Since trading away Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong near the end of February, the Wizards have had an opportunity to see how Maurice Evans, Jordan Crawford and their newest signee, Mustafa Shakur, can work into the organization. Those players did not get in on DunkFest 2011 – there were 13 dunks in Saturday night’s contest – but they all got on the court and tried to make an impact.
Before the game, Nick Young was questionable to play, but had faith in the new players if he could not make it out.
“Mustafa is a great point guard, a PAC-10 guy.” Nick Young said. “Jordan, you know, a scorer that can really score the ball. Mo is just being Mo, a defensive threat doing all the little things, being like a Ron Artest. We need somebody like that.”
This is Shakur’s third stint with the Wizards. He was signed to his first 10-day contract of the season on January 22 and came out with 14 points, nine assists and 11 assists in 38 minutes of play over his first three games. He filled in well as the backup point guard when a battle-worn John Wall and Kirk Hinrich needed their time to be limited.
But the duo came back healthier and Shakur ended up as the odd man out. Shakur only managed six points in his reduced role. He sat on the bench during the Wizard’s first road win of the season in Cleveland.
Less than a week after the second contract ended, Hinrich was moved to Atlanta for Mike Bibby, who served as the backup for Wall, nearly a one-for-one exchange. Yet a reenergized Wall did not seem to need a backup much, averaging near 40 minutes per contest.
Washington had a chance to dump salary by waiving Bibby and did so hours before picking up Shakur for a full contract.
Shakur never returned to that original form. Over the second and third contracts, he has only totaled 11 points, three rebounds and three assists. Against the Clippers Saturday night, he saw the court for three minutes and put up three points.
If John Wall continues to get 25 points, seven rebounds and eight assists every night, as was the case Saturday, Shakur might not see his time increase regardless of his numbers.
“I think any time they bring in new guys, myself being new,” Shakur said, “it takes a little bit to get adjusted to each other … [My role is] to provide energy, to run the show, and to provide presence as a point guard.”
Evans came in averaging 4.5 points in 18 minutes in Atlanta. His numbers were a bit unimpressive for a 32-year-old guard/forward. Paired with Jordan Crawford, the twenty-seventh pick in the 2010 draft, he was a good addition to a trade for Hilton Armstrong. While Evans has brought his average up to 7.6 points per game, every other statistic has seemed to go down.
Against the Clippers, he scored all six of his points in the third quarter, despite playing 18 minutes in the game. With both teams driving in for their dunks, Evans’ inside shots refused to fall. He made both of his field goals from outside the arc in the contest.
Jordan Crawford was another one the bright spot of Saturday night’s contest. Even though he has only averaged 7.9 points with the Wizards in 17 minutes per game, he responds well to increases in playing time. Against Milwaukee on March 28, he played 26 minutes and scored 22 points.
In 25 minutes against the Clippers, he went 0-of-5 from behind the arc but still finished with 16 points.
“I wish I could have made a couple more shots,” Crawford said. “I made a point to get to the line. We had them for a minute. We couldn’t maintain our same attention throughout the game.”
While Evans’ plus/minus was the worst on the team with a negative 26, Crawford was only at negative five. Trevor Booker was the only player who broke even, getting a positive four.
“I think young guys are starting to get more opportunities and understanding what’s needed and what’s necessary at this level,” Shakur said after the game.
Even still, Blake Griffin, the Clippers star forward who scored 26 points, had only good things to say for the Wizards’ play.
“They responded well,” Griffin said. “They have a pretty solid defensive team, so for us it was just about knocking open shots. They came out in the zone in the second half. We just hit shots, which is good.”
If nothing else, the new players seem to be getting closer with their new teammates. They are welcomed in the locker room and messed with just as much as the other players, but the team has not done better on the court.
“We came in. They had open arms,” Crawford said. “We are getting more and more comfortable and we just have to try and get some ‘Ws.’ I think that’s the main thing. All the chemistry will be better if we are getting ‘Ws.’”
They will have the opportunity to get that win when they play Monday night against the Thunder. Wins are hard to come by in Washington, but it would help the Wizards’ psyche. The only win that Crawford and Evans have seen in Washington came on March 5, the only win in eight games.
It has not been the best welcome.
Photo Courtesy of John Powell