- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2008

Two games after he made the fourth lineup change of his brief tenure as the Washington Wizards‘ interim coach, Ed Tapscott was asked how he determines if he is progressing toward the successful formula.

Is it the quarter-by-quarter breakdown? The final box score? The plus-minus statistics?

He pays attention to statistics but considers them supplemental tools for evaluation, not deciding factors.

“I took statistics in college and graduate school, so I know that there are lies, big lies and statistics,” Tapscott said. “I use statistics as a tool. … But it’s about nuances, it’s about reading, it’s about guys looking each other in the eye and knowing exactly what the other is going to do because they have that flash of recognition. That never comes in a day. That comes with playing time after time after time, possession after possession, game after game.”

Since promoting Andray Blatche to starting center three games ago, the Wizards are 0-3. But building chemistry takes time.

Tapscott said he sees growth, although the numbers don’t reflect it.

Basing progress on statistics “doesn’t take into account relationships in the locker room, how you travel together,” Tapscott said. “If you think you can tell something about the team just looking at the stats, you’re just watching analog television. If you’re in mix, that’s when you get that high-def sharpness. I can see it. Mike James is further along [at point guard] than he was three games ago. Integrating Andray Blatche as opposed to JaVale McGee is further along today because of practices.”

Some statistics indicate improvement, however. After Blatche took over Monday and Indiana outrebounded Washington by 15, the Wizards bested both Detroit and Philadelphia on the boards.

And since James’ addition to the starting lineup two games ago, the Wizards have enjoyed greater backcourt production and more offensive balance. Before the Wizards acquired James, the four guards that had started averaged a combined 21.5 points. James in two starts has averaged 16.0 points.

Blatche, who is averaging 14.7 points and 7.0 rebounds as Washington’s starting center, has given the team better production than any other player at the position this season. But when will the progress lead to the Wizards digging themselves out of their 4-20 hole?

Tapscott devised a strategy to return his team to respectability. He divided the remainder of the season into seven-game segments and challenged his players to conquer one chunk at a time.

“When you take over and you’re 1-10, everything is daunting to you, so have to do is break the season up so you can say, ‘Hey, guys, we can manage this,’” Tapscott said. “Our first segment of seven games, we went 3-4, and we can say, ‘Hey, we said we’d commit to 4-3 the whole way through, but we didn’t quite get there.’ But all of a sudden, changing from 3-4 to 4-3 doesn’t seem as daunting as changing from 1-10, so you’re just trying to change the focus there.”

Note- Wizards forward Darius Songaila served as Wake Forest’s honorary captain Saturday at the EagleBank Bowl, which matched Wake Forest and Navy at RFK Stadium. The former Demon Deacon also participated in the coin toss ceremony.



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