Communication Is The Key On D

RICHMOND -- Randy Foye remembers hearing Kevin Garnett's loud voice shouting at him almost every time he got in his defensive stance his rookie year in Minnesota. Garnett wasn't being critical. He was being helping. He'd let Foye know when he didn't have any help, when and where the pick was coming. His lips were moving nonstop, his bark impossible to ignore.

"You hear it before it's coming," Foye said. "That you why Boston, he was a big reason why Boston won it all. he was so vocal. He got so much energy. A guy like that, you got to follow his lead."

The Wizards don't have anyone on their roster who compares to Garnett, a former league most valuable player and defensive player of the year.

"We have Brendan" Haywood, Foye said. "Brendan talks. Antawn [Jamison] talks and they let us know what's going on. It ain't going to be no KG, but if you can get two or three guys doing it together, then you know everyone can do it."

The Wizards will enter another season hoping to improve on defense, a declaration that is often treated with the commitment of a lazy couch potato who makes a New Years' resolution to work out more and lose some weight. Everything is okay in the beginning, with frequent visits to the gym, but by the end of summer, he settles back into the comforts of his Snuggie and a bag of Doritos.

But this year, Coach Flip Saunders has found a group of players who seem more receptive to making a commitment on the defensive end of the floor. And that begins with constant communication. Haywood said that at different times this training camp, Saunders has stopped practice, "Not because guys were in the wrong spot, but because we wasn't talking on defense."

"I've always believed you have to talk," Saunders said. "If you don't talk, you can't play. What talking does, it lets your teammates know you know what you're doing. If you're talking, you're not thinking about yourself. You know where your help is coming from."

Saunders has also spent a good portion of practice repeating the message that players need to trust each other in order to become a better defensive team.

Eddie Jordan tried to get the Wizards to play defense, but he often lost them with a confusing message. He also never fully committed to a system. Saunders has a solid defensive scheme, based largely on man-to-man and the matchup zone, that he has used at each step of his NBA career. Saunders told his team this week that in his early years with Garnett in Minnesota, he asked Garnett to keep a journal. "A lot of defensive concepts he taught KG, he still uses them wherever he go," Foye said.

Jamison said that will help the Wizards this season. "In the past, [Coaches would say,] 'This is what we're going to do and if it doesn't work, we'll switch it up. But I think with this, we're saying we're going to make this work and if we don't then we're going to find some guys that will get it done."

Dominic McGuire said that he really doesn't see much difference between the basic tenets of Saunders's system and the one used by former Wizards assistant Randy Ayers.

"We didn't want to give up middle last year and we don't want to give up minutes this year. You always want your big man to stay low and help baseline. It was the same as last year," McGuire said. "I think we're actually starting to buy into it. That's the big difference. Everybody is taking pride in it. I think new coaching staff. Everybody is real upbeat about this season. We want to win this year. Maybe it's because of 19 wins, but we have everybody back and we know we're going to be a good team this year."

By Michael Lee |  October 4, 2009; 8:49 AM ET
Previous: Day 5, Flip Introduces 'Football Saturday' | Next: Day 6, Flip, The Pollins & Young's Comedy Act


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1st? Time will tell

Posted by: dabwilldo40 | October 4, 2009 10:23 AM

...this commentary on NY is priceless: McGuire had an explanation. "The thing is, my receiver, which was Nick, he was kind of goofy and kept thinking he was going to run into stuff".

Makes NY sound more like the Scare-crow from the Wizard of Oz then a potential starting 2 guard on the Wizards...if only he had a brain! He he ho.

Posted by: oddjob1 | October 4, 2009 10:38 AM

It takes desire, hard work, know-how, a specific scheme, communications and teamwork/chemistry. Nobody is born with great defensive skills.

Flip's doing a great job so far.

Jamison's needs to lighten up on the Flip way or the highway speech.

I can't wait til the Wiz play EJ's new team.

Posted by: Izman | October 4, 2009 10:44 AM

I think John Thompson said it best. "Point guards direct the offense because they are in position to see the entire offense and opposing D in front of them. Your bigs need direct traffic on defense because they can see the opposing offense and their defensive teammates in front of them."

In the past the best Wizards' defender at being vocal on D has been Haywood, he's also the guy who makes the other team think twice when they're coming down the lane.

His value far exceeds his stat lines.
Oberto seems to be given a leg up at playing backup center for the same reason. The veteran understands what Suander's is trying to do defensively.

Suanders really seems to be working at keeping these guys working.

I'm tending to think defense is going to give Foye a leg up in the shooting guard battle. He's played in Suanders system before and his ball handling give the Wizards the opportunity to run some plays to get Gil in a postion to score.

When teams go small on Gil and confounded the Wiz with those mighty mite points, Jordan never repsonded by posting Gil up on them. I think Suanders will tend to swing Gil off the ball and post those guys up.

One think from watching Saunders in the past, he's got that big playbook, but if he's got a mismatch, he'll ride it. He's not afraid to call the same play or a variation of it 7 or 8 straight times down the court until he forces the other coach to get the guy off the floor.

He also feeds the hot hand and will ride it, so a guy like Miller can expect to see the ball if he's hot.

Posted by: flohrtv | October 4, 2009 11:26 AM


It sure would be nice to see the Wizards force other teams into trying to match up against their players versus last year watching ETaps always trying to match what the other teams were doing.

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | October 4, 2009 11:37 AM

Is there a game on tonight? I was looking but couldn't find it. Maybe I am remembering wrong. At least I remember where my tickets are for Tuesday night.

Posted by: Blurred | October 4, 2009 3:40 PM

I really think one of the major reasons the Wizards were able to make the playoffs two years ago, when they were largely without Gilbert, was there was somewhat of a commitment to better defense that season with Randy Ayers. This, of course, centered on having a healthy BH.

Saunders seems to be a more complete coach than EJ in that he has a definite defensive systems that he gets his players to commit to. Could this be one of the reasons he has had multiple 50 win seasons and had success in the post season where EJ have never won 50 games and is usually one and done in the post season?

I am really looking forward to seeing how the Wizards play this year on offense and defense.

Posted by: cannontl | October 4, 2009 5:20 PM

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