- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2009

After the Washington Wizards‘ 113-97 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night - which interim coach Ed Tapscott described as the team’s “worst effort” since he took over as coach Nov. 23 - the Wizards were put through a long day Tuesday.

Tapscott took aim at correcting the problems that kept his team from beating a squad that started three rookies and had lost 12 straight games.

On Monday night, Tapscott expressed concern over the lack of effort in the Memphis loss. After reviewing the tape, though, he was inclined to believe it was less severe a problem. Considering he has gotten good effort from the team during the first 36 games he had coached, he said, he would chalk up that performance as an anomaly.

He didn’t let up on the players on the practice court, however. The coach chuckled upon recalling that even some of the veteran players were wearing down at the end of the session but said: “That’s a good sign; it means I pushed them. It’s all about getting better, and that’s all we want to do.”

Despite the heavier workload, the Wizards, who hope to bounce back with a victory Wednesday against New Jersey, understood the reasons behind Tapscott’s methods and for the most part appreciated it.

“This is what we need to do,” Wizards captain Antawn Jamison said. “Doesn’t matter if you’ve got one of the best records or the worst records in the league. You still have to do your job. We’re professionals, and there’s no need to take shortcuts. It’s about being a man and doing your job and doing it correctly. We’ve got some guys who don’t know how to do that yet, and Coach Tapscott is doing a great job of instilling that not only on the individual level but on a team level as well.”

Gaffes not alarming

Normally one of the Wizards’ most solid players, Caron Butler has seen his turnovers nearly double in the last six games.

After averaging 2.7 turnovers a game in the first 42 games, Butler has averaged 5.6 since Jan. 24. His assists during that stretch increased from 3.9 a game to 5.3, but the turnovers offset those positive plays.

Tapscott said he’s not alarmed by Butler’s recent trend and said the cause for the spike is no mystery.

“Just trying to do more and also playing with new people,” Tapscott said. “Javaris Crittenton has been here not even a year, Mike James hasn’t been here a year, JaVale McGee hasn’t been here a year and those are guys who are on the floor quite a bit, so guys are still learning each other. It’s a process. … All of a sudden, guys aren’t where you expect they’ll be or where you think they’ll be, but that will take care of itself over time.”

Butler admitted he might be forcing things, adding that it was just a product of desperation.

“It’s trying to keep everybody involved as much as possible, trying to create for other people instead of just being out there, just scoring and trying to score. That’s what a lot of people do at this point of the season, when they feel like the season’s just a pipe dream. But I still play basketball the right way. I try to make my teammates better, try to lead them. Sometimes turnovers are the case, but mistakes happen.”

No punishment

Wizards spokesman Scott Hall said Tuesday that neither McGee nor Nick Young will be disciplined by the team for getting charged with reckless driving last month.

Both players were pulled over near Dulles International Airport on Jan. 1 for going more than 20 mph over the speed limit. McGee, a rookie center, and Young, a second-year guard, were traveling separately, but both were running late while trying to get to the airport for the Wizards’ flight to Boston.

Hall said team officials learned of the incidents soon after they happened but didn’t feel additional punishment was required. In Virginia, the maximum reckless driving penalty driving is one year in jail, a $2,500 fine and the loss of license for six months. Both players’ court dates are scheduled for Feb. 26.


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