder and they hit his intended targets directly in their shooting pocket. He faked one way and the entire defense shifted, leaving Jermaine O’Neal with a lane to the hoop. He saw McGee looking the wrong way and floated an assist to Kevin Garnett, controlled the game’s tempo entirely and attacked the glass like it owed him something. Rondo spent the night teaching John Wall that quality point guards possess an intelligence and court awareness that means even more than pure speed and a 40-inch vertical. Wall outscored Rondo and nearly notched a triple-double himself, but Rondo controlled all that transpired on the court.
The Celtics did not carry all of their excitement and passion into the second half, but every time the Wizards came reasonably close — the lead dwindled to seven at one point in the fourth quarter — Boston took its foot off the brake and kept Washington comfortably in second place. Kevin Garnett had by far the most productive game of his season, finding his way to the free throw line for the first six times since Boston’s season opener, racking up a season-high nine rebounds and scoring a season-high 24 points. Maybe playing one of his nemeses, Blatche, gave Garnett a boost. Maybe it was yesterday’s day off that allowed Garnett the fuel needed to feast on Washington’s inexperienced frontcourt. Whatever the case, it was the first day this season that Kevin Garnett reminded everyone of Kevin Garnett.
Jermaine O’Neal looked relatively youthful for the second straight game (and then left with a tight hamstring — doh), Paul Pierce showed more rust than he did in his opener on Friday, Greg Stiemsma hit a jumper (and continued to block everything that enters his apartment), Tommy Heinsohn noted that the Celtics need to “minimize Rasheed Lewis,” Keyon Dooling continued to be solid, Brandon Bass is still a significant upgrade and Doc Rivers gave the backup shooting guard minutes to Avery Bradley.
Heinsohn’s best moment of the night came when Rondo waited for McGee to take a rebound down to waist level, then tried to swoop in behind him and steal the ball. “I used to call that ‘Let Them Show Their Muscles and Steal Their Girlfriend,’” Heinsohn noted.
The Wizards are bad and the Celtics were good enough to win easily. Perhaps the most damning fact about the state of the Washington Wizards is that Blatche — who took to Twitter last week to disagree with coach Flip Saunders’ strategy, looks like he ate far too many pieces of cake this summer and has a reputation for being a knucklehead who doesn’t reach his potential — is a team captain. In Washington, where Saunders coaches a team filled with fatally flawed players, many of whom seem more interested in statistics than wins, Lewis somehow seems like a sympathetic figure despite being a mostly-washed up stretch forward who will make $46 million over the next two seasons. He went from playing in the NBA Finals to hanging out in the corner while Crawford and Young take turns hoisting ill-advised jump shots.
It’s a mess in Washington. It’s not nearly as big a mess in Boston. We’ll do this again tomorrow night. Hopefully, it will be just as easy for the Celtics.