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Wizards still adjusting before final preseason game

The Washington Wizards will have their final dress rehearsal in Chicago on Friday, before the real show opens next week, and they are still unsure about all of players who will be the main characters and which ones will serve supporting roles. With Antawn Jamison out with a shoulder injury, both Mike Miller and Gilbert Arenas missing the past two games with the flu and Flip Saunders fiddling with his lineups through the first seven games, the Wizards have yet to develop much chemistry on the floor.


I'll settle on a rotation at some point. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The new pieces and Saunders's new systems have led to some moments when the Wizards have looked really good and pretty sloppy, a level of inconsistency that is supported by their 4-3 record.

"We've got a lot of room for improvement still, but we're getting there," said Miller, who was feeling better after his temperature nearly reached triple digits on Monday. "Tomorrow will be another good test. We want to get through it, get through it healthy and be ready for the opener. There's a lot of stuff that we need to get better at. We won't hit full stride until 20 games in, but we still got to find a way to win games early."

Saunders had hoped to start Miller and Arenas on Monday, before both were wiped out by the flu and told to stay away from the team. He joked on Friday that he would start his "swine-flu backcourt" against the Bulls, but was unwilling to commit to Miller as his starting shooting guard for the season opener Tuesday in Dallas.

"You wish some of the guys could've not had been sick so that we could've had a better rhythm, but those guys mesh well," Caron Butler said of Arenas and Miller. "We're still adapting to our new roles and figuring out what the rotation is going to be. That's still up in the air -- who is going to be at the two and how many minutes [we'll get]. Guys are anxious to play, know what the rotation is, and let's play. But for the most part, we're playing good basketball."

Either Andray Blatche or Fabricio Oberto will start in place of Jamison against the Bulls, Saunders said. He added that Jamison is "doing real good" and will have an MRI soon to determine the severity of his injury. Blatche started against Atlanta and Oberto got the nod in Philadelphia. Oberto had nine rebounds and played solid defense against 76ers forward Elton Brand, helping to hold him to just four points. "Fab, he played really well," Saunders said. "He's probably one of our better halfcourt defenders, as far as defending forwards. It's a totally different game if he's matched up with Tyrus Thomas, who is unbelievably athletic, but we'll see.

Saunders said he likes how Blatche has played this preseason but might want to keep him as a reserve. "But Andray is going to get a lot of time," he said. "Andray has had a good preseason, a lot of double doubles. He's played really well for us. It might be a time where I bring him off and get him prepared for that role, so that when Antawn comes back, he continues in that role."

"Normally what I like to do is get in a situation where you go with the same group and let them go so that they other guys can pick their roles off of those guys," Saunders said.

The Wizards have focused on improving in different areas this preseason. Overall, they have played relatively well, limiting teams to 44.7 percent shooting from the field and 36.3 percent shooting from beyond the three-point line. But there have been some breakdowns and lapses as well, with the team giving up 102.7 points per game while scoring 100.6. Saunders expressed his disappointment with the team's sluggish starts in Atlanta and Philadelphia during practice on Thursday. "He was pretty mad. We had a very hard practice, real hard practice," DeShawn Stevenson said.

Saunders said he would like for the team to close on the preseason on a positive note, but emphasized that it wasn't "a do-or-die game."

"Today was the most competitive practice that we had, bodies flying everywhere," Saunders said. "You can always tell them to tone it down, but you can't tell them to get aggressive. We'll see if it carries through to the game tomorrow and next week."

By Michael Lee  |  October 22, 2009; 6:28 PM ET
 
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Comments

Sounds like Flip has made up his mind about AB, talk of starting Oberto so AB can be ready for reserve role upon Jamison's return is nonsense.

Gotta get through the first 15 games at roughly .500, hopefully by then players are gelling well and Jamison is fully back.

Posted by: divi3 | October 22, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Calculated move with AB. That's what coaches are paid to do.

He obviously doesn't want to put pressure on the young guys until he sees that they can handle it consistently.

As long as Flip delivers 20-25 minutes a game to him on a consistent basis, AB should respond well.

Posted by: Izman | October 22, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Heaven forbid a 5yr pro feel any pressure to perform.

Posted by: divi3 | October 22, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

He added that Jamison is "doing real good" and will have an MRI soon to determine the severity of his injury.

Some things never change?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | October 22, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I just find it a bit damning that we lose 20/10 from the lineup and Flip goes with Oberto who simply cannot score. To me that says something about where Flip thinks AB is as a player, and it's not good.

However, not a single reg season game has been played so there is plenty of time this season for AB to play his way into Flip's confidence.

Posted by: divi3 | October 22, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

We won't hit full stride until 20 games in, but we still got to find a way to win games early.

Hopefully they'll be playing better than 500. After 20 if everyone's healthy we'll have a good idea of what we have.

Jamison is "doing real good" and will have an MRI soon to determine the severity of his injury.
Shouldn't we know the severity by now???
I getting worried.

Posted by: VBFan | October 22, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Will this season be one of WIZARDS or LIZARDS. Time is fast upon us. The bell rings in DALLAS.

Posted by: glawrence007 | October 22, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

I personally think this is great coaching decision. Flip is committed to figuring out roles and sticking with them. He wants AB to get accustomed to being a 20-25 minute bench player. So why start him in a meaningless pre-season game? Let him get used to coming off the bench and pacing himself as a bench player. AB tends to get in foul trouble anyway.

I wonder if this also means that he sees Miller as a starter? I have a feeling that he has Stevenson and Young as 4th guard depending on whether he needs offensive or defensive matchup. I think in his mind it looks like Gil, Miller and Foye are the top guards. He has McGee slated for the #10 slot at best.

Here is what I think I see as Flip's rotation conclusion:

*Starters- Gil, MM, Caron, AJ, Wood

*Bench 6 and 7-Foye, Blatche

*Bench 7-9 depends upon matchups. I don't think he has decided who gets that 8th spot. It could be Young, Stevenson, DMac... Depends on who separates himself and on matchups. Unless he starts due to injury Fab will be on bench till second half of season. He wants him fresh for playoffs. He will find time for McGee and Blatche in the meantime.

I do not think that McGee, James or Critt are in that 7-9 group. He made statements after the Atlanta game that certain players had shown their real self down the stretch. May also include Young who had that dumb foul at the end.

Bmore Rev

Posted by: stanlong23 | October 22, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Pecherov went for 20 and 10 tonight for Minnesota.

Must be a misprint.

Who was guarding him, Balloon Boy? The balloon?

Posted by: SteveMG | October 22, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Miller's consistency in 3 point shooting, rebounding and overall game is just too good. I think in one sense Foye chances to start were hurt by Crittenton being out since they really needed a strong back-up to Gil. I can see Randy even sliding over to the 2 with Gil as the first sub off the bench depending on the match up. Young will get his opportunities he just needs to be ready to go when his number is called.

Posted by: ptp23 | October 22, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

"He added that Jamison is "doing real good" and will have an MRI soon to determine the severity of his injury.

Some things never change?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | October 22, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse "

Doing "real good," meaning MeTawn has a shoulder injury but can still walk? Okay..

LOL!

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | October 23, 2009 12:09 AM | Report abuse

"Miller's consistency in 3 point shooting, rebounding and overall game is just too good. I think in one sense Foye chances to start were hurt by Crittenton being out since they really needed a strong back-up to Gil. I can see Randy even sliding over to the 2 with Gil as the first sub off the bench depending on the match up. Young will get his opportunities he just needs to be ready to go when his number is called.

Posted by: ptp23 | October 22, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse "

What makes you think Eminem is consistent in anything? He's yet to prove himself in a Les BouleS uniform, and, he might be gone after this season.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | October 23, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

"Pecherov went for 20 and 10 tonight for Minnesota.

Must be a misprint.

Who was guarding him, Balloon Boy? The balloon?

Posted by: SteveMG | October 22, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse "

His shadow?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | October 23, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

I personally think Saunders is a big bag of wind. I have watched, boring as it was, almost every game the last two years and I can tell you now how the hold overs are going to perform this season and so can Saunders if he would be honest because they have played in preseason the same way they have played their entire tenure in Washington. If there is going to be much improvement this year, it has to be from Arenas returning healthy and staying in the lineup night after night. Can he do it because its a very long season. This is not a .500 club without him.

Posted by: dandyhuffman | October 23, 2009 12:48 AM | Report abuse

Pech can play. If he ever gets a real opportunity, he'll prove me right. All the Pech doubters will finally see the light.

FREE PECH !!

Posted by: original_mark | October 23, 2009 5:51 AM | Report abuse

I've been a Bullets/Wiz fan since the early 70'. This team is a 500 team at best with what I believe is going to be the starting lineup. We've seen this core group together for what 4 or 5 years. They are often injured and couldn't win a playoff series when the east was bad. This group never played D so what's going to make them play now. Two of your players will be over matched by more athletic players most nights. The other 2 have no desire. You also have 2 players that never pass the ball which makes this team probably one of the lowest assist teams in the league.

The east is a lot better and the Wiz are still the same. Looks alot like the Redskins. Keep playing the same group and expect different results. Meanwhile you have young players that can play when given the chance and confidence. We'll just coach'em up. Yeah right.

Posted by: rnbrown4 | October 23, 2009 6:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm no doctor, but I've torn up my share of body parts. Most of the time MRI's aren't done for 1-3 weeks after an injury. It's do to the fact that general swelling and bruising cloud the results.

A specialist told me one time that an Emergancy Room Doctor that orders MRI's is just padding the bill.

It appears that for right now Minnesota must have really wanted O'Pech, he's the only guy left in town from the deal. With Love out for an extended period it looks like he might get a shot to play for awhile.

Can't believe how quickly Oberto got into shape. First exhibition game I thought the guy looked really bad. The other night in Philly, he did what he does for a living. Elton Brand really had trouble getting into any rythem while Oberto was on him.

Right now it's looking more and more like Miller's going to be the opening day starter and Foye's going to be the first guard off the bench. I thought it would be reversed, but with no Critt in the preseason, there's not another backup for Gil.

Foye's played some nice ball in stretches. And Blatche has been generally solid, except he must of put up a stinker of a game in Atlanta. The Growth in McGee's game from the beginning of this year from the beginning of last year is quite impressive.

Last year a looked at him as a 3-4 year project. Now he's not that far away from being a regular rotation guy, and he better be, this team is razor thin up front.

If no other move takes place, I'd carry Davis for now. The guy could provide another big body on the bench. He may never get out of a suit, but at least he's been to camp and knows the system.

The chance of all a team's 4's and 5's going wire to wire healthy is pretty low. Ernie needs at least one more big body upfront. If he's not trading for one, he better keep the one he's got...
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | October 23, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

What makes you think Eminem is consistent in anything?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | October 23, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

his career.

Posted by: crs-one | October 23, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

I just find it a bit damning that we lose 20/10 from the lineup and Flip goes with Oberto who simply cannot score. To me that says something about where Flip thinks AB is as a player, and it's not good.

However, not a single reg season game has been played so there is plenty of time this season for AB to play his way into Flip's confidence.

Posted by: divi3 | October 22, 2009 7:25 PM

divi3,
Good observation! But we do well to remember that there are other scorers on this team, and because there is only one ball, Antwan utilized it for his 20/10 stats. We need to be concern that the other players 'earn their keep' now that the ball is more available to them. Let us all remember: "THE BALL DON'T LIE!" (just had to say that)Peace!

Posted by: bazteal | October 23, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Ty Lawson to eventually help Mr. Big Shot with the heavy lifting of the PG position by allowing Big Shot to move to the two at times.

A strategy that makes good sense and one that I have predicted for Gil and Crit because Crit's skill set would make this work for the Wiz as well.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | October 23, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

"Pecherov went for 20 and 10 tonight for Minnesota.

Must be a misprint.

Who was guarding him, Balloon Boy? The balloon?

Posted by: SteveMG | October 22, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse "

His shadow?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | October 23, 2009 12:11 AM

No, it sounds like they put him on the floor and just let him play.

Hummnnn...What a novel idea.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | October 23, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I still think the Wizards are thin in the front court. There is no "light" that will come on for AB. He is what he is, a talented player with not much of a motor. That won't change this year. McGuire has a tremendous motor but his talent is only pedestrian. McGee has great upside but he's still young and prone to be a little erratic, and Oberto, while physical and active on the defensive end of the floor, gives you very little offensively and is prone to foul trouble. There will be plenty of nights when the Wizards will be overmatched in the front court and will have to rely on their perimeter game to stay with other teams. Good inside teams will usually beat good outside teams. When their shots are falling and their offensive is flowing, teams will have trouble keeping up with the Wizards, but there will be many games that they lose down the stretch by scores like 112-92. If the Wizards stay healthy they should be in playoff contention at the end of the season, but I can easily see another first round exit to teams like Boston, Cleveland, or Orlando.

Posted by: sonny2 | October 23, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Much is riding on Mcgee taking a decent sized step forward in his development this year. Hopefully he can be noticeably better in May than he is in October.

It's disconcerting that Brendon is now missing virtually every one of his FTs and looking terrible doing it. One of the keys to his "breakout" season was the ability to hit those late in games and make teams pay for fouling him.

Also I think Oberto at PF with Mcgee at C can be an effective 2nd rotation

Posted by: divi3 | October 23, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Inserting Oberto in the starting lineup against a 4 that can be a rebounding and scoring machine. H'mmm, novel idea. Insert a 4 into the starting lineup who's entire game is defense and rebounding.

Even with Miller and Gil down the Wiz got enough offense from the rest of the lineup to win without Oberto scoring a point.

The Flu might be a blessing in disguise for Gil. Sitting out a couple of games will give his legs a chance to recover and regain strength. It will be good for him to start the season on fresh legs.

Mike Miller has always been a consistant three point scorer. I'll have to admit, he's got a better all around game then I ever gave him credit for.

He displays quite a bit of veteran smarts and savvy. When he gets that shot going while he's on the floor with Gil, the spacing starts to really open up. He's also a much better playmaker then I ever thought he was.

He's not always going to automaticlly bomb the three anymore, he's thrown some lazor passes and created wide open layups.

As Flip expands the first units minutes, the scoring will increase. Defensive effort and intensity has seemed good overall, I do see reason to believe this year's addition of the team will be better overall defensively.

I wouldn't be surprised if Pecherov is able to put up some numbers in Minnesota. The guy never got enough minutes or had a definded role here. He's going to get some minutes at the 4 for awhile for the T-Wolves. Now can he stop anybody? That's a big question...
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | October 23, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

The recent local sports history has really got us in a funk, a lot of negativity and doubt. I understand but I think the Wiz are going to do well this season.

This is not NOT the same team! we'll see

Posted by: zxhoya | October 23, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Wiz are being conservative with Majison and I wouldn't be surprised if he missed the first two weeks of the season to minimize the chance of a setback. If Jamison returns too early and is reinjured, we could be looking at an Elton Brand situation like last season.

I like Blatche off the bench to provide some scoring especially if Miller is our starting SG. He should fill that role anyways when Jamison returns and its better to get him used to it now. The last time he was a starter and then went back to a reserve role, he didn't do very well.

Posted by: wizfan89 | October 23, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

re: Blatche vs Oberto,

Until AJ returns I think pt will be doled out according to matchups, even if Fab is named temporary 'starter'. Flip alludes to this in his Brand vs Thomas quote. Fab will get minutes vs slower guys, AB vs more athletic types, or he could just go with the hot hand. Just my opinion, but I think this is a sensible way to approach it since it's really just a short-term gig (hopefully, crossing fingers and toes).

Posted by: doogiex | October 23, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I still think the Wizards are thin in the front court. There is no "light" that will come on for AB. He is what he is, a talented player with not much of a motor. That won't change this year. McGuire has a tremendous motor but his talent is only pedestrian. McGee has great upside but he's still young and prone to be a little erratic, and Oberto, while physical and active on the defensive end of the floor, gives you very little offensively and is prone to foul trouble. There will be plenty of nights when the Wizards will be overmatched in the front court and will have to rely on their perimeter game to stay with other teams. Good inside teams will usually beat good outside teams. When their shots are falling and their offensive is flowing, teams will have trouble keeping up with the Wizards, but there will be many games that they lose down the stretch by scores like 112-92. If the Wizards stay healthy they should be in playoff contention at the end of the season, but I can easily see another first round exit to teams like Boston, Cleveland, or Orlando.

Posted by: sonny2 | October 23, 2009 10:30 AM

Sonny2,

We could take any teams frontcourt and rundown there supposedly weaknesses as you have done with the Wizards.

But your analogy, though with some merit, draws the wrong conclusions. This Wizards frontcourt, though thin, is quite formidiable when complared with the rest of the League.

There will not be many frontcourts that we will have a problem with, only a few, and in fact most Teams will have a problem with our front court.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | October 23, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Until I witness AB putting forth the same effort every night, the jury is out on him. He has his moments but he has his long lapses. I like Fab's attitude. He says he will do anything they want him to do including sit on the bench. He has shown that he can rebound and play D. Another good acquisition by Ernie.

Posted by: chopin224 | October 23, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

adding a big man is a must for wiz to pass the 1st round of play off?
probably true but who is that man?

Posted by: gtefferra | October 23, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I like GARRETT SILER, but he's a rookie of course, and we need one more player who's experienced and capable down low.

Posted by: glawrence007 | October 28, 2009 12:35 AM | Report abuse

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