Kobe and Nash will make a great duo. That’s what the numbers say anyway.
Nash had the highest assist percentage in the NBA (53.1) and made the most passes to spot-up shooters (389) in the pick-and-roll last season. More often than not, 62 percent of the time, Nash passed the rock in the two-man game, and his Phoenix Suns teammates shot 51 percent on those passes.
“With Nash taking over primary ballhandling duties and Kobe handling the ball less, expect the Lakers to get more open shots and shoot the ball at a higher percentage, including Kobe,” wrote Ryan Feldman and Rachel Eldridge of ESPN Stats & Info. “Kobe doesn’t get open very often, but when he does he’s a highly efficient shooter. If Nash is able to get open shots for Kobe, expect the Lakers to be a strong contender.”
McGee vs. Duncan in the Phone Booth? Not going to happen. [photo: K. Weidie]
Crafty spin moves by Dirk in D.C.? Don’t count on it. [photo: K. Weidie]
The Monday after Thanksgiving, just two days after David Stern and Billy Hunter posed together in the middle of the night indicating that a handshake deal was bringing back in the NBA, I found myself face-to-face with a co-worker. Prior to that deal, this co-worker would pick my brain daily, seeing if I knew when the NBA would resume. I’d refer him to ESPN True Hoop for daily coverage, and I’d do my best to tell him to stay optimistic, but I ultimately I was just as clueless.
From the Wizards’ perspective, you’ll hear sentiment such as, “We just turned into our old selves in the third quarter,” courtesy of Andray Blatche in the quote mix video above. He also said that too many players were trying to put things on their own shoulders and that there were no Kobe Bryants or Dwyane Wades in the locker room.
Regarding the offense, Rashard Lewis said in the first quarter the Wizards moved the ball side to side, but later in the game, they often utilized only half of the baseline to halfcourt plane.
John Wall cited lack of heart and fight … hero ball.
Nick Young said that they have to find ways to get people open, saying Grant Hill was talking to him during the game, telling him that the Suns were reading every play the Wizards called.
The last game was played in Milwaukee, and this one was played in the friendly confines of the Verizon Center. The Bucks were missing three starters, and the Suns had a healthy roster at their disposal. The Wizards are a putrid 0-20 on the road, and they went into last night’s contest with 12-8 home record–including four straight wins at home. You get the point here, there were plenty of differences between last night’s game against Phoenix and Wednesday night’s game against Milwaukee. Still, it played out exactly the same.
In both games, the Wizards played flawless first quarter basketball, only to see their hard work come unraveled in each quarter after that, leading to a double digit loss.
The Wizards shot 53-percent in the first quarter, and they were mainly led by Nick Young (11 points) and Andray Blatche (10 points). John Wall did not do much damage scoring-wise (two points), but he managed to dish out a whopping nine assists, before he was subbed out for Kirk Hinrich with 3:49 left in the period.
[As it turns out, Hakim Warrick's monster jam on Yi Jianlian at the end of the first half was a sign for things to come for Washington in the second half.]
There was a battle for momentum toward the end of the second quarter during Sunday night’s Wizards-Suns game. Steve Nash had just penetrated the lane (as he did with ease all night), and dished off to Hakim Warrick (again, as he did all night) for a thunderous slam, and there were just four seconds left on the clock. John Wall then took the ball, ran down the court and launched a shot from just inside the three-point line.
After Wall’s attempt went in off the glass just before the buzzer, Channing Frye looked in disbelief and then ran towards the locker room. Wall briefly looked at the crowd, tapped his chest twice, and then he too ran off the court. His shot had cut the Suns lead to three points, and momentum seemed to be firmly on the Wizards’ side.
In the first 90 seconds or so of the third quarter, it seemed like the Wizards were up to matching the Suns’ intensity. Jason Richardson and Channing Frye both scored off passes from Nash, but the Wizards countered with scores of their own courtesy of two free throws from Wall and a dunk from Alonzo Gee. At that point, the Wizards were still within three points.
But then the Steve Nash show really started to kick into full gear. The Wizards could not keep pace and things began to get out of hand. Nash was either scoring or dishing on every basket, and each of Phoenix’s other four starters (Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Richardson and even Earl-freaking-Barron) scored within the first six minutes.
[Steve Nash lures John Wall with a back dribble, then changes pace to attack the open lane while keeping the ball away from JaVale McGee with two hands before sliding in for a layup.]
This Wizards team is hard to dissect, and I don’t mean “take apart,” as Steve Nash did on Sunday evening on his way to captaining his Suns to a 125-108 victory.
The Wizards are hard to dissect in the sense of separating individual parts to determine why the team continues to lose in the worst of ways (and win by the skin of their teeth). Anything and everything could go wrong on a given night.
On offense, in general, the team wastes too many possessions with bad shots. Pretty simple to conclude that they could use a lot more discipline in this regard. On defense, it comes down to focus and will, something several Wizards have major issues with. When you combine the overall effect that has on the team with the stylings of the two-time MVP in Nash, you have a recipe for the Suns to have their way with the Wizards.
Quinton Ross has a player option for $1,146,337 million next season. I’m sure some Wizards fan out there don’t want him to take it. Get over it. He probably will.
But yea, Ross is bad … well, at least his stats are, which certainly serve as a partial reflection of his abilities as a player, but are incapable of telling the whole story … such as his reputation for being a good defensive player, which can certainly be debated.
Leading up to Saturday’s game against the Jazz, in Ross’ 19 games and 193 minutes with the Wizards he had a PER of -0.3.
On Saturday, taking and making one shot, along with committing a single foul in five minutes of action pushed his PER with the Wizards into positive territory at 0.1.
Flip Saunders and I may have different perceptions of the Wizards. And for good reason, we are different people. He’s a professional, experienced coach. He sees countless things I don’t see when observing his team. But I’m stubborn in my opinion that derives from the things I see. Agree to disagree if you will. For instance, let’s look at the quote below from Michael Lee’s story in Monday’s Washington Post:
Despite their 1-3 record, the Wizards (8-17) still believe they made progress on the trip, with Coach Flip Saunders and several of his players commenting on how the team could’ve easily won two more games if a few more breaks had gone their way.
The Wizards have recently patted themselves on the back for not quitting and being in close contests. “Breaks” … sure, Michael Lee’s words, but the franchise has conveyed the ‘if only a couple of plays’ argument, as if some fate has intervened.
I’m under the impression that if the Wizards wanted it a little bit more, especially on defense, if they had just a bit more focus, determination, hustle, you know, all of those intangible sports clichés, then they could have notched a couple more wins.
Why is Gilbert Arenas always so ready to give up a foul after he or his team commits a turnover?
Why is Caron Butler always shuffling/switching his pivot foot when he catches the ball, leading to a travel?
Why are the Wizards entrenched in bad communication, often running into each other on pick and roll defense?
This team is surrounded by a lot of questions, these are just some examples. The quandary of this bad Washington Wizards team won’t simply be resolved by ‘when Mike Miller becomes healthy’, ‘when Gilbert Arenas gets his mentality back’ or ‘when Flip Saunders is able to reign in his players to properly run his offense’.