With Youth, Wizards Defensive Struggles Are To Be Expected
Preseason statistics and results should never be a reason to punch the panic button. Coaches are just tinkering in the lab, trying different lineups, offensive sets, etc., in an effort towards establishing refinement once the real games begin.
On the other hand, one could reasonably expect to draw a realistic indication of the future by observing a team’s preseason defense. Granted, zone defense is difficult to master, even when playing Randy Ayers’ simplified match-up zone system. But a team should not have a “cold” night on defense as they might when it comes to shooting the rock. If the D is failing, then signs tend to point to lacking desire and mental game slippage.
So, after allowing 66 total points between the first quarters of the last two games, is it at least worth flipping open the plastic cover protecting the panic button? It is worth nothing that the Wizards have looked their absolute worst in two consecutive games against a very good New Orleans Hornets team, which features a young point guard like no other. However, I would prefer to use performance against the best as a barometer rather than gaining a false sense of hope from seeing the Wizards shut down a mediocre team.
Going off what I suggested about preseason numbers, I’m not really worried that the Wizards are shooting 37.1% from the field and turning the ball over more than 20 times per game. I also won’t take too much stock in the Wizards holding opponents to 26.1% from three-point land (after giving up a league worst 38.6% from deep last year). Although, I am more impressed by the existence of the latter, as opponent 3-point shooting is a key area of needed improvement, than I’m concerned about not being able to correct the former. Bad offense will obviously give the opposition more chances to score. So once the Wizards gel offensively, I’ll assume that the defense will improve.
However, the most disturbing observation came from an Ivan Carter blog entry on Wizards Insider:
The defense, especially with the first unit, needs serious work. The Hornets are very good with Chris Paul but all-star David West did not play in either game and Tyson Chandler did not play tonight and things came way to easily for the Byron Scott’s team. Washington’s rotations and communication were particularly off.
I sat right next to the Wiz bench and saw a lot of chatting among players about who was supposed to do what on a given play. Also, Coach Eddie Jordan and Randy Ayers were consistently prodding their players about defense during timeouts. At one point, after a blown assignment, Ayers put his head in his hand as if he’d just been hit with a migraine
I certainly understand that coming together takes time…..and there have been injuries. But still, might the Wizards training camp experience touted with compliments, and sprinkled with accolades, not have been that great in reality?
Ahh….that’s where this youth movement comes into play. I’ve commended Ernie Grunfeld for preparing the franchise for the future with talented kids, while allowing for the team to win now with capable veterans. Because let’s be honest, the Wizards simply haven’t been in the position to add, at a minimal cost, experienced vets who can pull a team together by mere presence; a side-effect of being a reputable contender.
So, here we are…..at the cross-roads of rebuilding and hoping that the cursed cards magically fall into place. At the point where some windows are closing (Antawn Jaminson and Antonio Daniels), yet where there are glimpses of a bright future (JaVale McGee), all while Wizards faithful are also facing the possibility of unfulfilled expectations (Andray Blatche and his preseason rate of committing a foul every 6.3 minutes).
Not all hope is lost….the optimist in me keeps buying stock in ‘maybes’ such as Gilbert Arenas making it back in January, the Brendan Haywood timetable being on the lower side of the estimate (putting him back around the All-Star break), Caron Butler’s ability to keep the team afloat, and the youth movement somehow managing to click with the coaching philosophy.
If it seems like I’m asking a lot, then you’ve probably been a fan of the Wizards/Bullets franchise for more than a decade. With my fandom falling victim to history and the perceived existence of curses, the need to write off this year as a perpetual trough grows within my psyche. I keep thinking that the next crest is just around the corner, but the cycle is sick, and I can’t help feeling dumb and dumber by saying there’s a chance.