PHILADELPHIA — The Wizards are set to take on the 76ers here at Wachovia Center, and although still shorthanded, they’ll try to put last night’s 113-95 loss in Atlanta behind them.
The main key for tonight, Wizards coach Flip Saunders said, is to do a better job of taking care of the ball, rather than helping their opponent’s scoring efforts with turnovers.
“Right now, we’re giving up a lot of points out of our offense,” Saunders said. “We’re turning the ball over six or seven times in the first quarter, and all of a sudden they get up 17 and play out of that lead the rest of the game. We’ve got to give ourselves a chance, not turn the ball over and get back.”
Randy Foye will again start at point guard with Gilbert Arenas resting up from the flu in D.C. Mike Miller is back in the District resting as well. (Flip said both slept in in Atlanta today, woke up without a temperature and flew back to D.C. this afternoon.) Foye at the start of last night’s game wasn’t as comfortable, so Flip said he’ll probably scale back on the number of plays and simplify things a bit so Foye isn’t thinking so much and can establish a rhythm.
Nick Young will get the start at shooting guard, and try to follow up on last night’s 15-point effort against the Hawks, which was the first time he’d scored in double digits in the last five games. Saunders said Young still has some growing to do before he can be counted on as a consistent player.
“Nick’s one of those guys, I’ve learned from being around him, that if he makes a couple shots he feels good about himself. If he doesn’t he kinda struggles. He’s got to get over that and to be effective know that in this league if you’re not making shots, you’ve got to find other ways to be on the floor, not just making shots, so that’s the next step in his maturing process.”
In addition to Foye and Young, Caron Butler, Fabricio Oberto and Brendan Haywood will start for the Wizards. We’ll see what type of interaction Haywood and Eddie Jordan have pregame. We won’t see how 7-Day Dray — who last week said he was very much looking forward to facing Jordan, whom he never got a long with — greets his former coach, though, because tonight he’ll be coming off the bench.
Eddie Jordan is happy in his new digs and said his new players are further ahead in their learning process than the Wizards were in their first season with him.
“They’re way ahead, and they’re making terrific progress,” Jordan said. “I see more organization as the game goes along, possession by possession. Obviously there are breakdowns and room for improvement. But I’ve thrown more at this team in a short amount of time than any other team I’ve coached. Probably in two weeks, they knew as much as any other team in two months.”
Jordan said he challenged the Sixers so much, “Because I have a lot of confidence in my teaching method, and a lot of confidence in the way one part of the offense gets you to another point to another, to another and I wanted to see how much they could feed upon, and they got it, and I’ve challenged them and challenged them and they know more in two weeks than any team I’ve coached in two months.”
Jordan last week against the Knicks went away from the Princeton offense and ran a lot of pick-and-rolls because New York was familiar with his offense and he expects to do so some tonight against the Wizards. He called coaching against the Wizards, who know his offense, a “unique challenge” and warned his new players that they must be work through the offense “quick and hard and be as concise and efficient as you can, because if you think about it just a little bit, they might think ahead of you because they know it.”
Jordan said even though he was fired by the Wizards nearly a year ago, he never lost confidence in his philosophies and teaching methods, but he used his time off to challenge himself to expand his playbook.
“I was always confident, and it wasn’t like I was more confident,” Eddie said. “It was almost like, you sit there and you say, ‘Maybe I should find a different way of playing,’ just to challenge myself. And the more that I looked at things and looked at other teams, I saw some good structure, some good movement and good patterns, and yet, I felt comfortable with what I had done in the past and what I plan to do. I did challenge myself, though, and say, ‘Find another way of playing. Find another way. There’s another way for you to play.”
In closing, Eddie cracked a smile and said, “And, I have after President Reagan said once after watching Rambo during the Iranian Crisis, ‘I have a few ideas.’”