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Hold on tight


First of all, happy birthday to me. I'm 32 today. Getting old but still hanging in there...

We've seen enough recent evidence to suggest that the Wizards are going to be in games like last night's for the rest of the season. It appears they simply can't have it any other way. As was the case with every game during the West Coast (slip) trip, the Wiz played well enough to get a halftime lead over the 76ers but had a fight on their hands in the fourth quarter.

Getting Caron Butler back was obviously a big key. Another was the play of DeShawn Stevenson, who dropped 26 points through three quarters and then sat for most of the fourth before draining that big shot from the wing with 1:17 left. Like many of you, I'm not sure why DeShawn was on the pine that long but things worked out in the end.

One issue that has popped up recently is the absolute dissapearance of Brendan Haywood. In the last three games, he's missed all seven shots he's taken, grabbed eight boards and blocked not a single shot. He played 11 minutes, 32 seconds last night and wasn't happy about it.

Eddie Jordan said something about Brendan having a head cold after the game but that doesn't smell right. Prediction: don't be shocked if Eddie changes things up and starts either Etan Thomas or Calvin Booth if Brendan continues to struggle. I also wouldn't be shocked if he went "small" and started Darius Songaila at center or at least played him more there, particularly against any opponent with a smaller front line.

The last time they played the Raptors, a VC on March 6, the Wiz put together one of their most complete efforts of the season. The 129-109 win was the product of great ball movement and shot making, excellent screening, good defense and a level of concentration that did not allow the Raptors to believe they could get a run together to make things interesting. Toronto suffered a big loss the other day when Wiz PR man Brian Sereno's favorite player, Jorge Garbajose, went down for the season with a leg injury.

Still, the Raps beat Miami last night and are dangerous because they are one of the few teams in the East who can put five scorers on the floor at the same time. (Six players scored in double figures in the win over Miami last night, including everyone's favorite Terp, Juan Dixon). You really have to give Sam Mitchell some credit for getting that team over an early season hump and into the position it is in now.

Had an interesting conversation in the lockeroom before last night's game with Antonio Daniels. The subject was outdoor basketball. When I got off the flight from Salt Lake City Tuesday afternoon, I rapped out my Wiz stuff for the following day's paper, grabbed my dog and my rock and headed up the street to the court at Rose Park here in G-town. It was a perfect day. Warm. No wind. The fellas were out playing and the ladies were out jogging. Like I said, perfect. Anyway, I mentioned this to Antonio and he said something about not having played outside in years.

I said: "how the heck could you play on a cement court? The way you play, you'd kill yourself."
AD: "I played the same way."
Me: "No way. The way you fall to the floor all of the time, you'd be killing yourself on the pole or something. Can't leave your feet like that on the outdoor courts."
AD: "Yes you can. That's how I learned to land. There's an art to it."
Me: "An art?:
AD: "Yeah, I have a technique. That's why I never get hurt. I was talking to the guys about it the other day."

I'll give AD this, the man does have a knack for going down hard but popping right back up. Still don't know about doing that on the outdoors but maybe I'll get him out there this summer and find out. Me, I'm sticking with the tried and true: jumpshots baby!

By Ivan Carter  |  March 29, 2007; 1:16 PM ET
 
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Comments

First

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

A few of the Wizards commented about fatigue after the long road trip. Stevenson for one said he was tired. They say the first game back home is always tough. I'm hoping that was the case. It was good to see Caron playing the way he did before being named an all-star. If Gil and AJ and return to form, we should be in good shape.

Posted by: Keith Sweat | March 29, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I hope Brendan isn't turning into the kind of player that sulks when he doesn't get playing time. I remember when Caron first got here. He patiently came off the bench even though everyone knew he had the skills to start. He took it as motivation, didn't sulk and now he's part of the Big 3. I like Brendan but I won't be sorry WHEN Ernie ships him out if his only response to adversity is sulking. You aren't guaranteed a starting position just because you are 7 ft tall.

Posted by: Bart | March 29, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Great blog, IC.

How's Blatche's injury healing? Will he be ready for the Torono game? In the last game vs. the Raptors, Blatche had 3 blocks and did a very nice job on Bosh and Bargnani. Blatche's energy on defense and rebounding will be needed vs. Toronto's size.

Posted by: Tuna | March 29, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Happy Birthday, Ivan. Heard you last night on the radio during halftime. You sound younger than 32--that's a compliment!!

Posted by: Terp/Wiz Lover | March 29, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"I hope Brendan isn't turning into the kind of player that sulks when he doesn't get playing time"

You're a few years too late on that one.

Posted by: aspats | March 29, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Happy birthday Ivan!

Posted by: Will | March 29, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Since when is going 0-7 a slump? What catches my eye is that your starting center has taken 7 shots in three games.

And none of us would be shocked if Jordan went small. Disappointed, enraged, frustrated, yes. Shocked, no.

Posted by: Henry | March 29, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

"I hope Brendan isn't turning into the kind of player that sulks when he doesn't get playing time."

He can't turn into something he's always been.

Buck talks all the time during broadcasts about A.D.'s penchant for hitting the deck when he drives, but the thing that I've always noticed is that, unlike most other players, he doesn't just sit/lie there waiting for one of his teammates to give him a hand up. He immediately pops up from the floor like standing under his own power is a point of pride. If he says he has a "technique" I'll have to take his word for it.

Posted by: kalorama | March 29, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

And Happy B-Day Ivan.

Posted by: kalorama | March 29, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Happy birthday, you young whippersnapper, you!

One question: You, or maybe ML, made a point yesterday about the nice attitude the Wiz have as a team and how NBA beat reporters like to cover them because they're fun.

Are there any instances in which that carries over to the court and they get too loose -- like last Friday's game at Golden State?

One of the criticisms of the players this season is that they don't have a "killer" instinct, blow leads, or have intermittent nasty streaks.

Is that a problem with the Wiz? In other words, do they consist of players who are good athletes but who don't always bring it like their lives depended on it, as you said about Carlos Boozer on Monday night (and who posterized KG last night)?

Even when accounting for the ups and downs of preseason and 82 games, the Wizards' recent performance is cause for much concern.

Posted by: iceberg | March 29, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Happy B'day, Ivan.

I'd also like to know when we might see Blatche back in action. He is the key to getting us over the hump.

As to Haywood, he's definitely been soft and passive the last few games. Disappointing to say the least. When he's mentally into it, he's a solid defensive presence and helps on the boards.

Posted by: JJ | March 29, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Haywood played his best basketball when Thomas was injured. brendan baby- just get 10 points and 10 rebounds every night. bloock a shot and play good defense. you'll start every game and get a huge contract. play better. thats all there is to it.
he's got a head cold alright.

Posted by: ladelleacklesfan | March 29, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I'll tell you what this team needs- they need Georgetown to take the NCAA's. See, Gilbert seems to have lost his chip. He's got the AS Start, the Puffy party, he's got the shoes, and the Vegas billboard. So, lets turn our attention to someone else. lets root for the Hoyas so Gilbert will get pissed and take back the hometown spotlight from the NCAA champs. I love my Terps, but I'll take a Hoya victory if it means the Wiz amp it up.

Posted by: Muggsy Manute | March 29, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse

On Blatche: He told me last night that he's out at least a week and won't make the trip to Milwaukee for Sunday's game. He could be back for Wednesday's game against Charlotte or next Friday's game against the Cavaliers.

Posted by: Ivan | March 29, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Happy Birthday, Ivan!!!

I love Antonio Daniels....the guy is just so tough!

Saw a segment on Wizards Magazine where they ask the Wiz players which one talked the most...ALL of them say "AD"

Posted by: Lisa | March 29, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Having our starting center shoot the ball 7 times is not a problem or a concern. Our centers are terrible at creating their own shot -- when they go one on one, it is a disgrace. They travel just about every time. If they want more shots, hit the offensive glass and get some rebounds and put backs. And for the love of god, stop posting up and stop passing them the ball when they do. It is a nightmare to watchg either Etan or Brendan make an offensive move. Play defense and rebound -- not everyone gets to score points.

I really hope we can move one of these guys in the offseason.

Posted by: Chad | March 29, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Chad:
I guess you think Michael Ruffin would be the best center then. He never takes shots, so you won't have to see any disgraceful moves or traveling calls.

Me, I'm of the school that it is better to play 5 on 5 on offense rather than 4 on 5. 5 on 5 means that the other team has to guard all 5 players, which makes it a little easier for each of the 5 to get space and score. I'm also of the school that your center should get the ball regularly to (a) pick up fouls on the other team's center; and (b) make the other team's center's focus more on guarding your center than just playing safety and looking to block other guys' shots into the second row.

There is actually only one guy on the Wizards who is good at creating his own shot, and that is Arenas. The rest (and Arenas too) are all helped by various screens set on their man and the movement of the Princeton offense. When was the last time you saw someone set a pick on Haywood's man or Thomas's man? When Doug Collins was the coach, probably. You look around the league and most teams regularly do things like set picks to help their post players establish space and position. How many screens did John Stockton set on Karl Malone's defender during his career to allow Malone to set up better position on the block? 10,000, maybe? (Do you remember that play?)Obviously the Wizards' big men aren't Karl Malone, but the fact that the Princeton offense isn't designed and offers no assistance to post-up players in getting free or getting closer to the hoop is a problem, in my view. No wonder Jamison gets so many of his points on 3-pointers.

Posted by: Henry | March 29, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Henry the ESPN employee goes:
>>>>Obviously the Wizards' big men aren't Karl Malone, but the fact that the Princeton offense isn't designed and offers no assistance to post-up players in getting free or getting closer to the hoop is a problem, in my view. No wonder Jamison gets so many of his points on 3-pointers.>>>>

Well not really, check Georgetown, a signature cut in the P'ton system is the Big Guy rolling down the lane from the top of the key ready to receive a pass-- in many cases he's sprung by a classic Stocktoneseque off-the-ball guard pick.

Problem is if you had Etan or Brendan in motion to receive a pass, they're never gonna catch it. They're Roberto Duran: hands of stone.

And it's a real indictment of Brendan's skeeyoze in this regard when I say that Etan is the better of the two. Brendan used to be one of the league worst centers in TO's per 40.

Now, not so much (he's 33rd worst, to match his uniform digits)-- in some part because he strengthened his hands, but in large part because his role offensively is intentionally limited. He can get his shots on putbacks and offensive boards if he wants them. The opportunities are there.

But the Princeton offense ain't the problem. Unless by problem you mean it's bad to have the third most efficient offense in the league.

The Princeton offense has made Jamison an All-star; ditto KMart; it worked just fine for CWebb... In fact in the NBA the P-ton offense thrives when you have skilled frontcourt players. (You see Songaila making that sprung cut down the lane, incidentally. Georgetown runs it with Hibbert, but it works best when they have one of their more agile frontcourt guys rolling with it).

If you have a Big who can hit a shot, cut, catch a pass, you're fine. Otherwise keep out the way and let the guys play who know how to do it. We lead the league in converted freethrows every year in large part because we station our Bigs out of the way and let our little guys drive in the paint.

This lets us score without taking time off the clock (ain't nothing more efficient than that) and weakens the opposing team in the endgame since they have to worry about fouls.

Doesn't mean our Bigs are irrelevent. I like Brendan on the squad, the offense hums along just fine with him out there-- even in a limited role.

Where we need him most though is on the other end. Even when he can't grab a rebound to save his life he still causes missed shots; Jamison or Caron can clean up the loose boards behind him.

That's the part it looks like EJ sometimes misses: even a halfassed Brendan is often better for the squad than a full-effort who-ever else.

I always wonder if maybe Big Wood wears down, given extended minutes; or if Eddie just thinks he does. If that's the case, hey maybe he's giving him some rest before the end of the season. Cause you know we'll need him if we see Cleveland and Big Z.

Though, right, sometimes I suspect Eddie makes decisions to serve his vision of the offense, keep it moving smooth looking good even when 'ugly' is occasionally more effective.

Posted by: doclinkin (realgm.com/boards) | March 29, 2007 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Personally I'd like to see Booth and Blatche in the starting lineup. Eddie has run the Gil, Deshawn, Twan, Blatche, Booth lineup out there a few times this season and it seems to really work. You get all the scoring you need from the Big 3 and Blatche and Booth focus on rebounding and blocking shots, which none of our other big men are capable of doing.

Posted by: ineedpoon | March 29, 2007 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: doc again | March 29, 2007 7:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm used to other message baord protocol. How do I shorten these links again?

Wiz: #1 in the league in Free Throws converted:

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/statistics?stat=teamstatoff&sort=ftm&league=nba&season=2007&seasontype=2&avg=pg&order=true&split=0

Posted by: doc again | March 29, 2007 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Edit: I don't really mean that the above should be the starting lineup, just that Booth and Blatche should see PT simultaneously with more frequency. You can then play Gil, D, Caron, and/or Twan depending on matchups. My larger point is that the wiz are never going to be a good man up defensive team so you might as well put a few guys out there that can get you some defensive rebounds and the occasional blocked shot.

Posted by: ineedpoon | March 29, 2007 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Happy b-day, Ivan!

This "AD's falling technique" stuff is fascinating...I'll watch closer the next time he slams down onto the hardwood.

Posted by: miestersean | March 29, 2007 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Given some of the bad turnover nights they had, I am surprised the Washington was second in turnover rate.

Posted by: George Templeton | March 30, 2007 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Ivan and Mike
.............

What with Georgetown rolling in the tourney and the Wiz gearing up for the playoffs it might be nice to run an interview with Pete Carrill talking some ins & outs and mild X's and O's on the Princeton system.

Points of interest: which teams run it in the NBA, which in the NCAA, who does it best. What wrinkles. And Pete's feelings about Fellow assistant in Sac-town Eddie Jordan; and former student-athlete now protege' JTIII.

With a diagram or two, a primer.

Might be too quick of a turnaround to have it ready for the NCAA (of course) but maybe do the footwork for an article in the Playoffs or offseason.

Posted by: doclinkin | March 30, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, doclinkin for asking that again.

I had previousously asked:

If the Wiz are using Princeton Offense but it appears to only give average - to sub par result - How is it the Georgetown Hoyas are using it & are rolling into Final Four? Are the Wiz properly executing it? and what are the benefits of using the Princeton Offense?

BTW: Noticed in WashTimes 3/30 - JohnTIII
says he'll call his "The Georgetown Offense."

Thanks, Robin

Posted by: Robin | March 30, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

when darius fouls out in the second quarter and etan and todd flounder about, someone ask where pecherov is? are they feeding him? does he exist?

Posted by: CreditZard | March 30, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Yeh. If you go back a couple blogs I dropped a response to your question on how the Wiz run it.

I just think it'd make a good article with the Pete Carrill angle since he's been at key G-town games in the tourney.

As in, maybe a Post staffer can get some tape from him. Tho' lord knows Mike Wise would prob'ly swoop in and steal the story -- act like it was his idea. The rat.

Posted by: doclinkin | March 30, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I do not want Ruffin in the game either -- he has the same problems as Etan and Brenda. Why not give Booth some time. He stays out of the way. As for the point about Stockton setting picks for Malone -- you need to reverse that -- Malone picked Stockton's guy and rolled to the basket. You don't screen for your center to post up, you screen for him to cut across the lay for a quick layup. Such a move would be futile with Etan's need to catch and gather himself before doing anything with the ball. Brenda cannot even catch the ball when he is wide open. Brenda is a big who wishes he was a guard. He's had his moments this year but far too often he pouts, sulks and is just all-around terrible.

I don't want Ruffin because 4 on 5 offense is no way to play -- makes our efficient offense grind to a halt. Booth and Songalia when the matchup is right. Maybe a little Blatche against a more perimeter center. Just not more of the same with Brenda and Etan. We know they are terrible -- show us that something else would not be better.

Posted by: Chad | March 30, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ivan, happy birthday! I hope you got a nice cake. Or at least some birthday drinks. :-)

Posted by: Josh | March 30, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Micheal Ruffin, the defensive specialist. The one who does the intangibles. The one who was sent in to put the clamps on Bosh. The one who was in overtime replaced by Jamison (the other defensive stopper) because Bosh was destroying Ruffin all night. Boy does this stink! It's all about no defense and no heart. It's all about depending on 3 point bombs. Sound like a broken record? Yes, that's because what we see is the same every stinkin night.

Posted by: BmoreRev | March 30, 2007 10:09 PM | Report abuse

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