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Plenty of praise, plenty of room for John Wall to improve

By Michael Lee
Morning brew

John Wall's most impressive play last weekend didn't count. With 2.1 seconds left in the first half of the Wizards' 107-102 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mo Williams had just made a layup when Wall tried to respond with a quick answer -- a really quick answer -- as he raced up the floor and dunked, needing just two dribbles. But the basket was called off because the ball was still in his hands as he elevated for the slam. He missed it by a half-second.

"He's one of the quickest guys that I've seen in the league with the ball," Cavaliers Coach Byron Scott said about Wall. "Chris Paul was extremely quick with the ball. Jason Kidd in his heyday. I thought there was nobody that could start a one-man fast break like Jason Kidd, this kid is on that level."

Wall continues to get high praise after almost every game, but if the past two losses to New York and Cleveland have proven anything, it's that he still has some areas to improve. Scott also mentioned that Wall has a lot of room for improvement in individual defense, which explains why Raymond Felton and Mo Williams were both overly aggressive with him.

He has struggled defensively, but also taking care of the ball. Wall has collected 23 turnovers in the past three games, and moved to the top of the league lead in that category with an average of 5.8 per game. Wall leads all rookies in scoring and also ranks in the top five in assists (fifth, 9.6) and steals (fourth, 2.6). When asked about his performance so far, Wall said, "It's an okay start for me. It's going to be games where I'm going to have great games and sometimes, I'm going to have an average performance. Everybody expects me to be a spectacular player every game or every play. But I'm learning as much as I can on this level."

Wall and the Wizards took the day off on Sunday and will get back to action this morning, when they will try to correct some of their mistakes from the past two games. A few are pretty obvious: Boxing out. Hustling back on defense. Taking care of the ball. Late-game composure. They also need to develop some chemistry with Gilbert Arenas back in the fold.

FROM THE POST
Monday's Post takes a look at how the Wizards are trying to incorporate Arenas as he adjusts to the team after missing three weeks of action.

The Wizards have lost four of five to start the season. So while the rap group Cali Swag District was in Washington on Saturday teaching fans at Verizon Center how to Dougie, the Wizards are still trying to figure out how to win.

Josh Howard is also getting closer to returning after getting cleared for three-on-three and five-on-five action when he met with his doctor last week.

AROUND THE WEB
Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post did an excellent job of tracking down Kentucky assistant and former Washington Wizard Rod Strickland, who offered some insight into Wall. Strickland says "you have to have swagger" to be a point guard and is not surprised by Wall's fast star. "That's John Wall -- when those lights come on, he loves it," Strickland said.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com says John Wall is the right leader for the Wizards.

CBSSportsline's Ken Berger talks to Gilbert Arenas about his comeback and reveals, "It's been a rough ride."

Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix also got Arenas to talk about his road back. Arenas tells him that he hopes that returning to form will help people forget about his past transgressions. "I've made mistakes and I have to live with them," Arenas said.

The Washington Post reported back in August that Kevin Durant had received a White House invitation, but Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman followed up and got the D.C. native to talk about his time playing pickup basketball with President Obama.

Adam McGinnis of Truth About It has a full rundown of the Wizards' loss to Cleveland on Saturday and asks some lingering questions, such as "Should the team employ the three-guard lineup from the outset and/or finish with it?" McGinnis also has shots of John Wall with Cali Swag District.

By Michael Lee  | November 8, 2010; 8:12 AM ET
Categories:  Morning brew  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forget the "Dougie," Wizards need to learn how to win
Next: Flip Saunders cuts practice short, orders players to come back later

Comments

...I didnt see the game, but after reviewing the box score, its hard to imagine how they lost. Significant advantages in rebounding, assists, etc. How do you lose a game like that?

Posted by: oddjob1 | November 8, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

no more 3 guard lineup. The team is most effective offensive and defensively with Wall, hinrich, thornton, blatche and Mcgee. Thornton had the hot hand saturday and when the 3 guard offense reared its ugly head thornton was benched and hinrich moved to the 3. I don't care how good everyone says hinrich is on defense but when you guard someone 5 inches taller and longer than you they can always shoot over you or out muscle you to the basket.

Posted by: jefferu | November 8, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

"...I didnt see the game, but after reviewing the box score, its hard to imagine how they lost. Significant advantages in rebounding, assists, etc. How do you lose a game like that?Posted by: oddjob1"

The game was actually pretty even. Both clubs finished with 39 FGs & 8 treys. Cleveland had slightly higher FG and 3 point percentages. The Wiz had 7 more rebounds, but those were primarily on offense. Game was won at the line; the Cavs had 6 more attempts & converted 5 of them.

Definitely a winnable contest, had the team been a little more focused. They'll probably lose quite a few like these before they finish coming together.

Thornton has looked good on offense, which is promising. I wouldn't worry too much about him losing minutes when Howard returns. He's only been a full-time starter one year; the rest he's played part-time. Rotating might actually help him as the season drags on.

Posted by: Samson151 | November 8, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

SI: "But if the duo can discover some chemistry, the combined talents between the two, the blinding speed of Wall and the lethal shooting of Arenas, will give Washington one of the NBA's most feared backcourts."

Even people outside are expecting a Wall-Arenas backcourt, no Hinrich is mentioned here.

Yeah, Arenas needs time to be acquainted with his teammates, but playing with 2nd unit in practice cannot facilitate that. Worse, with the talent of the 2nd unit, Arenas will have to dominate the ball, which would invite people's criticism again.

Posted by: sagaliba | November 8, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

no more 3 guard lineup

Apparently Flip disagrees with you.

Saunders said of Arenas, Hinrich and Wall. "They are going to have to play some together. You're hoping that those guys have an ability to close out games."

Posted by: divi3 | November 8, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse


"Saunders said of Arenas, Hinrich and Wall. "They are going to have to play some together. You're hoping that those guys have an ability to close out games.""

I guess that means Saunders will play those three down the stretch even if others are contributing mightily and playing hard.

Good coaches adjust to the game at hand. Bad coaches predetermine what lineup they'll play to finish the game, oblivious to what actually occurs in the game. Guess we know which group Flip is in.

Posted by: harrybalz | November 8, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I guess that means Saunders will play those three down the stretch even if others are contributing mightily and playing hard.

Good coaches adjust to the game at hand. Bad coaches predetermine what lineup they'll play to finish the game, oblivious to what actually occurs in the game. Guess we know which group Flip is in.

Since Saunders said he regretted not having put Thornton back in in the last game, let's wait at least one more game before we start flinging around the generalizations.

Posted by: nmik | November 8, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Play Young, Thornton and Cartier more and Hinrich less! Is Hinrich that good of defender? Is Nick Young that poor of defender now? Gilbert looks really good to me, even when his shot isn't falling. Hinrich loves to dribble (with little being accomplished), but seems to do little to keep the ball moving.

Posted by: audacitea | November 8, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I missed Saturday's game but watched all of Friday's. I haven't figured out yet what exactly KH provides. He seems to be a streaky shooter and not much defensively. As a PG, he's slow and doesn't seem sure about where he wants a play to go. I would love to see Wall, Arenas and Thornton as the starters. Let KH come off the bench.

Posted by: juliagraffam | November 8, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I really thought we should have been able to beat Cleveland. Their talent isn't that much greater than ours but we really only lost because they out shot us. They shot the ball much better and truthfully, (not that this is a big secret) we lack good consistant perimeter shooting. I thought the team played decent defense and challenged Cleveland on the boards, but two plays come to mind.

John Wall runs out to challenge Daniel Gibson's 3 point attempt, Gibson up fakes, steps to the side and nails the 3.

A Cleveland player makes the first of two free throws but after missing the second the long rebound makes its way out to Anthony Parker who nails a three from the corner giving them a four point play.

They made shots and we didi not make enough of them.

Posted by: gmac78 | November 8, 2010 10:28 AM

Posted by: gmac78 | November 8, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Kirk looked great the other night, his shot was falling, not turnovers, and grabbed a coupla rebs too. I woulda liked to see more NY (6 mins for a 6'7" guard vs. Boobie and Mo?). Al thornto got hosed, as everybody's already mentioned. This team has no identity, i like what larryinclinton had to say about flip and his opposing philisophies, wanting JWow to run and have the ball 85% of the time, and at the same time ripping the bigs for a lack of post game. I think trying to run and establish a post game is kinda tough on this brand new team.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 8, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Wizards Faithful,

Why all the long faces?

Did you really think the Wizards would hit the ground running with one of the youngest teams in the league? Our rookie sensation, John Wall, is the youngest starter in the NBA, folks. In fact, at this time two years ago, Wall hadn't even played the first game of his senior year in high school!

Crawl...walk...run. That will be the progression of our Wizards this season. They'll look better next month and even better the month after that, IF Flip Saunders is up to the task of adjusting and growing with this young team.

In Grunfeld We Trust!!

Posted by: melodious_thunk | November 8, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Terrible coaching on Flip's part. And this team stioll canot play defense. I wonder who was the drive behind defense in Minnesota Garnett ofr Flip

Posted by: bonggong | November 8, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

So, what happens when some of the Wizards’ big men go through their pre-game warm-up routine while some of the Knicks City Dancers do the same, on the same court? Or when Andray Blatche keeps loose with a game of one-on-one with Sam Cassell?

Truth About It.net: Wizards Pre-Game In The Mecca of Basketball

Hamady N'Diaye is awesome.

Posted by: djnnnou | November 8, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Terrible coaching on Flip's part. And this team stioll canot play defense. I wonder who was the drive behind defense in Minnesota Garnett ofr Flip

Posted by: bonggong | November 8, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Look at their careers after minny and try to make that verdict.KG has built on a HOF career, Flip not so much. KG able to lift a team from lotto to champs in one year, all with a rookie pg . Flip got us 2 more wins last yea. I guess that's the difference b/w grading players and coaches. KG's HOF career shows up on paper and on film at every stop he's made. Flip coaches great players to good results and average players to mediocre results.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 8, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Did anybody really think J Wall wasn't going to have some growing pains? Last two games quick, aggressive, veterans went right at him at both ends. It will be awhile before he is playing winning basketball. He's putting up some numbers, but he's costing possessions and getting beat on defense by wiley vets.

That game Saturday night was lost to a group of veterans that knew how to scratch out a win. It's going to take this group awhile to blend their games together, and yes, there's going need to be some help come from guys we haven't glimsped yet.

Lost in the 1-4 is how well Blatche competed on the boards the other night. He put up the kind of game that the Wiz really need from a 4. If he pulled down 15 rebounds against "Sideshow Bob" he should be able to pull down 10+ every night.

But Blatche is playing like a guy that spent the summer in a protective boot, he's got no explosion in his jump right now. He's doing a much better job of scrapping on the boards against some tough veteran competition the last three games. His postioning for rebounds is the best I've seen from him over a couple of game period.

There are still major lapses on interior defense, but for the most part McGee is improving. Giving up the rebound on the free throw was a major sin and Flip made his point by benching him.

Flip may have cost a game having Armstrong on the court with the 3 guard lineup at the end. We'll just have to see if it made the point with McGee. I pray to God Howard gets healthy soon and there's no excuse for the 3 guard lineup. The way Thorton was playing the other night he should gotten some run in the 4th. Flip's got to be kicking himself over that one...
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | November 8, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I see Hinrich as a decent back up to the 1 and the 2. Not a starter once Gil increases his "Cardiovascular Conditioning".
I wonder how much of this "3 guard" line up is influenced by Grunfeld's love for all things Hinrich.
I've been a bit surprised that the Wiz have been as competitive as they have considering how soft they are upfront with the exception of Thornton. I find Flip's treatment of McGee baffling.

Posted by: bozomoeman | November 8, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Phil Jackson said Sunday that he would like to see Ebanks and Caracter get more experience in the Developemental League this season, a real possibility when Andrew Bynum returns. Bynum, who continues to rehab his surgically-repaired knee, is expected back in the lineup around Thanksgiving. “I expect to move them aound a lot, but not until Andrew comes in,” Jackson said. “We’ll have to have that full roster right now.”

Ebanks & Caracter were drafted 43 & 58, the Lakers have a plan for their picks, the Wizards development plan? towel-waving and DNPs.

Fire Flip, Fire Grunfeld

Posted by: closg | November 8, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"I really thought we should have been able to beat Cleveland. Their talent isn't that much greater than ours but we really only lost because they out shot us. They shot the ball much better...They made shots and we didi not make enough of them.Posted by: gmac78 " posted by gmac

They didn't. The two teams made exactly the same number of FGs, including the same number of 3 pointers. The real difference was at the line. And that wasn't a big difference, either.

A winnable game. But for a team with better focus than the Wiz had.

Posted by: Samson151 | November 8, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

"Phil Jackson said Sunday that he would like to see Ebanks and Caracter get more experience in the Developemental League this season...Ebanks & Caracter were drafted 43 & 58, the Lakers have a plan for their picks, the Wizards development plan? towel-waving and DNPs."

What LA has is a shortage of healthy players. Phil's letting us know that Devin and Derrick will go to the Ds as soon as possible. Should help both of them.

Posted by: Samson151 | November 8, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I've said before, since i've moved to Los Angeles from the DC area I have watched the Lakers out of the corner of my eye. Now that Blake plays locally I have watched every game. I still watch the Bullets every game on the NBA package and I read every bullets box score, trying to better understand why my team under-performs. My point really is that i dont read the box scores for Steve Blake and the Lakers because I don't need to. Winners dont worry about numbers, they worry about WINNING. I wish that Ernie, Flip, and Ted would watch the Lakers Org play so they can understand what a winning organization looks like. The Lakers ALL expect to win and they put that first. Our organization has always built into the organization the excuses of transition, bad luck, youth, missing personnel due to injuries, etc. there has always been a good excuse. "Just making a playoff appearance" has become a viable substitution for WINNING games. I'm not a Laker Lover or a Bullets Hater. On the contrary, I love my Bullets. I just wish the Bullets Org would straighten up and fly right. Do it Ted.

Posted by: WestCoastBullet | November 8, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse


"Jianlian played 48 minutes and only grabbed 6 rebounds this week. That's not going to cut it, especially when he's not shooting well, only making 6 of his 18 field goal attempts."

http://www.bulletsforever.com/2010/11/8/1798698/keys-to-the-palace-near-triple-double-you-can-stay-as-long-as-you-want#storyjump

Posted by: ahwyatt | November 8, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

the Wizards development plan? towel-waving and DNPs.

That's up to Ted. The teams using the D-league have a stake in a nearby affiliate.

Posted by: djnnnou | November 8, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

just got a tweet that Flip cut short a "sluggish practice" and told the team to come back at 4pm. I dunno if this means anything other than what it says, but it's interesting. Could Flip be trying to crack the whip, b/c he sees himself losing the team. You've had all offseason to instill discipline in this team. I guess now's the time to really get after them; before too many bad habits form, but it woulda been nice if they'da took this approach about defense and post play from day 1, instead of rewarding a team projected to win lees than 35 gms with brand new iPads on day 1.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 8, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

YI sucks, don't know how else to put it. He's always sucked. His suckiness is enough to make you vomit. He sucks.

Posted by: glawrence007 | November 8, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

That's up to Ted. The teams using the D-league have a stake in a nearby affiliate.
Posted by: djnnnou | November 8, 2010 12:57 PM

Wrong on both points, Ernie manages the team not Ted. Ernie decides when to assign players to OUR NBDL affiliate the Dakota Wizards. We share this affiliate with Memphis. Memphis has assigned players to Dakota, which is NOT near-by. Andray Blatche was the last Wiz player to spend time in the "Development" League and that was 4 years ago.

Posted by: closg | November 8, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Yeah I saw that tweet about the practice too. And the one about Hilton Armstrong after it.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | November 8, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

@SDMDTSU it's encouraging that HA spoke up about being more receptive to coaching. It's discouraging that Flip could be losing his team within the first month of the season. Eddie had 4 playoff appearances with the wiz to lean on, and still got let go after 11 gmaes. Is EG so impressed with Flip's 50+ wins with another organization that he gets a pass this year?

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 8, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Pretty even matchup. Cleveland won simply because they have played together longer and at a higher level, including the playoffs, thanks to Lebron.

I liked the rebounding from Blatche, who seems to be learning more and more how to be a big man. And it's a good thing they took the ball out of the hands of Arenas and put it in Walls hands. Arenas doesn't appear to run the offense or share the ball any better than Young.

Posted by: jimwest20 | November 8, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse


it's encouraging that HA spoke up about being more receptive to coaching.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 8, 2010 1:34 PM

LOL Guess that should get Armstrong another 15 minutes of playing time down the stretch against Houston.

Posted by: bobabuie | November 8, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

@SDMDTSU it's encouraging that HA spoke up about being more receptive to coaching. It's discouraging that Flip could be losing his team within the first month of the season. Eddie had 4 playoff appearances with the wiz to lean on, and still got let go after 11 gmaes. Is EG so impressed with Flip's 50+ wins with another organization that he gets a pass this year?

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 8, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't call it losing the team. They had a bad practice. It happens to every team in all sports. Especially dealing with younger players. Focus is usually a problem.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | November 8, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

@closg
I meant using the D- League effectively, like OKC, the Texas teams, and the Lakers w/ Farmar. Those are the model teams. They have affiliates nearby which they control through ownership or by paying for the operating costs. That's an investment that Ted needs to decide on. BTW, Grunfeld did use the affiliate when it was in Richmond.

Posted by: djnnnou | November 8, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Flip is not the right coach for this team.

Posted by: gimmedat | November 8, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

the bigs weren't getting set on their simulated screens in the warmup video above. I know it's just a pre game run through, but if you get comfortable not setting the screen in warmups right before the games, are the players making the adjustment when the lights come on? Or not until they hear that first whistle and get that offensive foul/turnover.This team isn't very disciplined and lacks fundamentals. We knew this about most of the players, one would think ole Flipper would recognize this and try to do something.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 8, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Would love for them to land the #1 or #2 pick again this season.... Wall and Harrison Barnes and Maybe nab Horford from ATL as a 4... wowzers!

Ok, I'll stop dreaming now.

Posted by: HollywoodPlayboy | November 8, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Blatche played the kind of game against Cleveland the Wizards need from him. His scoring in the lowpost is going to be iffy because he seems to have no explosion to the hoop right now.

This team needs double digit rebounds from him more then scoring. It needs good sound positional defense and rebounding from McGee. He does seem to be staying with his man longer before stepping away to block a shot. When he gets that down a little better he'll give someone else time to rotate to help him.

I'm glad to hear Flip sent em home and told them to come back at 4, the time to make his point is after a series of loses where the game could have been pulled out. Cleveland won because they knew how to, the Wizards are still trying to collectively get a clue.

That doesn't mean that they can't or aren't making strides individually, just means they haven't learned to play as an NBA team yet.
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | November 8, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

That doesn't mean that they can't or aren't making strides individually, just means they haven't learned to play as an NBA team yet.
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | November 8, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

EXACTLY.

It's always McGee can do this, Dray can do this, Wall, Arenas.

They just haven't learned to play well together.

Lou torched Kirk. No...it's a team effort. Offense and defense.

Period.

Posted by: SDMDTSU | November 8, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Flip, as a coach don't just punish lack of effort, reward those who have been stepping up. See Thornton,Al.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | November 8, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

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