Injuries take toll as Wizards struggle to find answers offensively
It could either be seen as evidence of his continued growth or a sign of the dismal state of affairs for the Wizards, but are they really in a position where the team has to hope that Nick Young can save them? The Wizards are 23 games into a season that already appears destined for the lottery before Christmas -- I know, what's new? -- and they are dealing with more injuries than any team should have to face this early in a campaign.
The latest setbacks to Andray Blatche and John Wall shouldn't be long term problems, but their absence -- along with Yi Jianlian spraining his right knee within five minutes of the game -- put undue pressure on the Wizards in their second game against the Los Angeles Lakers in eight days. The Lakers are one of the highest scoring teams in the league, but the Wizards were scraping for some offense without two of their three leading scorers, and Gilbert Arenas focused on being a distributor with his shot too often finding the wrong side of the rim.
Young tried to provide a lift off the bench, as he scored 17 points in the first half, proving that the Wizards should either invest in a pair of glasses with Lakers reflection lenses or have some inactive player walk around in a Lakers uniform before games and wear purple and gold on the bench. Something about this team really gets Young going.
But the Lakers switched up their defense on Young in the second half, as they held the Wizards' lone scoring option on this night to just four points. "It was tough, they was throwing more guys at me, it's something I got to learn from," Young said after the game. "They kind of keyed in on me in the second half, and they made the defense more tough."
Arenas said that Young is starting to figure out that teams are focused on ways of shutting him down, now that he has experienced some success. "Nick is becoming a player, he's kind of coming into his won. That's what the NBA is about, adjusting. Countering. He watched a lot of film on how he got open in game one, but game two, they tried something different on him. From there, you have to adjust. That's what playoff basketball is about. He has a lot to learn, but I think he did well tonight."
The situation with Arenas is growing more complicated, as he once flourished offensively in the games that Wall missed but now founders. In the past two games that the Wizards have been without Wall against Sacramento and the Lakers, Arenas has scored a combined 30 points, but shot a disappointing 11 for 32 (34.3 percent). His three-point shooting as also been abysmal in the past 10 games, as he connected on just 14 of his 57 attempts (24.5 percent). He was just 1 for 7 from long range against the Lakers.
Arenas had 10 assists but was asked if he felt that he needed to carry more of an offensive load with the Wizards lacking much scoring punch. "No, no, no. Right now, what I have to offer is I can bring a little bit of everything," he said. "I haven't really paid attention to scoring much this year. I've just been trying to play a solid, solid game. I'm averaging six assists [actually 5.2] and it's something I averaged when I had the ball in my hands all the time. Now I'm averaging the same number of assists without the ball."
When asked if he was satisfied with that role, Arenas replied, "Right now, yes."
After the game, word began to spread that a possible deal could be in the works to move Arenas to either Charlotte or Orlando, but multiple sources shot down the speculation. And, with teams able to trade players who signed free agent deals last summer beginning on Wednesday, you can only expect the rumors to increase. Either way, something seems amiss right now as it relates to Arenas.
JaVale McGee had 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots, but he has had some difficulty in the past few weeks maintaining his level of play before the team embarked on that west coast trip. With the Lakers' dominant front line of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and now Andrew Bynum can make any big man look silly and they certainly provided a serious challenge for McGee.
Saunders has consistently called out his big men, namely McGee, for not being physical enough, and it has forced him to rely on the extremely raw Kevin Seraphin. Seraphin has no fear with mixing it up, but he doesn't seem to have a clear grasp of what's going on. But if you ask Lakers small forward Ron Artest, the same could be said about McGee. Artest simultaneously offered subtle praise and an incredibly scathing assessment of McGee after the game.
"He potentially could be a really good player," Artest said. "I think he got to go to school a little bit more. He's got to work on that IQ a little bit. He got to watch more tape. I don't think he watches tape. I think he plays video games. I do. I don't think he watches tape. I think he plays video games and I think he could possibly have an Atari. He should upgrade to a Play Station."
Atari? He's that out of date?
"Possibly Atari," Artest said. "He could potentially become a force, if, if he wants to. But if he doesn't, he can continue to play Atari."
With Yi and Blatche down, the Wizards called on Trevor Booker and he continued to provide the hustle and rugged play that Saunders demands of his big men. He scored nine points and added a career-high nine rebounds. "I just wanted to bring a lot of energy and play great defense, and take what comes to me on the offensive end," Booker said. "They tried to not let me get easy baskets. I still got a couple, but they did a pretty good job of keeping me away from the basket."
Little is coming easily for the Wizards on the offensive end, as they failed to reach triple digits for the third game in a row and the seventh time in the past nine games. The Wizards haven't won many games this season, but they are 3-1 at home this season when they score at least 100 points. But after the Lakers demolished them on Tuesday, the Wizards are just 6-5 at home this season, with their next game coming against New Jersey on the road, where they are 0-12.
"We've got to find a way to get a win. Period," Thornton said. "Road game, winnable game. But we'll see."
| December 15, 2010; 1:48 AM ET
Categories: Andray Blatche, Gilbert Arenas, JaVale McGee, John Wall, Nick Young, Trevor Booker, Yi Jianlian
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