Rather than dwell on his team’s fourth straight defeat, Gilbert Arenas chose instead to point out a positive: The Washington Wizards, he says, finally have shored up a long-standing weakness - defense.
The numbers back up Arenas. The Wizards (2-5) ranked among the worst teams in the league defensively for the past five years, but this season they rank eighth in field goal percentage and 11th in points allowed.
But the improved defense hasn’t led to wins thanks to an anemic offense, the culprit in the club’s five losses and its current four-game skid. For the season, Washington ranks 22nd in both points a game (95.6) and field goal percentage (.438).
The Wizards scored 102 points in a season-opening win over the Dallas Mavericks and 123 in a victory over the New Jersey Nets. But they averaged just 88.8 points on a .399 shooting clip in the five defeats.
“The only thing [that] I heard when I came here was how bad we were defensively, so we spent a lot of time on it, and our defense has gotten better,” coach Flip Saunders said after practice Monday. “But now what’s happened is our [lack of] offense has caused so much pressure. I think we felt we’d be able to score, and we probably would be if we had Antawn [Jamison] stretching the floor.
“[We’re] disappointed that we’ve improved upon the one thing they’ve been getting beaten up on for five years, that people said they couldn’t do. And now our offense hasn’t been nearly as good, and we haven’t been able to juice out some wins.”
Jamison has missed all seven games with a dislocated right shoulder and isn’t expected to return until at least Saturday. The problem was compounded by the absence of shooting guard Mike Miller, who sprained his shoulder last week and missed the past two games.
With those players out, the Wizards are without two of their top options to stretch the floor. Instead of working the ball around for an easy shot, they’ve been reduced to an offensively stagnant team - ball movement is almost nonexistent, shot selection is poor and they routinely rack up more turnovers than assists.
On Monday, Saunders devoted the majority of practice to “demanding ball movement” and getting his players to make quicker decisions and maintain motion in the offense.
“Ball movement, stressing to the guys what’s a good shot, what’s a bad [shot], getting the ball to the weak side — those are the things that were missing,” center Brendan Haywood said. “Guys can’t get your [isolations] and just go. That’s not it. That’s not what a good team does. Good teams, the main players [isolate] down the stretch. But most of the time the ball moves for three quarters, and everybody touches it.”
Part of the problem is that the Wizards still are learning Saunders’ elaborate offense. But the coach said ball movement is key regardless of how complicated a system is.
“It’s all basic same philosophy. No matter what it is, if you get the ball and think, ‘I’ve got to score,’ no matter what offense you’re in, it’s not going to matter,” Saunders said. “That’s been our mentality a little bit. And it’s hurt most recently with the loss of Mike, who was the one guy who [acted] as the facilitator, making the ball move, keeping the ball moving. So when you’ve got one guy on the floor who does that, it opens up things for everybody else.”
The Wizards also have shown a tendency to hesitate when they get an open shot, giving opponents time to close in and either force a bad shot or a turnover.
“If we have shots open, we’re not taking it,” Arenas said Sunday. “We’re trying to do the extra dribble or get closer to the lane or pass the ball instead of just taking the first shot.”
Saunders agreed.View Entire Story
By Elaine Donnelly
Extending sexual misconduct to combat units
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Contributions to the Communities Sports desk from readers.
Straight talk on climate science, energy economics, and public policy.
Uncensored exploration of issues concerning current events, civil liberties, American political advocacy, and the political and social issues facing military veterans.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention