It’s baffling how for the second game in a row the Wizards came out flat and lacking energy. You’d think that with the sour taste of a 19-win season still fresh, this team would play like they have something to prove. Guess not. Against the Pacers, the poor effort continued for the duration of the game as the Wizards fell 102-86.
So what is the reason? Is it still a matter of everyone getting used to their roles and flow in a new offensive system? Is it still a “process”?
Flip Saunders seemed to be as confused about how to maneuver his team as anyone (which immediately conjured up images of Charlie in “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” in my mind — just see seconds 15-18 in the clip below).
Flip played 11 players and tried 13 different lineup combinations* … and that was just through three quarters. Nothing ever gave the Wizards a spark.
Saunders said after the game, “I was just trying to get someone to play hard. I told those guys at halftime, ‘I can’t coach effort. You’ve got to come out, you’ve got to be prepared and play hard.’”
So does this mean that Saunders is not a motivator? Or should grown men be responsible for themselves? Probably a lot of the latter and a bit of the former.
Perhaps the Wizards still need to be deprogrammed from the offensive freedom which was allow into the past, mostly from the free-flowing Eddie Jordan era and partly from the lame-duck Ed Tapscott era when Wes Unseld, Jr. called the plays.
“Whenever we try to just play, we’re not very good. We need to play direction-oriented basketball … we need to get into spots, execute sets that we need to execute and play off that … instead of just trying to create on our own,” said Saunders. “I mean Gil has the ability to do that, but other players … that’s just not really their forte.”
Nick Young was given an opportunity with a start in Indy … but he came up way short, looking like the same old Nick. He hit his first shot of the game, a left corner three which was created off an Oberto baseline drive. But after that, Young took ill-advised shots before getting the hook at the 4:31 mark of the first quarter, not to return until 7:34 left in the game — garbage time.
[Young's other 1st Q shots included:
- Receiving the ball from Arenas while cutting off an Oberto screen on the right elbow, mishandling the ball, pulling it out with Granger defending, and then shooting a fading jumper just inside the three-point line with 12 seconds on the shot clock. He missed short and to the right, the direction in which he was fading.
- Coming off a baseline screen and catching the ball in the left corner, giving a weak jab step on Brandon Rush and then taking a very contested fading shot and missing.
- Young also had a moment where he should have been wide open in the short corner, but opted to back up towards to three point line, watching Haywood's pass to where he should have been sail out of bounds.]
But Nick wasn’t the only one playing out of the offensive flow. There were plenty of players trying to take care of things themselves … such as Caron Butler once trying to dribble-split a double team (something he should not be doing), and turning the ball over.
Perhaps the most astute observation came from the WaTimes’ Mike Jones and his thoughts on the ‘So Goes Gil, So Goes The Team’ mantra:
It’s becoming obvious that with Jamison out, the Wizards need Gilbert to be more than a leader by example when it comes to preparation. They need someone who will set the tone for them, jumpstart them and step on some toes if needs be.
Arenas failed to set the pace for the Wizards, and his teammates followed suit. Rather than coming out aggressive — not just scoring, even if it was driving and kicking, just attacking in some way or form — the Wizards would have responded to that energy. Instead, he came out passive, and there was no one to light the fire.
Something’s gotta give and it must happen fast. This isn’t on the injuries. And it isn’t really about coaching schemes. It’s about the Wizards getting out there and playing hardworking basketball like they mean it.
Faces of the Game
I could do some screen shots of Blatche trying to guard Oberto’s man (along with Oberto), or Blatche losing track of Hansbrough in transition … when they are running right next to each other. Or shots of Butler opting to go under screens instead of over, electing not to fight hard on defense against a good three-point shooter in Danny Granger. Or Butler and Arenas looking confused about how to guard a 2-on-2 fast break … But I won’t.
Instead, here are the faces of the game (all captured in the 2nd half).
*Wizards Lineup Combinations
(in order of appearance — 19 of out these 21 lineups are different — so, Saunders only used two lineups more than once)
- Arenas/Foye/Butler/Blatche/Haywood $
- James/Foye/Arenas/Butler/Haywood #
- James/Foye/Arenas/Butler/Haywood #
- Foye/Arenas/Butler/Blatche/Haywood $