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Flip Saunders pleased with Wizards' energy in win over Dallas


Keep competing guys. (AP Photo/ Tony Gutierrez)


Flip Saunders was half-right at the morning walkthrough Tuesday, when he talked about his expectations for the Wizards as they opened the preseason against the Dallas Mavericks.

"We might get our [butts] kicked," Saunders said, "but I know one thing: Our guys are going to play with a lot of energy and they are willing learners and so, we'll have an ability to [improve] quickly because of how hard they work."

The Wizards were actually providing the sneakers to the Mavericks' backsides for most of their 97-94 victory at American Airlines Center -- and it had everything to do with their superior energy level, hunger and feisty play. With so many players with so much to prove, the Wizards should sneak away with a fair share of games just from effort, because talent doesn't win every night in the NBA.

Saunders treated the preseason opener seriously, as he ran an unusually tight rotation. Just 11 of the 16 available players saw the floor -- Adam Morrison and rookies Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, Hamady Ndiaye and Kevin Palmer all sat -- and nine of them got at least 13 minutes of playing time. In contrast, Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle used all 15 healthy players, with starters Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd resting in the second half.

No. 1 overall pick John Wall played a surprisingly high 38 minutes - almost 10 more than anyone else. "Similar to what I did with [Kevin] Garnett and when I had [Stephon] Marbury; young guys have the ability to bounce back," Saunders said. "The most you can get them minutes is in the preseason to faciliate that progress. He's a high-energy guy. I haven't seen him one time, whether it's been in our practices or whatever, where he's shown any signs of getting tired. He's a high-wire guy that can keep on going."


We're going hard this year. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Andray Blatche played about eight minutes more than the 18 Saunders said he would get. Blatche played nine minutes in the fourth quarter and almost had a scare when he got fouled and landed hard on his wrist. He missed his two free throws badly and was spotted shaking his wrist several times. Blatche was fine, and practiced on Wednesday with no problems.

It's the preseason, so it's unwise to get too wrapped up in one game. But it was an encouraging debut for Wall, who is probably the fastest player with the ball in his hands already and had a few Mavericks backpedaling and stumbling while trying to keep up. Gilbert Arenas and Kirk Hinrich served as great complementary pieces, knocked down open jumpers, and helped Wall adjust by forming a nice three-point-guard set that was hardly a defensive liability -- at least for one night.

But the Wizards also got some solid performances from Blatche, JaVale McGee and Yi Jianlian, with each player using his respective unique skill set to form an intriguing front court trio.

"All three played well," Saunders said. "JaVale protected the rim early, got some good buckets late. Dray was solid. You can see he's not in the shape of the other guys and Yi played the way he's played the past few days of training camp. Played big."

Blatche picked up where he left off at the end of last season, showing no ill-effects from his broken right foot, as he stepped out and hit open jumpers and even juked Dirk Nowitzki with his now-patented up-and-under move. His conditioning was a tad off, as he started to show some fatigue in the fourth quarter, but he finished with a game-high 22 points.

Yi was incredibly active on both ends of the floor, as the 7-footer came off the bench to record a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He also added three blocked shots. Yi seems to be finding a good rhythm after returning from a tiring summer with the Chinese national team that led to a sore left Achilles' tendon. He was finesse and physical, as he gave Nowitzki an extra nudge while earning his only foul of the game.

McGee must have heard Saunders's comments about being outplayed by Hilton Armstrong playing in his head all night. He was bouncing all over the court and dominated the defensive end, altering or swatting and always contesting shots. He finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots, including a rather hilarious rejection when he simply grabbed Jason Terry's floater in the lane with two hands. McGee's blocks didn't just come inside, as he even stepped out to send former teammate DeShawn Stevenson's three-pointer in the opposite direction.

"I was trying just to be the leader on defense and help my teammates as much as I can," McGee said.

The downside to contesting so many shots is that eventually, McGee was bound to wind up on the wrong end. And, former teammate Caron Butler had a vicious jack-hammer dunk on McGee in the third quarter. McGee had a highlight of his own, when Wall threw a lob from beyond the three-point arc that McGee converted into a two-handed dunk over Brian Cardinal.

"I told him to act like they was coming and spin back," Wall said about McGee. "That's Shaq's old move, called the back tornado. So I told JaVale to do it, and he did a great job of catching it and finishing."

When Wall sat the final 5 minutes, 14 seconds, the Wizards let a 14-point lead quickly evaporate, with the Mavericks scoring 14 unanswered points. Lester Hudson made sure the night wasn't a total waste when he buried the winning three-pointer with 2.5 seconds left, leading to a spirited celebration from the Wizards' bench.

"It felt great. I wasn't playing up to my ability during the game, so I had to make up for it," Hudson said. "Coach Flip called an isolation play for me. I'm glad he let me redeem myself."

Saunders credited Wall for leading the Wizards to victory.

"He ran the show. What I like about him is when he competes, what it does is, our whole team competes," Saunders said. "We were very good defensively. John kind of led us. He has unbelievable speed; he made good decisions. But I like how we competed; that was the biggest thing."

By Michael Lee  | October 6, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Flip Saunders, John Wall  
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Next: Gilbert Arenas says he is not seeking an early exit

Comments

Wizards Faithful,

You experienced with your own eyes (and ears) what I've been telling you for months--the Wizards are stocked with young talent that will be heard and felt by the NBA sooner rather than later. The Wizards are simply too talented and too hungry to be treated like the redheaded stepchildren of the Southeast division. They will apply their strengths (quickness, length, athleticism, uber talent) against the weaknesses (a cap-busting contract, alpha male uncertainty, lack of depth, Kwame Brown) of their division foes and let the chips fall where they may. I say the chips will fall squarely on the part of the NBA board marked "playoff berth"!

Even the chronically tone-deaf among us had to like the first few bars of the masterpiece written and composed by Ernest Grunfeld and provided for your listening pleasure last night. To the haters: Learn how to make the music come to life in your head based on the notes you see on the music sheet. What a shame it is to recognize brilliance only after the music is played!

In Grunfeld We Trust!!

Posted by: melodious_thunk | October 6, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree completely with "melodious_thunk ", I'd echoed similar remarks. BTW, Gil played great and will continue to do so. Please cease the chatter about whoso team it is, Arenas & Wall can both ball. No one asks who's running the team in Miami or Boston. The more talent you have better the team performs. I hope Arena's retires here after a few rings, having to potent athletes in the backcourt can only serve as a win...win for D.C.

Posted by: Gooddad | October 6, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

The problem is that it was Gil himself that opened up this can of worms about him giving way to John Wall. There would be no chatter if Gil talked about well they complement and can help each other. Recall that during one of Gil's comebacks he seemed a bit obsessed that the team was then "Caron's team". It's Gil that has issues, not the press and not the fans.

Posted by: mugsybol | October 6, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I see GA says he's gone sooner rather than later. That boy was born stupid and has been going down-hill ever since. JEEZUS.

Posted by: glawrence007 | October 6, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Imagine if Gil said "We'll let our play on the court determine whose team this is."

People would be going apesh!t over it.

Instead after the very first game he makes comments to the effect "I'm stepping aside."

Isnt that the best thing he could have said? Should he not have said anything? How about when he's asked EVERY DAY ALL SEASON LONG "how does it feel having Wall replace you as franchise guy???"

This was Gil's attempt at a graceful exit stage left, hopefully the whole line of questioning now dies and they can just play

Posted by: divi3 | October 6, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Wall just turned twenty and he is anointed the leader of the Wizards, whereas Arenas can't figure out whether he's coming or going.
GA won't or is incapable of getting gracefully out of the spotlight. He still hasn't figured out how to spew the standard meaningless blather that comes so naturally to other athletes. The 'Great to be back," stuff that has a tranquilizing effect on controversy and smothers reporter's provocations.

Instead he lets loose with tortured ruminations on, 'Feeling numb and not belonging.' Yeah he can play the game on a level that few others can but the man is high maintenance; he needs a lot of love and he doesn't yet know he's never going to get it from the media.

Posted by: midlevex_ | October 6, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

"The problem is that it was Gil himself that opened up this can of worms about him giving way to John Wall."

Nonsense. The lid went flying off that can the second the Wizards drafted Wall. Hell, even before that, the moment they won the lottery and got the #1 pick.

It's been the elephant in the room from that day forward. All Arenas did was acknowledge it (and maybe feed it a handful of peanuts).

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 6, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Wall-to-Gil for the game winner....Arenas will barely be able to suppress his smiles and maintain his act for the reporters. Until we hear reports of dissensions within the team, it really doesnt matter what Arenas says to the media.

And if he's scoring 24pts/night on 48%FG....don't be surprised if Ted wants to keep him.

Posted by: divi3 | October 6, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

This was Gil's attempt at a graceful exit stage left, hopefully the whole line of questioning now dies and they can just play

Posted by: divi3 | October 6, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Why does ANYTHING along those lines have to be divulged to the public. They've got eyes. let them make their own judgements and shut the f*** up!

Oh, and say good-bye to CP, he's no longer a REDSKIN after today. Thanx for the memories CLINTON. You made us forget CHAMP BAILEY, and were great.

Posted by: glawrence007 | October 6, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I likede the game as a whole...Our guys played hard and that is the most important thing right now. 6 blocks on the stat sheet for JaVale, but I counted 9.

His game has a ways to go still, but is head and shoulders above where it was 6 months ago. A year ago, Haywood was by far his superior...in limited matchup, I think they are about even now - with different strengths and weaknesses to be sure - but about even over all.

Like Armstrong's play. Blatche looked good. Gil looked fine and Yi surprised me with how well he played. he was agreat pickup.

Kirk was what I expected - a solid contributor with little flash.

Wall was fantastic. he has a learning curve ahead of him, but seems up to the task.

The big question for me is - wtf is up with Young. He may as well have been in DC for all he contributed last night.

Posted by: Blurred | October 6, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

melodious_thunk

I was thinking the same thing as I watched the game last night.

I also was thinking what YOUNG team has the most talent in the east? Wizards.

Then I thought about how long Miami will be around dominating everybody including the wizards

and woke up out of my dream.

Posted by: G-Man11 | October 6, 2010 1:37 PM

I'm so glad you woke up from your dream that the Heat would be dominating the Wizards for a long time (*wink*). It ain't happening!!

On the Heat: Wade has the heart of a tiger and I take nothing away from him. James and Bosh, not so much. I'm telling you now, the Heat better get their licks in early on our young Wizards because a few years down the road, championships will be won only by going through Washington. Book it!

Posted by: melodious_thunk | October 6, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm telling you now, the Heat better get their licks in early on our young Wizards because a few years down the road, championships will be won only by going through Washington. Book it!"

Posted by: melodious_thunk | October 6, 2010 3:01 PM |

If it's all the same to you, I'll just leave the order in my shopping cart for now and let it sit for a while before proceeding to checkout.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 6, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

My question is this: why is Gil in his first real question/answer with reporters saying that he's ready to take a back seat to Wall and then implies that he'll be moving on? He's trying to play a pathetic victim when no one feels sorry for him. All fans want is for him to play well and be a team player for once in his career. Why can't he say, "I'm here to win games and with Wall and me in the backcourt and the other guys on this team, I think we can win a lot of games." However, it's always about him and how he's been wronged and that he's been stripped of all feelings. I've always pulled for this guy, but this act is pathetic, and it's becoming clear that this team would be much better off if he makes himself a commodity on the trade market by playing well and proving that he's healthy.

Posted by: ZardsFan1 | October 6, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

The big question for me is - wtf is up with Young. He may as well have been in DC for all he contributed last night.

Posted by: Blurred | October 6, 2010 2:58 PM

All the fun at camp that's gone on with this youthful group had Young looking like a college student who'd been skipping class with his buddies only to realize they'd been studying at night while he bombed the exam. Just a terrible outing he will have difficulty recovering from.

Posted by: divi3 | October 6, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"I think they are about even now - with different strengths and weaknesses to be sure - but about even over all."

I was thinking the exact same thing. BTH is very solid defensively but only in a limited area. JM has some holes to work on, but he is far more active, covering twice the space. Watching last night, there was nothing to indicate we'd be better off with BTH at C. Just one preseason game of course, but that's an encouraging sign from JM

Posted by: divi3 | October 6, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

We need to trade Young the minute after his first good game.

He's still young enough that someone will see upside, esp if they have an injury to a key 2 guard.

Posted by: Blurred | October 6, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Just a terrible outing he will have difficulty recovering from.

Posted by: divi3

Certainly he won't shoot like that every night, but early on it doesn't look like he's corrected his fundamental problem, which is that he's essentially a one-dimensional player. So if his shot isn't falling, its hard to justify keeping him out there.

The only plus for him right now is that with Howard still out, there's no one around him who is really distinguishing themselves either.

Posted by: ts35 | October 6, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"I agree completely with "melodious_thunk""

God help you.

It's ONE pre-season game, you guys are on crack.

The Wiz are a young team for sure, with talent. They are not a playoff team. LEt me repeat that...they are NOT a playoff team.

When the real season starts your going to come to that realization. Some nights they are going to make some strides, and some nights they are going to break some hearts. But they just don't have the horses yet.

Enjoy watching the young core of players develope this year. When they do make the playoffs in the next couple of years then this will be all the sweeter.

Again, they are NOT a playoff team this year.

"GA won't or is incapable of getting gracefully out of the spotlight."

Agree 100%. He digs himself deeper every time he opens his mouth. Dude needs first realize he hasn't played on "his" team for a couple years now. And secondly Wall "took" the team the second the Wizards were awarded with the #1 pick lottery night.

Dude has issues, he really needs to go. Last night showed me he's still the same Gilbert Arenas on and off the court. He still doesn't know how to pass, still doesn't know how to play defense, still bricks up shots at the wrong time. Don't be surprised if he gets benched at some point this year and Hinrich is playing ahead of him.

He still acts like he did nothing wrong and what happend last year was everyone elses fault. Lame.

"Ernie Grunfeld's A Bust!!"

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | October 6, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

ts - as bad as Young played, Flip distinguished himself by playing the 3 guard lineup that had Dallas' starters out of position almost every play.

If Young plays that poorly and you have no one else the option to play GA, JW and KH, I say go with it.

Of course, Booker may work his way in there and Yi could fill in some also until Howard is ready, but you are right that if Young is not shooting well, there is NOTHING that recommends keeping him on the floor.

Posted by: Blurred | October 6, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

It is amazing considering all of the positives from last nights game that you have this level of cynicism concerning Arenas, who merely stated the obvious re team leadership and the facts of life in the NBA.

As much as I was impressed with the play of John Wall, I was equally impressed with Andre Blatche's suprisingly strong play after having the Summer off due to injury. I was equlaly impressed with the skill level of Yi and the physicality he showed on the defensive boards. McGee showed improvement in his defensive decision making and his shot blocking ability was impressive. He also shpowed toughness in playing at a level that kept Armstrobg on the bench in the second half.

The biggest deal for me is that the team showed balance and unselfishness offensively. In the NBA you need multiple scorers/stars to win conference and NBA championships (the Boston Celtics of two years ago are a good example of that). And while the cynics may want to jettison Arenas to some other team. However, in a long, injury riddled, tough NBA season where the games are more intense and meaningful than a preseason opener, smart money would want a proven scorer, who can create when the lane is clogged.

This man has been low keyed, humble and deferential to Wall and his coaches in his public comments and actions on the court. Some of the bloggers opinion here, who seem to have the inate ability to read this mans mind and decipher what he does and does not mean, border on schizophrenia.

If we keep the pieces together, we have a chance for a real good team going forward.

Posted by: NewManagement | October 6, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"The big question for me is - wtf is up with Young. He may as well have been in DC for all he contributed last night."

Posted by: Blurred | October 6, 2010 2:58 PM

Same thing that's been up with him his entire NBA career. He thinks all he has to do is show up and the rest will just happen.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 6, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

LOL!!@ Melodius. I enjoyed the win like everyone else, but recall the last time folks were so-giddy this early? It was after the Wiz beat guess-who, the Mavs in their season opener, they promptly imploded and Ernie had to dismantle that "Masterpiece" of a team.

Chill, this is a throw-away season with a new crop of 1-year rentals. Let's see how Ernie's draft wisdom works-out in pre-season, we haven't even seen the rooks.

During the regular season, that small-ball crap is NOT going work once teams have scouted us. We will certainly be exploited on the block and at SF.

Posted by: closg | October 6, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

God help John Wall if he farts. The MORANS on here will want him traded. I feel sorry for GIL. He SHOULD be mad at the world. Everyone has SO OVER BLOWN the gun thing it makes me sad that I live in this area. If I was Gil I'd take the fines and say F the media. They were the ones who made this out to be more than it was. Can't believe some of these SO CALLED FANS want us to get worse. If we dump Gil it will set us back 3-5 yrs atleast. Bottom line if we want any chance to be a solid team we HAVE to have Gil( or a player of his caliber). If I played here with fans like this I would BEG for a trade. We have to have the most UNSUPPORTING, UNKNOWLEGABLE, FANS IN THE NBA.

Posted by: wizravterp | October 6, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

imho the biggest negative to KH at 3 is we'll often lose him to foul trouble. Last night I think he had 2 within the first 4 minutes guarding Matrix. Or that sweet defensive play against CB where he jabbed the ball from him and then sidestepped around for the steal....seriously great defense, but the type of play a smaller guy is forced to try and which often ends in a foul.

Flip's probably hoping Thornton plays much better soon and can start, but in his own way, Thornton is almost as hot/cold as Nick.

No idea what Booker can or cant do.

Hard to envision Yi provides enough handle at 3, but man it would be fun to watch JM/AB/Yi run the floor with any combo of Wall/Gil/KH.

We know Josh Howard is an excellent 3, so if any combo of the aforementioned can hold it down til midNov, who knows, could be looking at a very solid starting 5 with legit backups at a few spots

Posted by: divi3 | October 6, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Watching last night, there was nothing to indicate we'd be better off with BTH at C.
Posted by: divi3

For the time-being, my guess is that BTH is still better at guarding the beefier C's. Also, guys like BTH and Chandler don't present much of a challenge on the offensive end. But overall, I agree. Both players are somewhat limited, but at this point Haywood is what he's going to be. McGee still has quite a lot of potential to get better.

Posted by: ts35 | October 6, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

One thing Booker can do is run; timed faster than Wall, and he can elevate, suggesting he would compliment Wall and maybe McGee on some fast breaks.

Posted by: midlevex_ | October 6, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I certainly don't think Kirk at the 3 is a good long term strategy, but if it keeps a cold young from jacking up endless bricks for 10 minutes AND you have no other viable options, it is worth playing for those 10 minutes.

I htink we will see some combinations in the next couple of weeks of JM/AB & YJ, as well as Booker and Thornton.

And who knows, maybe Young pulls a Blatche and has a HOT improvement this season.

But I am not counting on it.

Posted by: Blurred | October 6, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

ts - as bad as Young played, Flip distinguished himself by playing the 3 guard lineup that had Dallas' starters out of position almost every play.

If Young plays that poorly and you have no one else the option to play GA, JW and KH, I say go with it.

Of course, Booker may work his way in there and Yi could fill in some also until Howard is ready, but you are right that if Young is not shooting well, there is NOTHING that recommends keeping him on the floor.
Posted by: Blurred

Yep, I more or less agree. Unless Howard comes back healthy and locks it down, I think we're doing SF by committee this year based on matchups. Hinrich can hang in there with some SFs, but there are some we shouldn't even try with. Thornton/Booker match up better with tougher SF's like Melo, etc. I was a little surprised Marion wasn't more aggressive given the options of guys covering him (mostly Hinirch, occasionally Arenas), but it is preseason game #1. There will probably even be games where Young sees starter's time at the 3 based on matchup or if he is shooting the ball well.

As of right now, I don't see Yi getting significant time at the 3. Maybe in specific matchups, but to me it looks like he'll log mostly back-up PF minutes with maybe some back-up C minutes. But who knows? Not even sure Flip does right now.

Posted by: ts35 | October 6, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Yi looked really good last night though. I always like hime and thought he was a great pickup.

As far a JM, he is so fun to watch. And you can't knock the 6 blocks...but he still got a ways to go, but he is making progress. If you noticed he got yanked pretty early by Flip..I think the 5 spot was the first to be subbed??

I think I will officially get on the Nick Young is lost bandwagon..Not because his shot wasn't falling but his body language is not good. I don't know why Nick doesn't attack the basket more. He can get what he wants at the rim..

Good to get a win, but I don't think we can read too much into it, outside of JW is a BEAST. But this team will struggle as expected and to me that's ok. As long as they compete like they did last night..I'm good!!

Posted by: kevenjones | October 6, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"LOL!!@ Melodius. I enjoyed the win like everyone else, but recall the last time folks were so-giddy this early?"

That would after the first regular season game last year when the Wiz . . . beat the Mavs. People were goin' all kinds of nuts.

Posted by: kalo_rama | October 6, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

At least Gil was right; his every word and action will be scrutinized. Gil should not let the media dictate what he says or how he acts. I applaud his media silence especially when everything he does and says will be under the microscope. Just play ball Gil, its just basketball!

Posted by: Gooddad | October 6, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Bla Bla Bla ... In Grunfeld We Trust .... NOT

Posted by: jiji1 | October 6, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I applaud his media silence
Posted by: Gooddad | October 6, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I agree with that much.

Posted by: Blurred | October 6, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

...only 9 played for the Wiz. And no rookies. John Wall does not count for obvious reasons. So, what does that say? Flip simply employs the only one rookie knucklehead on the court at one time rule. Good rule. I still think its going to be a long year for the boys in blue and red.

Posted by: oddjob1 | October 6, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

This team looks great. Ernie has assembled a great group of guys. We still have Seraphin, Booker, Howard, Ndaye, and Morrison to fit into the picture. The former first round draft choices along with this years high draft choice have time to develop this year behind quality players. This team is stacked. Our speed will make up for a lack of beef up front. I think Seraphin is going to become a Rodman like player. I just hope we keep and develop Hamady Ndaye. If players play to their full potential we will have a better team the second half of this season than anyone.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | October 7, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

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