The Gilbert Arenas Hockey Assist: a screen-shot observation
Gilbert Arenas dribbles the ball up the court late in the third quarter with the game conveniently in hand, Kirk Hinrich prepares to set a ball screen for him.
Arenas comes off the screen and looks to make a move to the basket against Jose Calderon.
For whatever reason, it doesn’t really work and Arenas pulls it back — as you can see, the help defense is keyed in on Arenas and he likely knows this.
As he pulls back out, Trevor Booker comes to set a ball screen for Arenas, he waives Booker off.
At this point, everyone and their third grade homeroom teacher is thinking that Arenas will lull Calderon with a couple dribbles and then pull up for a three — it’s what Wizards fans are conditioned to think.
But not so fast … Arenas makes a slight move to the hoop, but keeps his head up, aware of the timing of what he’s about to create.
Hilton Armstrong cuts to the free-throw line and Arenas finds him with the pass.
Toronto defenders (Sonny Weems on the ball and Reggie Evans and David Andersen in the paint) key in on Armstrong. The obvious option seems for Armstrong to swing it in the opposite corner to Al Thornton (but he’s not the best shooter, so that wouldn’t be ideal). The other option is to look for Trevor Booker in the short corner that’s always a vulnerable spot in zone(ish) defense. But the real key here is that Armstrong doesn’t tip his hand by looking directly at Booker.
So Andersen, seemingly an unaware defensive player himself, allows Hilton’s pass to go right by his face and into the hands of Booker.
Trevor places his body between all defenders and the ball and finishes on the other side of the rim.
JACKPOT! And this is how the Gilbert Arenas hockey assist went down.
Moving On …
“Kyle, every time a team plays the Raptors their blogger posts about how good their team looks. It’s the ‘Raptors Effect’.” -Anthony(Raps Fan), on the ESPN Daily Dime chat
I told Anthony not too worry, this Wizards team wouldn’t fool me too much. Sure, Washington held control for pretty much the whole game, ultimately winning 109-94. Toronto would get within four with about 1:30 left in the first half, but otherwise, the Wizards, playing without John Wall and Yi Jianlian, built on their lead coming out of the locker room and kept a consistent gap until the final buzzer.
The game could have easily gone the opposite way had it been played in Toronto and not in front of what appeared to be a very sparse Verizon Center crowd, the furthest Ted Leonsis has been from doing the ‘Dougie’ all season.
Four points …
The Wizards pounded the small-ball Raptors on the glass to the tune of a 47 to 36 advantage (36 to 21 on the defensive boards, but down on the offensive boards 11 to 15) — Toronto started what amounts to a 3-guard lineup (Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems), with their only rugged rebounder being the offensively inept Reggie Evans. The rest of the Raps led by the frail Andrea Bargnani were exactly what a lengthy, athletic team like the Wizards needed.
All one really needs to do is point to Nick Young‘s career-high six rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench to safely conclude that the rebounding war was more decided on what Toronto did (40.7-percent shooting) and less because of any rebounding prowess switch that turned on from the Wizards’ end (although I do give them credit for the hustle).
Again, don’t make too much of it because it was against Toronto (I can’t remind people enough about this, can I?), but the Wizards played one of their more composed games on offense and did it without John Wall. Much credit goes to Kirk Hinrich (12 assists, two turnovers) and Gilbert Arenas (six assists, three turnovers). And actually, I’ll give more credit to Arenas (since the composed offensive leader role is something we sort of expect from Hinrich). Gilbert looked more comfortable balancing the role of offensive scoring threat (20 points on 7-14 FGs, 3-6 from three) with the role of ball movement conductor than he has in a long, long time.
Andray Blatche … he’s putting up numbers, he’s trying to work closer to the basket on offense, he means well. I understand this. It’s also understood that the team has invested in this guy for several seasons to come. And I can’t blame them too much for Blatche’s contract extension — it’s relatively affordable and it costs less money to keep your own talent, right?
Unfortunately, I feel that Blatche’s defensive efforts have peaked. I hope they haven’t, but there’s nothing more frustrating than witnessing his sheer laziness on defense. ESPN.com’s David Thorpe wrote in a chat on Tuesday afternoon when asked about Blatche:
“Honestly, he’s the laziest great talent guy in the league. The single worst defensive player I’ve seen so far this year, but extremely hard to guard on offense.”
There are only so many times one can watch Blatche slowly waddle to his spot in the rotation, or poorly close out on a shooter, or attempt to futilely reach around and knock the ball from someone who has just dribbled past him (like he’s playing pick-up ball on an outdoor court), before you pull your hair out and frustratingly say, “You are hurting your team and will continue to hurt your team in this area!”
I have wanted to be wrong about this for the past four seasons, Blatche has never helped me to not be right.
JaVale McGee brings similar frustrations, in that he’s a true game-changer who must be played, but also makes constant mistakes that are tough to reward with playing time …. what a paradox for Flip Saunders and Co.
Even Toronto coach Jay Triano admitted that McGee had his players shook, saying:
“You don”t get lay-ups against this team. McGee is inside, blocking shots and he doesn’t give you anything free to the rim.”
But again, the rotations, the focus … it’s clearly lost in McGee’s head somewhere begging to come out and scream, “I’M GOING TO BRING MORE SUBSTANCE TO THE GAME VIA PAYING ATTENTION AND SEEKING A HIGHER BASKETBALL I.Q.!!”
But instead, we’re just left to drool over McGee’s style, his ability to simply get by on sheer athleticism. Maybe one day he’ll put it all together, it’s just that it seems like the Wizards coaching staff is perpetually releasing steam from their ears, wishing he would show more accelerated signs of progression.
I’ll have to go back and further document some of the inept instances of McGee and Blatche, but until then, just go back and enjoy that Gilbert Arenas hockey assist.
The atmosphere is also more conducive for Arenas to thrive because he is the dominant veteran on a very young team. There is no Caron Butler, no Antawn Jamison. Just don’t mistake the departures of those players as an opening for Arenas to be selfish. His play so far hasn’t looked that way in the least.
In my quick postgame recap of the game against the Charlotte Bobcats I wrote that “if the jumpers don’t fall, this team doesn’t win.” The corollary to this of course is that if the jumpers do fall, then the Wizards are going to very pesky team to contend with on any given night. And fall the jumpers did like raindrops on this wet D.C. evening. Led by Gilbert Arenas and Nick Young, the Wizards shot at a blistering 56.4% pace and 40% from the three point line.
In terms of the game itself, the lesson to take is that Toronto played really bad. Coach Jay Triano was upset postgame, even to the point of perplexion. He said on the Raptors broadcast at halftime that his team “played horses—t.” Asked if it got better in the second half: “not really”. The Wizards guards weren’t great defensively and allowed the Raptors into the lane, but JaVale McGee continued to impress in the one area in which he hasn’t struggled by blocking or impacting several shots. Triano singled him out specifically as an impediment to their offensive flow, particularly since they missed several jump shots in the early going.