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Posted at 6:59 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Nick Young gets a new hairstyle, Flip Saunders focused on making playoff run

By Michael Lee

With the Wizards' struggles away from home, Nick Young decided to take a different approach before their game against the New York Knicks. At the urging of Andray Blatche, Young decided to have his Afro braided on Sunday night. "You can call me A.I. now," Young said, referencing former NBA superstar Allen Iverson.

Young hasn't played well on the road this season, but neither have the Wizards, who have lost 21 consecutive games away from Verizon. They are 0-20 this season, but Coach Flip Saunders said the team should not be concerned with the streak.

"Everybody has made so much about us not winning on the road, but whether it's on the road or at home, we can't go out with idea that we've got to win a game," Saunders said. "We've got to go out with the idea that we have to play the right way -- not turning the ball over, defending, rebounding, doing the things we did against Boston in the fourth quarter. If you do that, you'll give yourself a chance to win games, whether on the road or not. Right now, we're playing pretty well. Take away the Phoenix game, we've played well the last two weeks. and they haven't played as well and struggled a little more. So we should play with a lot of confidence."

Saunders said the Wizards have a much greater focus that just defeating the Knicks. "We're not looking at it we need to win, we're looking at it as, we're 4 ½ games out of a playoff spot with 40 to go. It might sound crazy, but that's how we have to look at it."

Kirk Hinrich will miss his second consecutive game with a hyperextended elbow. Saunders said he is expected to have an MRI on Tuesday. "He's going to get it reevaluated. They'll decide tomorrow what they'll do. He's still pretty sore," Saunders said.

With Hinrich out, Mustafa Shakur will have another opportunity to get some quality minutes. Saunders was impressed with how Shakur stepped in cold to help the Wizards pull out an upset over the Boston Celtics.

"Without a practice, hardly going through any plays, he did what he did and did a nice job," Saunders said. "He moved the ball, and he knows how to play, has got good size. So, he knows how to play. there is no choice. For a guy coming out the NBDL, it's a great situation. To get back here at Madison Square Garden, I'm sure it was pretty exciting for us."

By Michael Lee  | January 24, 2011; 6:59 PM ET
Categories:  Flip Saunders, Nick Young  
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Next: Wizards prove to be repeat offenders, drop to 0-21 on the road

Comments

Flop is really funny when he talks about the playoffs. Grunfeld and Flop may consider it a positive if they get into the playoffs, but in reality, it's sad, because the last two spots have two teams that are 7 and 8 games below .500. In the West, all 8 seeds are comfortably above .500 by at least 5 wins.

http://espn.go.com/nba/standings/_/type/expanded/group/2

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | January 24, 2011 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Flip Saunders focused on making playoff run

Maybe Flip should focus on a road win first

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | January 24, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

When I watch the Wizards I see poor shot selection, lack of sustained hustle, nonchalant ball handling. Bottom line is poor fundamentals at cruch time. Reality is they can't change the whole roster. Truth is they are not a well coached team.

Posted by: gwillgolf | January 24, 2011 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Blatche looked awful tonight. HIS shot selection was terrible (along with three turnovers and only 5 rebounds). Don't know if he's sick or injured, but he should have been pulled earlier. He definitely shouldn't have finished the game.

e.g. start Lewis at PF with Thornton at SF or have Yi at PF with Lewis at SF and Blatche as a sub -- at least on the road . . . at least until Blatche shows some more consistency in his effort.

In the case of Wall, Thornton, Booker, and especially Lewis I saw hustle and smart play. McGee even had his moments. Young didn't have a great night, but he at least keeps some pressure on opponents on the offensive side of the court -- he plays solid, unspectacular defense. The second unit tonight worked its tail off too in order to get the team back into the ball game in the second quarter (Shakur had another great second quarter).

Posted by: JPRS | January 24, 2011 10:35 PM | Report abuse

It's a smoke screen.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | January 24, 2011 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, there is something amiss with Blatche. I would start Yi. Let Lewis stay at the three.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | January 24, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Flip is staying with Blatche. I guess you have to conclude as far as Blatche is concerned he is a made man.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | January 24, 2011 11:04 PM | Report abuse

With Blatche, I think it's probably a case where Flip has made an investment in a player and wants to help him play through whatever it is that he's going through. It's that and probably the fact that he doesn't have full confidence in other options (e.g. Yi, or Lewis-Thornton with Blatche-Booker coming in as reserves).

Still, once Flip watches the game film the choice is going to be starring him more clearly in the face. It wasn't just that Blatche's shot selection stunk, or that his shot wasn't falling (20 percent on 10 attempts, 50 percent from the line on a measly 4 attempts, 3 turnovers) -- but the effort and hustle weren't there either. Mentally his head wasn't in the game. I don't know if he was intimidated by Stoudamire or what -- he just was absent.

It was frustrating too to see guys like Lewis, Booker, Wall, and Thornton giving 110 percent whenever they were on the court. There were at least three instances where Lewis -- the veteran and All-Star -- was working his tail off to chase down a loose ball and get the team an extra possession while his teammates just watched. Inexcusable.

Tonight was the flip-side of the Boston game.

Posted by: JPRS | January 25, 2011 1:36 AM | Report abuse

"With Blatche, I think it's probably a case where Flip has made an investment in a player and wants to help him play through whatever it is that he's going through. It's that and probably the fact that he doesn't have full confidence in other options (e.g. Yi, or Lewis-Thornton with Blatche-Booker coming in as reserves)."

I'd say that's it, all right. Sure looks like Andray is in the exact wrong head space to play basketball. The unforced errors are a giveaway -- when he's on, those are few and far between.

I'm a Booker fan, but what works in the second quarter isn't what wins the game for you in the late fourth on the road. That's when the crowd gets into it and the refs assert themselves and every mistake you make counts double against you.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 25, 2011 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Flip Saunders: "We've got to go out with the idea that we have to play the right way -- not turning the ball over, defending, rebounding, doing the things we did against Boston in the fourth quarter. If you do that, you'll give yourself a chance to win games, whether on the road or not."

That's a coach trying to take the pressure off. Focus on the process, not the outcome. IMO he thinks the club has built this streak up into a psychological block on the road.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 25, 2011 7:53 AM | Report abuse

IMO he thinks the club has built this streak up into a psychological block on the road.
Posted by: Samson151

I think it would be hard to argue that they haven't.

Posted by: nmik | January 25, 2011 8:14 AM | Report abuse

cue the jim mora soundbite.

Posted by: d_skillz | January 25, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Is Flip serious? Wow!?!

Posted by: syvetteavery | January 25, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

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