The Wizards are what we thought they were. They also showed a side that we didn’t imagine them to be. Or perhaps naively didn’t consider.
The goal over the summer was to get bigger, tougher … in comes Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker via the draft. Unfortunately, the rest of the front-line is much too frail. Of course, that was magnified by the juggernaut Magic, but frail in every sense nonetheless.
And it was evident that the team was short of shooters coming into the season, again, magnified without Gilbert Arenas for the opener. The following charts express long distance experience coming into 2010-11:
Yep, the guy who has just under 40% of the team’s experience in simply attempting threes is currently in a walking boot, fresh off a Cortizone shot to the ankle. Here’s a similar chart that relates amount of career threes made:
These are things we knew, lacking inside and outside … definitely not an ideal combo. What we didn’t consider was the gross lack of discipline, pointed out by none other than Steve Kerr on TNT, the failure of which beget lack of effort on more than a couple instances in Orlando.
Against the Magic, it was never about winning, the score, or stats necessarily (although how stats are constructed from here, including this game, will certainly be analyzed), it was about what the team showed.
The Wizards showed that they are young and inexperienced, that’s for sure. But unfortunately for Flip Saunders, the main culprits of dysfunction account for a third of the experience (in career games) that played in last night’s game. This chart helps:
[Note: Does not include inactive players Gilbert Arenas and Josh Howard.]
The night was epitomized when Flip Saunders called a timeout at the 4:26 mark in the third quarter, his second TO within five minutes. The effort on defense was clearly very poor, and Flip was not down for that kind of Flippery.
- Andray Blatche is working his way back into shape, but should he appear to be this out of shape? His feet looked especially slow on defensive on close outs and rotating in the zone. Besides, a broken foot doesn’t preclude him from strengthening his core. As I Tweeted last night, Howard sells McDonald’s, Blatche looks like he has been eating McDonald’s.7-Day Dray missed seven shots, going 2-9 from the field (seemed like he took more in his 24 minutes). There’s something to be said about the presence of Dwight Howard, just as much as can be said about Blatche’s falsetto toughness and lacking willingness to work in the paint.
BLATCHE NEW MATH:
Combined number of feet away from the basket of Blatche’s nine field-goal attempts. All shots came outside the paint, the closest one coming from 11 feet away. He probably would’ve been more effective attempting three half-court shots.
- Early-on, Kirk Hinrich was the only player who didn’t look look completely lost; but JaVale McGee wins the award for most lost. Christopher Columbus came closer to actually discovering America than McGee came to displaying any sort of basketball IQ against the Magic. Help defense as the shot blocking big man? He couldn’t tell you what that was with two ipads, a GPS and “The Google.”
- Nick Young is pretty much the same exact guy he’s always been, except with a bigger upper body. His sense of when to pass the ball is as terrible as ever … on the break, in half court, it doesn’t matter where.
- John Wall had the ball in his hands, so he put up some numbers. He didn’t look bad, but otherwise, did not make a mark on the game like many hoped he would. He was not a “Game Changer,” if you will … but that’s okay, these things take time.
- Yi Jianlian tried to attack the basket aggressively a couple of times and also had a couple positive plays on defense. But there’s still a timid aspect to his game, especially on defensive rotations and help.
- Aside from a couple jumpers set up by Wall, Kirk Hinrich made several questionable shot selection decisions. Otherwise, he seemed like a savvy veteran player far from being able to overcome his surroundings (teammates). Or maybe it was the other players who made him seem that way in a heightened sense. Or maybe it was both. But a silent leader like Hinrich is probably maximized on a more veteran team.
- Al Thornton looks … lighter, that’s for sure. He seemed to attack the basket early when some sort of offense was needed. Well intentioned, but scattered like Thornton’s game usually is. But if he finds ways to shoot closer to the basket, like the 7-11 foot range in addition to at the rim, he’ll be the most effective within his capabilities.Thornton did have a thunderous dunk right by Dwight Howard with an And 1. Well, it wasn’t really “thunderous” (but it was still monstrous). The dunk was more like a quite storm because, A) the Orlando fans didn’t know how to react to it, it was the only thing that took the air out of them, or kept them quiet for a second, and B) “Marvelous” Marv Albert paid it little attention, outright dismissing it with an, “Al Thornton with a basket” in the most monotone voice ever. The play happened to coincide with Marv’s mid-sentence spiel on Gilbert Arenas and guns. There Gilly goes again, hogging all the attention.
Flip Saunders gets a pass for what happened last year, but if uninspired, relenting efforts like the one against Orlando become more the norm, against lesser competition, it’s going to be a very poor reflection on his coaching skills for the as-constructed team.
Best of What Was Said
“It’s honestly not really that surprising either. Well, okay, it’s surprising, but a blowout was a realistic result. Having to open at Orlando was a massive challenge for a team like this. Not only is Orlando playing better than anyone right now, but they’re the kind of big, smart team that is going to destroy the Wizards all season. You couldn’t script a worse matchup for a rookie point guard who still doesn’t have a jump shot and a front line that’s weak and lacking in basketball IQ.”
“Rebounding was expected to be a problem for the Wizards, but there is no way that anyone could’ve projected that they wouldn’t be able to get half as many rebounds at the Magic. The Wizards were so awful getting rebounds that Magic reserve Ryan Anderson played just 16 minutes, all in the second half, and grabbed more rebounds (eight) than Thornton, who led the Wizards with seven.”
“This was dumb, uninspired, impatient, and uncaring basketball. This was awful. And while the Magic looked every bit the inspired and confident championship contender that they are, the Wizards consistently played up the role of the team that just does not care. In their first game of the season, mind you. That was embarrassing. I don’t care if the Magic were the 1995-96 Bulls in disguise with Wilt Chamberlain guesting at center, that was about as arrogant and dismissive as bad basketball gets.”
“It’s hard to give Wall anything better than a B- for his NBA debut, given that his team was blown out. With that said, it’s equally difficult to be hard on him given the circumstances. Wall managed to play calm, intelligent and, at times, exhilarating basketball in a showcase game on TNT against an elite defense. That’s a positive first step, despite the ugly shooting and stretches of hesitant play.” [Click the link for a chart comparing Wall's debut to those of other rookie PGs.]
“Anyone else think that every team in the league will watch film of the Wizards game against the Magic and use the same basic game plan against John Wall? Go under every screen, and rotate slow back to him – basically, entice him to shoot open jumpshots. Since this will most certainly be the gameplan aginst the #1 draft pick, the Wiz need to counter it immediately and effectively. Three thoughts for how to do so…”
This better not be tampering RE: another “super” team in Florida, Dwight.