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Posted at 1:21 PM ET, 12/ 3/2010

Hilton Armstrong returns after serving one-game suspension

By Michael Lee

Hilton Armstrong had a hard time watching replays of the shove that led to his one-game suspension this week. The sight of Miami reserve center Joel Anthony's arms and legs flailing in different directions before he landed hard on his backside "was real scary," Armstrong said on Friday. "It put chills in me. I didn't mean for that to happen at all."


What am I doing? (AP Photo)

He knew that a suspension was coming the moment he was ejected from the Wizards' 105-94 loss to the Heat on Monday. But he was still surprised that he was in that position, since he never had a reputation for making dirty plays or being some sort of enforcer. "It caught me off guard," he said. "Kind of shocked me, because I never thought, me of all people, would have to go through something like that. I know I'm not that type of guy or anything."

Armstrong said that while in the moment he wasn't worried about the incident escalating after Juwan Howard pushed him to the floor. He just wanted to help Anthony back on his feet. "I saw the way he fell, so in my mind, I hope he's okay. I tried to go get him to see if he was alright and I got pushed," Armstrong said. "Howard pushed me, I didn't even care at all. You could see how I reacted. I just slid right up. I could care less about him. Howard, I'm not worried about at all."

Forced to sit out, Armstrong had to watch another gruesome sight: the Wizards' defensive performance without him in a 127-108 loss to the Toronto. Armstrong likely wouldn't have made much difference, given how well the Raptors were shooting, but he couldn't believe the team he was seeing on television.

"It hurts, because I know we can play a lot better than that," he said. "I know we are a lot better than that."

Armstrong will return when the Wizards host Portland on John Wall bobblehead night -- the first 10,000 fans will get one -- and Coach Flip Saunders said he should help the team defensively. "He's one of our more intelligent front court guys, as far as knowing coverage."

Saunders said he also expects the team to also get back Yi Jianlian, who has missed the past nine games with a hyperextended right knee. Saunders was excited about possibly having two veteran big men to help take some pressure off Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee -- and limit his reliance on rookies Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker.

"Because of our situation, our rookies have to play significant minutes in the heat of the battle, at the end of games," Saunders said. "Because the injuries, that's where we're at. When you have to play young players like that and keep them, rather than in developmental situations, it might help them in the long run, but you're going to pay the price now."

Armstrong said the Wizards need to get better on the defensive end if they want to make any improvements as a team. "We need to have team defense everywhere. We have five people on the court, so that means five people have to play defense all together. If one man gets beat, that means another man should step up. We have different lines of defense, so everyone has to be on the same page."

He is also hopeful that the Wizards can end their four-game slide against the Trail Blazers. "We need one," he said. "Our record isn't too good. It's not where we expect it to be, right now, the only wins we have are at home. We have to take care of home, then we have to take it over to road. After today, have to find a way to get a win, by any means. I know defense is part of it on the road. We're going to have to find something."

By Michael Lee  | December 3, 2010; 1:21 PM ET
Categories:  Flip Saunders, Hilton Armstrong, Yi Jianlian  
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Comments


Flip (looking down at the ground): "The bad part about reviewing film in front of all the players is that I can't just gloss over Hinrich getting abused on defense as soon as the game starts or dribbling right into the teeth of the defense."

Grunfeld (close to tears): "I guess it's time to bring Hinrich off the bench and start Arenas and Wall in the backcourt, huh?"

Flip (lip quivering, voice barely audible): "Yes."

Later to reporters -

Flip: "Hinrich is just worn out from all the minutes he's played."

Posted by: Firuz1 | December 3, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"He's one of our more intelligent front court guys, as far as knowing coverage."

Faint praise indeed.

Posted by: djnnnou | December 3, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Like all DC sports teams... This team SUCKS!!

Posted by: Capitalist-1 | December 3, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Hilton improves the defense good for him to be back

Posted by: jefferu | December 3, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I am such a die hard Wiz fan but even I must admit that they are painful to watch right now. I haven't jumped ship but I don't watch them so much anymore. I am not even going to profess that I have the answers because I am not really sure why they suck as they do.

Posted by: ivyleague | December 3, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

As far as motivation from coaches goes: Divi says: "Great coaches motivate their players, one way or another."

I agree in general, but there is another part of it, too. Great coaches get rid of players that they can't motivate. What truly makes them great is not so much their motivational abilities or their ability to fire players, but their ability to distinguish between great players who can't be motivated to play hard every night as a member of a team and within a system and really good players that CAN be motivated to give it their all every minute they are on the court and who know what their role is.

A coach like this is empowered by the ownership and management to take responsibility and succeed. The coach is then able to do the same with his players.

I have not really weighed in on Wizards coaching before, but this is why Flip is not a good coach. Flip knows how to coach great players to play above average basketball. He is unable to coach above average players to play great basketball.

Hence - his "success" in Minnesota and his "failure" in Detroit.

The Detroit team was made up of a whole lot of really good players that were empowered to be great and understood their responsibilities. Until Flip came in and undermined that.

On that note, who would be a good replacement for Flip right now (as in - is available and would be the right guy to guide this team to improve and play hard every night?)

Posted by: Blurred | December 3, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Blurred | December 3, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

The Wizards are a young team and they will struggle at times this year, particularly if key people are hurt. But fans deserve to see a team that's working hard, trying to get better. That Toronto game was ridiculous.

It will be good to see Yi and Armstrong back in the rotation, but we still have a question mark at the "3" at least until Howard is ready to step in and run. Maybe Thornton will step up tonight.

Posted by: zinger1 | December 3, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Thornton will step up tonight.

Posted by: zinger1 | December 3, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

This what I mean: hoping an inconsistent player "steps up" is no way to run a team with a winning attitude (whether they are a winning team is another matter)

Posted by: Blurred | December 3, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

@Blurred

Characterizing Saunders tenure in Detroit as a failure, even parenthetically, is a massive misrepresentation. Did he fail to win a title? Sure. But by that measure, 99 percent of the coaches in every sport in any given year are "failures." But that measure, Jerry Sloan has been "failing" spectacularly for 20+ years.

And really, how often do you see above average players play truly great basketball under any circumstances? Particularly under circumstances where they're playing on a developmental lottery team without any dominant players? Which is the circumstance the Wizards are in, Saunders or no Saunders. (And, for the record, Billups first showed the form he flashed in Detroit while playing for Saunders in Minnesota.)

Another hugely important factor you glossed over in the difference between Minnesota and Detroit: In Minny he had a star player who was an active, vocal leader/proponent on the floor and in the locker room. That was lacking in Detroit. In fact, one of the knocks on the team at the time was that they were too much of a self-policing democracy and that they didn't have a real "alpha-dog" player who could step up and hold guys accountable/keep them in line when things got lax. Look at most truly great teams and you'll see they have one.

Saunders is hardly a great coach, but he's certainly a good one. Is he doing his best work in D.C. Nope. Would swapping him for someone else produce significantly better results? Without a massive change in the roster (either by swapping out players or players swapping out their attitudes) I don't see any reason to think so.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 3, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

This is a rebuilding project, Blurred, and I'm not ready to throw Flip under the bus because the team isn't hitting on all cylinders. Hell, we haven't even had the whole team ready to play for the first month of the season. And it's only one month.

I think Ted gives Flip this year, unless there is major dissension and/or continued lackadaisical play. I expect the Wiz to play much better in December and January, even if they don't pile up the wins. The key is to see them playing hard and getting better.

I'm not ready to judge based on this last game, or this last month. We're not angling for the playoffs here, we're building a team. I'm not convinced that Flip Saunders isn't the guy who can get it done.

Posted by: zinger1 | December 3, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

On that note, who would be a good replacement for Flip right now (as in - is available and would be the right guy to guide this team to improve and play hard every night?) Posted by: Blurred

Terry Tate - "You know you're suppose to box out for rebounds Andray! That ain't new baby. You hit the boards or you hit the floor."

Posted by: djnnnou | December 3, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

"This what I mean: hoping an inconsistent player "steps up" is no way to run a team with a winning attitude (whether they are a winning team is another matter)Posted by: Blurred"

Most coaches hope an inconsistent player steps up to provide an edge in a given game. That's partly because most NBA rosters have more inconsistent players than consistent ones.

You know what creates a 'winning attitude'? Winning. Any coach will tell you that. Until the team begins winning consistently, motivation is a continual struggle.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 3, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

As far as when Flip will be replaced, that will be when Ted Leonsis decides it's time. Not before. And Ted's reason will be the one he gives at the press conference: that he just thought the team needed a change of direction.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 3, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I know we are rebuilding this year and have been one of the most vocal folks on here saying that a 30 win season is about all we can expect. I also said we should expect to see a team that hustles every play of every game. That is how to build a winner and that is why I am disappointed...and it isn't based on the last game or the last 15 games, but the past year.

the end of last year was encouraging, seeing the guys hustle even in losses. This year has been erratic.

Posted by: Blurred | December 3, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Flip (looking down at the ground): "The bad part about reviewing film in front of all the players is that I can't just gloss over Hinrich getting abused on defense as soon as the game starts or dribbling right into the teeth of the defense."

Grunfeld (close to tears): "I guess it's time to bring Hinrich off the bench and start Arenas and Wall in the backcourt, huh?"

Flip (lip quivering, voice barely audible): "Yes."

Later to reporters -

Flip: "Hinrich is just worn out from all the minutes he's played."

Posted by: Firuz1 | December 3, 2010 1:43 PM
............................................

LMAO!!!! & In-tears, Thanks Firuz, I needed that laugh.

Posted by: closg | December 3, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Ted made his expectations quite clear, and they are probably the same as most all of us fans:

the team needs to forge an identity that we are energetic; have young legs– we are tough to play against–and we have upside.

Anybody see an identity coming together yet? Not me. Upside? Couple guys for sure, but no evidence of upside in how the team shows so far.

And that we play tough and that we play together. We are tight–we are well coached.

Do the Wizards look like that yet? Nope, not even close.

Are there extenuating circumstances due to some early injuries? Yes. Is it fair to question Flip's choices and direction so far despite those injuries? Definitely.

That's where we are. Flip isnt about to get fired, nor should he be. But if we're rolling into March and the team still shows no identity or cohesiveness, is just a complete mess....that'll be it for Flipper is my guess.

Posted by: divi3 | December 3, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Will be interesting to see if Flip does anything differently tonight, or if he sticks with the same gameplan/lineup aside from simply giving HA/TB's minutes to Yi

Posted by: divi3 | December 3, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

"the end of last year was encouraging, seeing the guys hustle even in losses. This year has been erratic."

Posted by: Blurred | December 3, 2010 4:06 PM

Well, if people are using how last season ended as a barometer for how this one is beginning, then that would explain a lot.

The end of last season has almost nothing to do with the beginning of this one, because the team Saunders has now is almost a totally different team than he had then. Only 4 players that were on the active roster at last season's end are on the team now (Blatche, Thornton, McGee and Young). Of those four, 2 have shown signs of improvement this season, 1 was among the team's more effective players before he got hurt, and one appears to have fallen back to Earth after his much-ballyhooed 1/3 season star turn.

More significantly, with the exception of Arenas (who's still adjusting, physically and mentally, to his return after a long layoff) and Hinrich, every new player on the roster is younger, rawer, and less experienced than the ones that left. The reason there doesn't appear to be any continuity of improvement from last season is because this season isn't a continuation of last season. It's basically starting over from square one.

It's quite possible that if the Wizards had kept last season's team together that they would look a lot better and smoother than this one, and maybe would have actually won a couple more games. But the tradeoff on that would be a considerably lower ceiling on future improvement.

That's what a rebuilding period is all about, sacrificing some of "right now" with an eye towards "ion the future.". And I'm 100% certain that everyone wearing the decision making hats in the Wiz corner offices understood that coming in.

Does that mean they should be satisfied with we're getting now? Of course not. There's plenty to criticize. But that criticism has to be based on what can reasonably be expected based on who's on the team now, which is a completely different circumstance that expectations based on who was on the team at the end of last season.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 3, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and it also didn't hurt that most of the guys from last season who are now gone were playing for contracts.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 3, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I thought the team being overhauled was supposed to help Flip. Arent Wall/Arenas/KH supposed to be an upgrade over Livingston/Foye/Miller?

Posted by: divi3 | December 3, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

"I thought the team being overhauled was supposed to help Flip. Arent Wall/Arenas/KH supposed to be an upgrade over Livingston/Foye/Miller?"

Posted by: divi3 | December 3, 2010 4:44 PM "

Well, with regards to what you thought (or why you thought it) . . . only you can answer that question. For my part, the team we've got is pretty much the one I expected we'd have: Very bad with potential to improve.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 3, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Does not matter who is coaching this team....until the President/GM is swept out, there will not be an improvement....most of the players who are not playing well were drafted BEFORE Flip got here...if Flip gets fired, then the GM should be made to coach this mess that he made and keep giving to others to lead.

Posted by: ejharrisjr40 | December 3, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

if Flip gets fired, then the GM should be made to coach this mess that he made and keep giving to others to lead. Posted by: ejharrisjr40

That's how New Jersey ended up with 12 wins last year.

Posted by: djnnnou | December 3, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

"I also said we should expect to see a team that hustles every play of every game."

I don't think I've seen a team that's true of -- ever.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 3, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Whatever Saunders was, he ain't that now. He didn't do it in the first 32 games last year with his playoff team. It wasn't until Jameson, Butler and Haywood were traded away that we saw Mghee, Blatche and Young could play and I think they are better. Now we have added Hinrich, Wall and Arenas. I would say that this team is man for man better than last years team.

Posted by: bobilly2 | December 3, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I don't think I've seen a team that's true of -- ever.

Yeah, me neither. At least not in the NBA.

82+ games, back-to-back contest, long road trips (yeah, first class and all that but it's tiring), bumps and bruises, fatigue, colds, flu, life.....

These are human beings after all. Even young legs get worn down.

Just want to see some consistency and effort and focus. Some direction.

Something, instead of a bunch of guys standing around and looking at each other like this is the first time they've been on a court together.

Posted by: SteveMG | December 3, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

"Whatever Saunders was, he ain't that now. He didn't do it in the first 32 games last year with his playoff team. It wasn't until Jameson, Butler and Haywood were traded away that we saw Mghee, Blatche and Young could play and I think they are better. Now we have added Hinrich, Wall and Arenas. I would say that this team is man for man better than last years team.
Posted by: bobilly2"

I don't know how you can argue that. The inflated expectations of 2009 were based on Gilbert's triumphant return to a veteran core from a playoff-caliber team -- Arenas, Butler, Jamison, Haywood and Stephenson. Foye and Mike Miller were still more veteran additions. Blatche was expected to get minutes, but fanz were worried that the younger guns would hardly ever see the court.

Didn't work out, huh? So they exploded it.

This year, the Wiz went into the season at the beginning of a massive rebuild. Arenas was back, but did the club even want the guy? The salary dump of 2010 yielded Hinrich and Yi, but the rest of the team was John Wall, a couple more draft choices, and those same younger guns from last season.

Talk about underwhelming...

Maybe people were confused by the ceaseless hyping from some quarters of players like McGee, Young, and Andray. All talented, all flawed developmental types. Blatche has taken a step back and the others are still in the judge's ring, fate to be determined.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 3, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Interesting take on the development of Indy's Roy Hibbert in this week's SI. Turns out he has McGee-style exercise-induced asthma, too. That's a reason he took off so much weight this season. Roy's nothing like the athlete Javale is, but skill-wise, he's ahead.

They name three other "potential Hibberts" in the NBA right now: Greg Monroe, Byron Mullens of OKC, and Boston's Semih Erden.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 3, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Developmentally? Mcghee should be considered just like wall is. He should be getting the minutes and be allowed to play thru his mistakes so he can develope. The upside to Mcghee is even greater than Wall. Look at his per minute stats. I said before that if he gets the minutes he desrves he will get average a double double. Right now he is killing on the O boards. If he developes a jump hook ala Kareem he will be unstoppable. Word.

Posted by: bobilly2 | December 3, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

"The upside to Mcghee is even greater than Wall. Look at his per minute stats."

You know that per minute stats are prone to exaggeration, right? I don't get your argument about development, either. John Wall has appeared in 11 NBA games, Javale in 152.

As far as upside, I like Javale, but I don't think even his biggest advocate would put him in Wall's class at this point.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 3, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Well than, I'll be the first to say it. The proof that Javales per minute is not exagerated is that when he does get the minutes he does get a double double. And Javale has been pulled and not allowed to play for the slightest mistake.
I give the guy credit for keeping up[ such a good attitude.

Posted by: bobilly2 | December 3, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

When is Saunders going to let the 3 guard offense rest. It has not been succesful yet. It just gors to prove the argument that he does have a good rotation.

Posted by: bobilly2 | December 3, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Release Hilton Armstrong

Posted by: SWA69 | December 4, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

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