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No defending that defense

That was as bad a defensive performance as the Wizards have turned in all season. The Charlotte Bobcats did whatever they wanted, exactly how they wanted last night in cruising to a 122-102 win over the playoff- bound Washington Wizards. Not good.

I watched the entire debacle unfould from a seat underneath one of the baskets. After watching Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace execute a basic pick-and-roll play to perfection for, oh, the 100th time, I said something to the affect of: "Why do they keep switching on that? It leaves Gilbert on a big and Antawn on a small. It doesn't make sense." The scout sitting next to me started laughing. "C'mon man, you've been watching this team play defense for two years and you're surprised? Eddie can tell these guys what to do a million times and it isn't going to change."

Here's the thing about this team: without Caron Butler, the only way it has a chance to stay afloat and do anything in the playoffs is if it can play SOME defense. Just a little. You can't have Antawn get completely outplayed by Walter Herrmann (who can play by the way. the guy never stops moving and he's really crafty after working off of screens), you can't have Gilbert get repeatedly broken down off the dribble by Felton and Brevin Knight and you can't have Jarvis Hayes defending Gerald Wallace. Ever.

The only two players who brought it last night were Darius Songaila and Etan Thomas. The more I see of Songaila, the more convinced I become that Ernie Grunfeld made a wise move by signing him to a five-year deal last season. The guy simply knows how to play. There were two defensive plays that illustrated this last night. First, Emeka Okafor came in from the baseline and wanted to hammer down a two-handed dunk. Songaila shuffled over to his left, allowed Okafor to get slightly past him and the reached up and swatted the ball off the backboard without fouling.

Later, Okafor wanted to throw down a one-handed dunk so Songaila, who can't get three inches off the court, took a step forward and blocked the shot early before Okafor could get elevated. That play sparked a break that ended with DeShawn Stevenson's three-pointer which drew the Wiz within 12 in the third. The guy simply knows how to play. The same scout I mention above told me that had Songaila been healthy all season, the Wiz would be 5 to 7 games better right now. I have to agree with him.

One other thing from a scout's perspective: I asked him whether the WIzards would be better off playing Cleveland, Toronto, Miami or Cleveland in the first round and he said Cleveland without hesitation. "They only have one player. That's a far better matchup than anyone else."

Bottom line: if the Wiz don't come with a more professional defensive effort than last night, they won't beat anyone in the playoffs.

By Ivan Carter  |  April 4, 2007; 11:55 AM ET
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Next: Gilbert misses shootaround and won't start but will play


Mike and Ivan - I started this reply around 11:25 am in the other blog right before this one. I had to leave and come back to finish it so I just posted it about 12:04 and then I take a look and see you just started a new one which I was talking about the Wiz defense. If it is okay, I am transferring my reply in the other blog to this one since this is the subject I was talking about als. Thanks...

Gack - yes it was them. I saw the same show. Anthony and Legler were "on them" pretty hard. Anthony said "the Wiz lack mental toughness" and Legler said "their whole front line is "soft".

Anthony also said "if you are playoff bound team, there is no way you should be letting a team like the Bobcats score 122 points on you, Caron or no Caron".

I hate to agree with him, but it is true. Anthony has been saying all year their lack of playing defense is going to "kill them" come playoff time when they are not "hot" shooting. Man, is that coming true now.

I still believe that if EJ just starts playing "straight man to man defense" vs. having our "5" flashing at the top of the key and then trying to double back down to the paint (Haywood, Thomas, and Booth) and everyone switching all over the place; "stops" would come more often. Ruffin is the only "Big" capable of "showing" at the top of the key and getting back because he has the lateral foot speed to do so.

However, EJ tends to keep Ruffin in way to long at the "5" which ends up hurting us. If EJ wants to give him extended minutes like that he should pair him with Haywood or Booth and let him play the 4.

We do not have the personnel to play that type of switching defense. You have to want to run "through screens" sometimes (i.e. Kobe running through one of ours in LA when MJ was playing with the Wiz) vs. meeting your man on the other side (Gilbert??) where he stops and doubles back and either gets a wide open look for a 3 or causes a switch which then makes our defensive side of the court unbalanced because everyone has to switch to cover the open man Gilbert was checking.

Now I am not saying this to call Gilbert out because I am a big Gilbert fan, but I know the only reason Gilbert does not play all out man defense like he did in his first year in Golden State is because he is "saving" himself for offense on the other end. Not to say that this is right, but it is the truth. Gilbert stillis in the beginning stages of his maturation process as a superstar player.

Gilbert has built on his game every year. Give the man a "minute" and you will see him take his game to the next level next year when it comes to defense.

Gilbert wanted to get his name out "there" and he found out through his USA Team basketball experience just playing defense only was not going to get him his due "props". He sacrificed his whole offensive game to make the team and to him that is what got him "cut".

There are not to many MJ's and Kobe's out there who are able to "man up" the best player night in night out and still have "juice" for the offensive end of the floor. Gilbert has to find that balance, and I am sure he will. Are LeBron. Melo, Nash, Dirk, or DWade considered great defensive players.

Nope....!!! They don't play "d" either, but the difference between them and Gilbert is they have supporting casts that can play "D" or a coach (not a EJ basher, but I hate his rotation calls, lack of calling timeouts to stop runs from the opposing teams, love of small ball,love of giving Jarvis "way to many minutes", and his usage or lack there of Haywood)who knows how to teach playing "D".

Don't get me wrong, but once I would like to see the Wiz play straight up "man defense" and see what happens after that.

Posted by: mikie | April 4, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

So... what might this portend for tonight? Will their defense continue to be indefensible? Will they start putting bodies on Herrman, Wallace, Okafor & Co.?
Will they execute the offense and stop jacking up 20-footers that chip paint off the rim?

To me, the Wizars' (no d) play tonight will indicate whether they got heart or want to be pwned.

Posted by: iceberg | April 4, 2007 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Mikie your points about their inability to show at the perimeter and fight through screens are dead on, but I am afraid the results might not be much different if they played straight up man-to-man defense. I think Jordan saw that in training camp.

Posted by: George Templeton | April 4, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Here are two interesting points from Ivan's writeup above:

1. I said something to the affect of: "Why do they keep switching on that? It leaves Gilbert on a big and Antawn on a small. It doesn't make sense." The scout sitting next to me started laughing. "C'mon man, you've been watching this team play defense for two years and you're surprised? Eddie can tell these guys what to do a million times and it isn't going to change."

2. You can't have Antawn get completely outplayed by Walter Herrmann (who can play by the way. the guy never stops moving and he's really crafty after working off of screens), you can't have Gilbert get repeatedly broken down off the dribble by Felton and Brevin Knight and you can't have Jarvis Hayes defending Gerald Wallace. Ever.

Sounds to me that EJ is exonerated from all this bashing about EJ not coaching them up on how to play D. Gilby being broken down by Brevin F'n Knight?????? C'mon!!! When did Brevin Knight become Tim Hardaway?!?!?!

Read them and weep boys and girls.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 4, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse


Why does Eddie not move Jamison over to 3 and go with a starting line up of Etan, Songalia, Jamison, Stevenson, and Gilbert?

Posted by: Dbonics | April 4, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Mikie, Thank you for verifying my previous post. Its not sweet nor is it easy to hear but its the truth. Folks would rather believe fairy tales.

One thing in Ivan's article that no one has commented on: When Ivan asked about the poor play of Wiz..the scout stated:

"C'mon man, you've been watching this team play defense for two years and you're surprised? Eddie can tell these guys what to do a million times and it isn't going to change."

Bottom line: if the Wiz don't come with a more professional defensive effort than last night, they won't beat anyone in the playoffs. Per Ivan Carter.

Arenas has been in the league for 6 plus yrs. developing just like everybody else but he has done just what Mikie said
made a choice to "get himself out their" and forfeit defense and his team unless "strangled" into it. Eddie Jordan has been preaching, pushing etc for 2 yrs..
to quote the scout.

But then I am sure..the Arenas apologists will blame EJ for that too.

I said months ago..Jordan was having a heck of a time coaching these guys & the scouts comments & laughter just confirmed it.

Posted by: NBA Watcher | April 4, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Facts is Facts, and parts is parts, and the fact of the matter is this team will not play defense. However, how much D do the Suns play? Not much. There is a style and they have to commit to it. Trying to do something to your style is wrong and will never be succesful. However, that said, it does not excuse them or Jordan for not realizing situational mismatches or failing to put the right people on the floow. Jordan's love of Etan is mysterious, franly Calvin brings more to the game than he does, and, his substitutions are ridulous.


Posted by: Bridgewater, VA | April 4, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

One of the basic problems with switching at the screens is your players tend to give up on the screen way to easy. There has been a real tendacy the last few years for the screener to never set and to try and cheat and get the jump on the guard to get open.
Guys are moving the whole time and the Referees never call it. The only way to get that call is to try and fight through the screen. Somebody hits the floor and the ref has to call something. At present it is the most undercalled play in the league and it has as much to do with how coaches are having their teams play it as it does with the refereeing.
It's not just the Wiz that are playing it that way, it's become league wide. I wonder why didn't Bill Russell, or Wilt Chamberlain chase point gaurds around the perimeter? Maybe there coaches had a clue how to use a big, makes me sick when our best shot blocker is chasing a point around 30' from the rim.
The old Knicks did used to switch at every screen like teams do today, but they also ran into the screener and tied him up. Wasn't completly legal but neither are moving screens, it's a way to counter the tactic. It forces the referee to referee and blow the whistle.

Posted by: GM | April 4, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

matt carrol hitting that 3 after wiz had just hit one (and brought it to 10, i think) was infuriating. suns, who wiz are supposed to mirror, played 5 possessions of D last night to close out an ornery memphis... gils a fan of the league, can EJ show the team that sun's sequence to prove a point: you either need to be able to stop them when it counts or if you can't do that (as wiz can't) or play enough D throughout the game where it doesn't come down to a needed stop

Posted by: reader Will | April 4, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Bridgewater - I have been asking that same question about Etan and EJ for two years now. The only thing I can figure is they are trying to "showcase" Etan so they can trade him in the offseason. They are probably hoping he has numbers like he had last night on a consistent basis so they can get a taker for him.

Nothing against Ethan, but he is not a "5". He is a poor man's Brian Grant in his heyday. He should be playing at the "4", although I know most teams "4's" can go inside and outside and Etan might be a defensive liability if he had to "check" one of them.

They were not going to get a trade for him if he was sitting on the bench not showing what he can do and with that "tricky" contract he has. Matching that offer from the Bucks a couple of years ago has been EG's only miscue.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

forgot to post my name..

Posted by: mikie | April 4, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Reader Will,

Don't know if you were here then, but two years ago, before the season started, EJ supposedly took Gilby to watch some summer ball where Jason Kidd played, to show him how the Princeton Offense was run. Obviously none of that sunk in.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 4, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Walter Herrmann was the freak of nature last night. The way he got up and down teh court and how he cut to the basketball, it reminded me of the stride Forrest Gump took as he jogged across the US. Bucky couldn't stop commented about his large hands the way he caught balls and skyed for dunks.

Air Jesus (aka Walter Herrmann) was in full effect last night. Walter Hermann, the Argentinian with the classic basketball player name. NOT!


Posted by: DC Man88 | April 4, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Ivan & Mike - Anyway of finding out if the Wizards are interested in signing Pippen, since Butler is out for the year. He would give us some much needed perimeter defense, although he is 40 or something, but it at least better than anyone else we have on the roster other D Taylor. Any thoughts....????

Posted by: mikie | April 4, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

OMG I hope not. Pippen, his last year in the league, was getting torched up and down the court against Kobe. This team does not need another perimeter play, who probably can't jump anymore, and needs the ball. Also, Pippen had a list of teams he'd consider. Les BouleS wasn't on that list. It's a savvy move by Dallas (?) to sign Kevin Willis. I'd pick Willis over Pippen. What happened to Terry Smith?

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 4, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Facts are Facts: Williams & Tapscott have said it numerous times in post-game wrap..
Wizards show walking in - they look divided in their thinking - unfocused.

Some follow after Arenas...some try to follow the coach. The end result is just what we've got..

More observations & food for thought for the Arenas worshipers:

Butler hasn't been in league as long as Arenas - but everyone in the NBA, analysts, writers, including Phil Jackson, can tell you..he's developing at a greater, faster pace than Arenas AND he didn't have to be a media hound, call newspapers, TV stations and create a bunch of gimmics, make threats, etc for attention.
Butler did it the "old fashion way!!!!
His performance earned him the attention.

Butler is always seen on side encouraging and pushing Arenas but never reverse his absence really exposes Arenas.

Posted by: rocki | April 4, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse


If you read Wilbon's article in today's Post, that's exactly how the other players in the league feel about Butler vs. Arenas too.

Posted by: DC | April 4, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I love the binary mindset of a lot of the posters here now. Either it's EJ's fault or it's Gilbert's. Ivan's post calls out Antawn and Gilbert as being abused on D, but more generally calls out ***everybody on the squad*** other than Etan and Darius, but it's so predictable how those words are going to be latched onto and held up in here as proof that it's "all Gilbert's fault".

Some days I wish we could do an "It's a Wonderful Life" on a Wiz squad without Gilbert on it, so I could read comments here bashing someone else for a change.

Gilbert's personality drives some of you nuts, and it still would if he was posting identical numbers as Kobe Bryant and doing exactly what Kobe does each and every game. Don't try and pretend it's about his game. It's okay to hate the guy. Just don't make up some ridiculous rationale for it.

Hell, I hate Kobe Bryant, and I know he's the best player in the league. I just don't like the guy. Doesn't mean I need to construct some ridiculous argument about his game to fit around my hate of him.

GM, you're absolutely right about the moving screens. Guys need to stop avoiding them (giving spacing to the shooter and often, costing us 3 points) and run THROUGH them, and possibly get the screen setter called for an offensive foul.

Posted by: Gack | April 4, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Ain't this country great? We can all offer an opinion, whether right or wrong, because it doesn't matter. What does matter is Les BouleS went 1-4 on the West Coast trip where the winning teams (most sub.500) were missing most of their stars, suffered through a debacle against Toronto at home that was missing two main guys, and didn't bother to show up last night as they got thrashed by a lottery bound team ranked 29 out of 30 in the NBA.

If it makes anyone feel better, none of the so called "stars" except for Caron have shown up to play after the all star break. So sad. I'm glad I didn't waste money on season tickets for these pitiful efforts.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 4, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Gack go read the title of this thread again.


Yet you go ahead and defend one of the worst offender.

Posted by: dc | April 4, 2007 4:24 PM | Report abuse

dc, I have *never* defended the fact that Gilbert doesn't play D, in fact I consistently refer to him as a defensive liability.

My post specifically refers to the fact that despite all but 2 players on this team playing horrible D last night, the only one who is lambasted is Arenas, who did his share on the offensive end of the glass.

This team is not, and will never be in its current incarnation, a team that plays much defense. That much we know. But as much as some of you want to filet Arenas for not playing D, facts are facts, and he produces for this team on offense in buckets. You simply cannot argue with his +/- on this squad.

If you can easily find 30ppg in a free agent who's also a stalwart defender and affordable, by all means please contact Ernie Grunfeld and let's get a deal done.

Posted by: Gack | April 4, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Why can't one like other players or another team but the Wizards to write on this blog???????

Please tell me?

When one ventures onto the blog - Must one endure huge, extensive pages of run-on directives & sentences from GM(sports journalism intern?) or harsh criticism & defensiveness from "Gack & Lisa"(We're in love with Gibert)Its so obvious you are obcessed with your franchise player.

Quite frankly, Its a public paper - read nationwide. According to comments from the writers - this blog is open for comments etc. to the public.

If you guys are upset your team lost - ok
but there are a lot of teams in the NBA that are doing their best to make the playoffs as well.

Posted by: peterss207 | April 4, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

You've got a good point, peterss207. Unfortunately you're making it in the wrong place. This is the *Wizards* Insider blog. It's generally understood that people here are Wizards fans, or at the very least, interested in the Wizards (maybe bashing the Wizards counts, I'm not sure).

This isn't designed to be an all-purpose NBA blog, unless I'm mistaken, though.

As for which players I like and don't, anyone who's read my posts for more than 5 minutes knows I like Gilbert, but I also like Caron, Blatche, Songaila, and can deal with Stevenson, Jamison.

That doesn't mean they're perfect. Doesn't mean I don't think they have room to improve, some more than others.

Posted by: Gack | April 4, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Pippen would be a good addition for leadership, good judgement and mentoring the whole team the concept of defense. He is a great defender and has a good mid range bank shot.

Posted by: bdunkadunk | April 4, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Peter S

What part of the phrase Washington Post is difficult to comprehend?

Posted by: free dc | April 4, 2007 5:34 PM | Report abuse

i'll b shocked if the wizards make it 2 the 2nd round of the playoffs. the real work begins during the offseason with Ernie Grunfield. let's assume the only guaranteed players returning next season r Gilbert, Caron & Songalia. Jamison is a free agent so he's not a guarantee 2 return. besides, do u pay top dollar 2 someone who can't play a lick of defense? can Ernie find a replacement n the 4 spot who can take up some of Jamison's scoring plus become somewhat of a major force down low? Etan, Blatche, Daniels and Stevenson should return, but only as the second rotation. Everybody else needs 2 b replace. If this team ever wants to advance 2 the eastern finals, Ernie is going 2 have 2 do some serious upgrading this summer? what about the 3 players we drafted that r oversees? i'm hearing a lot of positive comments about them, but what's their status 4 next year? can any of them bang on the boards, and/or play any defense? last, but definitely not least, the Wizards should try get a pure point guard & move Gilbert over to the 2 spot. Gilbert can always play both positions, but a pure point guard will make life easy for a team with great scorers-especially during crunch time.

Posted by: koolkatt007 | April 4, 2007 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the haters will get their wish -- Gilbert left the game with a sprained left knee.

Posted by: Gack | April 4, 2007 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Imagine that. Once Gilby left after blowing out his knee, Les BouleS are actually playing like a team both on the offensive and defensive ends. A lot more hustle too. Antonio Daniels turning into Nash/Kidd. Maybe Gilby's blown knee is a blessing in disguise.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 4, 2007 9:07 PM | Report abuse

You asked; "what part of the Washington Post don't I comprehend?" Lets see..

The front page headline that read:

"Charlotte Shredded the Wizards?"

As a new resident of this city - I have every right to review this public site whether I like Gilbert Arenas or not. If everyone MUST like Mr. Arenas on this site for your sake then perhaps you might consider starting your own private blog.
Mr. Arenas did.

Posted by: Peterss207 | April 5, 2007 2:09 AM | Report abuse


Welcome to the Washington Wizards Blog at the Wash. Post. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy.

Posted by: DC Man88 | April 5, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

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