I actually rewatched last Friday’s loss against the Thunder on Saturday morning … and then was left with the “treat” of the game against the Spurs that night. Lucky me. And no, I didn’t rewatch the Spurs game on Sunday. I’m not self-loathing.
But as this player-induced, media-fueled soap opera surrounding the Wizards continues — [And Dan Steinberg is right, the players should stop ripping each other in the media. However, the media (of which I am apart, I suppose ... since I was called a "reporter" in a Tweet by an actual reporter) is good at taking windowed instances and magnifying them into potentially meaning much more. Than again, these players have been around the media plenty of times, they know what they're doing.] — it’s not necessarily about egos, or free-agents, or hidden agendas.
It’s about a group of players taking the personal responsibility to do the little things, and then that coming together under the coaching of Flip Saunders and the leadership of the three captains: Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison (Brendan Haywood should really be counted as a leader as well). Yes, I know … seems like these things should have been handled in training camp and the preseason.
If this team wants to get out of the current funk, it starts with the little things. I was able to capture several screen shots from the Wizards not doing the little things against the Thunder, probably could have taken more against the Spurs, but I didn’t. So without further adieu, here’s a sample of those which I was able to break down.
Changing The Game
Arenas works left to right at the top of the key and comes off a Haywood ball screen. Right after coming off the pick, where he was slightly bumped off course, Arenas decides to pull up for a trey ball while on the run and hotly contested by a trailing Russell Westbrook. These less than ideal conditions, especially with 18 seconds on the shot clock. A wise decision by Arenas? Unlikely.
Another possible scenario could have been for Arenas to allow Haywood to roll to the basket. He could then drive, keeping Westbrook behind him, and get to that mid-range area, forcing the defense to make coverage choices and the floor to open up.
You got Randy Foye, decent spot up shooter, in the left corner. Seven Day Dray hanging out on the right wing. Even Mike Miller in the far right corner … although the defense seems to be staying home on him.
Better yet, Gil has the mid-range area to work with. He could get a much better shot in rhythm and off the dribble instead of curling tight off a screen.
Remember this quote from media day?
“I’m not going to be a three point shooter this year. I worked most of the year on mid-ranging and I mid-range very well.”
The mass of humanity in the red circle is Caron Butler trying to guard a driving Kevin Durantuala. Durant is clearly a hard cover for anyone, especially for those with limited defensive agility such as Butler. He needs help defense.
Here, Russell Westbrook has exited stage left. He knows Durant’s in an isolation play on the baseline and will take care of business.
Each Wizard in the picture has stopped to watch the Durant show, not so much being aware of ball and man, or the offensive spacing of the opposition.
Jamison previously gave Gilbert Arenas a bit of a shove, as if to say, ‘Keep an eye on Jeff Green for me.’ But both he and Mike Miller shadow Thabo Sefolosha. Both should be more aware than an iso play is being run for Durant. Neither goes to help and cut off the baseline.
Durant’s resulting reverse layup was probably a lot harder than it looked.
Here’s an example of Durant’s quickness and Butler’s below average lateral movement. To compensate here, Butler needs to take a better angle. After coming around Haywood (who is clearing out from helping on a ball screen set by Kristic), Butler makes an awkward side straddle/step forward to meet Durant at a spot in the direction of the red arrow. But by the time he gets there, Durant is already past him. If Caron took a better route to cut off Durant, he could have at least forced Durant into a jumper on the run instead of a opening up the lane for a layup.
Mike Miller, god rest his injured soul, is the best pure shooter on the team. He should always have the green light on open shots. One thing the Wizards don’t need to do is over-compensate for the stagnant offense with too much passing. After Miller reversed the ball, a discombobulated Caron Butler committed a traveling violation.
Butler’s Uncertainty With Floor Spacing
Butler received the ball from Boykins just inside the 3-point arc as Brendan Haywood jogged by. Caron proceeded to drive the ball left, ending up on top of Haywood. He picked up his dribble in the paint and was caught with no place to go. The ref would call 3-seconds in the paint on Caron, could have been a travel. Either way, a turnover.
Guarding Russell Westrook, Arenas goes over a side-angled ball screen set by Jeff Green. This initiates an offensive look the Thunder are trying to accomplish against the Wizards’ match-up zone.
Arenas gets slightly caught on Green’s screen and is trailing Westbrook. Green coincidentally fades to the three-point line, spotting up for a shot he can easily hit. Jamison steps up to cut off Westbrook’s drive. But as Arenas catches up, he runs right by Westbrook, who has picked up his dribble and is in no position to shoot; he must make a pass. Arenas ends up in neutral territory.
In this instance, you’d like to see Arenas, perhaps, trap Westbrook in his vulnerable position, or at least clog the passing lane back to the spot up shooter, Jeff Green, who is exposing an imbalance in the coverage.
Instead, Arenas gets lethargically caught to the side. As Westbrook pivots and squares back to Green, both Arenas and Jamison caught behind his effective screen. At the last minute, Arenas gives Jamison a push to get out on Green, but it’s too late. Perfect pass, perfect spot up shot, easy points.