Rough schedule wearing on Wizards
The Wizards have lost seven games in a row, and if not for John Wall's three-point bank shot against Boston two weeks ago, they would be on a 10-game slide. After they lost to Milwaukee, it was easy to spot this difficult patch in the schedule, with the Wizards playing five consecutive back-to-back sets against teams that were either championship contenders or in position to make the playoffs.
Add in the fact that half of the games were on the road, it's a wonder that the Wizards have been able to escape with any wins. The grueling stretch will end on Saturday when the Wizards host Atlanta, but the frustrations were revealed on Friday at Verizon Center, as Wall got his first career ejection after receiving two technical fouls and Nick Young also picked up a technical foul while complaining about calls.
The Wizards may have been fired up emotionally about facing former teammate Gilbert Arenas and the Orlando Magic, but Trevor Booker and Kirk Hinrich were the only ones who were able to really let it show through their play, as their energy helped keep the team in a game that they eventually lost pretty handily, 110-92.
Arenas had 10 points and six assists off the bench as he came away with a victory, but he was gloating more about his defense on Young, who continues to adjust the difficult role of being the primary scorer. Arenas claimed that he taught Young every move he tried, but the fact remains that several teams have made it hard for Young in recent weeks. In the past 10 games, Young has only shot better than 44 percent twice, and was just 7 for 20 against the Magic. He's a target now, and he has to figure out how to fight back.
"It's tough. Because if I get past one guy, the next guy is right there. That's something I got to learn. I've got to pick up more, watch film," Young said. "Like [Wizards assistant Sam Cassell] said, if you want to be the man, you got to take what comes with it. It's a lot that comes with it, but I'm preparing myself well for it."
Wall is also finding it difficult to command the respect of officials, who continue to overlook his repeated crashes to the floor on his drives to the basket. He made a layup near the end of the half and got knocked to the floor, rolling around for a few seconds before pushing himself up. He later rolled up the compression tights on his left leg and limped off the court.
After fighting for a rebound with Dwight Howard and getting tossed to the ground, Wall couldn't contain his anger and confronted an official, picking up a technical. He collected his second technical shortly thereafter, as he continued to complain. "I think he's frustrated," Coach Flip Saunders said. "He is getting knocked down a lot. I think he is getting knocked down and he is not getting many calls when he goes to the basket."
Wall explained afterward that he's not sure "what calls rookies are supposed to get," but his problem is that players on losing teams -- veterans or otherwise -- rarely have the respect of the officials.
Hinrich played well, as he scored 17 angry points, knocking down three three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Wizards keep up with the Magic's three-point barrage, led by J.J. Redick, Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson, who combined to make five of Orlando's seven threes in the final period.
"They just did a good job of picking us apart," Hinrich said of the Magic."We didn't do a good job of stopping them. We were just trying to get something going. We just weren't able to string the stops together or score consistently enough."
Rashard Lewis really wanted to get a win against his former team, but he had to endure a lopsided loss and some endless trash talk from many of his friends. "It was a little talking. It was all out of fun," he said. "Just the fact that it was the team that I played for the past three years, and this year as well, so it was some emotions involved, because I have some close friends on that team, a good relationship with that organization. At the same time, I had to be professional. I'm on the other team. I had to represent the Washington Wizards and try to get a win."
It's really unfair to call Howard's games against JaVale McGee matchups, because they often are so one-sided. Howard made life difficult for McGee, and McGee didn't exactly help himself as he either stepped back and let Howard take control or helplessly fouled to avoid battling with him inside. Howard made the game simple, as he rarely wasted any motion and took shots close to the basket, mostly uncontested dunks that came after lobs from Nelson.
"I seen in both of Jameer's eyes every time he threw it," said Lewis, who was on the right side of a few of those lobs before getting traded for Arenas. "Even when I was guarding Dwight, it was nothing I could do about it. That spin out lob is just something they have a little chemistry doing."
McGee spent a lot of time cursing in the third quarter, as Howard scored six consecutive buckets to turn a close game into a rout. Unlike Howard, McGee made matters worse as he tried to do too much with his questionable decision-making. He took long jumpers and even tried to lead a fast break, with fans groaning the entire time he dribbled up the floor before he eventually lost the ball out of bounds.
"Everyone in the arena doesn't like that he takes the ball at three-quarter court and thinks he's a 6-2 guard," Saunders said.
While McGee tried to force his way into the highlights, Trevor Booker made his way there through some hard-nosed play. Booker elicited the greatest reactions from the fans, and even his opponents. Late in the fourth quarter, Booker caught a pass from Young and elevated over Magic reserve Earl Clark for a ferocious jam. Clark's teammates had to give him a hard time over that one, as Jason Richardson was heard singing the theme music from ESPN's SportsCenter, "Dini-net, dini-net."
Booker was the one front-line player who didn't appear to be intimated by the challenge of facing the Magic, as he went hard almost every second he was on the floor. He had a career-high six blocked shots, including a nice rejection on Arenas that got a few fans excited. When asked about the last time he had so many blocks, the rookie forward from Clemson gave an obvious and brief answer, "College."
Then, with Hamady Ndiaye and Kevin Seraphin playfully acting as reporters, Booker said, "I had nine against UNC my freshman year."
Seraphin interrupted, "You're lying."
The truth remains that in order for the Wizards to get some wins, even at home, they will need a lot of luck -- and for their opponent to have a rough outing. But Hinrich believes that the Wizards have to at least give themselves a chance. "The opponents are good. But this is the NBA," Hinrich said. "Everybody has got good players. We're playing some really good teams on this stretch. But I just feel like we need to have more consistent effort. We always try to do the right things at both ends at times, then we get off the mat and that's when we get in trouble."
| February 5, 2011; 12:37 AM ET
Categories: Gilbert Arenas, JaVale McGee, John Wall, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Trevor Booker
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