Flippery: Looking Back & Looking Forward
Not too long ago, I found that the Wikipedia page for Flip Saunders listed his real first name as “Flippery” — Wikipedia hijinks … it gave me a chuckle. His real name is Phillip.
On a related note, I recently wrote something for the individual team previews that Basketball-Reference.com is doing. I was supposed to discuss strengths and weaknesses, which I aimed to do, and did to a minor extent, but when all was said and done, it ended up being somewhat of a preview on Phillip “Flip” D. Saunders, Wizards head coach.
Hence, I’m re-purposing what I wrote for BBR for the first part of this post. Sure, it’s kind of “iffy” of me to post something I wrote for somewhere else here (not like I haven’t done it before). But I know you’ll go check out the rest of Basketball-Reference’s preview on the Wizards anyway, which includes projected per-36 minute stats and some team-related polls to vote on.
The Wizards’ biggest strength is also their biggest weakness (and please don’t picture Michael Scott or Dwight Shrute saying this … I’m being serious): Youth.
Youth is going to bring a refreshing change around these parts, Washington, D.C., especially for Flip Saunders.
Saunders is adaptable. He’s the Chameleon. The short sharp shooter from Cuyahoga Heights, whose mere presence as a 5’2” freshman on the varsity squad peeved the parents of older children, now aims to show a group of NBA youths (and some castaways) how to transform and play like men.
Saunders has a brilliant offensive mind, underestimated because his career, while noteworthy, has underwhelmed for the simple fact that he has not won a championship. And he’s adapted and added onto his offensive system by willingly by soaking knowledge from the likes of Bill Musselman, Jim Dutcher and J.D. Barnett (among others), and by cutting his teeth at various levels (JUCO, college, CBA, NBA).
Flip takes about John Wall being a sponge and often says that point guards come from heaven. He also talks about how “he didn’t sign up for this.” Or rather, since it’s in the past, “that.” This and that being what boils down to Gilbert Arenas versus Caron Butler, and the rest of the veteran, set-in-their-ways situation last season that Saunders could have never controlled. Wall is not only a “Game Changer,” but he also could be a coaching career changer.
Enter hindsight: Saunders was a good hire, but a bad move … considered with Ernie Grunfeld’s maneuverings in totality, staunch adherence to the gospel of Abe (Pollin) and the presumed infallibility built by a half of season of hope from “The Big Three: Arenas, Butler & Jamison”; also coupled with the scapegoat firing of Eddie Jordan, a man who himself was partially responsible for the ill-fated offensive beast that wasn’t reasonably suited for the NBA, or the subsequent coach.
“When you have a young team and you’re going through and you’re learning, a lot of times you don’t have to break bad habits. You can teach them how it really has to be done. I think we’ve got a lot of young guys that are like that … that are very committed to trying to be as good as they can be,” said Saunders after a recent home preseason game. And this was after Saunders spoke of last season’s veteran-laden team acting “entitled” with the ball and praised the receptiveness of this year’s team.
Without getting into the depths of the coaching carousel conundrum and how it’s affected by and affects today’s player-coach relationship (also not mentioning the fact that Saunders is considered to possess low levels of assertive authoritarian traits), this 2010-11 Wizards team will struggle because of its youth, but youth will also make them better than most can imagine — under a coach with a playbook the size of your grandfather’s experience, but the savvy to put it on ipads.
Now multiply that by the presence of Sam Cassell and you should have a reason to be optimistic beyond player capability. These Wiz kids are going to be fun to watch.
This part didn’t appear on Basketball-Reference.com.
So Gilbert Arenas is going to miss the first two games of the season, at least (via Michael Lee, Washington Post). He’s been wearing a walking boot. How ominously splendid in the most sarcastic, yet apathetic way possible.
But what’s not fun about taking a stroll down memory lane? Specifically, the crazy mess that was last season … and partially because Flippery probably works best as a synonym for Gilbertology.
If you want to hear me ramble on about Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and the whole crazy scene of covering the Wizards with media credentials for the first time in 2009-10, check out this feature shepherded by Matt Moore for the website, Voice On The Floor. Moore, surely you’ve heard of him, has written all over the internet and currently heads the NBA Facts & Rumors Blog with CBS Sports. Michael Lee of the Washington Post and Mike Prada of Bullets Forever also took part in this spoken word affair, a series called A Season In Ruins.
First, a couple disclaimers to my ramblings:
- I’m not completely clear about “Limp Gate” — read this for all you need to know: Arenas Up To His Old Tricks? His Knee and Wizards Training Camp Day 3, Oct. 2, 2009
- I use the “he can’t help himself” defense with Arenas a bit … but I don’t necessarily agree with it. He really needs to help himself more.
- Matt asked me, looking back, if I noticed anything different about the team after that fateful December 21st date, a Monday when locker guns is said to have happened. I couldn’t think of anything, saying I’d have to go back and read what I wrote. I should’ve taken my own advice before recording. This piece says a lot: Flip Saunders’ Wholesale Third Quarter Substitution: Wizards Top Sixers 105-98, Dec. 23, 2009
- At one point, I quip that I had “friends concerned about me” being in the locker room with guns. That part is actually a joke with Matt because he, in some fashion, once questioned/or “expressed concern” about the safety of people he knew who were in a locker room with guns. I understand what he meant … you never know with guns, they are scary things. And, some people can be unpredictable when they get their hands on guns, so it’s usually best not to have them around. Still, I laugh at the thought of my safety being threatened via Arenas and Crittenton, but I guess that silliness is neither here nor there at this point.
- I lost perspective of time passed when drawing comparisons between Arenas and Ron Artest. Plus, Artest now has a championship ring … in a city where recovering or rehabbing one’s image is as much art as it is tragedy.
- Maybe you could say the same thing about D.C. too.
- Now go listen.
Gilbert signs an ipod.