POLL: Are We Only Talking About Practice? | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

POLL: Are We Only Talking About Practice?

Updated: November 9, 2010

On Monday afternoon Flip Saunders left practice early, storming out and cutting it short because he said his team did not have a sense of urgency and that his players were not working hard. Saunders also said, “That’s the one thing as coaches, you can’t coach effort.” He told his team to come back for a second practice that afternoon at 4 pm.

Barring your opinion of whether coaches can really coach effort or not, or if they should at least be taking measures to encourage maximized effort, or if you believe it should not be an NBA coach’s responsibility to hold the hands of basketball millionaires, there are a lot of issues with this Wizards team and they have been pointed out.

But Saunders walking out on practice … how big of a deal is this? Sure, as TAI’s Adam McGinnis was opining to me over Google-chat, this would be getting killed in Chicago or New York. Then again, via web media with boundless reach, it’s out there for a larger audience to scrutinize nonetheless.

Is it a good sign? No, it’s not a good sign that the lines between coaching instruction and player implementation are not in tune. But we’re talking about practice.

Yes, practice.

With a young team, this can be expected … a coach sending a message, that is. The surrounding circumstances have been building up to this, contributed by many playing poorly so far, but with non-rookie Wizards 25 years or younger being glaring culprits. On offense, they are simply clueless and immune to creating for teammates.

Speaking specifically about the Wizards’ big men, Saunders said:

“Combined all your big people have five assists, y’know as far as team play those aren’t very positive team stats. I know Dave Cowens ,who I consider one of the best centers, the first thing he always looked at was assists from other team’s big men.  If other big men don’t have assists then they shouldn’t play. They don’t make people better. That’s what you do. [Make people better]” (via Bullets Forever)

In terms of “making people better” and assists, let’s stick to theme of Wizards non-rookies 25 or younger and look at some quick numbers. The qualified foursome of Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Yi Jianlian (at his “listed” age) has logged 472 total minutes and has registered 15 total assists so far in 2010-11 — a combined 1.14 assists per 36 minutes among them. Here are their individual assists per/36 numbers:

  • Blatche – 1.88
  • Yi – 1.08
  • McGee – 0.58
  • Young – 0.48

These numbers are pretty bad, especially for a perimeter player such as Young. For McGee, it’s somewhat understandable — although they both seem to wear horse-blinders of similar size when it comes to seeing the entire court. Hockey assists? This crew has rarely heard of them, much less being the ones who facilitate hockey assists, which would involve getting an assist themselves.

Here lies the problem: These guys have had tumultuous and inconsistent experiences with NBA coaching. Not counting Yi, Blatche, McGee and Young have gone from Eddie Jordan’s unforgiving approach toward youth, to Ed Tapscott’s more cerebral approach for an interim period of time, to the stylings of current coach Flip Saunders. And for those three, this is their second season in Saunders’ system, albeit now under different circumstances.

Again, maybe you can’t coach effort, but perhaps coaches hold a certain responsibility in igniting it. And maybe walking out on practice is Flip’s tactic in that regard. And maybe Saunders’ frustrations are boiling over because imposing instruction upon some of the players on the roster he was handed is akin to trying to drill a hole into cement with a toothpick. And maybe this is all just a small, insignificant blip on a long season’s radar.

Tell us what you think of via the poll below.

  • Is it “just practice” and Flip sending a message to his players no big deal (they’ll get it eventually)?
  • Or it is more of a cause for concern, specifically in terms of how these players have been developed and how they’ve allowed themselves to be developed? (With those two issues being separate for purposes of this poll.)

Vote away.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.

  • Incandescent Rex

    I don’t think Flip is a very good coach, but in this case, i feel for him. The problem is the personnel that EG put together (especially the bigs) are not high energy defenders, rebounders, or passers. To paraphrase Denny Green: Javale, Dray, Yi, and NY are who we thought they were. They can’t pass, don’t rebound, don’t defend, and don’t hustle (unless you count Javale taking off like a rocket on any pump fake hustling). No amount of practice is going to change that. Of the 4 of those guys only Dray has the offense that can offset their defensive liabilities. It may be time to see what Booker or Seraphin can offer.

  • I’m glad Flip flipped. Something needed to be done. Blatche’s shot selection has been terrible. And Javale’s inability to harness his talents is downright painful to watch. The collective basketball IQ on that frontcourt is an outlier on the wrong side of the distribution. If they can’t make plays, the least they can do is try harder.

  • Elena

    Although Yi might be given a pass because he’s just being introduced to the system, the other three, while talented, have shown themselves unwilling to do what they have been told they need to do to improve their play and/or increase their playing time.

    Blatche, at least for the moment, is making the right noises about needing to improve. I’m hoping the sound bites will carry over into execution.