[Yi Jianlian thwarts a Ty Lawson foray into the lane.]
“From the standpoint of what we’re trying to do — it’s tough to say when you’ve lost 24 in a row — but we’re doing things because we know where we were when the season started. We’re doing things based on where we’re going to be next year and in two years.” -Flip Saunders after losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, putting his Wizards at 0-24 on the road.
“We’re going to get one, hopefully sooner than later,” the coach eventually concluded in his post-game session with the media, as seen on Washington’s Comcast SportsNet. The Wizards are building hope on a 0-24 road record, but it is worth taking a closer look at some nuggets of development from the Wiz Kids.
Trevor Booker struggled in the stat sheet with early foul trouble in the Wizards’ 102-92 loss to the Mavericks. But he was assigned to guard Dirk Nowitzki, so 11 minutes, zero points, three rebounds, four fouls is understandable since he held his defensive ground on several possessions (but the two free-throws he missed didn’t help). Hopefully “Cook Book” added some new recipes to his defensive capability after matching up against the German All-Star, who scored 24 points on just 11 shots, because the Wizards are expecting Booker to be able to guard anything from a 3-man to versatile bigs like Nowitzki, and more. Overall, Booker’s 33 points on 14-19 shooting with 24 rebounds, three turnovers and 10 fouls over the first two games of the current four-game road trip (against Oklahoma and Memphis) is an encouraging sign toward his development and could be a threat to Andray Blatche’s minutes.
And as Blatche begins to play hurt, but sometimes make nice plays, but often regress, and usually take bad shots, but still give decent effort, sometimes, another Wizards big man has started showing up with opportunity and confidence fueled by minutes.
When Yi has struggled this season, he’s looked truly lost. Being cognizant of his less than stellar track record, along with the fact that he was essentially a freebie from New Jersey last summer, Wizards fans have, at times, complained that Yi should not be on the court stunting the development of guys like Booker and Kevin Seraphin.
But the fact is that the team is just as interested in looking at Jianlian, who is nearing the end of his rookie contract with his restricted free-agent rights potentially held by the Wizards, as a part of the team’s future (even if Yi is likely 26-years old instead of the officially listed 23). Booker and Seraphin will get their chances; plus, if they are willing, a lot can be learned from watching. For Yi, who is also represented by John Wall’s agent, Dan Fegan, to some extent, the evaluation time is a little more urgent now with just 35 games remaining on the 2010-11 season
And quietly, in the midst of the clamoring over coaching decisions, GM jobs and losing streaks, Yi has surfaced just as Booker has over the last several games.
Against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, Yi had by far his best game as a Wizard. He notched his first double-double with 14 points on 6-12 shooting, 11 rebounds (three offensive), four steals, a block and three fouls in 29 minutes off the bench. But Yi’s good play started four games ago in the Wizards’ last home contest versus the Denver Nuggets. Since then, over four games, here are Yi’s numbers per 36 minutes:
15.9 – Points
11.2 – Rebounds (3.4 offensive)
2.2 – Steals
1.3 - Blocks
.464 – Field Goal Percentage
Not bad/something to work with. But to sift past simple numbers on a website, let’s take a look at the video break-down of Yi’s big night in Big D … starting with Yi’s talents which got him so hyped in the first place, but focusing on his defensive effort.
To take a further snap-shot of Yi’s improvement, specifically on the defensive end, let’s compare some of his numbers from last year in New Jersey to this year in Washington using Synergy Sports Technology.
Poss. = defensive possessions faced that ended in a FGA, TO or FTs
PPP = points allowed per possession
%Score = amount of times a score was allowed on defense
|New Jersey, 09-10||Washington, 10-11|
|P&R Roll Man||41||0.78||36.6%||8||0.63||25%|
Not vast improvements in defensive capability, but noticeable change, even factoring in the adjustment in scenery from a poisonous locker room in New Jersey to one no where near that in Washington. Yi has seemed to significantly improve in perimeter footwork defense — ISOs and guarding the P&R roll man — which is evidenced by the above video.
What does it all mean? Not much past encouraging signs from a very small sample size … something Wizards fans have seen plenty of over the years, only to be disappointed. When healthy, Yi has displayed consistent effort when some of his teammates always haven’t. Now, he’s starting to look less lost and more confident, which is certainly worthy of minutes consideration.
What Yi must continue to do:
- keep talking, actually, talk even more on defense … increase audibility to teammates;
- continue to clog the lane by sinking to help on defense and by being aware of both ball-side action and man when defending off the ball;
- continue active hands and feet;
- do NOT be a ball stopper/do NOT have sticky hands on offense;
- gain confidence to play closer to the hoop and learn how to earn more trips to the line;
- piggy-back learning from Flip Saunders and his staff on top of work with David Thorpe and Bob Donewald Jr. last summer.