Flip: Arenas Needs to Be Aggressive; Stevenson to Start
The inside of the Wizards' practice court is undergoing a makeover. I already mentioned how Flip Saunders put up the team's retired jerseys and its 1978 championship banner. Gilbert Arenas said on media day that Saunders suggested the change to keep the court from looking like "a prison."
When the team arrived for practice from Richmond, there was another surprise -- Fathead posters of seven of the 14 players on the roster. "That's hot, right," Caron Butler said as reporters caught the last few minutes of practice.
It was supposed to be all 14 players, but apparently, the Fatheads don't work well against the cinder block walls. So while explaining the reason why Butler, Gilbert Arenas, Nick Young, Randy Foye, DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood and Mike Miller were up, while the others were not, a Wizards spokesman joked, "the adhesive was just better."
After practice, Saunders was asked about Arenas's unselfish play during the Wizards' 101-92 win against Memphis on Tuesday. Arenas took only five shots and handed out 10 assists as he spent the entire night setting up Antawn Jamison, Butler and Young. He even passed up a layup and an open three-pointer. His teammates benefited from the open looks, as Arenas made their job look easier, but Saunders said his point guard will eventually have to focus on the rim, too.
"I think he'll come into that," Saunders said. "He's got to be aggressive offensively. The way my offense is initiated, you look at the point guards I've had, they've always had high assists, but they've always been scorers. They're usually first or second on my team in scoring. If your point guard is not an aggressive scorer, it takes away. If that's not an aggressive option, it's too easy to guard the other guys. I think right now, he's trying to understand and get guys in spots, but someone like him, his scoring ability is something you don't want to take that away."
Saunders announced that Stevenson will start at shooting guard against the Dallas Mavericks for the Wizards' lone VC preseason game on Friday. Saunders said he plans on mixing players in and out of that spot this preseason. On Tuesday, Stevenson played 18 minutes, 5 seconds -- just six seconds fewer than Young -- while Miller played almost 21 minutes. Saunders said he wanted to give Young the chance to "chase around Jason Terry a little bit."
The Wizards have spent the past two days of practice working on rebounding drills, after the team was outrebounded 60-45. The Grizzlies had 24 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points. The Wizards also surrendered 23 points off 20 turnovers, which means that more half of the Grizzlies' points were the result of poor rebounding or poor ball-handling.
Brendan Haywood said he expects the Wizards to do a better job of rebounding against Dallas, explaining that the new defensive system sometimes left the big men in the wrong spot. "I think sometimes, what happens with us -- and I'm giving the guys a lot of the benefit of the doubt -- when you throw a lot of things at teams, as far as coverage, they are thinking of things to do. If you think and you're not reacting to things, you're going to be dead," Saunders said. His players need to "get some contact on somebody and go after it. It's hitting somebody and pursuing the ball. Those are things we're going to have to do. Rebounding is a mindset; it's a will."
Saunders, Miller, Foye and Fabricio Oberto will make their debuts in Washington on Friday, but Miller sounded like someone who is still trying to figure out his new home. The Wizards had training camp in Richmond, will play one home game and hit the road for Toronto on Saturday. "We're not here very long, won't be in too much rhythm," Miller said. "You get to come back in front of the home crowd, show them one time before the season starts."
He then joked, "I know where my house is at and I know where the Verizon Center is at."
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