SAN FRANCISCO — Have you noticed that the Wizards often either A) appear to not be running any set offense, or B) seem confused and indecisive while running plays.
Well many times it’s because they’re not running much Flip Saunders’ giant playbook. The coach was proclaimed an offensive genius when he came to the District, but so far the Wizards have struggled in that category, which along with the 7-16 record is one of the biggest surprises of the season.
Saunders said at this morning’s shootaround that this team has more freedom to freestyle than any other team he’s coached.
“I probably at this point in my career, compared to any team I’ve ever been on — and I’m talking CBA when we had 22 guys called up in one year, coming and going – anywhere I’ve been, this is the shortest as far as playlists I’ve had because you want to keep it simple,” Saunders said.
Part of the reason is he thought that would help Gilbert get his groove back sooner, and also help him rekindle the chemistry he had with Antawn and Caron.
But with the Wizards free to break from the system, we have seen poor short selection and execution and a lack of communication cost Washington games.
Saunders said he’s beginning to rethink things and that he may have to rein in the offense.
“I think I’m going to have to rein it in,” the coach said. “In all my years of coaching – and this is CBA and 15 season in the NBA – I have never had to yell at a player for taking bad shots in a game, until this year. I think there’s no question, it’s a catch-22. You try to give them their freedom so they find their confidence, but then when you have to keep talking to them about what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot, you get to the point where you say, ‘To hell with the confidence. You have to understand.’ “
It’s tricky, because when the Wizards are running and gunning, it’s the time that they finally get all three All-Stars involved. But at the same time, Saunders said the freestyle play has caused the Wizards to actually shoot their way out of games, and he pointed to Monday’s loss to the Clippers as an example of that.
“We did our running game against [the Clippers] and we were up , and then all of a sudden Caron takes a 1-on-5 jump shot, and Gil takes a 32-foot 3-point shot with 18 seconds on the shot clock over a guy on the pick and roll,” Saunders said. “Those are not playoff-type basketball shots. Ideally what you try to do is not only win games, but learn the process that down the road is going to help you be successful.”
A few weeks ago after a close loss in which the Wizards had a chance to win, but blew their opportunity with poor shot selection, Saunders was reminded of something that’s always been problem of the Wizards’ for years.
This morning, he recalled it again.
“When I took the job I looked through all my reports from when I was in Detroit, and all of them said [about the Wizards], ‘No matter what the score is just keep on playing because they’ll shoot you back into the game.’”
Wow, if you’re the Wizards, that’s definitely not a glowing rep to have.
Saunders said he’s hesitant to completely take back the offense and call every play because then he’ll have the entire five-man lineup looking over at the bench, trying to figure out what he wants, rather than flowing on the floor. The coach is hopefull that as he continues to work with Arenas and his teammates, they will eventually get the hang of things.
“I’ve tried to give them the freedom of calling plays, and when you have a play that works, normally no matter what, I’m running that thing again,” Saunders said. “No one should have to tell you that. But we’re not to that point, so we have to keep on working on it.”