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Posted at 1:43 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Steve Nash carves up Wizards as they struggle to find some continuity

By Michael Lee

This is how I prefer to split a double team, John. (AP Photo)

I can't even attempt to count the number of times that I've seen Steve Nash play in person, but the guy never ceases to amaze me. Over the past five years, the league has been overwhelmed with talented, fast and electrifying point guards -- Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and now John Wall.

But even at 36, after a series of injuries, thousands of miles on his wheels and the loss of Mike D'Antoni and Amare Stoudemire, it's impossible to knock Nash out of the discussion of the league's top five point guards. Try as you might, you just can't. He still has enough speed, and much more intelligence, which makes him a difficult cover. He carved up the Wizards on Sunday with the precision of a surgeon; dropping those passes that make you just shake your head in wonderment.

"He's been banged up, back, leg, ankles," Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said, "but when he's feeling good, he's played as well as any guard in the league."

Nash made one pass in the third quarter, when he split two defenders by keeping the ball about two inches above the ground -- well out of the reach of any Wizards -- but the ball landed right in the lap of Phoenix Suns center Earl Barron, who turned it into a dunk. He finished with 17 assists, but easily could've had 20 or more if his teammates, namely Barron, could've finished better.

Before the Wizards lost their 10th consecutive road game, 125-108, Saunders said the Wizards would have to "corral" Nash to keep him from being responsible for at least 50 percent of the Suns' offensive output. Nash only scored 20 points, so the Wizards met that goal -- but only because the Suns scored so much and Nash sat for all but 2 minutes 31 seconds in the fourth quarter.

"Steve's still dynamic," Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said.

As Nash sliced and diced the Wizards, all I could think was, is this really the same team that held Portland to just 79 points and 33.3 percent shooting two nights ago? Then I remembered this is also the same team that gave up 127 points to Toronto in their previous road game. The Wizards have lost their past four road games by at least 10 points and have been outscored by an average of 16.8 points.

Saunders said that Wall would get "a good rookie indoctrination" against Nash and he certainly did. Nash was 8 for 8 from the floor and he wasn't making any cheap ones. His first basket was a difficult driving layup around Wall, and then he hit step-back jumpers the rest of the night.

Sorry, I've got somewhere I need to be. (AP Photo)

Wall had another rough outing since returning the starting lineup, as he missed eight of his 12 field goal attempts, but he still had 12 assists. After the game, Wall said, "I was good. I just wasn't making shots. That comes with the game. Every night you're not going to make shots. I felt I was taking good shots, I just missed them."

Wall was on the floor in the fourth period, when the Wizards made a spirited 14-5 run that seemed mostly focused on making sure that Gentry would have to bring back his starters. Gilbert Arenas scored eight of his 14 points during the run, as Saunders decided to call a few isolation plays for him to get him involved. "I got it started, scored about nine points in two minutes, other players got involved. From there, they had to put the starters back in."

Arenas came off the bench for the second game in a row, and while he saying the right things publicly, it doesn't look like the best situation. But I will say that it was good to see Arenas trading some trash talk with his good friend and former Golden State Warriors teammate Jason Richardson. Arenas had a little push off to get some separation, then buried a jumper over Richardson, who dropped on his back side. "I didn't touch you," Arenas told Richardson as the Wizards got back on defense. RIchardson couldn't help but laugh as the crowd booed the non-call.

After the game, Arenas was asked about his role as a scorer, rather than a playmaker, with Wall on the floor. "I'm better with the ball," Arenas said. "I'm trying to learn to play without the ball. It's all a learning process."

Saunders had his full complement of players (aside from Josh Howard) for the first time since Yi Jianlian went down with a hyperextended right knee on Nov. 13. He used all 12 of his players on Sunday, with nine playing at least 13 minutes. "We're still searching, we've got to get some continuity. We've just got to get a rotation that's a set rotation in the next few games."

Yi was back playing with the same fervor same fervor he showed early in the preseason as matched his season with 13 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Wall found him for a dunk to get him started, and he later hit a three-pointer to give the Wizards a 10-point lead in the first half.

"My second game in like two, three weeks, playing, I feel better," Yi said. "I'm still have a slow [reaction] sometime, but I'm feeling better than last game. A couple more games, I'll feel good."

Yi got more minutes than usual, with JaVale McGee having his worst game in weeks. Gentry praised McGee before the game, and the Suns went out and attacked him as they pleased. Saunders spoke before the game about how McGee still loses focus while trying to grasp their defensive schemes, and you could see the frustration as the Suns abused the Wizards in pick-and-roll situations.

Hakim Warrick simply had to roll to the basket and he was going to get a dunk. He did a decent Stoudemire impersonation, as he scored a game-high 26 points without having to do anything creative in the low post. "I didn't think our inside presence showed any physicality," Saunders said. "We didn't give any resistance."

If there was any encouraging sign for the Wizards, it was the play of the bench, which scored a combined 60 points. Nick Young came back from his bruised right thigh to score 20 points, and Trevor Booker also had a solid outing, as he scored a career-high nine points and helped slow down the Suns with aggressive defense.

Booker also made the fans gasp two times in the fourth period, as he rebounded a Wall miss and flushed the ball over Jared Dudley in the time it takes to snap your fingers and later drove around Warrick to dunk on him. "I just tried to come in and do what they brought me in for, bring energy," Booker said. "I thought I did a decent job of it, but I had some open shots that I should've knocked down."

But after the game, Arenas still marveled about Nash. "They put the right personnel around him. Ever since he's been here, he's had the players he needs to make him look good at his age. He's looking like he hasn't slowed down any. As long as he's got shooters around him and players that can go dunk the ball from almost halfcourt, he's always going to be one of the assist leaders."

By Michael Lee  | December 6, 2010; 1:43 AM ET
Categories:  Flip Saunders, Gilbert Arenas, John Wall, Trevor Booker, Yi Jianlian  
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Next: Wizards' road woes continue


What's amazing about Nash is that he's not athletic at all, but quick, savvy, and has game smarts. It doesn't matter who the coach is or who's on his team. No excuses or reasons, Nash is an elite player all by himself.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | December 6, 2010 2:30 AM | Report abuse

How do you bring Areanas off the bench instead of starting him over Hinrich? Flip is a jerk of a coach with no clue. This team has no identity. Hinrich is a role player, not a starter. Gee is a role player not a starter. He needs to stop critizing Mcgee all the time and leave him on the court. He seems to retard Mcgee's growth every time he makes one mistake. Let Thorton play/start, at least until Howard is ready for fulltime duty. Flip seems to have the most assistant coaches in the league and this group still can't get consistency from this team win or lose.

Posted by: garrybrown | December 6, 2010 3:21 AM | Report abuse

It has been said that Gil asked to come off the bench but a REAL coach would set his line up to give your team it's best chance to win by starting your best players. This team will not thrive with Flip as coach

Posted by: zack9633 | December 6, 2010 4:17 AM | Report abuse

wall didnt hit but he had 12 assits and 3 steals he's getting back great dray 24 points on 13 shots good the suns just hit jump shots you gotta live with it and doubled our free throws so its good but like i said in the last post Jwall and Dray have chemistry good we need that their games fit perfectly throw mcgee in and those three are perfect once they get more time in dray and mcgee to get that chemistry on d we will be fine the east is sorry anyways only 1 1/2 out of 7 and 8 seeds so we good.Once John get that rythym back he will be racking up double doubles with 2 to 3 plus steals and 3 to 5 boards

Posted by: davisjustin1428 | December 6, 2010 4:21 AM | Report abuse

We need better players. Not to trash on the players we have in here already but it's pretty obvious. I like what Nick Young has been doing in that role and should continue to come off the bench but we need a good SG at least 6'5". We need another lights out shooter. I would love for Trevor Booker to develop into the defensive SF we need and Seraphin to become the muscle we need down low, but if that does not happen we have to continue to draft until we get the right combination. When you continue to draft at least you still have trade pieces as in the players that don't quite fit.

Posted by: gmac78 | December 6, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

The current starting lineup is just terrible. Wonder if Flip is trying to win or just re-establish Blatche as the go-to option on offense. Gil and Wall don't play well togther, but neither do Wall and Kirk. If only we had a 6'7" SG with a sweet stroke who could play some perimeter D to put next to Wall....

Posted by: divi3 | December 6, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

I remember when Gill came in and Wall was still in at the end as the 1st was winding down the Wizs had great chemistry and was leading by 10 or 12. Phoenix hits a shot or a dunk and Flip calls a timeout.

Flip takes Wall out of the game and puts Hinrich back in and voila the run/momentum is over for the Wizards. The Suns take it from back from us.

Now you might argue that it was time to take Wall out, but you can't call time out in the middle of a run and take out Wall. That is bad coaching. If you have the momentum against a good team the coach can't be the one to stop it by calling time out and subbing.

Wall still played 42 minutes last night so why did you have to take Wall out for Hinrich when the team had the momentum?

And now that Yi is back, McGee's consistency is probably out the window.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 6, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

I do not understand what flip is thinking.
1/what is the explanation to bring Arenas from the bench? NY is enough to spark the secondary.
2/Booker is a real talent,well controlled player,what is the problem of starting him at SF instade of starting KH.
3/ The suns where playing only one system,Pick and roll.why he fail to call a game to stop that.The team was determined to play good defense but they did not have an answer to nash.
4/ The 3rd quarter run was supposed to get a solution,too much minutes for Gee who is a liablity to shoot from open can not win suns with out shooting.
The sun where paying enough attention only to arenas , the rest of wiz where supposed to play agressive to take the ball to the rim,blache did well.coaching is the issue for this blow out game.

Posted by: gtefferra | December 6, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm liking Nick Young's swagger right now. He looks great out there. He looks serious, focused and confident out there. That baseline step-back fadeaway jumper is a thing of beauty!

I'll keep saying this until it actually starts happening; Gil and John Wall need to be starting and playing as many minutes together as possible. Get some chemistry going.

Also, I'm liking the energy/toughness that Booker is bringing to the table. He needs like 5 more minutes/game than he is already playing. Gonna be a LONG season, so we might as well let the young guys play...

Posted by: MEssex | December 6, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Philosophy and chemistry. If Gill doesn't start he has to be the first of the bench and soon.

No, Flip brings Yi in first of the bench for McGee and Gill in much later.

Flip is anything.

We can point to the players all we want about this or that, but the single most prevalent factor that stood out about last nights game was the coaching decisions.

He sits a hot handed Young in the 2nd quarter with two fouls. Dumb decision. Young isn't a starter and he doesn't play Young major minutes so what is he saving him for and what message does that send.

A hot handed player you might have to stay with, with only two fouls.

Flips calls timeout and subs during a run in the first quarter and he takes out a hot handed handed Young with 2 minutes in the second for two fouls.

Conservative safe coaching???


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 6, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

"If there was any encouraging sign for the Wizards, it was the play of the bench, which scored a combined 60 points."

That's what happens when you put all your scorers on the bench. Flip's "starters" are digging an early hole and the bench is having to pull them out. Gee and Hinrich cannot be on the floor with Wall. Flip is coaching a horrible game right now.

Posted by: and_1 | December 6, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Yi plays 26 minutes and McGee 17. Was McGee really having a bad game or did the minutes flip flop affect his game?

How many mpg was McGee averaging while Yi was out?


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 6, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

On the season, McGee is averaging 27 mpg. The games whilst Yi was out, don't know if it was about the same. I assume McGee's mpg increased whilst Yi was out to give him is current mpg number.

The point is though is that whilst Yi was out and McGee's performances were improving and he was playing well, you can't flip flop McGee's minutes for Yi's. Yi has to find his minutes elsewhere and not at the expense of McGee.

We need the positives that McGee is starting to bring to the table and more. If Yi can also bring positives then look at having Yi, Blatche, and McGee at times during the game so that McGee continues to get his minutes.

It is a huge mistake to now drop McGee back 10mpg because Yi is back.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 6, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Also, having Yi at times on the floor with both Blatch and McGee may inexplicably strengthen our interior play and our defensive rebounding.

It may be a much better situation defensively for the Team which all agree needs to play a much better defensive game.

It also, may limit the need for McGee to help on every interior play in the paint weakening his defensive positioning.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 6, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

This is one game when I understood Yi getting more minutes than Mcgee. Mcgee wasn't having a really good game and seemed to be spinning around trying to keep up with Nash and all that he does. Phoenix is going to light the scoreboard up and Yi probably keeps the flow of offense better. He is a better option at pick and pop because he can knock down a open look.

Posted by: gmac78 | December 6, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

The 2nd half line up gave away any chance the Wizards might have had of winning. The wizards got outscored by 11 points in the first 8 minutes of the 3rd quarter with Wall, Hinrich, Gee, Blatche and McGee/Yi on the floor. How could Flip really play this line up against the highest scoring team in the NBA? Arenas and Young didn't get in the 3rd quarter until the 4 minute mark. Plus Cartier Martin would have been better suited for this style of play than Hinrich.

Posted by: spades72 | December 6, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: fakedude2 | December 6, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Hinrich played 11 minutes in the 3rd quarter ( more than anybody else ). Had one missed shot, 2 rebounds and one assist. The team was outscored by 14pts while he was on the floor. I know it wasn't just him but Cartier Martin could have gotten some of those minutes.

Posted by: spades72 | December 6, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

At the end of the 1st half it was a 3 point game. At the end of the 3rd quarter it was a 17 point game. Two of the team best scorers stayed on the bench for the first 8 minutes of the 3rd quarter. Do I need to say more.

Posted by: spades72 | December 6, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

divi3- his name is Cartier Marting. What a disgusting excuse for a game. The first thing I would do is go in and slap the coach. Whether it is Blatche or Yi playing no defense along with three guards, we can not stop ANY team in the NBA. Every night we see it, teams raining jump shots and shooting close to 50% with the rotation of 3 guards and a baby poop PF. Hinrich can not stop his grandmother from shooting a jumper over him. Dont get me wrong, he has great talents, but not defending jump shots, and neither can Arenas or Young. Nick (microwave) Young can score as can everyone else, but you must get defensive stops as well. Did we really think we were going to outscore the Suns. If not, dont we need to get some stops? Nash went 8-8, he's great but can we get someone on him with height to give him a poor look at least once. Richardson shot 54% and Nash 100%, come on give me a break. 127 points to Toronto and 125 points tonight. This coach deserves to be fired. Was his idea to improve the problems we are having to put Yi in who has almost no defense, against the Suns. I can not watch it for now, I must stop witnessing this type of game in order to keep my fondness for the team. I am a Grunfeld fan, but, if he can not get the coach to change his approach, then Grunfeld must go also. It has come to that point. Grunfeld is the top basketball guy, he hired the coach, and if he feels this is the way to run the franchise, then I have been wrong about him, and he must go. If Grunfeld objects to this type of performance then he must force some changes. Saunders does not have the judgment to make smart decisions. All those years with Kevin Garnett and the others with the Pistons elevated his reputation. I haven't seen the genius in his two years here.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | December 6, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Night after night the Wizards go with the same offensively challenged lineup. Andray Blatche is the only starter with a scorers mentality.

This is also why the Wiz are winless on the road. Home court advantage means a lot in the NBA with the foul calls favoring the home team. The worst thing a road team could do is start the game with its best scorers (Arenas and Young) on the bench. Flip presents this conservative (losing) lineup every night.

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing, the same way, and expect different results. So, who's the insane person here? Surely Ted Leonsis is smart enough to see through this nonsense. I don't see Saunders and/or Grunfeld lasting through this season.

Posted by: musicmanjr | December 6, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: 1bmffwb | December 6, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

A couple of people have asked why Martin is not used in these situations. I have been saying start one of our point guards, Martin, Gee, Blatche (if he will play defense) and McGee. Length, strength, rebounding, offense, defense, and energy. Lots of bench strength.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | December 6, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

The 2nd half line up gave away any chance the Wizards might have had of winning. The wizards got outscored by 11 points in the first 8 minutes of the 3rd quarter with Wall, Hinrich, Gee, Blatche and McGee/Yi on the floor. How could Flip really play this line up against the highest scoring team in the NBA? Arenas and Young didn't get in the 3rd quarter until the 4 minute mark. Plus Cartier Martin would have been better suited for this style of play than Hinrich.

Posted by: spades72 | December 6, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

we need to start calling Captain Kirk The StreakBuster his ability to KILL a run is uncanny. Down 3 at the half, down 17 at the end of the 3rd and 11 mins from Capt Kirk sheesh, no scoring or defense.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | December 6, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Jeff Van Gundy could take this team, realign the lineup, and this team would improve. They've grown sick of Saunders and are not even pretending to play defense. If they are doing their best, then the situation is even worse. Its lose-lose no matter how you look at it.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | December 6, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

The best unit on the floor last night with Gil, Wall, Yi, Thorton/Young, and McGee. So why is KH still starting? Why is Gee (who got cut from the spurs) starting over Young & Thornton? I fear by the time Flip see's what many see any playoff hopes will be all but a pipe dream.

Posted by: Gooddad | December 6, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

He's amazing, a rare breed for sure. He's almost like the Drew Brees of the NBA or something. You know he can do what he does, you see him do it, but you're...not sure how he does it. Freak of nature.

Posted by: BMoreChil | December 6, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

FLIP better save his money, because he will never get another coaching job in the NBA.

Posted by: maejude | December 6, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

One of the problems the Wizard's big men have is their lack of understanding man/ball relationship. With a passer like Nash you need to know where the ball & your man is at all times. There is no excuse for the passer and the receiver being that open. Not to take anything from Nash, but it is easy to rack up 15-18 assist against a team (big men),that has no clue as to where the ball, or their man is.

Switching gears, I think Flip as good a coach as he is, needs to get Hinrich out of the starting lineup ASAP. Kirk is not a starting guard in anybody's league- including the D-League. His defense is over rated, yet this is Flip's justification for having him on the floor so frequently.

In case no one noticed, Arenas' defense has improved a great deal this year. I know Gil suggested that Kirk start, but he is doing all he can to be a team player, including humbling himself to keep his promise to Ted about being a "great team mate" (amongst some other things). The long and the short of it is- Flip needs Arenas in the starting lineup, and bring Kirk off the bench. Arenas is no substitute in any league. The Wizards need production and Kirk is struggling to score and it is a definite reflection on the final score of our losses.

Posted by: esmith4 | December 7, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

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