I spent some time last night charting the Wizards responsible for each point scored by the New Orleans Hornets as Washington fell 97-89, putting their road record on the season at 0-25. Some of the blame assignment certainly comes via judgment calls, but from watching some plays countless times, I think the chart below gives an accurate survey of the landscape.
As you can see, exactly which Wizard was responsible for how many points a specific Hornet scored is listed. The PA column indicates how many total points were allowed by each Wizard on the night; PPM indicates the points allowed per minute of court action — sure, points per possession might paint a more accurate picture, but all Wizards fans have is time … so seeing what a player does with his time on the court defensively still tells a story.
Things to note: not all defense allowing points is “bad” defense.
- Kirk Hinrich always tries hard, but often guys like Chris Paul, Marcus Thornton and even Jarrett Jack are going to hit tough shots on him. Like when Thornton crossed up Hinrich bad at the 7:12 mark of the second quarter … Andray Blatche tried to do the right thing by stepping in to draw the charge, but the subjective call from the referee just happened to go in favor of Thornton.
- Yi Jianlian gave up a single point to Chris Paul on a technical foul which was called on him for three seconds in the lane late in the first. It was a total B.S. call as Yi was actually moving from his man outside the paint to guard a Hornet left open, Aaron Gray, inside the paint.
- JaVale McGee got a goaltend called on him against Willie Green early in the second. It was a tough call, but McGee had to go for the block in that instance (and he was very close to getting one).
- The next time down the court, McGee secured a defensive rebound with two hands and good positioning, but was probably fouled by Gray as he hit McGee’s arm and swooped in for the steal and points. Sure, McGee could do a better job of holding on to the ball, but he was legitimately trying in this instance.
- Other points can really be attributed to bad team defense, the zone in cases I’m about to mention … a David West lay-up on Nick Young with 6:00 left in the third; Young getting too sucked into the paint when Green hit a trey at the 1:35 mark of the third; Rashard Lewis having to scramble to cover Blatche and fouling Thornton at the 4:25 mark of the fourth.
These things happen. Good teams will most certainly, and unavoidably score against the Wizards. What I’m interested in documenting are the instances of unacceptable focus and awareness … when the Wizards make it easy for their opponents to score.
So, let’s start with our absolute favorite … ANDRAY BLATCHE!!
I had Blatche down as being responsible for 8.25 points of Jason Smith’s 20 points on the evening. One thing to remind you … JASON SMITH!! Yes, Jason Smith … I’ll remind you again, it’s Jason F-ing Smith. Sure, he’s an NBA player just like all the others he’s on the court with, a fill-in starting center for the injured Omeka Okafor to be exact. But still, it’s Jason Smith.
Right now, someone is saying to themselves … ‘Why, yes, but you are also talking about Andray Blatche.’
Blatche got Smith’s confidence going early, allowing him to score right off the bat when Dray stood under the rim and expected a rebound to easily fall to his hands from under the net. Instead, David West missed and Smith got the untouched offensive board put-back. The next time down the court, Smith beat Blatche bad on the baseline. Dray could have been looking in the direction of the help defense for fault, which is usually unreliable anyway, but this time it was inconsequential. If Andray Blatche can’t stop Jason Smith from driving baseline — if his shoulder is too hurt, if his knee is bothering him too much, whatever — he should not be playing. But these are acts we’ve seen from Blatche before, hurt or healthy.
At the 4:35 mark of the second, Blatche simply lost track of Smith, who’d already had 12 points at the point, having just hit a jumper on Yi Jianlian 30 seconds before. Andray got caught watching the ball, and later, through scrambling movement by the Hornets, David West found the cutting Smith who ended up dunking all over poor Kirk Hinrich, with the And-1. Blatche was no where to be found.
It’s ironic that Blatche got caught watching the ball … well, not really. What Andray usually does is only watch his man, losing sight of team defensive concepts. This is usually an area where rookies like Kevin Seraphin or Trevor Booker will struggle. Blatche is not getting it, or not capable of getting it, mid-way through his sixth season in the NBA. A good example of this came at the 1:50 mark of the third when Paul jetted past Wall to the hoop. Wall needs to do a much better job with his on-ball defense, and that’s why I charged 1.25 of the point responsibility to him on this bucket, but Blatche never turned his head to see ball and man. Perhaps his neck is hurt too — don’t know, don’t care — just know that his lack of awareness charged him with 0.75 of the point responsibility.
Sometimes Blatche gets caught watching the ball and loses his man, sometimes he gets caught only focusing on his own man. He can’t decide in which way to not follow the simple defensive concept of seeing both ball and man.
Let’s quickly watch Jason Smith going baseline and dunking on Blatche for the Hornets’ second basket of the game (via The Basketball Jones):
And let’s not forget the hand that JaVale McGee had in Jason Smith’s points. For two Smith buckets at the 6:52 and 5:26 marks of the third quarter, McGee was totally lost in his mind in losing track of Smith. Sure, he’s “JASON SMITH!” … but that same guy had already built confidence with 16 points at that juncture of the game. So you probably don’t want to give him any more open looks.
Other Defensive Gaffes:
1st Q – 5:17 - Wall was legitimately trailing Paul for one reason or another in transition … sometimes these things happen and a guy like Paul can be hard to catch with the ball, even if you’re John Wall. Instead, no one helped, no one stopped the ball. Neither Trevor Booker, the rookie, nor Blatche, the 6-year vet, picked up anyone, both electing to mostly slow down around the three-point line and look for someone to cover aside from Paul, who streaked directly to the basket. Paul ended up missing the layup, but guess who was there to clean up the dirty work? Jason Smith.
1st Q – 0:01.5 – In scrambling transition, Paul finds Trevor Ariza in the corner for a three to cap a 7-0 New Orleans run in the last 35 seconds of the period. Previously, on the other end, Nick Young took a tough shot, missed, looked for a call from the ref, and then didn’t/coulnd’t get back on defense. Hinrich, Rashard Lewis & Yi did their jobs in transition defense … and McGee did get back, sort of, but he didn’t go cover anyone.
3rd Q – 8:26 - A lob dunk from Paul to Ariza … Hinrich was aware of what was developing, but Young, who was covering Ariza, wasn’t. Do they watch the same scouting tapes? Does Young not see in his peripheral vision that the Hornets were clearing out one side of the floor and a screen was being set for his man? Young didn’t make a 100-percent effort to get through the screen, maybe 70-percent effort, but his zero-percent awareness put his team in the position to fail.
At the end of the first half, the Wizards had the ball, down 55-44, with four seconds left. Flip Saunders called a quick timeout to set something up, but left a lineup of John Wall, Kirk Hinrich, Cartier Martin, Trevor Booker and Andray Blatche on the floor. That no substitutions were made was surprising. What wasn’t surprising was that the result of the last-second planning was an ISO for Blatche where he tried that lame ol’ behind-the-back dribble that he does. This allowed several Hornets to get in his face as he took a very poor shot and missed. Not a good coaching move if you ask me, but the players clearly didn’t listen either.
Not all is futile … the Wizards are trying more as of late as they continue to lose. Kelly Dwyer from Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie puts it best:
“In all, you have to respect Washington’s effort. But as much as we fret over teams taking the night off, sometimes effort isn’t enough. The team doesn’t play smart basketball. No other way around it.”
The Wizards have done a great job at drafting unintelligent talent that remains unintelligent. But by all means, keep the same management in place while teams like the San Antonio Spurs continue to find the Gary Neals of the world. Perhaps standing pat with team management is actually the bold move.