Wizards Lose to Nuggets, 77-70
If you want to feel the downside of Vegas Summer League basketball, Washington's 77-70 loss to the Denver Nuggets would have been an appropriate game. It was the final contest of the day, and the stands at Thomas & Mack were nearly empty. The basketball was erratic and often ugly; there were 12 combined turnovers in the first quarter alone. The Wizards ran little in the way of an offense, and several players were animatedly discussing positioning mistakes, both on the court and on the way out of the locker room.
After a terrific shooting performance against Cleveland on Tuesday, the Wizards settled for contested individual shots and mostly missed. The Wizards shot 55 percent on Tuesday, and came back with a 32 percent effort against Denver. I believe that was the worst percentage of any team that played today. Take away Nick Young and Andray Blatche, and the rest of the Wizards shot a cover-your-eyes 19 percent.
"Everybody was trying to do too much on their own," said Wizards assistant Randy Wittman, who led the team. "We didn't run anything offensively, we overdribbled, I don't know how many times we tried to dribble through three or four guys and lose it, kick the ball out of bounds. That was the difference. Tonight we were all individuals. As a team, we didn't make the extra pass. That was basically the difference, I think. If we play the way we did, it makes you feel even worse when you [only] lose by six points, seven points, whatever it was."
A few more observations, and the players split pretty quickly, so there was hardly anyone to talk to.
After exploding for 36 points on Tuesday and leading this summer circuit in scoring average, Nick Young again came out on fire. He hit 4 of his first 6 shots and had 10 points in about 10 minutes. But he made just 1 of his final 6 shots, and finished with 17 points. In more than 69 minutes of action thus far, Young has 53 points and zero assists. I'm not sure I've ever seen something quite like that.
McGee Blocking and Bulking
Coaches challenged JaVale McGee to focus on defense after the seven-footer had just three rebounds and failed to block a shot on Tuesday. He responded with 8 rebounds and 5 blocks, several of the spectacular variety that had the
TV pay-to-watch Internet announcers howling, but at least two of the blocks went into the hands of Nuggets players and led directly to Denver baskets. The blocked shot straight up into the air remains a lost art. McGee also had at least one goaltending call; it also showed his crazy athleticism, but it was two points for Denver. And he had five fouls in 24 minutes. (You can't foul out in Summer League.)
"He's got to become more disciplined," Wittman said. "He went and blocked the ball, but he's got to be stronger. In the post he's just settling for fallaway jump shots, there's nothing to the basket. He's got to, I think, become a stronger player, he's got to get physically stronger and then he's got to play that way when he's in the post."
McGee played his rookie season at 244 pounds; he weighs about 250 now, and said he will get to 255 by the time this season starts. I asked him if he thought he needed the extra bulk to play as an NBA center; "I don't think I do, but that's what people try to tell me, so I'm gonna gain the weight and see," he said. "If It don't help, then I'll just slim back down."
As for his performance tonight, he said that coaches "were just telling me to play defense, so I just tried to forget about the scoring and just play defense. I enjoy playing defense, but I don't really enjoy forgetting about the scoring, but that's what I had to do."
Blatche the Same
Andray Blatche had another strong performance in the box score, but one that left open the same old questions. Just as he had Tuesday, Blatche started slowly (2 points and 2 rebounds after a quarter), heated up in the second quarter, and finished with a double-double (27 points and 15 rebounds, both game highs). He looked like the most talented player on the court at times, but he also displayed some old habits: settling for outside jumpers early in the shot clock, attempting to lead fast breaks, failing to get back on defense a few times and occasionally struggling to finish in the paint.
One league observer suggested to me that Blatche needs to figure out the one thing he's really good at, the one talent he can offer the Wizards off the bench, the one thing he can be counted on to deliver.
Point guard Javaris Crittenton sat out, allowing NBA vets Dominic McGuire, Blatche, Young and McGee to all play. (You're limited to four vets per game.) The Wizards, and the basketball gods, clearly missed Crittenton's presence; Boston College product Tyrese Rice was the primary ballhandler, and Denver pressured and trapped the ball for most of the night, so there was plenty of soccer.
"It gets you kind of out of kilter," Wittman said. "You don't have a lot of time to prepare for that [in Summer League], so that got our tempo going a little bit, but it's still no excuse to not make the extra pass, make the simple play. We didn't do that tonight.... You've got to run [against pressure], but running doesn't mean one guy holds the ball and dribbles it. You want to attack pressure and get easy baskets, but we were taking the pressure and taking the dribble into three or four other guys without making the simple play for layups."
McGuire made his Summer League debut, and he shared a few of the traits listed above. He shot 1 of 7, attempted to bring the ball up several times only to lose it in traffic, and committed a game-high six turnovers.
Wittman said that when McGuire got the ball from a guard who was being trapped, he needed to take a dribble or two and then find the open man, instead of trying to get to the basket on his own. McGuire could have a long NBA career, but probably not as the dude leading the fast break.
"He just overdribbled way too much," Wittman said.
Josh Heytvelt, the guy who we thought would have the best chance to impress of the players not under contract, hardly played for the second straight night. This time he got just five minutes of action, coming in after journeyman center John Edwards. And although Heytvelt did a couple nice things with the ball, he now has 14 minutes, 4 points and 3 rebounds in two games.
Rice got by far the longest run of the newbies, and he hit a half-court shot before halftime, but again, the Wizards aren't in the market for a guard.
Speaking of guards, P.G. product Ty Lawson started for the Nuggets. He's blazing fast, and had no trouble getting to the rim, but he had trouble shooting and wasn't exactly leading a well-oiled offensive machine. This thing wasn't pretty on either side.
Jamison and Miller Watch Again
Antawn Jamison and Mike Miller again sat behind one backboard and watched their teammates. They've been working out together in Vegas every morning, with Miller set to depart Thursday night. They were joined for much of the night by ex-Wizard Oleksiy Pecherov, who had Jamison in stitches.
The Wizards are scheduled to practice tomorrow, and then will face Pecherov and the Timberwolves Friday at 5 pm local time. Don Zierden will be behind the bench for that one, and you figure Pecherov will be getting buckets, son.
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