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Posted at 8:03 AM ET, 12/22/2010

Wizards communicating better, playing harder

By Michael Lee
Morning brew

With the exception of the final 33 seconds against the Miami Heat, the past 10 quarters have arguably been the best basketball that the Wizards have played all season. Over that stretch, the Wizards have outscored their opponents -- New Jersey, Miami and Charlotte -- by a combined 41 points, forced 57 turnovers and held them to just 41.5 percent shooting (71 of 171).

"We're just into it more, communicating much better. That's the main thing, putting ourselves in good position, communicating, and trying to help each other." Kirk Hinrich said, adding that the team is starting to play more consistently. "We should have it by now. We're twenty-plus games into the season. In the past we haven't done a very good job of that, but for whatever reason these past couple games we've been doing a good job of getting our sets, making hard cuts, spacing the floor and sharing the ball."

Hinrich helped spark the turnaround in New Jersey, when he got upset about his team's lackluster play and took it upon himself to get his team going. Since then, Hinrich has maintained his high level of play, with the trade of Gilbert Arenas and the addition of Josh Howard contributing to some inspired play.

"We played hard our last 10 quarters," Saunders said. "We were pretty good against Miami. We were good in the second half against New Jersey. There is no coincidence that our defense has gotten better with the addition of Josh Howard. Josh has added so much defensively, in the things that he can do. We did a better job of containing, we were very active, contested shots and we rebounded the ball well."

Rashard Lewis will make his debut with the Wizards on Wednesday against Chicago, giving the team more confidence, which they will need against the Bulls, who have won eight of their past nine games. The Wizards are trying to win consecutive games for the first time this season. "I think guys are feeling good about how we've played, how we've competed," Saunders said. "Got a big challenge [on Wednesday], as far as Chicago."

FROM THE POST
Gilbert Arenas talks about his fresh start.

Rashard Lewis completes his first practice as a Wizard and discusses his transition to the team.

AROUND THE WEB
At Bullets Forever, Jake Whitacre hands out his keys to the palace.

Gilbert Arenas's slow start in Orlando hasn't dimmed his confidence (Tim Povtak, Fanhouse).

The Dallas Mavericks are poised to aggressively pursue Carmelo Anthony (Ken Berger, CBSSports.com).

What was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the Christmas Day showdown with Miami turned into an undressing for the lethargic Los Angeles Lakers (Billy Witz, FOXSports.com).

Holiday bonus: Shaquille O'Neal conducts the Boston Pops.

By Michael Lee  | December 22, 2010; 8:03 AM ET
Categories:  Morning brew  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Rashard Lewis completes first practice, to debut against Chicago
Next: Rashard Lewis prepares for debut with Wizards

Comments

Earl Boykins defeats the Lakers! Hilarious.

Posted by: nmik | December 22, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Bringing-in Kevin Pritchard is a must, Ernie Grunfeld is a bust.

Posted by: FireGrunfeld | December 22, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

The improved D is directly correlated to the subtraction of Gil. It didn't matter who he guarded, he got beat.

Posted by: ZardsFan1 | December 22, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Gilbert Arenas has now played 2 games with Orlando, but the WP online poll still asks whether he is going to lead the Wiz in points and/or assists. Doesn't anyone edit the Post's online edition?
Separately, the trade looks good. Lewis doesn't want to be here and will stink, but Gil is not playing with any heart in Orlando either. So $30M in cap savings down the road will be huge for us.

Posted by: kauf5413 | December 22, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

OK, so the Wizards did not play well at the end of the Heat game, but no one can look at the replay on Hinrich's final layup attempt and not see that he was fouled. His elbow was knocked upwards in a way that totally threw off the trajectory of the shot and if it happened to anyone else or at any other point in the game, the fould would have been called and no one would have objected. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | December 22, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

in that link to the lethargic play from the los angelos lakers I saw a sentence that I thought would never come.

"And yet the Lakers were helpless to stop Earl Boykins, who at 5-foot-5 is the NBA's shortest player and who came off the bench to score 22 points."

WOW lol.

Posted by: jefferu | December 22, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

One bad seed in bball with only 5 on the court kills any defensive scheme. 
GA was lethal to any intention of playing  team D!
Good riddance. 
He is not lazy as much as incapable at this point. 
As I have stated he has no lateral movement. This goes for offense as well as defense. He can only move straight ahead thanks to the triple knee surgery. 
Watched him last night , and he tried playing D to impress his new bosses. But alas all he could do was reach and grab, resulting in 5 quick fouls and done. 
Interesting that on NBA tv they were all saying that Gil would shortly replace JN at the point. Not if they want to win. 
End of GA!
Now onto the New Wiz, with a positive spin. 
We are now in a good position to actually become an interesting and exciting relevant team again. 
We now have developing youth , Ny Jm Jw At Ks Ab along with capable vets Jh Rl Kh. We have the capability to play legitimate players at their beat positions and the ability to be flexible and capable of team defense. 
Also the athleticism and skilled players to play uptempo and get exciting.  
Go Wizzzzzzzzzzzz!

Posted by: mricklen | December 22, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Poops left out Tb as part of the young herd. Like these complements.
It does make HA and Yi totally superfluous.
Love what KS brings to the pivot.
He actually seems to stop bigs inside dominance whenevr he enters.
He should be the first big sub, way before HA.
Also AT should be added to the superfluous list.

Really like what is happening and when JW returns look out. As long as Twitch moves Kh to back up pg. Don't know that we can fully trust Twitch yet.

Posted by: mricklen | December 22, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

"Bringing-in Kevin Pritchard is a must, Ernie Grunfeld is a bust."

Posted by: FireGrunfeld | December 22, 2010 8:39 AM

Is that the same Kevin Pritchard who used two lottery picks on players with bad knees who've been unable to stay on the court (one of whom he gave a max contract to)? The same Kevin Pritchard who passed on drafting the youngest scoring champion in NBA history and the star of the gold-medal winning World Championship team to pick a raw, injury-plagued big man whose career with the Blazers (and possibly in the NBA) will likely be over after 4 years (in which he only played 1 season's worth of games)? The same Kevin Pritchard who, in the midst of a successful season, traded for a ball-dominating PG whose playing style and personality openly clashed with that of his star player, resulting in on-court and locker room chemistry issues that are still hanging over the club? The same Kevin Pritchard who got unceremoniously canned by the team on the eve of the draft?

That Kevin Pritchard? A "must"? Really?

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 22, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

On the active GM list I would take Danny Ainge, Donnie Nelson and Pat Riley but we all know they aren't going anywhere. If you fire Ernie a good GM would be a new one that probably comes out of nowhere or was vice president somewhere else. But it goes back to the debate is the owner willing to write a blank check and pay luxury tax for a great roster? only San Antonio has been an under the luxury tax team that win multiple championships.

Posted by: jefferu | December 22, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I like what Howard's defense brings to the table tonight (check Deng) moreso than what Rashard's offense would bring...interested to see how Flip divides the minutes.

Does KH have some insider secrets on checking DRose? As much as they have played in practice, perhaps KH will be more effective than expected. If he's not, does Flip put Nick on Rose? Lots of pieces in play Flipper, coach'em up!

Posted by: divi3 | December 22, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

gotta get Austin Rivers in the 2012 draft. The kid's a real player.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | December 22, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

For where the Wizards are right now and what they're trying to accomplish, I would prefer a GM with a strong scouting / drafting background, or at least make sure we have an abundance of those kinds of talent evaluator types in the organization. I don't get the sense that we do.

Posted by: ts35 | December 22, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Rashard Lewis should be able to play in a line up along with whatever F they need him to. Remember he played alongside Hedo Turk with both players being 6'10".

If they need him to play some 3 and he can't defend a lot of other 3's, that's something we wouldn't be unacustomed to. If they need him to play some 4 and he doesn't provide the desired inside presense, that also something we wouldn't be unacustomed to.

Posted by: gmac78 | December 22, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I like what Howard's defense brings to the table tonight (check Deng) moreso than what Rashard's offense would bring...interested to see how Flip divides the minutes.

Does KH have some insider secrets on checking DRose? As much as they have played in practice, perhaps KH will be more effective than expected. If he's not, does Flip put Nick on Rose? Lots of pieces in play Flipper, coach'em up!

Posted by: divi3

Be interesting to see how everyone gets used now. Flip talked up Rashard as a go-to kind of guy and harkened back to his days in Seattle where he would go wherever the matchup dictated, inside or outside. Aside from Rashard being a few years removed from that role, what would that mean for everyone else? We were crowded at the 3/4 before, now it's worse.

I think it's counter-productive for the long-term to bump AB from the starting lineup. In the short-term, I think they want to keep Howard's minutes down until he gets his legs under him a bit more. So there's some time to be had at PF and some at SF, but that squeezes Booker's time, AT's time and ultimately Seraphin's time. I think it's important long-term for Booker and Seraphin continue to get minutes.

Should be interesting. And of course just more fodder for the blogs.

As for Rose, I'm not sure anyone has great tips on checking him. Keep him as a scorer and less of a distributor is probably the best way to go, to keep his teammates from getting involved. I expect the Wiz to switch it up on D-Rose. Probably some KH, some Young, maybe even some Howard, depending on who else is on the floor.

But as with all great D, it starts with the guy checking him, but it's really about good teamwork and communication.

Posted by: ts35 | December 22, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Kalorama's revisionism is a hoot, Roy won ROY, what has Foye achieved? Oden was the then consensus pick, too-bad he is injured. You dare to mention contract extensions given to injured players when discussing Ernie??? Give me Kevin Pritchard over Ernie any day of the week.

Posted by: FireGrunfeld | December 22, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

For where the Wizards are right now and what they're trying to accomplish, I would prefer a GM with a strong scouting / drafting background, or at least make sure we have an abundance of those kinds of talent evaluator types in the organization. I don't get the sense that we do. Posted by: ts35

Ted was supposed to invest more in scouting. I think that was one of the first things he talked about after buying the team. It's not the kind of thing the Post follows up on, but maybe on the the blogs will.

Posted by: djnnnou | December 22, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the best thing about Rashard is he'll make Dray work harder. It's too easy for AB to be the best big on this team, he can sleepwalk through practice and be in so-so shape while remaining the best option. Hopefully having a 12yr vet who Flip (by his nature) will want to play heavy minutes will push AB a little harder.

That said, I think Blatche is currently playing how Flip wants him to for the most part. The issue is his shot's just not falling

Posted by: divi3 | December 22, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"Kalorama's revisionism is a hoot"

There's nothing even slightly "revisionist" about it. Was anything I said untrue or distorted? Nope. Not even a little bit. The facts are what the facts are.

"Oden was the then consensus pick, too-bad he is injured."

Pritchard, like Grunfeld, was paid to get it right. He got it wrong. Just because everybody else would have made the same mistake doesn't make it any less of a mistake. (By way of parallel example, the fact that every other GM in the NBA passed on Dejuan Blair--most of them twice--didn't stop people from screaming for Grunfeld's head for doing the same.)

"You dare to mention contract extensions given to injured players when discussing Ernie??? "

I do when pointing out that he's not the only one who's made that miscalculation.

The point (which, predictably, you missed) is that Pritchard has a mixed bag of a track record with good moves and bad, just like Grunfeld. It's a bottom line business and the bottom line of his tenure in Portland hasn't produced any of the kind of tangible results that would make hiring him anything close to a "must." During his 4 years as GM, the Blazers:

  • never won their division
  • never secured home court in the playoffs
  • never made it out of the first round

So tell me what, exactly, has Pritchard done that makes him such a can't miss "must" have upgrade over Grunfeld? At least Grunfled manage to get the team into the second round (to say nothing of having acquired all but 1 of the players on a Knicks roster that made it to the Finals).

Just to be clear: I'd have no problem with Grunfeld being fired, nor with Pritchard replacing him. But the notion that getting rid of Grunfled, in and of itself, would somehow be addition by subtraction (which seems to underlie much of the calls for his dismissal) and that pretty much anyone could do a better job than him is pure fantasy.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 22, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Ted was supposed to invest more in scouting. I think that was one of the first things he talked about after buying the team. It's not the kind of thing the Post follows up on, but maybe on the the blogs will.

Posted by: djnnnou

I remember hearing that as well, I just don't remember hearing of any specific hires or changes made to the scouting department.

But beyond that, while I think EG is a generally a middle-of-the-road, satisfactory GM, good enough for some things, he's not my first choice for bringing in young talent to build around.

Posted by: ts35 | December 22, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Ted was supposed to invest more in scouting. I think that was one of the first things he talked about after buying the team. It's not the kind of thing the Post follows up on, but maybe on the the blogs will.

Posted by: djnnnou

I remember hearing that as well, I just don't remember hearing of any specific hires or changes made to the scouting department.

But beyond that, while I think EG is a generally a middle-of-the-road, satisfactory GM, good enough for some things, he's not my first choice for bringing in young talent to build around.

Posted by: ts35 | December 22, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Oden was an almost consensus number one pick. I remember the discussions that draft and there were a few teams that had Durant as their number one pick. Oden wasn't exactly an absolute can't miss player and had already shown a proclivity to be injured. Besides the combination of Portland, number one pick, and big men never seems to work.

"But beyond that, while I think EG is a generally a middle-of-the-road, satisfactory GM, good enough for some things, he's not my first choice for bringing in young talent to build around."

He really struck out with AB, NY, JM, JW, Michael Redd (when in Milwaukee), and all the picks to assemble the NY Knicks finals club??? Yeah, EG is a horrible talent evaluator. He also, correctly it seems, stated that Griffin and Evans were the only two lottery worthy players in the previous draft when we had the 5th pick (hence, the trade). In addition, I like what I see from Seraphin and Booker so far. From the positions he has drafted from since he arrived (mostly middle first round and later), EG has gotten above average results. That is fairly hard to deny although I'm sure some haters may try.

If I have an issue with EG, it's with some of his contract offers, e.g., GA, AJ, ET. But, all GM's have contract regrets and draft failures. It's a matter of record and success. Pre-EG this team wasn't even on the NBA map. We proceeded shortly thereafter to make the playoffs 4 straight seasons and barring injuries would have most likely made the playoffs 6 straight seasons or still counting. Those are facts. Now, it's a do-ever/rebuild bc the original core couldn't sustain the success bc of injuries, etc.... And, EG has quickly added cap flexiblility along with young talented players. As good a start as you can get in such a situation!

Posted by: rphilli721 | December 22, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Kalorama's distortion when referring to Pritchards record, was in merging the current injury status of Oden and Roy to knock Pritchard's original draft decisions. Roy ( who is ranked 30th in salary) played fine for a while and Roy was certainly not expected to be out this long.
The rest of your post distorted by omission, you mention the draft- night firing without mentioning the fact that Pritchard was asked to stay and draft for the Blazers that night, you also omitted the problems Kevin was having with the owners.

Pritchard is far from perfect, but I would take him in a second over the "stale" Grunfeld.

Posted by: FireGrunfeld | December 22, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Kalorama's distortion when referring to Pritchards record, was in merging the current injury status of Oden and Roy to knock Pritchard's original draft decisions. Roy ( who is ranked 30th in salary) played fine for a while and Roy was certainly not expected to be out this long.

I don't claim to know what's what in this situation, but certainly a lot of online scuttlbebutt decries Pritchard (with the approval of Portland's medical staff) for signing players who should have been more carefully vetted for injury, or were believed to have injuries at the time they were signed.

Some folks claim that's why Pritchard was fired.

Posted by: nmik | December 22, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

He really struck out with AB, NY, JM, JW, Michael Redd (when in Milwaukee), and all the picks to assemble the NY Knicks finals club??? Yeah, EG is a horrible talent evaluator. He also, correctly it seems, stated that Griffin and Evans were the only two lottery worthy players in the previous draft when we had the 5th pick (hence, the trade). In addition, I like what I see from Seraphin and Booker so far. From the positions he has drafted from since he arrived (mostly middle first round and later), EG has gotten above average results. That is fairly hard to deny although I'm sure some haters may try.
Posted by: rphilli721

It's not hard to deny but it is hard to prove. Unless you're going to go back and break down the past however many drafts by draft position and see how many good players were taken at those spots. But also remember to evaluate how deep the talent was in any given year, yada yada yada. I wish you luck with that.

I never said he was a 'horrible' talent evaluator (though some haters may try to say I did). His draft record is, like most of the rest of his GM resume, average. But if the Wiz are a team that is trying to build through the draft with young players, I'd like better than 'average'. When you go to pull examples and pull one from a previous stop and four homers, it's not exactly a strong case.

Also, if I mention that AB, NY, (and to a lesser extent JM) took years to contribute, I'm assuming you'll jump in with all sorts of mitigating factors. Yet, you have no problem already judging that EG was 'correct' about all of the players not named Griffin or Evans taken last year. Steph Curry for one argues against your theory on EG's assessment (which imo, is incorrect). Meanwhile, Jennings, Hill, Holiday, Beaubois, Lawson, Collison, and Casspi have all shown signs of becoming solid NBA players.

Back to your assessment of what EG said. I certainly may be wrong but as I recall, it wasn't so much about players not being lottery worthy, as it was that he didn't think any of the players likely to be available would be able to contribute right away to what he thought was a playoff caliber team. At least not as much as Foye and Miller. And we all know how that story ended. But for what it's worth, I really didn't fault EG for that move if that's what he thought.

If you look back at the teams EG built in NY, Milwaukee and now here, the success was built not through the draft, but through mainly trades and FA.

Beyond all of that, my real fault with EG in the draft is a) how he uses the draft and b) the types of players he tends to draft. Booker and Seraphin in their own ways are a bit of a departure from that, but if you look at his overall draft record, I'm not keen on the types of players he drafts. Just my opinion. Maybe it will be different with a different owner.

Posted by: ts35 | December 22, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

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