Thursday, February 28, 2013


The Detroit Pistons had owned the Washington Wizards this season, winning all three previous contests between the two teams. And if that wasn't enough, Detroit had won 14 of their last 16 meetings with Washington. Tonight, the 22-37 Pistons paid their final visit to the Verizon Center, looking to sweep the season series with the Wizards. Meanwhile, Washington had won three straight games, defeating Denver and Houston at the Verizon Center over the weekend, before knocking off the Raptors 90-84 up in Toronto behind 20 points from Bradley Beal.

Pistons rookie forward Khris Middleton, who spent three years at Texas A&M, has only played in eight games so far this season. Middleton is also the cousin of former Lakers forward Josh Powell, who is currently with Greek club Olympiacos Piraeus.
Pistons center Viacheslav Kravtsov, a native of Odessa, Ukraine, has averaged 3.5 points over 14 games in his rookie season.
Members of the Pistons, including Kim English, Kyle Singler, and Khris Middleton examine game tape with assistant coach Charles Klask.
Pistons center Greg Monroe played two seasons at Georgetown, before being selected 7th overall by Detroit in the 2010 NBA draft.
Wizards guards Cartier Martin, left, and Garrett Temple, right, practice dribbling with two balls.
Cartier Martin does a passing drill before the game, as Garrett Temple looks on.
The Pistons acquired Spanish point guard Jose Calderon in a three-team deal that sent Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to Memphis.
Pistons rookie center Andre Drummond played one year at UCONN, before being drafted 9th overall by Detroit in last summer's NBA draft. Drummond is currently sidelined with a stress fracture in his spine, but is expected to return in about a week.
A native of Kinna, Sweden, Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko has averaged 5.7 points over 27 games in his third season with the Pistons.
Despite the mild weather in the D.C. area, tonight's game was not a big draw. The official attendance was listed as 14,298, but I think about half that number actually showed up. It was tough to get any fan photos before the game, because there were so few people in the seats until close to tip-off. Even after the game had started, a majority of the fans were centralized in the lower level. Much of the upper levels were completely vacant, making the arena seem even more empty than it already was. One of the ushers had told me around 5 minutes before the game started that there were about three fans for every one of them, meaning there must've been just as many employees as there were fans.

It was a bummer that there wasn't a bigger turnout, because the game was actually pretty entertaining. I only managed to take around 325 photos, which wasn't a real disappointment, considering the diminutive size of the crowd. After handing over my camera for work, I was able to catch the last 5 minutes of the game.

Wizards guard John Wall drives on Pistons guard Jose Calderon
Wizards guard Bradley Beal shoots over Pistons forward Kyle Singler
Wizards guard John Wall brings the ball past the timeline
Wizards guard Martell Webster drives between Pistons forwards Kyle Singler and Jason Maxiell
Wizards forward Trevor Ariza is defended by Pistons forward Jason Maxiell
Wizards guard John Wall is defended by Pistons guard Jose Calderon
Pistons guard Jose Calderon is chased by Wizards guard John Wall
Jose Calderon is swarmed by Trevor Ariza and John Wall
Jose Calderon is surrounded by John Wall and Trevor Ariza
John Wall is sandwiched by Jason Maxiell and Jose Calderon
Washington was down by 9 with 1:48 left to play, but stormed back to cut the Detroit lead to 3 with 34.9 seconds remaining on a Trevor Ariza three-pointer. On the next possession, Jose Calderon made an errant pass that was picked off by Ariza, who was fouled immediately by Will Bynum. After an official review, it was confirmed to be a clear path foul, giving Washington two foul shots, and possession with 12.3 left on the clock. After Ariza sank two clutch free throws, Randy Wittman called a timeout to draw up a final play.

Trevor Ariza sank two free throws to cut the Detroit lead to 96-95 with 12.3 seconds left to play
On the final possession, Wall sets up the play
Bradley Beal had an open lane, but passed up the shot
Trevor Ariza's three-pointer appeared to go through the cylinder, but only brazed the bottom of the net.
With about 5 seconds left on the clock, Bradley Beal drove the lane, but passed up what appeared to be a good opportunity to score, instead kicking the ball out to Martell Webster, who fumbled the pass. Webster, however, was able to bat the ball into the corner, finding Ariza, who was planted for a three-pointer. Ariza's shot caught nothing but net, but did not go through the cylinder, causing some people in the arena to initially believe it had gone in. Even Wizards announcers Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier were fooled, and declared victory for the Wizards, thinking the ball had gone through the net. In reality, Ariza's shot just barely brazed the outside of the net, and the Pistons held on for a 96-95 victory behind 32 points from Brandon Knight. Former Georgetown star Greg Monroe contributed 26 points and 11 rebounds. Jose Calderon only scored 6 points, but doled out 18 assists.

Ariza led the Wizards in scoring with 22 points and 6 rebounds. Bradley Beal added 16 points and 6 boards, as Washington fell to 18-38 on the season.

After a day off on Thursday, Washington will host the Knicks at the Verizon Center on Friday night.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Aldridge: Clippers Vetoed Ariza For Butler Trade

NBA.COM analyst David Aldridge reported today that the Wizards and Clippers had agreed to send Trevor Ariza to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Caron Butler, but the trade was rejected by Clippers owner Donald Sterling, because he didn't want to disturb team chemistry. Butler, who played four and a half seasons in Washington is averaging 10.3 points per game this season in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Ariza, who won a championship with the Lakers in 2009, has been averaging 8.4 points over 37 games with the Wizards, sitting out with a strained left calf to start the season.

Clippers forward Caron Butler, right, in a discussion with Wizards forward Trevor Ariza, left, during a game on February 4th

Wizards Take Down Raptors For Third Straight Win

Six days ago, the Toronto Raptors defeated the Wizards in D.C. by a score of 96-88 behind 24 points from the recently acquired Rudy Gay. Since then, Washington has defeated Denver and Houston respectively, concluding their post all-star break home-stand with a 2-1 record. Before returning home to square off with the Pistons on Wednesday, the Wizards traveled North of the border to take on the red hot Raptors, who had won six of their last seven games, at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.

Washington led 17-16 at the end of the 1st quarter, and went into halftime with a 40-32 advantage behind 9 first half points from Bradley Beal.

Toronto stormed back to tie the game at 49 with 4:16 left in the 3rd quarter, but Washington went into the 4th with a 63-54 lead. DeMar DeRozan sank 1 of 2 free throws to cut the Wizards lead to 83-78 with 1:04 remaining. After a Washington timeout, John Wall put the icing on the cake for the Wizards, converting a layup with 45.7 seconds to make it 85-78.

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan goes up for a layup against Wizards forward Nene (Photo by Frank Gunn/Associated Press)
Beal finished with 20 points, leading the Wizards to a 90-84 victory. Martell Webster and A.J. Price contributed 12 points a piece.

Toronto was led by DeMar DeRozan with 25 points, and Kyle Lowry, who added 18 in defeat. Rudy Gay finished with a meager 7 points, shooting an abysmal 1-11 from the field.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


A little over a year ago from tonight, I was at the Verizon Center to get my first look at who I thought was the New York Knicks' savior, Jeremy Shu-How Lin, the Taiwanese-American Harvard grad that swept NYC off its feet for a two week period during the abbreviated 2012 NBA season. 'Linsanity' really took off in New York when Lin, who had been cut by both Golden State and Houston to start the season, dropped 38 on the Lakers in a nationally televised game at The Garden, outscoring the legendary Kobe Bryant. But, 'Linsanity's' defining moment may have come at the Verizon Center on February 8th of last year, when Lin exploded past John Wall for a tenacious slam dunk that left even Wizards fans in awe of this new sensation. But after suffering a torn meniscus on March 24th of last year in a game against the Pistons, Lin missed the rest of the season, including the Knicks' first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat.

The Knicks organization was almost certain to resign Lin, if not for his performance on the court, but for his ability to increase MSG Network ratings, which had jumped 70% since Lin's emergence. New York claimed to be willing to match any offer for Lin, a restricted free agent, "up to $1 billion." The Houston Rockets had originally offered Lin a $28.8 million deal over four years, with the fourth year being the team's option. Knicks' coach Mike Woodson publicly stated that the New York would match that offer, and that Lin would be the starting point guard. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey quickly revised the contract to a three-year deal worth $25 million, with Lin being paid $14.8 million in the final "poison pill" year of the contract. Following the acquisition of point guard Raymond Felton, the Knicks declined to match Houston's offer. New York fans were infuriated, including myself. The Knicks organization claimed that the $43 million they would have to pay for Lin in the third year of his contract, including luxury taxes, was too high of a price, but there was speculation that some players, including Carmelo Anthony, felt insulted that Lin was suddenly stealing the limelight in New York, and would be a more expensive asset than anyone else on the team. It also may have been because Knicks owner James Dolan felt betrayed by Lin, when he out-negotiated New York management by returning to the bargaining table to re-write the original contract the Houston had presented. With the blink of an eye, Lin, the Knicks' most popular player since Patrick Ewing, had left New York for Houston.

The Rockets had also added star guard James Harden, whom they acquired from Oklahoma City in exchange for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. By pairing Harden and Lin, Houston was hoping it could have one of the more versatile, and unselfish, back-courts in the league. So far this season, the duo have not disappointed. Harden has averaged 26.4 points and 5.6 points per game. Meanwhile Lin, who had a slow start to the year, has averaged 12.7 points to go along 6.2 assists in close to 33 minutes per game.

Tonight, the Rockets made their lone trip to the Verizon Center to take on the Washington Wizards, who were coming off a win against Denver the previous night. It was a busy day inside the arena. Earlier in the day, the Washington Capitals had defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-1. I had worked that game as a fan photographer, as well, so after a trip to a couple of local bars at the conclusion of the hockey game, I returned to the Verizon Center to find an arena that was a still a work in progress, as it prepared for a 7:00 PM tip-off. It was amazing to see that there were already fans filing into the arena, despite it not being fully set-up.

An employee slides part of the basketball floor into place
A Capitals employee helps to prepare the court before the Wizards game
An employee hammers the edge of the basketball floor into place
The corporation assumes its command over the employee
An employee mopping the court prior to the game
An employee helps set up the court-side area before the game
An employee starts to up the seating section behind the basket
An employee operating the forklift
An employee helps to set up the seating section behind the basket
I tried to take a couple of pictures of some Wizards players who had made their way onto the freshly arranged court, but was harassed by a grumpy, gremlin-like usher who seemed to think it was her personal responsibility to put me in my place by sending me back to the concourse. I quickly responded that I was indeed allowed to be there. When she asked me who had given me that consent, I pointed to my supervisor who was fortunately sitting a couple of rows up. Apparently, ushers try to keep us away from the court, because we're not supposed to have any contact with players. It's pretty absurd, and is completely to do with money. We, as fan photographers, are contracted by the Wizards to take photos of fans, and pay specifically for concourse passes. If we were to pay for event passes, it would be ten times the expense. It's not like management really cares about protecting the players as human beings. The players are considered products, the main investments of the organization, and in order to directly correspond with those products, I'd have to pay a zillion dollars to do it. The ushers are simply there to enforce a policy, and maybe they do realize that the system they're submitting themselves to is a dehumanizing, and slightly exploitative means of keeping everyone in their respective places depending on their monetary value to the Monumental Sports empire, but somehow I think they're oblivious to this, and just commit to their assignment of harassing those without credentials faithfully. At the end of the day, we're all human beings. If I take a picture of an NBA player, it's no different than me taking a picture of a fan, or of a Verizon Center employee. But the player is worth a lot more money, and therefore the corporation, that being the Washington Wizards, or in a broader sense, the NBA, attempts to restrict my rights to have any chance of creating marketable photos using its products as the subject. Although there is no fathomable possibility of those restrictions being relinquished, it would be nice to have more leverage to pursue artistic endeavors within the context the NBA.

Wizards guard John Wall, right, and foward Trevor Ariza, left, relaxing during pregame warmups
John Wall, foreground, chatting with fellow former Kentucky Wildcat, and current Houston Rockets forward, Terrence Jones
John Wall warming up an hour and a half before tip-off
A Capitals employee, left, and a Wizards employee, right, lend each other a helping hand to set up the press table
The court-side thrones: A pile of event level chairs waiting to be set up
An employee fixes some unhinged chairs in the lower level
It was an energetic crowd on hand to celebrate Asian heritage night, no doubt in correlation with the presence of Jeremy Lin, so there were plenty of photos to be taken. Most of the employees in the arena, including myself, and my fellow photographers, were completely drained after working the Capitals game earlier. Despite a late push, I wasn't able to get much more than 400 photos. I think I had taken almost 500 pics at the Capitals game, but I had run out of steam a little by the end of the Wizards game, so I was glad to catch the end of what turned to be a surprisingly close contest that Washington narrowly won 105-103. The Wizards had trailed 94-88 with 6:21 left in the 4th quarter, but went on a 7-0 run to take the lead. Washington led by 2 with under a minute to play, but James Harden tied the game at 103 on a lay-up with 21.4 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Emeka Okafor was fouled inside by Omer Asik, and made the first free throw, but missed the second. Fortunately for the Wizards, Bradley Beal came down with the rebound, and was quickly fouled with 1.9 seconds left. Beal went only 1 of 2 from the line, but the Rockets were out of timeouts so could not advance the ball to mid-court for a better look than a James Harden half-court heave that was blacked by Trevor Ariza.

Beal led the Wizards to what was their sixth win in eight games with 21 points and 5 rebounds. Trevor Ariza contributed 18 points and 6 assists off the bench, and Emeka Okafor had another double-double, tallying 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Houston was led by Harden with 27 points and 6 assists. Chandler Parsons added 24 points and 7 assists in the loss. Meanwhile, Lin, the big draw for the evening, only managed 5 points and 6 assists on 2-9 shooting from the field.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mile High

The Denver Nuggets couldn't escape the cold Rocky Mountain air, as they paid their annual visit to a cold, and rainy, Washington, DC, to take on the 15-37 Wizards on Friday night at the Verizon Center. The Nuggets were coming off a 97-90 win in Boston on Tuesday night, and were looking to build some momentum in the Western Conference playoff race with a victory in the nation's capital.

Meanwhile, the Wizards were coming off a 96-88 loss to Toronto on Tuesday. Washington was active at Thursday's trade deadline, shipping Jordan Crawford to the Boston Celtics in exchange for the expiring contract of Brazilian combo guard Leandro Barbosa, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. The Wizards also received veteran center Jason Collins, who has only been averaging a mere ten minutes per game this season.

I was able to enter the arena a few minutes before five o' clock, and made my way down to court-side for a couple pregame photos. It wasn't too long before I was joined by my supervisor. Apparently, he was under fire by corporate headquarters, because his group of photographers wasn't meeting the quota for  number of pictures during Capitals games. So, after explaining to me how much his ass was in trouble for not getting enough photos out of his workers, we proceeded to watch some of the Denver Nuggets get their pregame workouts. At one point, Quincy Miller, a rookie forward out of Baylor had spilled his Gatorade, much to the amusement of my supervisor, who immediately called out, "We saw that!" Miller laughed, and said something slightly muddled in heavy breathing. In all my time working as a fan photographer, it was one of the few times I had any direct correspondence with an NBA player, even if it was my supervisor who had initiated the conversation.

Nuggets center Kosta Koufos was born in Canton, OH, but has represented Greece internationally.
Nuggets forwards Quincy Miller, left, and Jordan Hamilton, right, warm up before Friday night's game against the Wizards
Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, is averaging a meager 2.9 points in 10 minutes per game this season in Denver.
My supervisor was eager for me to get started on the job tonight, in order to compensate for a poor performance at the Capitals game on Thursday. After picking up my camera for work, I embarked on a quest to get at least 400 photos for the night. During pregame warmups, I overheard that a group of people representing the Italian embassy would be sticking around after the game for a meet-and-greet with Danilo Gallinari, the sharpshooting Italian forward for the Denver Nuggets.

I was able to get over 150 photos before the game started, and ended up setting a personal record of 513 pictures on the night. My supervisor was very pleased that both me, and another photographer, had eclipsed the 500 mark, so I took off a little early to catch the end of what turned out to be a 119-113 victory for the home team. The Wizards had led by 18 at the start of the 4th quarter, but weathered a late Denver run to hold on for the win, thanks to doubles-doubles from both Emeka Okafor, who had 17 points to go along with 13 rebounds, and Bradley Beal, who also scored 17 points and hauled in 12 boards.

Wizards forward Trevor Ariza is defended by Nuggets guard Andre Miller
Kenneth Faried, nicknamed the "Manimal," has quickly become known for his tenacious defending and rebounding, in still only his second year in the NBA.
Wizards guards John Wall, left, and Martell Webster, right, share a light moment towards the end of the game.
Nuggets swing-man Andre Iguodala has averaged 13.2 points per game in his first full season in Denver.
Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, a native of Clinton, MD, has averaged a spectacular 16 points and 7 assists so far this season.
A native of Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, Italy, Danilo Gallinari has averaged 17.3 and 5.5 rebounds per game in his 2012-13 campaign with the Nuggets.
Denver was led by Clinton, MD native Ty Lawson with 27 points and 12 assists. Wilson Chandler contributed 22 points off the bench in defeat.

After the game, Gallinari visited with the conglomerate representing the Italian embassy. I wasn't really supposed to be there. In fact, I should've had a ticket for the event. But, I was able to blend in with the crowd get a chance to witness this meet-and-greet, which really turned out to be pretty unspectacular. "Gallo" emerged from the locker room to greet some of his most adoring fans, fully showered, sporting a black jacket, and his trademark gelled-up hair. He didn't say too much. Instead, he signed some autographs, and took a few pictures. This was work for him. I think it would've been a little cooler to have a more candid, non-superficial conversation with the Nuggets' star, but then again, I don't know if Danilo and I would really have anything much to talk out.

"Gallo" stuck around after the game to mingle with some admirers from the Italian embassy in Washington, D.C.