Only Arenas Has Hidden Agenda: Washington Wizards Breakdown

Erick BlascoSenior Writer INovember 28, 2009

DALLAS - OCTOBER 27:  Gilbert Arenas #0 of the Washington Wizards on October 27, 2009 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Awful shot selection? Effortless defense? Hidden agendas? No, the main thing on Washington’s itinerary during their 94-84 road win over Miami was winning basketball. Let’s examine each Wizards’ performance to see if there were any secret saboteurs suited up for Washington.

Flip Saunders’ offense was extremely diverse with UCLA cuts, split-action, screen/rolls, handoff/rolls, and the occasional isolation on the strong side, with pin downs on the weak side. With the Wizards moving with purpose without the ball, and not massaging the rock, Washington was able to shoot 49 percent.

Even better, the Wizards retrieved 16 of their own misses, held the Heat to under 42 percent shooting (under 46 percent eFG), and played with energy throughout the game.

Saunders’ only agenda is to oversee the Wizards executing his multitudes of offensive sets, while getting them to play hard-nosed energetic defense. Against the Heat, his mission was a complete success.

Antawn Jamison has never put defense on any to-do list, but his spot up shooting, drives to the cup, and post-up flippers make him one of the most versatile offensive players in the league. His ability to score in so many situations—11-20 FG, 2-4 3FG, 24 PTS—discouraged Miami’s defense. He was also active on the glass with 13 boards.

It’s not so secret that Jamison’s agenda is to be a scorer and rebounder, and not a defender. But he’s not a selfish player—rarely forcing a shot against Miami and playing within the confines of Saunders’ offense. As long as the shots are dropping, Jamison is a valuable asset to any mission.

Caron Butler was hesitant with his jumper, and out of control on his drives, twice barreling into stationary Heat defenders for offensive fouls. He also gave James Jones too much room to shoot and was slow getting a hand up on the perimeter. Whatever Butler’s goals were, he ultimately didn’t do much to help the Wizards win the game at hand. Plus, his jumper has been off, and he’s been turnover prone the entire season.

Perhaps Butler is showing signs of slippage, perhaps he’s merely having a bad start to the season, or perhaps his covert mission is to get away from Gilbert Arenas and leave the Wizards. Whatever Butler‘s agenda, it appears Arenas had credence in calling Butler out after Washington’s miserable start to the season.

Despite the attention to Washington’s big three, it was Nick Young who single-handedly frosted the Heat. Whether curling off weak-side down screens or isolating from the wing, Young consistently got his shot off against whoever was defending him—10-23 FG, 22 PTS.

While he did force a few shots on offense, he showed quick feet, anticipation, and courage in defending Dwyane Wade on the other end. In fact, Young had more points, shot a better percentage, had equal rebounds, one less assist, and one less turnover than Wade in roughly the same amount of minutes.

Young bought several pump fakes, and his individual defense is more advanced than his team defensive concepts, but his two-way play over the past two games as a starter has been exemplary. Young’s only focus is on playing All-Star caliber basketball.

Brendan Haywood was active on the offensive glass (5 Off REB), played good help defense, and contested Jermaine O’Neal’s individual moves and jump shots well. For a team with so much firepower and talent, Haywood is the only player willing to do the dirty work necessary to play winning basketball.

Andray Blatche’s secret agenda is to be Washington’s point guard. While he executed an incredible behind-the-back crossover and dish assist, he also over-handled to a fault, showed terrible basketball IQ (especially in spending too much time showing off his dribble at the end of the third quarter instead of making an outlet pass, leading to time running out), and was sloppy in his defense.

He also posted up Udonis Haslem and despite a size and quickness advantage, passively faded away missing the jumper.

Blatche can do almost anything, but his poor fundamentals and terrible basketball IQ lead to more mistakes than good plays.

Javale McGee plays with no conscious. He sent a Jermaine O’Neal fade away back in his face, goaltended a jump shot that was practically on the rim, showed poor upper body strength on Miami’s basket assaults, and failed to throw a hand up on an O’Neal jumper. McGee plays with such intensity that he’s an automatic energy boost whenever he enters a game. But he has miles to go in learning basketball’s nuances and needs to bulk up in the weight room.

Still a project, McGee’s agenda should be to devoting as much time to watching film and pumping iron as possible.

Randy Foye showed a soft touch on mid-range pull-ups and played tight defense on Wade for stretches.

Despite Washington‘s cast of characters, because of his personality and ball-dominating game plan Gilbert Arenas is Washington’s dynamic personality. However, while Arenas is known publicly around the league as an All-Star talent, Agent Zero also has a rogue side for forcing shots, displaying terrible judgment, and playing no defense whatsoever.

Against Miami, Arenas put aside his double agent offensive personality, passing the ball, not over-penetrating, and cutting off the ball, including curling off a low screen without the ball to sink a short jumper.

No coincidence that without Arenas dominating the ball, Washington’s support cast played terrific. However, Arenas also played with a total passivity, almost as if he were being defiant of not having his license to shoot.

Defensively, Arenas was repeatedly broken down by Mario Chalmers, and was inexcusable on his weak-side defense, including sticking with Chalmers way over on the weak side elbow while a rotation left O’Neal open in the paint. Arenas never moved to cover his new responsibility, and O’Neal had the easiest of dunks.

In fact, the Wizards played at their best when Earl Boykins was picking up full court (and ripping Mario Chalmers at the time line) penetrating, dishing, and making smart decisions with the ball—4-6 FG, 2-2 FT, 9 AST, 0 TO, 1 STL, 10 PTS. If Boykins also tended to over-handle, he was more concerned with breaking down the defense than looking for his own shot.

If any Wizards’ player can be said to have his own agenda, it's Arenas. Two seasons ago, with Arenas out for the majority of the season and the rest of the team relatively healthy, the Wizards were able to have a successful season and make the playoffs. Last year the Wizards were awful without Arenas, but they also played the season without their only interior defensive presence, their only space-eater, screen-setter, and muscle man.

Against the Heat, the Wizards proved that they didn’t need Arenas to beat a good team on the road.

It says here that the Wizards should dump Arenas if they want to stay true to their own agenda of making the playoffs.