How The Southeast Was Lost

In with Utah. Out with Utah. Seems like the perfect bookends for the Washington Wizards' 69-day run in sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division.

The rise and fall of the Wizards can be summed up in the defining images from those games: Gilbert Arenas spinning and lifting his arms to the ceiling after nailing that game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer on Jan. 15; and Arenas looking up at the ceiling after Jazz forward Carlos Boozer plowed through him and knocked him on his back after a vicious, left-handed jam last night.

It's over now. But it really shouldn't be.

No matter how the Wizards' season ends -- and whether or not they win the division - they will look at the past 32 games and realize that they absolutely blew several opportunities to have had the division wrapped up long before it was lost. Injuries to Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler have been costly -- but the Heat caught them without the services of Dwyane Wade and lesser, but important, talents like Jason Kapono.

Is it too late to apologize to Shaquille O'Neal? My bad, Big Fella. I've been dissing you all season, but I had no idea that you could still do this. I had no idea you had this much left in the tank, that you would benefit from teams refusing to double-team you, that Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and James Posey would discover their games with you providing so many open looks. It really says something that Wade played his best basketball and the Heat couldn't do better than .500. Shaq played his best basketball (at his advanced age, mind you) surrounded by the same pieces and the Heat goes 12-4. Unreal. The Heat's run is truly a testament to O'Neal and Pat Riley's pride. They refuse to be embarrassed.

The Wizards really blew it, but it still has a chance to finish with the division title. Five of the Heat's final 12 games are against teams with winning records, while the Wizards only have four games against teams with winning records. Washington also has seven home games. The edge for the Heat, though, could be Wade's pending return next month. Plus, the Wizards don't look like they can shake out of the doldrums.

Is it just me, or does it seem like Gilbert has lost some of his edge since being voted onto the all-star team? He doesn't seem to carry the same chip on his shoulder. Somebody needs to make him angry again. Maybe he should take a page from Kobe Bryant and start getting suspended for throwing elbows or something.

The Wizards are just 16-16 since The Hibachi was seriously on fire and dropped 51 on Utah. I thought it was important to point out the "harvest the nuts" games that the Wizards squandered; the games that they will be kicking themselves for sometime in April when they possibly look up at their first round matchup against the dreaded Heat. I came up with five, but feel free to add your own.

Feb. 11 - Portland
Gilbert came 41 points shy of his 50-point pledge, but the Wizards shouldn't lose by 21 at home against any team, especially one that isn't named Phoenix, Dallas or San Antonio.

Feb. 27 - New Jersey
The Wizards have struggled at Continental Airlines Arena and they didn't have Caron or Antawn, but it was ridiculous to watch Jason Kidd turn into Reggie Miller and hit six 3s.

March 7 - Atlanta
The Hawks were missing three starters and the Wizards had a 10-point second-half lead. How in the name of Zaza Pachulia does this happen?

March 10 - New York
There have only been two Steve Francis sightings this season.

March 20 - Portland
Portland has played improved basketball of late without Zach Randolph, but seriously? It was the first game of the five-game trip and could've set the tone. Unfortunately, it did.

Just think: If the Wizards go 21-11 instead of 16-16, they have 42 wins, a 4 ½ game lead over Miami, a half-game lead over Cleveland for the second seed in the Eastern Conference (as in, no Miami in the first round!) and trail Detroit by just 2 ½ games for the best record in the conference. I know I'm speaking about a huge hypothetical situation, but isn't that what these blogs are for?

By Michael Lee |  March 27, 2007; 1:49 PM ET
Previous: Blatche out, Songaila to start | Next: Butler starting


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I'm sorry, but when I am watching the game on TV at home and I am still in better position for getting rebounds and stepping in front of men defensively then the guys on the floor, then this is where you end up. The rebounding and defense are atrocious. It's definately a let down to watch this unfurl and I hope they bring back the swag through hard work and determination.

Posted by: Rodin fan | March 27, 2007 2:03 PM


I hope Gilbert isn't satisfied with some notarity and a big party. I hope he and the rest of the team can rediscover their "swag".

Posted by: dcwizard | March 27, 2007 2:08 PM

It would be great if we lived in that perfect world where we win every game that we should win, but the NBA doesn't work that way. It's just a matter of teams getting hot at the right time and I think we ran into both New York and Portland right when they started getting their acts together. The Atlanta game we should have won, but that was a back to back on the road, it's hardly a gimmie.

Posted by: juandixonformvp | March 27, 2007 2:23 PM

Good post, Michael. Both Gilbert and Caron have played poorly since their all-star appointments. Part of that is injuries, to be sure, but you've got to wonder whether they both slapped up the "Mission Accomplished" banner in their minds and lost that edge.
Also recall that the Wizards had the best record in the east to get Jordan in as all-star coach, and it's been downhill ever since. Perhaps the entire team lost its edge.

Posted by: Sean | March 27, 2007 2:25 PM

This stretch has been painful to watch for sure. Sure injuries have played a role, but EJ's completely random and unwise substitution patterns have really been the problem. Of course there won't be any team chemistry when players go from inactive to starting (Blatche), inactive to playing in the 1st quarter (Taylor) DNP-CD to crunch time (AD) and consistent playing time for Michael Ruffin who's +/- suggests that he's a significant handicap.

Posted by: JJ | March 27, 2007 2:26 PM

A team with serious designs on becoming a contender (which the Wiz seem to think they have) wins the vast majority of games they're supposed to win, esp. games against weaker, injury-riddled opponents, esp. at home. The Wizards (still) haven't figured out how to do that.

There are numerous issues and problems with the team but the biggest (literally) is the mess of a frontcourt. The Wizards don't have a player in their big man rotation (not really counting Jamison and Blatche as big men) that any other playoff caliber team would give two seconds thought to having in their starting lineup. And most of them wouldn't even be the first big off the bench for a good playoff team. Until that's corrected, I don't really see the team's fortunes improving much.

Posted by: Darren | March 27, 2007 2:29 PM

Who knows? Maybe the Wizards need to be the underdog, left for dead, etc., before playing up to their abilities. As for other games, how about getting blown out by the Knicks in NY in November? Or losing to Memphis in Memphis? How about New Orleans on the road when half the team was out? And not beating the Heat without Wade was just a crusher.

Posted by: TG | March 27, 2007 2:33 PM

I'm sorry, but when I am watching the game on TV at home and I am still in better position for getting rebounds and stepping in front of men defensively then the guys on the floor, then this is where you end up.

Lol, that is the funniest thing I've read on here all year. :)

"The Heat's run is truly a testament to O'Neal and Pat Riley's pride. They refuse to be embarrassed."

I always give you a hard time(kiddingly) Mike but you're right on with this and it's why the Wiz are losing and the Heat are still considered contenders in the East even with D-Wade out.

There's a difference between knowing how to win and knowing how to lose and until the Wiz learn how to win no one will take them seriously.

Back during the holidays when they beat teams like the Suns and Lakers people took them seriously and started bringing thier "A" game. The Wiz as a result have regressed.

Say what you want about injuries, but other teams have them also. Unless that injured person is named "Arenas" this team has enough in to win.

It's tough as a fan to watch this. You get your hopes up only to be let down. As I wrote on here in the pre-season Jordan is not the coach for this team. Last night was a good example, he got himself thrown out when he should have sucked it up and coached his team to a victory. God knows his assistants can't coach themselves out of a paper bag.

Jordan has taken the Wiz as far as he can, it's time for a change. Also as a side note, Jamison's has "old" knees and has only played one full season here in Washington. They might want to seriously think about a trade with him because he ain't getting any younger.

The Heat are a good example of a team who refuse to give up. The Wiz are a good example of a team coming apart at the seams.

They need to go watch "Rocky" a few dozen times.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | March 27, 2007 2:52 PM

What happened to Gil's "The Takeover?" It doesn't seem like much has changed between the two years. Two seasons in a row Caron is out for five game stretches and the results are the same. Arenas can not "take" this team anywhere without the other two all-stars. I am kinda getting sick of his antics. The way he layed his jersey down on the Sonics court, like that was an accomplishment to beat a bad team at the buzzer. It should not have come down to that shot to begin with, and after he aired one out the previous night in Portland. I have followed the Wiz before they started winning over the last three seasons, but the last 20 or so games have been more frustrating to watch than watching anyother DC team lose.

The shot selection is horrible. Gil for example when he was going 3-15 from 3 point land, what does it take for him to figure out he isn't shooting well that particular night and that he should take it to the basket where he will get fouled or score 2pts.

They could have had the division won as posted in the blog and just stopped playing with any intensity as if sending the coaches and two players to the all-star game was their victory this year.

Enough ranting from me. Thoughts?

Posted by: Winks | March 27, 2007 3:10 PM

I never want to hear from Eddie Jordan or Ernie Grunfeld again that defense is the main priority

Posted by: Jason | March 27, 2007 3:49 PM

Because this team does not have enough talent to seriously compete in the playoffs, I haven't been overly concerned with their performance during the regular season. They should probably be a few wins ahead of where they are, but that is not a huge deal to me. My bigger concern is that by the time Blatche develops and EG adds a couple more talented pieces, the young stars (Arenas, Caron) who have basically been taught that shooting low percentage shots and ignoring defense is fine won't be ready to start playing the way you need to play to win. Thus when we have a finals ready talent level, the team won't have enough. This is just a fear; I do have faith in EG.

I would like to thank the Wiz for winning the last two games out here, even if it almost got me lynched by some hoodlum Suns fans. Even as we won, watching Nash tear apart our defense in person permanantly changed my outlook on this team. As with Dallas a couple years ago, I believe we need to immediately change our focus coaching and talent acquisition approach to defense, defense, defense. This does not mean I think Michael Ruffin deserves minutes. Please get him off the court. He consistantly posts the worst turnover ratio (22.1/20.8) in the NBA, as well as making me sick to my stomach every time I see him running around the court with Jarvis Hayes.

Posted by: Scottsdale Dave | March 27, 2007 4:09 PM


You can not let all of those game slip and still considering yourselfs a playoff contender.

Posted by: dc | March 27, 2007 4:09 PM

Jamison is the best player on the team. He is the leader and the guts of the team, to trade him would be foolish. They need a big man who can post up and make something happen inside. Those type of players either go to bad teams in the draft or cost a fortune on the open market.

Posted by: TT | March 27, 2007 4:13 PM

Jamison is a helluva player. But he's not and never will be a true PF, the position where he starts and plays most of his minutes. He's a wing player. He can't defend the PF position (well, he can't defend any position, really) and while he sometimes pulls down impressive looking rebounding stats, he's not an impact player on the interior, at either end. That's what the Wizards need

"Those type of players either go to bad teams in the draft or cost a fortune on the open market. "

Or they're acquired by trade, usually at the cost of a key player and/or multiple draft picks..

Posted by: kalorama | March 27, 2007 4:21 PM

In Ivan's last entry, I posted some stats, including some relating to Ruffin's +/- numbers. It got me thinking, though; some additional points:

- No player in the league who has played more than 4% of the minutes his team has played this season (Ruffin has played 6% of the Wizards' total minutes) has a worse +/- than Ruffin.
- Only one player (Ryan Hollins of Charlotte) who has played more than 2% of the minutes his team has played this season has a worse +/- than Ruffin.
- There are a few players you have never heard of with worse +/- numbers than Ruffin, but they typically play 1% of their team's minutes (i.e., garbage time).
- Keep in mind that some teams have HORRIBLE records, and thus many players on such teams have poor +/- numbers. Yet no one on such teams have worse numbers than Ruffin, who plays on a better than average team.
- Add all this up, and to me, this means that coaches do not give minutes to players who hurt their teams so much.

My point is not to question the player, to disparage Ruffin, who I believe definitely should be on the team and can be a big help in certain situations, or to suggest if Ruffin got fewer minutes all the Wizards' problems would be solved. (Ruffin also was playing hurt at the beginning of the year, and that should not be forgotten.) My point is to question the coach. This situation is one that is crying out to be examined. Jordan needs to be asked about this. Grunfeld needs to be asked whether he has spoken to Jordan about his use of Ruffin, and whether he has considered cutting Ruffin and replacing him with a more effective player.

Posted by: Henry | March 27, 2007 4:31 PM

It sure has been a pretty disheartening couple of weeks. That being said, Michael's stat that they are 16-16 in last 32 puts some context on it. They certainly should have won more of those games, but .500 ball isn't the end of the world in the NBA. Furthermore, teams go on bad runs and on good runs. Our bad run started when Antawn got hurt, and the team just hasn't gelled since then, particularly since Caron was hurt or out since Jamison got back.

My guess is that the team will turn it up at some point before the end of the season, and hopefully will be on something of a roll going into the playoffs. By the same token, how much energy has Miami expended on their recent run, particularly the Diesel? Maybe they can keep it up, but I doubt it.

I have to finally say it, but I have to agree with the majority of my brethren on this post. End of the day, the team has some flaws, but of all of the areas where improvement could be made with one action, it has to be coaching. Eddie has issues across the board - bad and erratic rotations from game to game preventing the first team from getting momentum; bad and erratic substitutions in game, creating awful matchups (small ball, jarvis and ruffin getting major minutes); inability to understand game flow, particularly as to how to use timeouts to manage the game; inability to get the team to play defense with focus - we don't have great personnell defensively, but is it that hard to teach guys how to: 1) stay in front of the ball on end of game shots (steve francis anyone?); 2) play basic defense on pick and rolls?; 3) box out defensively instead of looking for the cherry pick long pass and catch; and 4) keep your hands in the air?

Another instance - who among us doesn't shudder when we see Gilbert (in particular) launch the long ball down the court? Perhaps Henry can find a stat, but I'd bet dollar to donuts that out of five times, we get one easy score, three straight up turnovers, and one that turns into a normal half court possession. But they still do it. Why? the coach lets them.

Now the good news - we are going to make the playoffs; we were never going to be NBA champions; the stars on the team need playoff basketball experience. Therefore, if we make the playoff they get that experience and this season is what it always was going to be - an opportunity to play playoff ball to deepen the key player's experience in preparation for the next couple of years where, if we add a big man and perhaps get a new coach, we will be in position to compete for it all.

Would be nice to get past the first round tho :(

Posted by: charles jones | March 27, 2007 4:57 PM

great post Ivan. Kind of sums it up.

I love the Wiz but I never believed that Miami was done. They won the championship last year when most of the league was sleeping on them and giving to the West.
We still never beat the Heat even when we are ahead in the standings.
i'm hoping this team can take it to round 2 in the playoffs. The play of Blatche has been great to see. Makes me look forward to next year with a healthy Songalia and an improved Blatche with the usual suspects.
Go Hoyas!

Posted by: Ladelleacklesfan | March 27, 2007 5:06 PM

Please WashingtonPost stop being so nice to them and call them out. yeah they blew games they should have one. the real deal is they play absolutely no defense, NONE!!! no lead is safe for them not because they go ice cold, but they let folks score at will. honestly, teams must game plan for the Wiz to go up 10 and shut it down like they won, only to be flat an not withstand the opponents surge and losing.

Posted by: RobGreg | March 27, 2007 5:12 PM

Sean, & others you've said it all.No excuses can help them. So much for the take over. The big three went to All Star and haven't stayed focused since.

I still say: Eddie Jordan lack of attention to himself (the black, rotting, missing teeth, Putting on a T shirt to address the press - all are indicative of how he manages this team and his lack of attention to life's basic fundamentals.

The coach, leader of the team should have some character,integrity, pride about himself whether in winning or defeat to remain strong and not walk up looking like a bum. So his & Arenas lack goes so this team tumbles.
He has to have insurance & most def has money. Why can't the man get his mouth cleaned, repaired? It says a lot of how he manages this team. Sorry. It may sound funny or petty but it is not! It shows why this team is run raggedy, lacking in basic fundaments and lack of attention to details. In any situation - authority - it starts at the top and trickles down.

Jordan lacks acute attention to details is glaring. Why wait til you head into the playoffs to "try to establish defense and discipline?" After you let them run whereever they pleased all season?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 27, 2007 5:34 PM


That was certianly a gloom and doom proclamation if I ever saw one, but it's not without merit. The team has been severely lacking the confidence and killer instinct that it found in the early part of the season for quite a while now.

That said, this thing isn't over just yet. The Wiz can still win the division, albeit they must begin to play like they want to win. The rise and fall of Gilbert Arenas has been very hard to swallow, and yes, I think he may be contempt. I can only hope that the thought of entering the playoffs as the sixth seed might motivate him and the rest of the team to snap out of this funk.

Anyway my point is things are real bad right now, but nothing has been decided. Let's all hope for the best from here on out, and in the playoffs as well.

Go Wizards

Posted by: SantanaClaus89 | March 27, 2007 6:22 PM

To the unnamed poster....Eddie Jordan does not have black or missing teeth....crooked yes but black and I assume the reason he has not gotten them fixed is because it will require braces....and what 50 year old man wants to wear braces?

Regarding DEFENSE: Fred Carter said on NBA TV the other night that defense is learned and honed during training camp and if that does not happen then, you might as well give up on it happening during the season. He was not talking about the Wiz....was actually referring to the Suns....but it seems to fit the Wiz perfectly.

Posted by: Lisa | March 27, 2007 7:34 PM

By the way, DC Dude, did you happen to catch your man Wilbon's (since you love to quote him) remarks in today's post. Wilbon writes that the "fans love Gilbert...they don't like him...they LOVE him. They love his antics and the fact that he is different."

Posted by: Lisa | March 27, 2007 7:36 PM

Yeah Susan, but fans love the circus clowns too. They also love GWiz. So what? It's funny how you embrace Wilbon's positive words about Gilby, but dismissed his critical words.

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 27, 2007 7:41 PM

I've been out of state and haven't been able to see the games of this roadtrip. Probably good thing cause I very well may have broken my TV with a flying drop kick from across the room! So sorry to be off subject, but I want to say watching the NCAA tourney I just fell in love with this kid Brandon Rush from Kansas! I hope we draft this kid, and looking at mocks he may be there when we pick. He'd be perfect for us at SG! He's long, good defense, can stroke the 3 and take it to the hoop. Kid is athletic, graceful and has power and leadership. He can also play SF, possibly replacing Jarvis off the bench there.

Early I know... but thinking about next year, I'd love to see us bring in Pecherov and Navarro, along with this kid. Also really hope we resign Stevenson.

Posted by: Darnell | March 27, 2007 7:48 PM

Those of you commenting on our talent are just way off. We have (almost) everthing we need. Blatche is the 4 to let Jamison slide over to the 3, and BTH/ET are just as good as Dampier/Diop of the Mavericks who might win 70 games.

These games are all close. I think we are all underestimating the affect that Ruffin and Hayes have. Just apply the +/- and it's not hard to see that they cost us 10 points per game, while Blatche and Haywood sit on the bench. We had a lead at the half in 5 straight road games. Better substitution patterns would have gotten us 4 out of the 5 wins and we'd be sitting in first place by a few games right now.

That's JUST the substitution patterns. I estimate that EJ is a 15 point handicap in every game.

Posted by: JJ | March 27, 2007 7:55 PM

So DC Dude....does that mean fans love....YOU? After all, you said they love circus clowns.

Posted by: Lisa | March 27, 2007 8:18 PM

Souf-east Lisa, now if I bent you over my knee and gave you a spanking on your sweet apple bottom (ie. a nasty verbal response), then you'd cry that I'm being I suggest you stop trying to provoke me, and worry about your sorry Les BouleS and try to figure out how they can get a win after going 1-4 this past away series against sub .500 teams that were missing some of their superstars.....stick to b-ball honey, cuz humor ain't your strength.

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 27, 2007 9:10 PM

JJ, are you crazy? This team does not have everything it needs. AJ is a bench player/6th man on a championship team albeit a very good one!!! He is just way too much of a defensive liability. Blatche is 5 years away from being able to play PF against most teams. He is too light and skinny.

I do have faith in EG, but I don't think EJ is gone this year, unfortunately. He gets one more year of a first round playoff loss....yikes. I said in my last post that I don't believe Hayes and Ruffin are here next year....please EG! The one negative is Hayes is probably our most athletic player and, just maybe, he finds his stroke and rythm (sp?) with more time post injury.

We need a coach with some pedigree who can check Gilbert a little. He's great for the Wiz, NBA, etc but his personality leads to undisciplined play at times. He takes 4/5 atrocious shots a game, 2/3 super risky passes, and his example on defense is horrible. As quick as he is, only the best point guards should get by him and even then not on every possession.

Posted by: Rob P | March 27, 2007 9:14 PM

Couple of more counterpoints.

- This team needs to draft another SG/Swingman like it needs a hole in the head. Guarantee we draft for size, defense, and/or athletecism
- Stop talking about trading AJ bc it is NOT going to happen. Not sure exactly how much he makes, but nobody is going to trade for a guy making so much money who plays zero defense. Plus, he is getting older and getting injured more often. I will say I don't think age will affect AJ as much as some bc he has never relied on athletecism his whole career. He is a clever type of player which will not disappear so quickly.
- Finally, kiss the division goodbye. Whomever suggested they think we can "turn it on" is crazy. This team played great basketball in December. Probably the best it can play, but there is a thing as peaking too early (coaching?). As much as I enjoy him, Arenas sure was not saving anything bc he was busy promoting himself for the all-star game, big-party, and sponsorships. If they bring the synthetic ball back, I think Gilbert would raise his game a notch. He was a BIG proponent of it bc his shot was more consistent and confident than it's ever been.
- oh real quick, Arenas has three buzzer beater winners this year. NOBODY else has more than 1. So, some pundits at ESPN etc and bloggers in here who suggest he is not a clutch player, are dead wrong. He is top three in players who you want with the ball in their hands, clock running down, and the game on the line. There really is no debating.

Posted by: Rob P | March 27, 2007 9:43 PM

I don't think that it is fair to say that Gilbert and the gang has lost their chip/edge...
I think that it is more accurate to say that these guys haven't experienced being the king of the hill....
to this point in the teams evolution we have pretty much been the underdog, disrespected team and it is easily to play loose with that 'chip'....
all of this missed opportunities that you mentioned have a lot to do with these other squads not having anything to lose and where able to play with reckless abandon...

we as fans need to remember that this is the NBA, a contender (or a champion for that matter) are not build is a process...

this team has learned how to win (with some level of consistency)...the next step is going to focus on learning how to play aggressively but under control, that is the only way to become consistent at beating the teams they are suppose to beat without expending all of their energy during the regular season....without figuring this out you won't be able to step up their games come playoff time

everything is a learning process and you can tell that this team has the desire they just haven't figured out how to put it all together....but the good thing is that you see it in spurts (so it is there) which is fine considering how young this team is....

remember once upon a time Michael Jordan's Bulls had to learn these very same lessons...

Posted by: guinness4health | March 27, 2007 11:08 PM

CJ said:

"we don't have great personnell defensively, but is it that hard to teach guys how to: 1) stay in front of the ball on end of game shots (steve francis anyone?); 2) play basic defense on pick and rolls?; 3) box out defensively instead of looking for the cherry pick long pass and catch; and 4) keep your hands in the air?"

I could not agree more if I tried, Secret Weapon. I don't think any of us here expect The Wiz to suddenly bust out some kind of sophisticated lockdown defense, but the things you're talking about are just fundamentals that can't be being stressed by the coaching staff. You simply can't let your team NOT do those things, can you?

I mean, maybe if you're SO good you can't be stopped offensively, and perhaps that was the story in December, but now, I think it's high time that EJ, EG, and everyone else admit that we can't just blow off the basics in favor of trying to run everybody out of the building.

WTF is with the dude complaining about Eddie's teeth? I wouldn't care if he had grills like "Jaws" from the 007 movies if he was doing a better job with this team...

And guys, Mike Lee wrote this entry, check your entry before you reply. I know, you thought it was Ivan because it wasn't about how awesome Kobe or some other NBA team was :) but it was signed "Michael Lee".

Posted by: Gack | March 27, 2007 11:54 PM

We are in year three of the championship process and we are not improving. If anything, we have digressed!

Posted by: Rob P | March 28, 2007 12:58 AM

Amen. Cautious optimism, rather than "irrational exuberance" is never out of style.



Posted by: DC Man88 | March 28, 2007 1:08 AM

Well now that we have done all the moaning about the bad road trip, lets get down to the key issue for tomorrow night. How much should Caron Butler play coming off this injury. I know the Wizards need a victory, but I hope he only plays about 20-25 minutes.

Posted by: George Templeton | March 28, 2007 1:08 AM

"I think that it is more accurate to say that these guys haven't experienced being the king of the hill...."

Being the 11-14th best team in the league hardly makes you the king of the hill.

How many people here would be satisfied with a first round playoff loss???

- there is about a 85% chance that is going to be the outcome of our season

I think 2nd round, 1st round, 1st round is not much if any progress. Another year of EJ and you can add another 1st round. Starting to look like the Timberwolves of old.

Posted by: Rob P | March 28, 2007 10:40 AM

"this team has learned how to win (with some level of consistency)...

No they haven't. Not unless your idea of consistency is to play up to the level of the good teams while constantly struggling against weaker opponents against whom they should have a clear advantage, largely as a result of taking them lightly or not playing with focus and discipline.

Posted by: kalorama | March 28, 2007 11:59 AM

If the season ended today, Les BouleS play the Heat in the first round. It's pretty sad that this late in the season, EJ is still trying to experiment and work out the kinks to determine which players fit best where....

Here are some choice quotes from today's POST:

""We lost some games, but the positive side of that is that we did not get killed, we were always in these games," Songaila said. "They were coming down to the end, one possession here, one possession there. You get one stop and you win. We just have to get those stops, get those rebounds and make those big plays at the end and that will turn it around for us.""

I think Songaila must be on crack. It's very sad when you take it as a positive that you didn't get your @ss blown out by sub.500 teams. Now, if they played Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and the Lakers on this road trip instead of the blazers, sonics, warriors, clippers, and utah, then Songaila's quote might have made some sense.

"Whether the result of not boxing out, failing to secure the ball or getting out of position to cover for a perimeter player who was beaten off the dribble, the Wizards did not give themselves a chance to finish games because they too often allowed opponents to keep possessions alive with offensive rebounds.

While talking about rebounding with his team on Monday, Coach Eddie Jordan referenced the Georgetown Hoyas and the way they dominated the glass down the stretch of their comeback victory over North Carolina in Sunday's NCAA region final.

"We've emphasized it but it really comes down to guys just doing it," Jordan said. "Guys that do it, don't need practice and don't need it to be emphasized. I brought up the Georgetown game. North Carolina misses 22 or 23 shots and Georgetown got every rebound. They've got guys that do it, and it was crucial to their success. We have to bring that same attitude to it.""

What I got out of this quote was that EJ was basically exonerating himself from any criticism about him not emphasizing Defense. It's not about X and O's on Defense. It's about the player's lack of hustle and lack of desire, not lack of ability or "fundamentals" as someone here gave them an excuse about. Les BouleS are giving up too many points, too many rebounds, and too many offensive rebounds b/c they are too concerned about running down to the other end and jacking up 3's so they can scream "HIBACHIIIIIII!!!!."

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 28, 2007 12:50 PM

Response to Rob P.

I wrote....
"I think that it is more accurate to say that these guys haven't experienced being the king of the hill...."

you wrote....
"Being the 11-14th best team in the league hardly makes you the king of the hill..."

just prior to the all-star break we were the second best team in the east with the 6th or 7th best record in the league....

we were one of the only teams in the league to beat all of the division leaders....

and we were leading our division.... we may not have been the best team in the league....but you are kidding yourself if you don't think that being a division leader doesn't make you a target for other lesser talented teams!!

even if we loss in the first round to say the heat, doesn't mean that progress is not being made....

it is nice and easy to throw stones at the wizards and say they suck, blah blah blah... it is easy to say that look none of them can play any defense....

yes this team has flaws, and yes as a whole they defense leaves a lot to be desired... but people have to remember with any team you can have 4 guys play great defense and it just takes 1 guy to miss a basic assignment for all of that effort to be wasted....

In a lot of ways you have to throw out that first year that we made the playoffs because of the loss of one of the teams major building blocks....we were able to replace him last year with Caron...(and no i don't think we are looking like the t-wolves of old, they could make any progress because garnett was making 20-21 million -- that is 2-3 million more than gilbert and caron combined, plus the t-wolves were stripped of all of those draft picks)

which means that this core has only been together for less than two full seasons...

we are still missing pieces to the puzzle, people talk about our defensive liabilities and they are correct, but our bench is also one of the biggest weakness of this team....

we have absolutely no one on that bench that can be depended on for scoring 10 points a game in any given night, much less fill in if one of the big three goes down or is having an off night....To be a great team you need that extra push....

as it stands we are at least 2-3 quality bench players away from being able to consistently compete for top playoff seating...let alone a championship

by the way don't be surprised is they draft a SF/SG that can consistently hit for drafting for size its probably not going to happen (unless we trade either etan or brendan or don't resign blatche) as we most likely have the 6'11"/7'0" 222 PF Oleksiy Pecherov (last years top draft pick) joining up with the squad next year

Posted by: guinness4health | March 28, 2007 1:02 PM

"by the way don't be surprised is they draft a SF/SG that can consistently hit jumpshots..."

Isn't that what we had in Larry Hughes before Les BouleS lowballed him and he left town?

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 28, 2007 1:19 PM

Thanks for this opportunity to vent. To be honest, I've got so much of a bad taste in my mouth toward this team right now I can't say anything good about them.
This team has the physical skills to be a very good team, but mentally, they fold. Their lazy, their confidence breaks camp when things get tough, and noone want's to step up and be a leader when they desperately need one. Gilbert, the most influential player on the team declares his not a leader. He needs to know leadership is influence. Step up Gilbert!! They need a floor general, someone that's not going to accept the crap that we watch now. Someone that's going to step up when needed. Unfortunately that person is not on this team.
It's hard being Redskins,and a Wizard fan right now.

Posted by: Bris | March 28, 2007 1:21 PM

"by the way don't be surprised is they draft a SF/SG that can consistently hit jumpshots..."

Isn't that what we had in Larry Hughes before Les BouleS lowballed him and he left town?

As long as you don't count the part about consistently hitting jumpshots. Not overpaying Hughes and replacing him with Butler (a better, more consistent player) was one of Grunfeld's best moves.

And, contrary to the popularly held belief, defense does in fact require skill and practice. Effort and hustle alone don't matter if you don't know what it is you're trying to do. Of course the players need to put in the effort to be good defensively, but being good at anything requires effort. That goes without saying. It's up to the coaches to stress and practice the principles the players need to be effective in the team's defensive scheme (assuming they have one).

It's not just a coincidence that the Mavs and Rockets became better teams defensively after they got new coaches who stressed the defensive end of the floor.

Posted by: kalorama | March 28, 2007 1:38 PM

Did they really replace Hughes with Butler? I thought they traded Kwame for Butler. Also, Hughes was playing at an all star level when he was here, and was a model athlete. That's why he got the contract he did from the Cavs.

I think if Gilby is skilled enough to do the offensive moves that he does, then that's no reason why he's not skilled enough to play some tough D. I just don't think he wants to do it. He admitted it takes away from his offensive game. Also, the big men on this team have the responsibility of guarding their own man, while helping out on other players that the front court O'lays by. Right now, the only guy who really earns his paycheck on both ends is Kobe Bryant. That's it.

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 28, 2007 1:52 PM

Isn't that what we had in Larry Hughes before Les BouleS lowballed him and he left town?

as it has been pointed out by one other poster hughes can't consistently hit jumpshots....

and we certainly didn't lowball him...the CAVS offered him a ridiculous amount of money and having been regretting it ever since.....

do you realize that Hughes is the 27th highest paid player in the league (@ $13,363,012 million this year over 2 million more than gilbert!?!?!)

Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2007 2:15 PM

They traded Kwame for Butler after letting Hughes go, so Butler could take Hughes's place in the lineup. Thus Butler is Hughes's replacement. Pretty simple, really.

And yes, Hughes played well for the Wiz. But Butler has been a better player here for a good deal less money than Hughes was asking for. Great deal for the Wiz.

No one's disputing that Gilbert has the required physical tools to be a good defensive player. But wanting to do it isn't enough. Just like he had to learn to be a great offensive player, defense also requires learning and repetition. There are skills, routines, and principles to defense just as there are to offense. It doesn't just happen.

It isn't enough to want to be a pilot. Someone has to help you learn to fly the plane.

Posted by: kalorama | March 28, 2007 2:26 PM

You guys are like a bunch of headless chickens. Relax!

Anyone who thinks this team has the physical capacity to play defense needs to watch tape of Mehmet Okur blowing by Jamison for a dunk. MEHMET FREAKIN OKUR FOR CRYIN OUT LOUD! It's not gonna happen people!

Moving Jamison over to the three is not going to improve the zards defense either. The only way this team will improve is if Blatche can settle down a little on offense and stop turning the ball over so he can take some of Jamison's minutes from him. That's pretty much it.

The defense would also improve if Brendan Haywood could get off the bench in the fourth quarter. Pretty ironic that fourth quarter defense is a huge reason for the team's latest struggles and yet the zards best defensive player is sitting. What's up with that?

Posted by: Zonker | March 28, 2007 2:35 PM

They traded Kwame for Butler after letting Hughes go, but would have trade Kwame anyway, since his final tenure here ended with him refusing to play/calling in sick and feuding with Gilbert. Larry played the 2, and Caron plays the 3. Totally different players.

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 28, 2007 3:01 PM

Hughes was doing welll here before he left, but hasn't done much with the Cavs. Gotta cut him some slack because his younger brother died. If you guys out there had a younger sibling that died, how would that affect you? Also, Mike Brown's slow it down offense doesn't suit the team. Notice they've changed it to more up tempo now that his job was mentioned to be in jeopardy.

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 28, 2007 3:02 PM

It doesn't matter where when why or how they traded Kwame. Nor does it matter how different their games are. The fact remains the player they traded Kwame for ended up replacing Larry Hughes in the starting lineup. The rest of the starting lineup was exactly the same before the trade as after.

Unless you think Jared Jeffries is a SG, Caron Butler was the de facto starting SG (in place of Hughes) for the Wiz his first season in D.C. (before Jeffries got traded the following summer).

Posted by: kalorama | March 28, 2007 3:12 PM

If you haven't noticed - they do select comments for the morning post. Today its Sean and JJ's entries. See page E2.

I still standby the comment about Jordans' mouth. (It shows his lack of attention to detail - poor team management.)
in otherwords - its indicative of his style of irradic changes & rotations that all of you lament.

If you know anything about leadership - business and power you'd get it. What he does for himself is what he does for this team. Sorry Folks, as the coach goes - so goes the team.

Example: Bobcats - good players - lousy confused management and so is their style of play.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2007 3:29 PM

There certainly have been no more games when Gil has imposed his will on the team or the other team. He has won games but really only as a good player doing it when given a chance. He has not been great for some time. Also, coaching has been tenative in its treatment of him - I know, I know, you don't make your star mad. But in the Utah game he did not even take a shot until the first quarter was almost over. Ridiculous!! Stars insist on being the leader - now if he wants to be Mr. Point Guard, let him announce that and then we can react. But he did not make the all star team by letting others lead the way. I am disappointed in him and wonder if he has become scared to produce.

Posted by: Bridgewater, VA | March 28, 2007 4:53 PM

They actually used Jared as a shooting guard, because they thought he was very versatile. At times, he even brought the ball up.

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 28, 2007 6:34 PM

Ivan, please ban the pervert DC Man88, aka ClueLessOne or Clewiston88 elsewhere. He is a sick, foul mouthed creep.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2007 12:33 AM

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