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Posted at 1:48 AM ET, 12/15/2010

Injuries take toll as Wizards struggle to find answers offensively

By Michael Lee

Can't score like this. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)


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.


Can't score like this, either. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

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."

By Michael Lee  | 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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Next: Short-handed Wizards increasingly frustrated

Comments

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.

What the line the Nets by 12?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | December 15, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

Nah man, Javelle’s got a Commodore 64.

Posted by: MeviousMan | December 15, 2010 3:39 AM | Report abuse

My favorite part about driving around LA listening to sports radio on this fine 70 degree California day... all the Lakers ads; "John Wall and the Wizards are going to need more than magic wands and flying brooms to avenge their competitive loss at Staples Center Tuesday night." I heard it four or five times today and was at Tuesdays game. I was proud of my Bullets but you can bet your arse I wasn't screaming "Let's GO Wizards" Go Frickin' Bullets!

Posted by: WestCoastBullet | December 15, 2010 3:43 AM | Report abuse

His IQ being challenged by Ron Artest has got to be a low-water mark in Javale McGee's development. The obvious irony notwithstanding, I hope Javale takes heed to Artest's critique and becomes more focused and disciplined in developing his immense basketball talent.

Posted by: bazookajoe1 | December 15, 2010 4:24 AM | Report abuse

Artest's quote should be cut out of the paper on posted in the Wizards locker room.

Posted by: PostSubscriber | December 15, 2010 5:32 AM | Report abuse

What is this? Is this really on McGee? In the final analysis it has to be by default if nothingelse.

Artest cosigns with Odom and the story of all Run and Jump and no BBall smarts grows.

This reminds me of what Michael Vick said about his days in Atlanta. He said he was so much a freak of nature that he never did the things to prepare himself to be the best QB he could be. He didn't study the game and it wasn't until he met McNabb and McNabb taught him how to study/prepare himself for the game. Andy Reid, also had he not had the life experiences with his son's might not have never given Vick a chance.

Vick, realizing that he truly received a second chance is appearing to make the best of it and look at his QB play now.

Javale McGee as Vick chose in his Atlanta days has choices to make about his career. If it is true that he isn't a student of the game, then what is it going to take.

John Thompson always laments on his talk show of how vets are ushered out of teams/the league more quickly now than the game of yesterday. He says there are mostly young guys on the ends of benches and the young players do not have the guidance and the teaching of how the game ought to be played.

Donovan McNabb said just yesterday that Free Agency is a very important part of the game, because those are the guys that must teach, add the nucleas, and show the Team how to win.

Whom has been the leaders, the vets, the core, the nucleus for the Wizard organization whom is driving and leading this organization.

Leadership/Captaincy is a big deal. Those that think it is just some cursory unimportant role would be hugely mistaken.

Gilbert Arenas hasn't chosen to LEAD this team and the WIZARDS have not chosen him. The WIZARDS right now are rudderless. Trust me when I tell you that Wall and Hinrich are not the leaders and cannot be now.

It isn't Flip or Ernie, and it hasn't come from Ted yet either.

I think it was Kalo_rama that cited an article where the Wizard team was portrayed as having about the lowest BBall IQ in the League.

Is this a shot across the bow of the players that Ernie has chosen, or is it a shot across the bow of the organization?

Initially, you have to say that the players carry responsibility but once the player has been in the organization for some time then the organization must carry the burden.

The player becomes emblematic of the organization. Who is leading/running the show rounds here????

Will the real leader please stand up! No one is standing yet.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 15, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

i'm glad somebody finally seemed to notice that Arenas isn't even trying to be a force out there. He plays ok defense, although he cheats too much. On offense he just stands around the three point line most of the time. He doesn't move without the ball. On the rare occasions that he does drive (maybe a half dozen times last night) he almost always passes at the last second. It's usually not a good pass.

He wasn't doing this three weeks ago. Has he just given up? Is his knee bothering him? Something's not right. If he's physically ok then Saunders needs to find a nice comfy place for him on the bench to watch the game. Better than him watching it on the court.

Posted by: stevie2 | December 15, 2010 7:04 AM | Report abuse

@stevie2

I'm just shocked that Gilbert can still play with his bum knee. Sure, he isn't what he used to be, but give the man credit. I just wish his jump shot would come back!

Posted by: MeviousMan | December 15, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Trust me when I tell you that Wall and Hinrich are not the leaders and cannot be now.

It isn't Flip or Ernie, and it hasn't come from Ted yet either.

"........I think it was Kalo_rama that cited an article where the Wizard team was portrayed as having about the lowest BBall IQ in the League.

Is this a shot across the bow of the players that Ernie has chosen, or is it a shot across the bow of the organization?

Initially, you have to say that the players carry responsibility but once the player has been in the organization for some time then the organization must carry the burden.

The player becomes emblematic of the organization. Who is leading/running the show rounds here????

Will the real leader please stand up! No one is standing yet."
LarryInClintonMD.
TLG= Ted Lose Grunfeld!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: fakedude2 | December 15, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

I've said this before. It was an egregious mistake for Saunders and the organization to annoit Wall and Hinrich the symbolical leaders.

This naming derails the very thing the org would seek to accomplish. Wall, two years away from high school doesn't know a damn thing about captaining/leading an NBA team.

Hinrich, well, why would you name him...it is kinda naive to have named him.

I feel and still do, that forever how long that Ted feels that Arenas should be on this Team that he had to charge Arenas to lead.

Arenas isn't a role player, he is a lead player, a leader. He thought and maybe he still does, erroneously, that he can attain the status of being a top player in the league without being a leader is just wrong.

If Arenas believes he shouldn't be leading this team then he, Arenas will never attain his preinjury status again. He has got to know this. He can't be a role player playing 3rd fiddle behind Wall and Hinrich.

On this team, right now, for this Team and Wall to put this ship sternly in the waters and chart a noble path, somebody has got to lead and that person has to be Arenas.

Arenas is the one to lead this team on the fasttrack/rebuild.

Without him and with him playing 3rd fiddle we see the results every game.

And to the proponents who say that Gilbert must go, you all must realize, that he is the only leader on this Team. Flip Saunders, though it is debatable at best whether he is doing a good coaching job, it is certain that he is not a leader.

Leadership is not for everybody and Gilbert has led badly in the past. But, IMO Ted Leonsis needs to tell Gilbert, Flip and Ernie, that while Gill is still here he has to lead this team and he must do it well.

Just my 2 cents worth.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 15, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Seraphin should be an All Star next season... hahahahaha,
good pick Grunfeld.
Losers in a Culture of Losing.

Posted by: fakedude2 | December 15, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

"John Thompson always laments on his talk show of how vets are ushered out of teams/the league more quickly now than the game of yesterday. He says there are mostly young guys on the ends of benches and the young players do not have the guidance and the teaching of how the game ought to be played."

I think he has a point.And if you have young guys on the bench, there's a segment of the fan base that is after you to play them. Ready or not -- usually not. If we're losing anyway, the fans argue, why not give the youngsters a chance to develop? But the product on the court is just sad. Still, if you put Fab Oberto out there instead, you have to listen to dopey comments about his age.

I'm happy to watch Booker and Seraphin out there playing, because they're at least trying to go in the right direction, but then, I don't actually expect them to put together a victory.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 15, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Oh wait -- I forgot. You can always blame the coaching.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 15, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Gil's certainly not playing like a guy that's willing to put a team on his back and win a game. I'd say he's taking the team first thing nearly to the extreme. Seems to want to prove he can pass and defend. Doesn't seem to be playing with any swag at all.

There are some rumors floating around Gil, our delivery truck driver from Cleveland even told me there are Gil rumors floating around Cleveland talk radio. The funny thing about the Cleveland rumors is that they want us to take Jamison back in a deal.

Ron Artest saying your not smart, wow that's got to smart some...

Without much other frontcourt help, McGee's going to get bounced around by frontlines like the Lakers quite a bit. It's a learning experience he's going to have to go through. I still don't think he's a center, more of a power foward in a really long body. I'd agree with Darnell's assessment, longterm I'd look for a burley guy like Cousins to pair with McGee.

Seraphin has a low NBA IQ at this point, but he's got the body and the skills, it's going to hurt some to watch, but he's going to have to play himself into an NBA player. And it's going to take some time.
Could he be that rugged center type the Wizards are looking for down the line?

I remember way back when Jason Kidd was a rookie, he got banged up quite a bit, NBA guys are going to react to being blown by by putting you on the floor a lot. Wall's going to have to learn to protect his body a little.

Nick Young's growing into a real NBA player little by little. Ernie may have his future backcourt already in place, Young and Wall could develop into quite a combo if they ever get to hit the floor together.
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | December 15, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

The Wizards have had so many injuries the past several years but they keep using this as the reason for poor play. Other teams have injuries as well and have success in spite of them. It has become just a poor excuse for playing poorly and not giving 100% night in and night out which is their jobs. Also, I know that Leonis has said that changing the name is too expensive but perhaps bad luck or karma is coming from the name "Wizards." If you look at their track record since the name change is has been nothing except horrific.

Posted by: ninehall58 | December 15, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I've said this before

------

yeah, larryinclintonmd, but only 736 times. sure hope you keep repeating it til ted, ernie, and flip get the message.

Posted by: MinuMang | December 15, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

who's this Young kid? He's pretty good.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | December 15, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

The variability of such a young squad is more of a curse than a gift. Flip has always coached veteran players at all his stops (remember even w/ KG & Steph in Minnesota, their teams had Sam Mitchell, Anthony Peeler, Malik Sealy, Spree, & Sam Cassell). First & foremost, the versatility of the Wizards player's individual games murder team continuity because team roles won't ever be concrete. The strengths of this team is clearly perimeter oriented, but if your so-called post players rather shoot 20 footers, as if they're the second coming of Rasheed Wallace, then the whole post player concept is thrown out the window. If the Wiz had the Grizzles frontline w/ the same perimeter players, they would have won the same number of games they lost this year EASILY.

The name Gilbert Arenas & the word Hibachi should NEVER be used in the same sentence ever again. The present version has a permanent knee problem and is less strong, no matter if he might have a better b-ball IQ. Remember how his upper body used to look; you can tell he's given up on hitting the weights hard, which I believe gave him better range and control on his J.

Other than Wall, Javale, & Nick, all the other Wizards have proven this year to be tradable.

Posted by: bernard_thompson | December 15, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Much has been made of the lack of skills exhibited by Jmc and the over all defensive prowess of the Wiz on D. 
Coaching is the missing element has been noted by many. 
Specifically technique is the problem in both situations. 
Jmc and most of the Wiz  play the game and especially defense above the waist. Reaching and grabbing back peddling. Gilbert is the poster boy. 
Dwight Howard also played above the waist and was able to compete because of his upper body strength. This is not the case with any of the Wiz. Yet with their lack of strength they are still trying to
Play that way. 
As has been documented Howard took the time to work with Hakeem on his foot work in the offseason and his game has transcended. 
Jmac, Ab,Ga,Yi and Ny need to learn footwork fundamentals. This gets back to good coaching. 
Watch teams coached by   
Coach K at Duke, Doc Rivers...they play with their feet and legs, and they excel skill wise and especially on Defense. 
So yes again, coaching is the skill level missing on the Wiz. 
Also the fortitude and command to dictate the necessity of learning these skills, or hitting the road or reduced court time. Obviously this calls for a coach secure with his status and mind set enough to be flexible and resilient. 
Need I say that Coach Twitch is lacking in too
many of these areas?
One other area of coaching acumen is the distribution of though court time. 
The wiz have 2 players that have not had significant injuries this season...Jmc and Ny. 
They have also been on the court the least time for rotation players. 
Making Jw the captain as well as averaging 40 minutes is suicidal and leg/foot injuries inevitable. 
Yes he is now just 20, but the travel and game schedule of the NBA is a challenge for even savvy veterans. 
Even with the injuries, Twitch is running the injured excessive minutes which leads to the obvious reinjuries. 
Again a secure person coach knows this and does not jeopardize for his insecurities. 
Au revoir twitch!

Posted by: mricklen | December 15, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

"I think it was Kalo_rama that cited an article where the Wizard team was portrayed as having about the lowest BBall IQ in the League."

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 15, 2010 6:24 AM

Wrong. Again. Add it to the list.

(Not that I don't agree with the observation, mind you.)

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 15, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Ron Artest may be certifiable, but he seems to have a gift for cutting to the heart of the truth.

Here's what SI.com (which placed the Wiz dead last in their Power Rankings) had to say on the subject:

Washington Wizards (6-16) Center JaVale McGee, a 7-footer with great leaping ability, is undeniably fun to watch. But the Wizards are an abject lesson in the need for court sense to guide that athleticism -- see Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, Nick Young, etc. The reality is McGee patrols the paint for a team that allows more baskets at the rim than any club except Toronto, at a higher percentage than any team but Sacramento and Phoenix. McGee could well be a diamond in the rough. But at this stage, the rough is more certain than the diamond

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/britt_robson/12/14/power.rankings/index.html?eref=sihp

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 15, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"His IQ being challenged by Ron Artest has got to be a low-water mark in Javale McGee's development. The obvious irony notwithstanding, I hope Javale takes heed to Artest's critique and becomes more focused and disciplined in developing his immense basketball talent."

Posted by: bazookajoe1 | December 15, 2010 4:24 AM

I don't see any "irony" in it, nor any reason it should be a "low water mark" for McGee. While Artest's common sense and grasp on reality are always open questions, his bball IQ (and that is clearly what Ron was talking about) is not and never really has been. Isiah Thomas once called Dennis Rodman a "basketball savant," a description that could well apply to Artest.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 15, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Great quote from Artest Mike Lee! I think Artest's assessment is fair. JaVale just seems to be bouncing around out there, rather than moving with a purpose. I hope he figures it out...

Posted by: MEssex | December 15, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I don't see any "irony" in it, nor any reason it should be a "low water mark" for McGee...
Posted by: kalo_rama | December 15, 2010 11:25 AM

On face value alone, Artest's statement reads ironic to me, and would to most who are familiar with his past "antics", I believe. While it is clear to me also that Artest IQ reference was solely bball related, he did not make that distinction semantically -- which furthered the irony of the statement.

Posted by: bazookajoe1 | December 15, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I think Artest's assessment is fair. JaVale just seems to be bouncing around out there, rather than moving with a purpose.
Posted by: MEssex

He pretty much looks clueless. With his mom's experience and coaching since, you'd expect him to have learned a bit more. Discouraging.

Posted by: EestiLaps | December 15, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

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