Full Court Press: Wizards Training Camp Questions Part 2 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Full Court Press: Wizards Training Camp Questions Part 2

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Updated: October 1, 2014

Training camp 2014 is here and there are questions about the Wizards — new, unfamiliar, you are actually telling me there are ‘expectations’ type of questions. The TAI staff is here to answer. Click here for Part 1, read on for Part 2…

Washington Wizards, Media Day, 2014, Truth About It, NBA, Adam McGinnis

[DeJuan Blair — photo: A. McGinnis]

Q: What does the next step for John Wall look like?

—Conor Dirks, @ConorDDirks

A: The next step for John Wall is figuring out how to build on his skill set (better shooting, fewer turnovers) without stifling his innate abilities or muddying his unpretentious game. If that sounds too meta — or too mindless — what was meant is that Wall was far less effective when he telegraphed isolation plays to end quarters, or pulled up anywhere inside the 3-point line other than the right elbow, than he was in the flow of his own unique brand of offense. No, that unique offense may not be a beautiful flower, but it’s fast, disruptive, and selfless. The predictable torpor of Washington’s half-court, or out of timeout, sets was maddeningly common, only occasionally successful, and had the effect of forcing Wall into over-thinking one-on-one scenarios while his teammates absented themselves from consideration.

Point guards don’t have to be “pass-first” all the time to be brilliant, and neither does Wall. But if his scoring is going to be sustainable and helpful for his team, it has to come with more drives at the basket, more free throws, more 3-point shooting, and the addition of a floater. Last season, far too many possessions ended early in the shot clock with a missed jumper from Wall.

In 2013-14, the Game Changer took 513 shots between five and 19 feet, but only hit 180 of them, per NBA.com/stats. That’s good for 35 percent, and almost all of those makes were unassisted. If the Wizards (and by extension Wall) want to be taken seriously, game time can’t be a long-term substitute, or supplement, for the offseason laboratory. Yes, Randy Wittman needs to recognize this as a coach and scale back the experiment, but Wall, an All-Star who will be criticized as much as or more than Wittman should Washington’s offense stagnate again this year, should take partial ownership of the team’s definition of a “good shot.”

If the jumper is not there this season, it has to take a back seat to playing to Wall’s strengths. For a suddenly competitive team that struggled with consistency last season, good possessions matter. Wins will follow.

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Q: How many minutes will Paul Pierce play? Will he play the 4?

—Rashad Mobley, @Rashad20

A: Gregg Popovich all but provided a template for how to handle the minutes of veteran players, even if Randy Wittman says it’s more of a “feel thing.” Last season Manu Ginobili played in 68 games, averaged 22 minutes per game, and played more than 30 minutes just three times all season. No one on that Spurs roster — even more youthful players like Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker or even Danny Green — averaged more than 30 minutes per game, which was a testament to Popovich’s genius. It is worth noting that Popovich has coached the Spurs to five NBA titles, which buys him the leeway to pull off such a feat. It is also worth noting that the core of Popovich’s team (Duncan, Ginobili and Parker) are all over 3o years of age, while Coach Wittman’s core (Beal and Wall) have yet to reach their 25th birthday. Coach Wittman does not have to duplicate that strategy, he just has to utilize that blueprint to keep Paul Pierce (and Nene and Andre Miller) fresh during the regular season and ready for the playoffs.

Pierce should average no more than 25 minutes per game during the regular season. Wall and Beal are talented and youthful enough to carry the Wizards for 82 games, and when they falter, Gortat, Nene, or Otto Porter (Erne Grunfeld’s fingers are crossed) should be able to occasionally pick up the slack. There will be nights when Pierce has the hot hand, and there will be other nights where his leadership and experience may be called upon to will the Wizards to a victory in a close game. But in order to maximize his effectiveness at the age of 36 (he’ll be 37 on October 13), Piece should be a considered a luxury not a necessity.

In 75 games (68 as a starter) as a member of the Brooklyn Nets last season, Pierce averaged a career-low 28 minutes and 13.5 points per game, but shot better than 50 percent for just the third time in his career. With less minutes, fewer expectations, and a clearer understanding of how to be a successful role player, Pierce should be even more comfortable this season — mostly at the 3.

As Kris Humphries alluded to during Media Day, the Wizards have big men for every occasion: bangers, finesse guys, rebounders, and scorers. On certain nights against a team like the Atlanta Hawks, it may be advantageous for the Wizards to use a lineup where Porter/Webster are in the corners, Beal is roaming the perimeter and Nene/Gortat are underneath to clean up the boards. But the Wizards’ strength last season, and again this season, is their ability to rebound offensively and defensively. Pierce should stay on the perimeter in limited minutes where his effectiveness can be maximized.

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Q: In what situation does Seraphin play? The Wizards got Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair and only let Trevor Booker go up front. What now?

—Adam Rubin, @LedellsPlace

A: Based on talent alone … never. Washington spent the offseason compiling a very deep frontcourt and Seraphin is at the back of the line behind Marcin Gortat, Nene, Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, and Drew Gooden. Gone are the days of Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton and Seraphin battling for meaningful minutes.

But talent is not always the deciding factor. The one thing Seraphin has that his frontcourt mates do not is the status as a home-grown first-round pick and if the 10-Point Plan is to be believed, that means something. One has to assume that after paying him a handsome $3.89 million qualifying offer, the front office intends to give Seraphin one last chance before showing him the Vesely/Singleton treatment.

And that chance will most likely come at center. After Gortat, the other big men on the roster are best suited as power forwards. So, Seraphin’s chance will most likely come in December or January when Randy Wittman throws him in after Gortat picks up two quick fouls against an oversized center like Dwight Howard or Nikola Vucevic. If Seraphin can hit a few jump hooks, hold his ground defensively and eliminates the mental mistakes, he might just get a second look before the All-Star break.

For a contrary opinion, see this.

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Q: Will the Wizards miss Sam Cassell and/or Ryan Saunders?

—John Converse Townsend, @JohnCTownsend

A: I don’t think so. Cassell is an NBA institution with attitude, but the Wizards are surely in good hands.

They still have ex-Spurs coach Don Newman and long-time assistant Don Zierden in the mix, Tar Heel Pat Sullivan, who was promoted from scout to assistant coach last season, plus a set of newcomers in “big-man specialist” Roy Rogers, 12-year pro Howard “Respect the Game” Eisley, and David Adkins, who comes with Kevin Durant’s cell phone number and this endorsement from Brenda Frese, the University of Maryland women’s basketball coach:


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Q: Who will replace Trevor Ariza’s perimeter defense?

—Kyle Weidie, @Truth_About_It

A: Easy to over-think, easier to underestimate, Trevor Ariza’s perimeter defense was kind of important. Very important. His length and skills could be a pest to the likes of Carmelo and LeBron, and Ariza’s quickness and veteran smarts — knowing all the angles — also allowed him to check 1s and 2s.

During his media appearance last week, Randy Wittman was in move-on mode.

“A team changes every year, and you adjust to that. Paul (Pierce) is probably one of the better team defenders. Did we lose that ability of what Trevor gave us from a one-on-one standpoint, probably a little bit, but it’s an opportunity for an Otto Porter or a Glen Rice to show me that they can do that.”

It still probably keeps the coach up at night. Can Porter be quick laterally? Can Rice not let a referee’s whistle get in his head? Will John Wall and Bradley Beal improve enough themselves? Because as much as the Wizards added depth up front, and as much as Marcin Gortat can block shots, the team still doesn’t have an all-league defensive type of paint protecter. Team defense, and who is first in line against the opposing team’s best player in a superstar league, is as important as ever. Who will replace Ariza? No one, and everyone, and coach speak:

“It’s a combination. We were a team defensive team, and that’s not going to change. That’s going to be stressed from Day 1 again … that’s where we earn our keep, where we are defensively, as a team,” said Wittman, hoping to earn his keep. Because as a head coach, the responsibility of team defense falls on him.

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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 currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.