Washington’s Two Basketball Teams


Washington’s combined depth and talent have come a long way.

When Dick Vitale left Washington off his top 40, it was a major oversight because Washington has two teams that can beat opponents: the A-team and the X-team.

Substituting one individual for another is common but a team has talent when they can make wholesale substitution of five guys for five guys, show a new look and essentially lose little or nothing.

The 1979 Sonics NBA Championship team could do that.

Usually Coach Lenny Wilkins would substitute in a conventional manner but occasionally would substitute a complete new five.  For example, John Johnson, Dennis Johnson, Gus Williams, Lonnie Shelton and Jack Sikma were starters but, if he wished, Wilkins could pull all his starters and substitute Captain Fred Brown (who led the league in 3-point accuracy the first year the 3-point line was introduced), Dick Snyder, Paul Silas, Wally Walker and Dennis Awtrey.  A short while back, Wilkins said Fred Brown was the best shooter Wilkins has ever seen, much less coached.  Dennis Awtrey’s claim-to-fame was his ability to effectively defend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, something few others ever accomplished with any consistency.  Defensive stopper Paul Silas (“who has never learned how to shoot in 15 years in the league,” someone said) was arguably the most physical player in the NBA, and when he replaced Shelton, life became more difficult for whoever Shelton was guarding.

When the Sonics second platoon came in, there was no let-down, just a different look, which was beneficial in itself.  The ability to wholesale substitute was indicative of talent depth, and paid big dividends, especially on defense.  In 1979, the Sonics led the NBA in defense.

Washington has the talent and depth to

replicate Sonics defensive play this coming season, scoring a lot of points off opponent turnovers.  Both Washington teams have speed to burn but, by design, the X-team could have more octane than the A-team.

The A-team might have seasoned veterans Scott Suggs and Darnell Gant together with Abdul Gaddy, Martin Breunig, and Aziz N’Diaye.  This team would play disciplined, up-tempo basketball with Gaddy working the ball inside to Gant, Breunig and N’Diaye, and Suggs proving he is a good shooter from any range.  They would play with the defensive intensity associated with Coach Lorenzo Romar teams.

While the above group can run, when the opponent makes substitutions, Romar could counter by substituting a high octane X-team, perhaps Tony Wroten, C.J.Wilcox, Terrence Ross, Desmond Simmons and Shawn Kemp, Jr., assuming Kemp is in good shape.  C. J. Wilcox has impressive physical ability – he’s the fastest player on the team, and his vertical leap is exceptional.  Last year he showed glimpses of just how quick, viz. steals, he can be.  Whether he can remind people of 1979 Sonics guard Gus Williams remains to be seen but it appears the God-given talent is there and, if realized, Wilcox will have a break-out year.

Some may question Kemp’s speed potential but, at the same time, Kemp’s gait and athleticism remind others of his father who, when Kemp Sr. played in the NBA, could run with anyone.  Winter will tell.

Continuing our vision, with the opposition already acclimated to an up-tempo pace, the X-team would bring a track meet, pushing their athleticism to its maximum potential, wearing down the opponent until the other team makes more substitutions, and perhaps the A-team comes back in.

Besides keeping Washington players relatively fresh, enhancing A-team and X-team chemistry, and increasing Washington’s offensive and defensive efficacy, this arrangement should help to keep opponents off-balance while wearing them out.  It worked well for the Sonics back in the day.

Obviously, match-ups figure into all of this, and whether Coach Lorenzo Romar chooses to wholesale substitute along the lines discussed above remains to be seen.  Regardless, the ability to wholesale substitute is indicative of Washington’s favorable depth and talent.

The disciplined competition in practice won’t hurt either.

In addition, waiting in the wings are Andrew Andrews, Hikeem Stewart, Jernard Jerreau, Brendan Sherrer and Alex Wegner.  Andrews has the talent to bump someone off one of the two “first” teams discussed above.  There is presently a little drop-off with the rest – which in itself is interesting because in 2001 B.R. (Before Romar) some of those guys might have been competing for starting positions.

Again, this winter the Husky basketball roster will give Coach Romar some interesting options while indicating the obvious: Washington’s combined depth and talent have come a long way.  For Husky fans, it will be fun to see how far.