Washington Wizards: Early Impressions of the 2011-12 Team
New look, same old results.
After watching the first week of Wizards basketball where they squandered a 25-point lead to the lowly Nets and looked completely overwhelmed against the playoff-tested Hawks, it is increasingly apparent that the same problems that have plagued the team in recent years are still here.
With fans already riled up and upset about the lack of effort and fluidity in running the offense and playing team defense, the season looks like a long, tough road ahead.
Keeping everything in mind, I will highlight the main pros and cons of the season so far and what fans should expect from the team in the weeks to come.
Andray Blatche Flounders Once Again
This was going to be the year he broke out, the year that he would finally get his act together and act like the mature professional that Ernie Grunfeld hoped he would become when he extended Blatche’s contract to the tune of $35 million dollars.
Instead, Blatche should be the poster boy for why the NBA should keep the rule that requires all players have at least one year in college or overseas before being allowed to enter the draft.
In only a week Blatche has managed to call out the coaching staff for not playing him down low and then responds by taking soft, low-percentage jump shots tallying four points against the Hawks.
He caused another negative blip on the sports media radar with his immature “shut up” tweet to fans and is pretty much asking for a ticket out of town if the Wizards slump through the first half of the season.
I tried my best to buy into the idea of Flip naming him a captain and that his supposed hard work over the lockout would eventually manifest into a breakout campaign that harnessed all of his untapped potential.
Instead, the Wizards are left with even more questions and more frustrations. Flip Saunders will try and fail to once again straighten the ever crooked path that is Andray Blatche’s NBA career.
His minutes should be cut down until he proves he deserves to have them as the team has a gluttony of young bigs that at least will provide the effort and tenacity that Blatche lacks.
John Wall Is Trying to Do Too Much
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Frustration has set in for the anointed savior of the franchise. In only two games, Wall has gone away from his natural facilitator mode and has tried to win games by himself within the stagnant Wizards offense.
This has caused problems for Wall, as he has never been a pure scorer even in his season at Kentucky, where he ran the offense with four future NBA players.
Going into attack mode early and often, Wall has not yet earned the respect of the officials and has been getting few calls when he drives the lane. He's seemingly abandoning his teammates on offense and trying to do it himself.
This has led to an atrocious FG% and several turnovers while trying to force the issue instead of slowing down and running the offensive sets.
There is a clear disconnection between the players and it is translating on the court in poor rotation on defense and one-on-one battles by Nick Young or Wall on offense.
There is a negative energy from the team right now and Flip would be wise to utilize the young guys and Turiaf, who have thus far been the only ones who act like they care when they are on the court.
Flip Saunders May Not Be the Solution
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With many of the same issues so early on in the season that Wizards fans have seen before, it is clear that it all can be tied to the man in charge, Flip Saunders.
After being called out by Rasheed Wallace, losing all credibility in Detroit and subsequently not being able to control Andray Blatche, it seems that the critics' view of Saunders as a pushover and weak leader may be correct.
The Wizards team is in a far worse place then anyone could have expected two games into the season and the responsibility ultimately falls upon Saunders to be the glue to hold the team together and coach them through the hard times.
However, his track record shows that he falters in the face of adversity. I predict that if the team keeps playing the way it has been, there will be another Rasheed-type incident that may spark a loss of control for Saunders.
While people may think I’m being harsh and that I’m jumping the gun two games into the season, the truth is, these problems have been consistent since his arrival.
Saunders is giving this young team too much leeway and is letting the team go its own way without instilling discipline and clearly defining roles for each player.
With much being made about Wall yelling commands to Flip and the disjointed play thus far, I fear that Saunders may not be able to right the ship and turn this around.
Perhaps Flip should borrow that leadership book back from Blatche.