The Washington Wizards dropped to 14-17 on the season Sunday in a 112-96 loss to Klay Thompson and the visiting Golden State Warriors. Much like their Friday night loss to the Toronto Raptors, Washington entered the second half by giving next to nothing throughout the third quarter. Washington's bench, however, provided quite a lift in the fourth, including some elevated play by one Jan Vesely.
"Until we can learn to play through missed shots and not zap your own energy and the energy of your teammates, we're going to play like that," said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman postgame, regarding how the Warriors out scored the Wizards 34-15 in the third period. "We're too much, right now, of a team of front-runners, where if things are going good, our energy level is really high. And when we don't make shots, the energy just zaps from our bodies." In the fourth quarter, however, Mr. Vesely looked much more energized than normal. He was blocking shots, he had active hands, and--perhaps most importantly for his development--he was initiating shots, to the extent of even driving to the hoop (albeit he didn't come up with much for his efforts on the offensive end).
Vesely is listed at 7-0 tall and 242 lbs. this season, although it's hard to imagine either is true. Vesely isn't one to body opponents, and he sure doesn't look like a true seven-footer. The slim, third-year pro also has yet to find his niche in the NBA, and the media--Washington Wizards Examiner included--has been fast to criticize the former 6th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.
It's more than unlikely Vesely will ever measure up to the success of notable 6th picks in league history, such as Kenny "The Jet," Smith (1987), Shane Battier (2000), Damian Lillard (2012), or even current Wizards teammate Martell Webster (2005). For one, he didn't come into the NBA a scorer. Realistically, though, most 6th picks will be forgotten. When's the last time Jonny Flynn (2009) came up in a conversation, for example? And Flynn could actually shoot (35.8% from three-point in his rookie season after 81 games).
There is no doubt Vesely can make an impact on the defensive end. He's averaging 2.2 steals on a 36-minute upscale (1.0 steals per 15.8 minutes real) and he is, indeed, much faster with hands this season. Yet he is seldom rewarded on this Wizards roster, especially when Coach Wittman can start Trevor Booker and play Nene off the bench. Instead, Wittman wants to focus on scorers, interchangeable parts to keep the John Wall-led fastbreak alive. Right now? Vesely is a Dominic McGuire type who doesn't--if not can't--shoot.
Washington has four on the road starting tonight in Charlotte (7:00 p.m. ET). The Wizards are 0-3 overall in 2014 and likewise on a three-game losing skid, and they'll need to find a way to get their offense going. The Wizards are 5-0 this season when shooting 50.0% or better from the field, but the Charlotte Bobcats don't give it up that easy inside. Fans, and critics alike are waiting for Vesely to issue forth some Dirk Nowitzki roleplay, whether it's actually there or just another summer fantasy not yet ready for primetime.