Patiently Waiting For Accountability
[Andray Blatche gets consoled by Wizards trainer Eric Waters after experiencing a malady early in third quarter against the Hawks. Trevor Booker would be subbed in for him around the 8-minute mark and Blatche would not see the court again on the night. Due to getting poked in the eyes? Perhaps. Due to other inefficiencies? Probable.]
“Maybe too much turkey,” Flip Saunders suggested to TNT’s Craig Sager during a sideline interview early in Atlanta’s 116-96 Thanksgiving night thrashing of the Washington Wizards on national television. The Washington Post’s Michael Lee pointed out (via Twitter) that the team ate their holiday meal together at an Atlanta hotel the day before the game on Wednesday.
But a one-day carryover of sleepiness resulting from Tryptophan or not, there aren’t too many excuses for a young team to come out lacking energy, toughness, aggression and any other immeasurable trait that’s also wholly noticeable. Inexperienced squads like the Wizards do tend to struggle with consistency, but such miniscule effort has happened way too many times in a season just 14 games old. Hopefully the Wizards enjoyed their holiday vacation and comradary together in the South, because they sure didn’t show up in Georgia to play basketball. They were never even in the game.
Notes and thoughts, randomly:
- Flip Saunders, it seems, has been pigeon-holed into playing the gimmicky three-guard lineup, because it includes some of his better, more veteran talent. But it’s not going to work against most teams.
- With big men behind those guards who have very low-level awareness — from harder concepts such as rotations, to easier tasks like simply having hands and limbs active in passing lanes — all an opponent needs to do is be patient enough to make the extra pass against the Wizards and they’re golden.
- Mike Prada opines on Bullets Forever: “… if the concern with pairing Wall and Arenas is that neither guy plays well without the ball, how does adding Hinrich to that mix help? Saunders, so far, has gotten the Hinrich of 2007 rather than the Hinrich of 2009 this year. He’s gotten the Hinrich that dribbles around looking to make plays rather than the one that sits in a corner and finishes plays.”
- In other words, in Saunders’ system Hinrich is closer to Earl Boykins.
- Rebounding just might be the toughest assignment in basketball. Sure, constantly chasing a wing guard around screens can leave a player with bruises. Jostling elbows in the paint with some of the largest athletes in the world ain’t an easy job either. But rebounding either produces or preserves possessions, and doing it well requires relentlessness, something the Wizards simply do not have.
- Well, let me check that for a second. JaVale McGee has really impressed lately with his hustle, his version of relentlessness. When he appears to be trying as hard as he has been (with stellar statistical results), it’s much easier to swallow his instances of cluelessness … while he’s young.
- Of course, when McGee wastes offensive possessions trying to get to the basket from 20 feet away by dribbling the ball once and then using that lengthy step of his to wrangle around a defender, contorting his body in ways that should be on display in a museum while throwing up some floating junk that’d even make a playground pickup game pause, you still want to pull out your hair and sit his ass on the bench, even though he’s really the only Wizards big man who can make a difference on both ends of the floor.
- And then there’s Andray Blatche. He’s certainly improved his basketball skills now that he’s in his sixth NBA season. And surely he’s acquired more basketball intelligence, making inherent to his thought process some of the game’s nuances. But c’mon folks, let’s be honest, this is the same exact Blatche he’s always exposed to us.
- On the Hawks’ first offensive possession, Blatche set a tone by casually letting an offensive board slip through his hands. I hesitate to denote anything past the area around Blatche’s waste as “soft” right now — to flat-out accuse a player of being soft these days requires some more due diligence – but Andray certainly doesn’t embrace contact like a big man should. On offense he acts like a guard willing to do anything to keep a shot attempt from the lengthy arms of a much larger defender … then you realize that Blatche is a 7-footer and you wonder why he just can’t take the goddamn ball right to the rim in order to draw a foul. He’s a great free-throw shooter, you’d think he’d want to produce more undefended points.
- On defense, Blatche rarely offers much resistance in the paint. Sure, he can use acquired technique to hold his position, or his long arms to thrawt shot attempts, but most of the time, if an opponent works hard enough to get position on him down low, it’s over.
- The most damning vision from Blatche against the Hawks was his single rebound in 19 first half minutes. To his credit, he did snag three more rebounds over the first four minutes of the third quarter, but by then it seems that Flip Saunders had seen enough. With eight minutes remaining in the period, Blatche would be relegated to the bench for the rest of the night (believe that it was due to his eyes being poked if you must, he looked fine on the bench later in the game). When you’re getting your butt kicked as much as the Wizards were, you definitely don’t want to see a complacent, apathetic performance from one of your most talented players. And actually, I’m hesitant to call Blatche apathetic. It’s not that he doesn’t care, he just, perhaps, never knew how to work hard in the first place, and this team has never taught him. Or maybe they have and he’s just incapable, which would really bring into question why the Wizards signed him to an extension this past summer.
- Ted Leonsis doesn’t get embarrassed easily, he says. But you wonder at what point he becomes concerned to the point of action. It’s still much too early in the season to be making rash decisions. It’s not like the Wizards’ situation is as dire as Detroit’s.
- But clearly, someone needs to have a ‘come to Jesus’ with Blatche. Which, again, is kind of hard with that extending of his contract. Not sure how effective a parent would be if they gave their kid a cookie and a Snickers and then told them to sit in the corner to think about what they’ve done.
- Saunders is a great coach, and the circumstances unable to be controlled by him during his tenure in Washington have been rather miserable, but the coach also hasn’t exactly expanded or enhanced his resume while with the Wizards. Not that he’s incapable of turning it around, but he’s not off to the best start.
- Patience, patience, patience … rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding — valid aspects of what the Wizards are currently going through. But at some point, accountability must go hand-and-hand with those terms in order for a franchise that hasn’t been relevant in over 30 years to truly build.
At least there’s this (via the Post’s Lee):
“It’s still not a big reason why we played that bad. We have to change some things and just start playing hard. We get paid for this. This is our job, this is our dream. This is what we want to do. We got to start acting like it and taking it more serious.” -John Wall