ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 28: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards holds his head after landing on the floor against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
It's not often talked about and it's not pretty, but taking a charge in the NBA is important. And it hurts like hell.
New to the Wizards locker room this year is the Charge Board, a large chart with the roster listed on the left side and a basketball symbol next to the names for each charge that player takes -- blue for practice and red for in-game charges. Prominently displayed in the locker room, the motivational tool left behind by Flip Saunders is a constant reminder of the little things that matter.
While it's not something you'll see in highlights, the players know how important it is to take a charge.
“This is just the type of thing you do to help your team win,” Roger Mason told us. “It doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, the newspaper writers don’t write about it, but the coaches put it up there because they recognize how important it is in games. When we won against Oklahoma City, John Wall took a lot of charges and those are momentum builders. I think he had three charges that game. That’s six points off the board for them.”
The Wizards won that game 105-102, so those charges made a difference.
According to the charge board before Monday night’s game, John Wall leads the team with a total of 21 charges taken, 13 of them during games. The next closest was Nick Young with four, all in-game charges.
“He’s a very good team defender,” Mason said of Wall. “He does a great job of positioning himself and sacrificing his body.”
To say it’s a sacrifice is putting it mildly.
“Oh, it hurts,” said Jordan Crawford. “I got two up there and they hurt, but you gotta do it.”
With a team total of 25 game and 22 practice charges taken, the whole team is familiar with that pain. At least one Wizard doesn’t mind it.
“It feels good because you know you’re sacrificing for your team,” explained Shelvin Mack. “The pain is worth it.”
Mack went on to explain that it isn’t just a momentum issue, but that taking a charge also allows you some bragging rights.
“It shows your toughness because you’re gonna get hit,” he said. “A lot of guys don’t like to get hit. You’ve got a grown man running full speed at you. It’s also a game changer. A lot of teams that take charges are usually winning teams.”
The board serves as a reminder of this, but also provides a little internal competition among the players.
“I just want to say that I’ve only played four games and I’m still tied for third,” joked Ronny Turiaf. “I just want to point that out.”
There are a few guys in the league that you definitely don't want to see coming at you when you're positioning to take a charge, and Mack was quick to name one.
“I’d say LeBron coming at you full speed,” he laughed. “A lot of big men coming at you full speed, you might want to move at the last second.”
You’re also not likely to get the call while taking a charge from LeBron, but that’s a different story.
Since we’ve never taken a charge, we wanted to know what goes through your head when you’re about to get bowled over.
“Don’t hit your head,” laughed Crawford.
“Protect yourself,” added Mason.
“All I’m thinking is, ‘Make sure you’re outside the circle’,” said Turiaf, whose size and position make protecting himself less important than placing himself correctly. “If you’re inside the circle it’s a foul. Usually if you do that, you end up on the wrong side of the highlights when you get dunked on.”
While it’s mostly a painful experience, there was one player in the league that the Wizards we spoke to unanimously voted as one they least mind taking a charge from.
“I wouldn’t mind taking one from [John] Lucas,” said Mack. “It’s nothing against him. He’s just kinda small.”