Four thoughts on the Wizards’ 97-77 win over New Jersey:


Let’s not try to glean too much from a victory that joins the Charlotte blowout on Dec. 20 as the most uncompetitive of the season. The Wizards needed this one, make no mistake, but the Nets are in absolute disarray. Let’s face it, the Wizards aren’t bad this season at home against teams that are in awful shape. And when Sasha Vujacic comes off the bench to take a team-high 14 shots and make only one, that’s the definition of awful shape. The Bobcats were similar a couple weeks ago, and Larry Brown was fired from his coaching job right after. The same isn’t likely to happen to Avery Johnson, but the Nets have locked up the award for the team that worst botched last summer’s run at LeBron James. They’re sure hoping they can get Carmelo Anthony instead, but for now, yikes.


Wizards head coach Flip Saunders said the dunk contest would do “nothing” for JaVale McGee’s confidence, except that it appears that it has. McGee set the tone on the first possession with back-to-back rejections on Devin Harris, made his first five shots from the field and had five of his six blocks in the first half. Finishing with 15 points – yes, including an alley oop and an old-fashioned three-point play on a dunk – and a determined seven rebounds, McGee had himself a solid, professional kind of night.

Now he needs to learn how to pass, and he’s not getting that from the dunk contest.

“JaVale is trying to find the difference between over-exposing himself to block shots and knowing that to go and make sure you can contest it and take yourself out of the play,” said Saunders. “I think he did a pretty good job of that overall tonight. He fought [Brook] Lopez, for most of the game, I thought he fought him pretty well, and he scored well inside. One thing I’d like to see, it seems like every time he touches it, he wants to shoot it. I’d like to see him get some assists because I think that that’s one of the reasons he ends up with five turnovers, the only negative thing he did tonight. But he did other things well.”


Rashard Lewis is starting to find his way around Washington. Okay, maybe just the Verizon Center. But his all-around performance (16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists) was impressive. His trio of consecutive three-pointers in the first quarter – all off feeds from John Wall (9 assists) – was really the game’s knockout punch.

“It’s getting better and better, every game and every practice, just trying to figure him out and him trying to figure me out, like when we’re running pick and rolls,” said Lewis. “I notice if we can just get stops and give him the ball, let him push the pace, it make the defense collapse and we can get wide-open shots like we did in the first quarter.”

In his last four games, Lewis is 23 for 44 (52.3 percent) from the field, including 8 for 18 (44 percent) from three-point range. That’s a consistent offensive punch the Wizards enjoy having, but Lewis’s presence could be even more important.

“He’s very professional, as far as how he goes about doing things, very much a student of the game, makes the right play,” said Saunders. “As I tried to explain to our guys, players on good teams, that’s what they do, that’s how they play.”


Fun is nice, and the Wizards’ pregame introduction routine of tossing each member of the starting five onto the court shows some desperately needed camaraderie. But a road win would be better. Again, even with the accolades for McGee and Lewis, beating a bad team at home is the 101-level of NBA basketball. Getting a road win against a beatable team, as in Charlotte on Saturday, is the 102-level. Spring semester starts now.

“We always play well at home, but we gotta carry this away where the crowd isn’t with us,” said McGee. “We really have carry this over, especially since this is a back-to-back but since it’s an away game, we have to go hard tomorrow.”