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Saunders flustered by Wizards' poor shot selection

There is a moment in just about every game when Wizards Coach Flip Saunders watches one of his players take a contested jumper or a long jumper early in the shot clock and he either slaps the scorers table, claps his hands angrily, or turns to the sideline with a shoulder shrug that says, "What was that?" Sometimes, he'll just shout, "Bad shot!"

What kind of shot was that!?! (AP Photo)

This is an unusual situation for Saunders, who arrived in Washington with a reputation for being a great offensive mind but leads a team that ranks in the bottom third of offensive efficiency. Saunders said that he is starting to regret giving his veteran team so much freedom to make plays within in his offense.

"I'll say this, in all my years in coaching -- 15 years in the NBA and the CBA, college -- I have never yelled at a player for taking bad shots in a game -- until this year," Saunders said. "It's a catch-22. You try to give them freedom so they can figure out, and try to give them their confidence as far as where they are at, but if you keep talking to them about what's a good shot and a bad shot, if it doesn't get through, at some point you have to say, 'To hell with that.' "

The Wizards are a team that lives and dies by the jump shot, with center Brendan Haywood getting limited touches inside and power forward Antawn Jamison taking more shots from the outside. They rank 25th in the NBA in points in the paint with 37.5 per game, but they also are one of the worst three-point shooting teams 32.3 percent, despite taking nearly 17 per game. Saunders said the Wizards will need to run more plays within the offense.

"I think we're going to have to start reining them [in]," he said. "Now that we're 20 games in, I say it's almost like at sometimes you become an addict, like," 'I got to take this shot, no matter what.' That's got to stop.

"At this point in my career, compared to any team I've ever been on -- I'm talking CBA, where I had 22 guys called up the same year and I had guys coming and going -- this is probably the shortest play list we've ever had. You just try to keep it more simple," Saunders said. "I try to give them more freedom as far as calling plays. If you have a play that works, normally, no matter what, [you say] 'I'm running that thing again.' No one should have to tell you that. We're not to that point yet. But we got to keep on working at it."

Saunders said he would be surprised by his players' poor shot selection, if he hadn't already know about it from his days with the Detroit Pistons. "When I took the job, I looked at all my reports that I had in Detroit and my one report always said, 'No matter what the score is, keep playing because they will shoot you back into the game,'" Saunders said. "I just think part of it is, when things go bad, that's when a lot of the bad shots happen and I think we got guys, they think they want to get us going. Like I said, your strength can sometimes be your greatest weakness. Their strength is there ability to make plays, but if you don't control it, it can be your downfall."

When asked if he should try to create more fast break opportunities in order for the Wizards to get easier shots, Saunders shook his head. "You do your running game, which is fine, but you still have to make good decisions," he said. "We did our running game in LA then all of a sudden, Caron [Butler] takes a one-on-five jump shot and [Gilbert Arenas] takes a 32-foot three-point shot with 18 seconds on the shot clock over a guy on the pick and roll. Those are not playoff-type basketball shots. Ideally, what you try to do is not just win games but learn the process that is going to help you be successful down the road, where you want to be."

By Michael Lee  |  December 18, 2009; 7:38 PM ET
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Flip, welcome to the Wizards.

Posted by: steveh46 | December 18, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

"Flip, welcome to the Wizards."

Yeah exactly.

They get on a role then kill themselves. This has been thier MO for the last 5-6 years.

Funny Flip mentions Caron, that was the first person who came to my mind. :)

"'No matter what the score is, keep playing because they will shoot you back into the game,'"

Direct from the mouth of Hubie Brown as well.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | December 18, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Refreshing honesty from Flip.
I'm really surprised it's taken him this long to figure out these guys are not smart basketball players as his Detroit scouting report attests to. It speaks volumes about our best players.
It's mind-boggling that these guys still don't know what a good shot is after all these years in the league. Just chuckin' 'em up and hopin' for the best. Yikes.

Posted by: 2020doc | December 18, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

"Now that we're 20 games in, I say it's almost like at sometimes you become an addict, like," 'I got to take this shot, no matter what.' That's got to stop.

Kinda funny and sad at the same time.

Posted by: tgif11 | December 18, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Ok, Flip. Earn your dough and coach 'em up.

Posted by: and_1 | December 18, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

The Wizards are a jump shooting team and as long as they have this group of players they will continue to shoot those long jumpers all game long while the opposing team drives to the basket for easy layups and dunks. This usually goes on the whole game so we can't be surprised that the Wizards are not winning. Saunders should tell Steverson not to ever try a three pointer as he is only a 12% shooter from that range and Jamerson is not much better from that range.

Posted by: mdondon300 | December 18, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

"I think we're going to have to start reining them [in]," Saunders said?

You think, don't you know or is it the players aren't going to listen to you?

Try benching them like you do the young players, it's not like you're winning games with them in there anyway?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | December 18, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Wow...what it will take to undo the green light embedded in Gilby's head by EJ is beyond most.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | December 18, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Maybe my memory is selective and suspect, but in the first game of the season against Dallas, I seem to remember the Wizards swinging the ball around the floor, setting picks, and shaking off defenders with some pick-and-roll action. Since that time it seems like a lot more of the action has been coming of the dribble. In the half-court offense the defense is only forced to cover half of the floor.

Part of this is probably a function of Mike Miller's absence (although they were losing games even with him in the line-up). But it's pretty clear that the flow isn't there yet.

Posted by: JPRS | December 18, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

"Try benching them like you do the young players, it's not like you're winning games with them in there anyway?"
Posted by: bulletsfan78

Bingo! How would you expect to break bad habits without negative consequences for doing the idiotic.

Embarrass someone one by sitting them an entire game if need be. Right now we are losing with them, so what if we lose without them. If the behavior of the player doesn't change, change the player.

Posted by: bozomoeman | December 18, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

The more I listen to Flip, the more I like him. His comments are hilarious yet honest.

He's probably going to lose the locker room, but at least he's willing to tell the truth.

Now, does he have the guts to do something about it?

Posted by: bozomoeman | December 18, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

to say flip overestimated the maturity and discipline of the wizards is an understatement

Posted by: jdwood84 | December 18, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

OMG, its like every time I say something, Flip says something. I also talk about our horrible shot selection but everyone knows that. The thing that shocked me was when Flip talked about that sequence in the Clips game. Thats also what I pointed to for the reason the game totally changed. After the game Gil & Caron talked about the sub patterns but it really changed when we were up 17 and then Caron took that dumb shot 1 on 5 and Gil launched an off balance 3 with 20 seconds left. They got the board on both, ran back and scored 2 quick baskets and got pumped.

They dont even realize what they were doing. They played great and unselfish to get up 17 and immediatly that started showing off and thought they could shoot up anything. Its just dumb. We need to be smarter

Posted by: dlts20 | December 18, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Well, sounds like Flip has diagnosed the problem -- it will be interesting to see how he handles it.

Posted by: PostSubscriber | December 19, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

omg...did anyone see the horrible pair of shots jamison took with less than 5 minutes in the game...a pathetic 3 pointer and a 20 foot jump shot 3 seconds into the shot clock...he is also the king of foot on the line long 2 pt shots...i luv him but he has the worst shot selection

Posted by: IZZY3 | December 19, 2009 1:21 AM | Report abuse

I certainly agree with Flip Saunders here. I hope he's aware that there are stats available which can help track shot selection and which you could show to players to get the message across. shows a player's effective field goal percentage (field goal percentage which accounts for 3-pointers) as a function of time on the shot clock remaining. Almost any player really ought to have an effective FG% well above 50% for shots taken early in the shot clock. If it's early in the clock, you always have the option of waiting and working for a better shot.

Arenas is shooting 42% in terms of effective FG% in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. That's a TERRIBLE percentage for such early shots:

Even worse, Foye is at 31% in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock:

Remember, these are shots where they had the alternative to pull it out and work for a better shot for at least another 14 seconds.

I would set a goal for each player of an effective FG% of 55% in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock and make them aware of how they're doing.

After each game, I would show each player a list of each shot they missed with more than 10 seconds on the shot clock. That might help get them thinking about their shot selection and about the alternative they have, which is (obviously) to keep the ball moving and work for better shots later in the clock.

Posted by: joe_sill | December 19, 2009 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Flip has known the problems from day one. Don't act like he just figured this out. I think a large part of the problem is that this team did have free reign to take these shots under EJ. Bad habits were started under him. How do you change it when it's your best players? I don't know. You bench them and you see how our second stringers play. This team is in deep trouble. So much so that I don't think they will be corrected in time to salvage this season.

Posted by: rphilli721 | December 19, 2009 2:09 AM | Report abuse

Bench the starters ... get a real center.

Posted by: original2cents | December 19, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

and fire EG.

Posted by: original2cents | December 19, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

This is the monster that Eddie Jordan created. It is going to take a trade or some other drastic measure to change the mindset. Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison especially are the most egregious offenders. They have it in their minds that they are "all-star" players and have been given freedom in previous years to play the kind of low basketball IQ style which is now their trademark.

Flip doesn't seem willing to discipline them, so a trade appears to be the only option left.

Posted by: bazookajoe1 | December 19, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Grunfeld + Arenas + Butler + Jamison = Failure
& Flip is a Flop.

Posted by: horace1 | December 20, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

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