Time and patience are the lessons to take from the first Wizards preseason game. They didn’t look bad on their way to a 101-92 win over Memphis, but they didn’t look particularly good either. But did anyone expect this team with so many newcomers, including a coach, to gel right away? Nope.
On the offensive end, where the Wizards are assumed to be amongst the NBA’s upper echelon, they appeared out of sync at times. Bad spacing and jumping to pass sloppiness reared their heads in spurts, but nothing disconcerting, and mostly occurring when the second unit guys were on the court.
After the game, Brendan Haywood gave the offense a C+, in terms of translating the instruction of training camp to a real game. Haywood said they weren’t smooth and were in the wrong place a lot of times, but that’s understandable because many guys on the team were in the Princeton for five years and they have a long way to go before mastering Flip’s offense.
The defensive end left the most to be desired (again, something to be expected), especially in the defensive rebounding department. Haywood called the effort “poor,” while Flip Saunders didn’t mince words by calling the Wizards’ rebounding “atrocious.”
Zach Randolph was a bull in the paint. Seven of his 11 rebounds were on the offensive end; he played just under 22 minutes. Even Hamed Haddadi, fueled by a new beard making him the Iranian Vlade Divac, was able to snag six offensive boards in just over 14 minutes of court time, giving him nine total.
In terms of on-the-ball defense, DeShawn Stevenson, aside from a couple hiccups, really got after his man (O.J. Mayo) aggressively. Gilbert Arenas appeared ‘interested’ in paying attention, but was very passive in guarding his man, often leaving too much space between himself and Mike Conley. Nick Young was also a bit more focused (than in the past), seeing ball and man, and keeping his head on a swivel off the ball. But Nick was abused by Sam Young a couple of times, once falling for a pump fake, and on another occasion, moving his upper body first instead of his feet against a drive. Saunders also said that Nick got tired chasing his man around screens late in the game.
Haywood was his usually communicative self. Jamison also seemed to step up his defensive talk a notch. On the second unit, Dominic McGuire’s talking especially stood out, and I even heard a couple of peeps out of JaVale McGee, who, for some reason, was given the mic before the game to thank everyone for coming out. He’s such a funny little fellow (well, he’s not ‘that’ little). For someone who seems to be such a drab and mundane “Quote-able,” he gets pretty animated off the court via his Twitter and other social networking venues. I’m almost surprised he didn’t drop his @bigdaddywookie Twitter account for the VCU students to follow.
Saunders said Randy Foye looked nervous and a bit uncomfortable running the point at first, but settled down and had a nice second half, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter.
Blatche also bounced back from a less than desirable first half where he got pushed around in the paint, lacked aggression, and took a couple bad shots (kinda par for the course with him). Although, when Andray was using both hands to rebound and showing confidence on the offensive end in the second half, he was one of the more ‘veteran’ players on the court against Memphis’ scrubs.
Caron Butler attacked the rim, once throwing down a jack-hammer dunk as the trailer in transition off a nice/patient assist from Stevenson. He also showed his usual quick hands.
Mike Miller, although he went 1-7 from the field, really impressed. He’s an intelligent defensive player, a better driver than I thought, and could have the best court vision on the team. The shot will come in time. Mike Prada of Bullets Forever was right when he told me he’d like the ball to be in Miller’s hands more, and for him to be more assertive.
Arenas was too passive on offense in the early going (more on that in the next post), but saw the court well the entire game … 10 assists to three turnovers is your proof. As the game progressed, he used the strength he still has (despite losing weight over the summer) to get into the paint and earn trips to the free-throw line. He just needs to do better than 3-9 from the stripe, and he will.
If I’m grading the team, I give them an overall C minus. So how does it come all together? Time and patience. The potential and talent are there. This team just needs time to learn how to play together. Rebounding is clearly the biggest concern after preseason game one, and that requires more of an overall team effort, not just a couple individuals keeping with their assignments. There’s no reason not to trust Flip’s artistry skills in bringing the canvas together. Making progress is why preseason games are played.
Preseason game two will be against the Dallas Mavericks at the Verizon Center in D.C. on Friday.
More to come: Pictures & Other Notes
Note: In the future, I’ll try to get game recaps, or whatever, up more expeditiously. My bad, I crashed after getting home from Richmond really late last night. But many thanks to Prada of Bullets Forever for shepherding our blogger carpool.