Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports


With respect to the recent retirement of Phil Chenier’s number by the Washington Wizards last week, it had me thinking: To those who were too young to remember Chenier as a player, which current NBA star would I compare him to? My answer–Klay Thompson. Both could score from all over the court, were fierce defenders, seem to have laid back personalities, and have been to three championships. What is your take?

That is a GREAT question. Thanks!

The closest comparison I can make is that Chenier, in his prime — like ’74-’75 and ’75-’76 — was similar to Bradley Beal, if Beal were a MUCH better defensive players and was sixth or seventh in the NBA in steals like Phil was in those two seasons.

In those two years (I haven’t studied them all, just looked at those two), Chenier was 11th and 14th in the NBA in scoring. Beal is 14th now in his highest-scoring season. Phil was sixth and seventh in steals with 176 and 158 steals.

The Thompson comparison is useful. Both deadly shooters from the perimeter. But Chenier, in his time, was clearly a better player than Thompson is now. Chenier carried a bigger role. He scored more points than Elvin Hayes (HOF) on the same team in ’75-’76. In ’74-’75, Chenier scored more than HOFers Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and John Havlicek. The next year, he was ahead of E, Earl and Dandridge.

As an example of his defense, the modern analytics rank Phil higher than I remembered. In ’74-’75, he was 8th in the NBA in defensive win shares — just behind Jerry Sloan, one of the greatest defensive guards ever, and somebody named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who was seventh.

If there had been a three-point line then, Chenier would have automatically gotten a couple of points added to his scoring average and, since he’d have been encouraged to shoot more with an arc, he might have been a 23-to-25-pt scorer back then, instead of 19-to-21.

Phil was fluid, a beautiful shooter, but also an aggressive gambling defender who, at 6-3, was the same size, relative to the league, as perhaps a 6-5 or 6-6 guard now.

For total value — stuff like Wins Shares and Value Over Replacement Player — Chenier was similar to DeMar DeRozan (shooting guard), or Victor Oladipo (DeMatha, Pacers), but definitely ahead of Beal.

In his five best years, Chenier was probably a somewhat better total player than either Wall or Beal so far in their careers because Chenier’s game didn’t have an obvious weakness, like Wall’s bad shooting (from two-feet out to the three-point line) and his high turnovers or Beal’s lack of any second impact skill except for shooting/scoring. But it’s close. Phil was also around 20th in the league in minutes. He played long and hard.

We’ll never know what a "full" career mighty have looked like because his bad back (injury) totally changed him and dragged him back to the league.

I remember doing a feature story on him in retirement. He was running a D.C. Boys Club, very happy and contented about it — and very good at it. Seemed he might do that indefinitely. You seldom see a big star that modest and happy in the next job if it’s not glamorous. He had no idea he’d end up a broadcaster, and an excellent one whom I always enjoyed, for 33 years.

They put a microphone next to his number 45. But make no mistake, from, ’72 through ’77, when he was dueling Walt (Clyde) Frazier to a standstill, Chenier was as good, and probably slightly better, than any Wizards player of this decade. That gets missed because he was also playing with HOFers like Unseld and Hayes. But them you can’t compare those exceptional ’70’s Bullets teams which went to the NBA FINALS four (4) times and had win totals of 60, 54 and 52, to the current pretty good Wizards, a franchise that hasn’t won 50 games the ’70’s.

Good morning! I just returned from a blissful weekend down in Palm Beach, and it has me wondering about what it’s like to be a ballplayer down there. There are only so many hours a day even the most devoted perfectionist (ahem, Mr. Murphy) can spend at the ballpark itself. I’m sure this varies by player, but can you give a general sense of what the boys do when they leave the park? Does the team arrange housing, or do they stay in hotels or apartments of their own choosing? I would assume a lot of them fit in some golf when they can, but do they live like otherwise normal human beings, going out to dinner or visiting the beach? Hope you had/have an easy transition back to the frozen wasteland up here, and thanks for the chats! They’re the highlight of my Mondays.

Thanks. Yes, you’ve got the picture. They are adults and are treated that way. Figure out your own housing and life style. They put in more time at the park working — I mean really working hard, including weights and conditioning — than most fans would expect. When the clubhouse opens at 8 a.m., they’re already there — and have BEEN there for a while — when I first see them. And by 3 or 4 p.m., when they have a 1 p.m. game, most/all/plenty are still there.

But they like to start early so they can have time with family, golf, whatever.

As an example of "whatever," I was walking on Melbourne Beach, where I was staying about half-an-hour from Viera, five years ago. I walked past a couple of nondescript guys who were fishing into the surf — from the beach, of course — with long poles. I was on my cell phone to family.

"Aren’t you even going to say ‘Hello?’" said Jordan Zimmermann.

Turns out Jordan and a buddy were fishing for SHARKS. Maybe "hammer heads?" I’m not good on shark types. Somebody caught one that was, I think, 52-inches long — almost 4-and-a-half feet –about 100 yards from them down the beach. I saw a picture somebody had taken of it. They said they’d caught one and put it back — which, I think, is the law. You have to "catch and release." Well, how the hell do you ‘release’ a shark that would come up to your chest!? Answer: You hit it over the head with a baseball bat, or equivalent, stun it and carry it back and dump it in the surf.

The next day in the clubhouse Jordan was teasing me about being on the phone on a beach and not even seeing him — I passed him going and almost passed him coming back. I couldn’t resist. I asked him if the Nats had a policy on their ace pitchers going SHARK FISHING? "So, was your buddy there to knock the shark out and carry it back to the ocean?"

I wasn’t going to write about it — it’s his business. But I kept on pretending I would, asked Matt Williams about "dangerous off-season experiences" from his era.

Later, I got a "statement" back from Jordan saying, just a misunderstanding. They weren’t fishing for shark (like they said they were) after all. (Yeah, probably perch.) I didn’t write about it. Then.

Even assuming Wall gets back, do they have a realistic chance of even making the East semi-finals?

They’ve obvious run out of gas trying to compensate for playing without Wall. And other teams have figured out Satoransky, to a degree. Porter has tapered off some from his early 19-point pace without Wall. He, Morris, Oubre and Scott can’t pick up all the slack every night. They started 10-3, but have gone 4-8 since then and are 14-11 (.560) overall without Wall. They were 26-22 (.542) when he was hurt. (Wall also missed games earlier in the season. I’m not bothering with that this a.m. The point: They’ve play about the same without him for 25 games.)

I’ll still be fascinated to see if the Wiz players appreciate Wall more when he comes back and also see if Wall appreciates them more now that he sees how well they played without him when most people thought they’d collapse.

When Wall gets back, the Wiz need to focus on getting THREE players, who were far better without Wall, to play a similar game, with similar production and a similar volume of shots when Wall does get back: Otto Porter, Tomas Satoransky and Markieff Morris.

Here are their minutes, then their shooting percentages from the floor (FG%), from the three-point line and on free throws — presented as a slash line. Then their points/rebounds/assist as another slash line.

Satoransky: 30.3 min. .539/.531/.896. If he did this over a whole season Satoranky would be The Best Shooter in the entire NBA — by a safe margin. Not a VOLUME shooter, not a high scorer, but a deadly shooter one when he’s open and an incredibly efficient offensive player. Then 10.5/6.0/4.0.

Porter: 32.9 minutes. .516/.442/.842 and 17.0/7.0/2.6. This is borderline Real Star level stuff, especially considering he is in the top 10 in the NBA in steals and in the top five in fewest turnovers. That shooting slash line would be competitive with the best True Shooters and Efg% shooters in the whole league. Porter MUST get the number of shots he’s getting now, or if Wall can manage it, a bit MORE. You have to USE a shooter this good.

Morris: 30.6 minutes. .517/.382/.833. And 14.0/6.0/3.1. Good production.

None of these three needed Wall’s passing to shoot BETTER — actually much better — without him on the floor to get the ball to them in the last 25 games. Oubre DOES need Wall.

I still think it’s conceivable that this team makes a jump up when Wall gets back. I also think they could be flummoxed trying to re-style the team on the fly, or go back to The Way They Were and get knocked out in the first round. Especially, obviously, if they start by playing the Cavs.

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