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Empty road trip

So here's what I learned on this winless three game road trip while following your mighty 4-8 Washington Wizards:

1. The Dallas Mavericks are legit. If you put a gun to my head and made me pick a team to win it all, the Mavs are the pick. Dirk is the toughest individual matchup in the league and that team has nice depth. And they're getting Josh Howard back. Watch out.

2. Beale Street in Memphis is not the worst place to be on Thanksgiving night. Let's just say that the good folks in Memphis know how to tear a club up. Good times.

3. The Wizards are a total mystery to me, your faithful beat writer. I came out of camp seeing 45 to 50 wins and it is still early but what I've seen so far is disturbing. This team should have come out of this trip 1-2 at worst. They were rolled by Dallas, didn't come to play until it was too late at Houston and pretty much sleepwalked at Memphis. Gilbert Arenas remains an unsolvable riddle. As brilliant as he was in last Saturday's win over Cleveland when he dropped 45 points with ease, he was that lousy during this trip.

He again allowed himself to get too caught up in what the referees were calling or not calling, his shot was nowhere to be found and his defense was about as stiff as the Polish army in 1939. After last night's game, Gilbert insisted that he will snap out of it. He didn't sound at all like a guy who is losing confidence or anything close to it and he reminded us all that after he went 0-12 at San Antonio two seasons ago, he came out and dropped 40 plus in the next game.
"Ivan, you remember that right?" he asked me after the interviews were over.
"You sure do," I said.
"That's right," he said.

My guess is that you'll see Gilbert locked in and ready to go off tonight against Detroit. From what I've seen the last two years, Chauncey Billups has a brutal time staying with Gilbert so look for a lot of Lindsey Hunter if he gets rolling early. Still, isn't time for Arenas to play with a little more consistency?

The other good news is that this team gets four of the next five at Verizon Center where it is 4-1 so far. Still, were it not for the MIami Heat and Chicago Bulls, we would be talking about the most unerachieving squad in the NBA. This team should not be 4-8 and had you told me back in camp that it would, I would have assumed that Arenas, Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison would have been hurt.

Speaking of Butler: I was just leaving the lockeroom before the game in Houston the other night when I bumped into Butler.
"You ever caught one on Yao Ming?" I asked Butler.
"I kind of got him once my second year but I'd like to do it again," he said.
Later that night, fourth quarter, Wizards needing a spark. Butler shakes someone at the top angle, dribbles right, elevates and boom, throws one down over Yao. That was a nice dunk and it sparked 13-2 run. However, as has been the case so often on the road this season, the Wiz couldn't sustain the momentum. Too many missed shots by players who normally make them.

Butler has been about as consistent a player as this team has had. Scored in double figures every game, has five striaght double-doubles and is putting effort in at the defensive end on a consistent basis. This team needs more of that from everybody.

By Ivan Carter  |  November 25, 2006; 9:13 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: On to Houston
Next: Wanted: a win


The Grizzlies killed the Wiz at the line last night.

Butler's been the only bright spot this year(so far).

"Gilbert Arenas remains an unsolvable riddle."

Two years ago Gilbert was taking over games. Not with his shot, but with his ability to get to the free throw line at the end of the game. It was amazing, he was doing what you used to see Barkley and Jordan do. It was a beautiful sight to see.

Now he's resigned to a "shoot first, drive second" mentality. He's not the same player, at least from what I have seen this year.

If he stays with it, good things will eventually happen. He's gotta stop blaming the refs when he's taking lower % shots.

Saying this, the Wiz can't win when he shoots like he did agaist the Grizzlies. They don't have the bench to do that.

I don't blame Gilbert, I blame Jordan. They don't even run plays anymore like they used too. He not really that good of a coach, I gave him the benefit of the doubt in the past. He waitied until half way through the season before benching anyone last year. I wonder how long he's gonna wait this year?

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 25, 2006 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Hey Ivan,
What are your thoughts on Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood during the road trip? Recently, it seemed as if Haywood has been outplaying Etan Thomas, since Etan Thomas hasn't been playing with a force like he did the first 3 games of the season. Do you expect a change starting Haywood over Thomas if the Wizards continue to struggle?

Posted by: Will | November 25, 2006 11:44 AM | Report abuse

The past few years, the Wizards have had three, high-powered gunslingers to power their offense, the lead gunslinger bring Gilbert Arenas. There is no offense being run to speak of, very few plays, very little ball movement. When the top gun-slinger goes down, the other two gunslingers don't have enough bullets to get the job done.

The team clearly is also coached very badly, since we don't have a PG, Gil was just left out there to flounder about. A decent coach would sit Gil down a bit a nd let someone else run the offense....oops!!! we don't have one.

Posted by: Wizzy | November 25, 2006 5:48 PM | Report abuse

No one rotates to the shooter (Hamilton) behind the three point line at the end of the half. Gee-wizz. The story of the season.

PS -- Ivan, that shot of Gil's torso next to the link for your blog might be scaring away traffic. It's time for it to go.

Posted by: T | November 25, 2006 8:27 PM | Report abuse

""PS -- Ivan, that shot of Gil's torso next to the link for your blog might be scaring away traffic. It's time for it to go.""

Lol, yeah it's pretty freaky. :)

Ah well, look at the bright side. At least we'll get a high pick in the draft and maybe the Wiz will have a new coach who can actually coach defense next year.

Get rid of Jamison, bring the two kids back from Europe, and we'll have a good team.

The only problem is no one is going to want that salary of Jamison's. :(

My 62 year old mom could score 5 points on that defense...sheesh!

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 25, 2006 11:02 PM | Report abuse

thankfully i was out of town for thanksgiving week and missed the road trip. but the wiz, ever considerate, delivered a turkey for me last night, so i feel like i didn't miss much.

if the wiz don't rip off a few wins against beatable foes in the next two weeks, i think we are in serious danger of the season going down the tubes. that being said, a 3 or 4 game win streak puts us back in the midst of things.

a few observations:

1) does anyone execute more poorly than the wizards when the opponent has the ball in the last few seconds of a half? rip's 3 last night was ridiculous - how many matadors do we need?

2) stevenson has two shots - the occassional drive and the baseline jumper. he rarely misses the badeline shot, but can't hit a jumper from anywhere else. why don't we set him up in the corner for kick-backs on drives and let him shoot from his comfort spot? - every other team murders us offensively with those kinds of kick backs.

3) the team is schizo on deciding whether to take shots - either someone takes an immediate jumper with everyone else at half court, or, after this has gone on a while and eddie has presumably told the team to cut it out, no one will shoot - case in point in the fourth quarter where the wiz were swinging it around, and daniels, then butler had open threes, but passed them up, resulting in caron desperately tossed it into haywood with the clock running down, whereupon haywood (who had to shoot), hunched down so that he was about five feet tall, and took a bad fall away shot. Almost as pathetic as the inbound play to butler on the baseline out of a timeout drawn up by eddie which results in butler getting called for three seconds in the lane.

4) finally, i think many of the execution issues we are having stem from all of the offensive fouls and walks the refs are calling - on everyone in the league, not just the wiz. unfortunately, this new ref approach seems to be disrupting the wizards on every other offensive play.

so. . .

what's the underlying similarity in all of these issues? coaching - failure to adjust, failure to execute, failure to take advantage of strengths. . . (and i didn't even touch on defense). i thought this summer that grunfeld was hesitating about signing jordan's extension, but got pushed by abe and the players. . . im beginning to wonder if ernie knew something . . .

Posted by: charles jones | November 26, 2006 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Read the skins and Wiz blogs and this is my first post ever. It is obvious this is a badly coached team. They don't play D, they have no offensive philosophy other than pray G.A. has a good night and worst of all they come out flat more often than not. The feel good Eddie Jordan story -- local boy makes good -- is not playing when this team is so consistently pitiful. Most frightening is that if Abe likes Eddie it will take him a good two decades to accept that he is not suited to coach in the NBA. Glad to see other posts on this blog are the only realistic views. Hopefully a chorus of displeasure here will bleed into the paper and the team will make a change quickly. Never thought I would consider this a good idea, but there is a coach out there who specializes in D, ball movement and hardworking headcase guards who can score 50. After 27 years of incompetence I would take even a short-term high-risk fix at this point.

Posted by: charlievox | November 26, 2006 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Here's a thought, seeing as how so many of you would like to see Antawn moved.

How about bringing back Ben Wallace in a trade? He seems quite unhappy in Chicago, especially under Scott Skiles, and is increasingly showing it. Suddenly, Chicago's "franchise player" appears to be dispensable.

Eddie is a player's coach. He wouldn't give a hoot if Ben rocked a headband or not. And since he doesn't seem to mind any of our players jacking up unwise shots, he probably wouldn't mind Wallace putting up a few of his nasty attempts. Most importantly, Ben would give us a lot less to complain about on the defensive end.

Posted by: Dres | November 27, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Let me ask you a question. Don't get me wrong now, I like Ruffin and I like the way he plays. But somebody please tell me why does coach think he is a center? Explain it to me because I want to know!

I'm watching the Dallas game and early Wizards are up 23-17. Etan is playing good. I leave and come back and it 3rd Q and score 59-60. I look and see Ruffin is playing center?? Dallas has Nowitzski and Diop in game and we got Ruffin in there and I am saying what is going on?! Dallas then went up by like 12 points in a minute!

Why?! Who told Eddie Jordan Ruffin is a center? Can't he open his eyes and see the dude is 6-8? Why does he do this? I like Ruffin backing up Antawn believe me, don't mind it at all. But why does he play at center so much I don't get it! Please someone explain it to me. We have Etan and Haywood, and Booth and Lang.

I can understand playing a small guy at center if your trying to boost the offense, and put a scorer there. But Ruffin is terrible on O, worse than any of the other 4. He is good rebounder, but is he better than Etan? He is not much of a shot blocker, doesn't alter shots or intimidate penetration.

I love his hustle. And he is good defender at PF, but man you gotta open your eyes and see the guy can't play center!! He is too small! What is your problem man? I hate to it say but I am happy dude got hurt. And I am glad Eddie says they like Lang. I really like what I've seen of him, and I hope this gives him the opportunity to get on the floor and he makes the most of it. I hope if he gets out there, he will stick in the rotatation as the 3rd center instead of Ruffin. I hope so.

Posted by: Darnell | November 27, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse


Why put so much dicussion into Wash beating Cleveland?

Truth is were it not for the fact that "Larry Hughes was injured!" there would have been another loss.

"Schidzoid play"

Honestly, we must ask ourselves -
If Arenas can drop 45 on Cleveland, or anybody period...Why not drop 25 or 30 on Memphis, Dallas, Houston or Detroit?

Why the heck are we depending on ONE PLAYER to win a game? Its a team sport!!!! For cryin out loud!!
Are becoming PHILLY?

Posted by: Robin | November 27, 2006 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it's schizo at all. Soft Jump-shooting team, no real inside presence, a power forward who doesn't score from within 20 feet, and very little depth. Why would we expect something different. Sure, if the jumpers are falling, we put up 110 and everyone says: 'that's how we can play' and we are happy. We also see what else can happen (Dallas, Houston, Memphis) when the Js are not falling.

I have said from the beginning that I thought the 50 win people were out of their minds. Everyone got better and we did not. Continuity is great when you went to the NBA Finals, its not great when you are gimmicky and flawed team with miss-matched parts. We will struggle to win 40 this year. The east is so bad, we might make it into the playoffs with 40.

I want to know what the 50 win people (besides my dog IC) are saying now. Where can I get that kool aid?

Posted by: Bernard King | November 27, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"Where can I get that kool aid?"


I said 47 wins but I can't even see 40 at this point.

As it stands I think it's a lottery year personally.

Jordan needs to start coaching and move Etan to the 4 and leaving Haywood at the 5. Stevenson can come off the bench.

Sure the bench would suffer, but lets be honest. They're getting killed anyway right now.

Pat Riley is messing with his line-up already, don't see why Jordan can't do the same.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 27, 2006 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Hey, everyone. In two games, the Wizards will have played 15 games this season. The postings on this blog, while (mostly) intelligent and on point, by their nature tend to lead to rambling discussions.
I would propose that after the 15th game, posters post their thoughts on the following points:
1. Team grade so far.
2. What is wrong and what is right with the team.
3. What the team should do to improve itself over the remainder of the year.

Ivan, I would ask you to post your thoughts on the above in your blog entry the day after the 15th game, and we will then follow suit. (If you are uncomfortable answering #3 because you cover the team, that's cool and expected. And while I think you've said something about waiting until 20 games to make any determinations, as I'm sure you have noted, we are an impatient group.)
Even if Ivan doesn't do the above (hey, I'm not his boss), I would ask that the group do so after the 15th game. We can use the next couple games to watch and get some intelligent thoughts together. We SHOULD have a 6-9 team to discuss, but nothing is out of the question, it seems.

Posted by: Henry | November 27, 2006 6:09 PM | Report abuse

This is my first post ever. Ironic, this is the first year I bought season tickets and now I'm wondering why.

Eddie Jordan needs to be shown the door. His lack of discipline and making excuses on behalf of the players shows a lack of integrity on his part. As many of you have already said, there is a lack of effort on defense. Antawn Jamison leads that hit parade, to be sure. Matador defense and lack of rotation are just pure laziness.

Gilbert's attitude this season---to go with his poor shot selection, overdribbling, and lack of vision on the floor---has me worried. Whatever happened this summer to cause him to feel that he needs to "prove something"---Gil just needs to let that go and get back to what he was doing last year...being the All-Star that he can be. He wouldn't even come close to getting my vote this year...not him, not Antawn, not Caron.

There's not enough passing, too much one-on-five, and certainly not enough playmaking. Gil is not a 1, he's a 2. The Wiz need Antonio to be their 1 since Stevenson isn't cutting it as either a 1 or 2...yet.

Bottom line: it starts with the coach, and it's time for the Wiz management to get a clue---Eddie Jordan must!

Posted by: Eric M., Vienna (VA) | November 27, 2006 11:40 PM | Report abuse


1. Grade D
2. What is wrong with the team? Why don't you open your eyes because it's right in front of your face. Our team is TOO SMALL! We got a coach obsessed with playing Michael Ruffin at center. We got a 6-9 PF who stands at the 3pt line the entire game and plays defense like Casper the ghost. Our scorer off the bench has been firing blanks. And our coach has the most erratic rotation is league history so other than the "big 3" no one can get any kind of groove, and the young guys don't improve.
3. Stop playing Ruffin at center. Tell Jamison to play his position or bench him. Trade for a legit 4.

Posted by: Darnell | November 28, 2006 9:45 AM | Report abuse

What Darnell said. :)

But I think everyone who knows bball knows what's wrong with the Wiz this year. Again, it's NOT a complicated sport.

Sorry about the season tix Eric. Now if you had only got them two years ago. ;)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | November 28, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Well I guess we can start the Greg Oden sweepstakes! Just kidding. But to answer BK's question...I'm one of the 50 win folks and i'm proud of it! I still feel that they did a good job this summer. People forget that we didn't have much cap space to begin with to go after guys like Ben Wallace, Nene, or even Chris Wilcox (who I was pushing for since he was on the trading block last season). One guy I thought the Wiz would look at is Tyson Chandler. I think a combo of Jarvis Hayes (the Bulls wanted him a few years back right before they drafted Deng) and a pick or cash would've persuaded the Bulls to hand him over. He's a light-skinned taller version of Ben Wallace and right now is averaging more rebounds (11.5) than Big Ben. Also, everyone crys out for interior scoring. Well we got that (supposedly) this summer when Songila signed on. Which leads me to Henry's 3 questions...

1. team grade is incomplete for me. This team is missing their inside scoring presence. And I don't think its fair to say the Bulls and Heat are a failure at this point either. the Bulls are trying to bring in at least 4 new players to their system, and we all know the Heat is missing the Big Fella.
2.The right thing about this team is that it has a Superstar that can carry us on any given night. They also have a good group of guys who know what needs to be done, they just don't know how to achieve that goal. Which brings me to the wrong. Eddie Jordan! If he can coach, then I'm a beat writer for the Post (sorry, Ivan and Mike). There is no way in hell that this team should be struggling like this. We have problems that a competent coach can easily fix. We're dead last in assists but his solution was come down and make the extra pass. I remember one sequence against Detroit when A.D. and Stevenson both passed up open shots trying to make the extra pass and it ended in a turnover. Now i'm all for sharing, especially when they're used to one pass and a shot, but isn't the Princeton offense about finding open cutters? Where are the cutters? They're running a 1-4 offense with a twist (or should I say a weave), otherwise, we'd be the 76ers! The bench can't score but he won't change his lineup. Look back over every game and anyone will see that the Wiz starting 5 builds leads and the bench gives it away. He knows this, but won't correct it. Its simple. Jamison to the bench. Etan and Brendan start. That gives us 2 guys in the paint that would seriously make you think twice about coming down the middle and 2 good rebounders without losing any scoring with Gil, Caron, and Deshawn. Jamison instantly upgrades the bench and takes scoring pressure off A.D. Ruffin being hurt is a blessing cause he is Jordan's downfall. So maybe we can see Booth at center and more of Blatche and Lang now. This team is not small. He just refuses to play anyone over 6'9. 3. I'm sorry to say this but I think a coaching change needs to happen. The only reason why i'm skeptical about this is if Jordan goes, Arenas won't be to far behind. Its no secret that G.A. credits his Superstar status to Jordan. If they fire Jordan and don't win a title before Gil is available, I think he leaves. So right now, all we can do is hope and pray.

Posted by: C.Bell | November 28, 2006 11:33 AM | Report abuse

BTW, IC, can you ask Jamison if palying all through the summer is starting to take its toll on him? He looks like he's lumbering up and down the floor. We all know he's not the fastest guy in the world but his shot is way off, he doesn't move his feet, and even his patented flip shot is coming up short. Think you could ask him this for me?

Posted by: C.Bell | November 28, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

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