Washington Wizards: 7 Reasons to Be Concerned After Season Opener
The Washington Wizards didn't make any big headlines during the lockout or in the weeks leading up to their 2011-2012 season opener. After their first 48 minutes of the season against a weakened New Jersey Nets' squad, it isn't likely that the Wizards will make many headlines during the season, either.
As season openers go, Washington's was memorable for the early lead and forgettable for the subsequent collapse.
The Wizards have a lot of youth on the roster this season, but that is no excuse for failures on the court. Against the Nets, the Wizards looked out of sorts and did very little to encourage the fans of future success. Here are a few reasons to be concerned after Washington's first game of the season.
Dissension Among the Ranks
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One game into the season and we're already seeing some tensions rise between head coach Flip Saunders and his players. Andray Blatche in particular did not agree with the game plan, and voiced his frustrations in a post-game interview.
Blatche responded directly to comments made by Saunders about his players relying too much on individual production once the team had established its early lead.
“He probably was talking about me for the simple fact that I said I need the ball in the paint to be effective,” Blatche said in the locker room after the game. Blatche has been highly criticized for playing too far from the basket for his size and skills, but it appears to be more by design than by choice.
As team captain, Blatche's words carry more weight than they have in year's past.
If Blatche and Saunders can't find some kind of middle ground, one or both of them could be gone before the season is over. Blatche has proven he can be productive closer to the basket, while Saunders has the résumé to back up his coaching methods.
John Wall Outclassed by Deron Williams
John Wall entered this season perfectly healthy and poised to build on his solid rookie campaign. In his face-off against New Jersey's Deron Williams, the gap in experience and development was abundantly clear.
Williams looks as good as ever, while Wall still looks like he's trying to find his footing in the NBA.
The Wizards' future is riding on Wall building on his rookie success, as well as living up to the hype surrounding him coming out of Kentucky. He lacks the physical strength to defend bigger point guards, and still hasn't found his shot or the proper tempo at which he should play the game.
Perhaps it is rust from an offseason outside of the structure of Flip Saunders' offense, but Wall needs to rebound with a more encouraging performance.
Andray Blatche Embarrassed by Kris Humphries
Kris Humphries looked like an All-Star against the Wizards, putting up 21 points and snatching 16 rebounds on the night. By comparison, Andray Blatche's 11 points and 10 rebounds looks pathetic in regards to the effort displayed on the court.
Humphries outhustled and sometimes outmuscled Blatche for points and boards all night, making the absence of Brook Lopez seem negligible.
Since becoming the starter in 2010, Blatche has been criticized for being lazy on defense, and his frustration appeared to get the best of him once the 20-point lead had been erased in the second half. He fell back on bad habits, and only factored into the play when there was a sure rebound headed his way.
If Blatche can't hold his own against the former Mr. Kardashian, what can we expect from him against the likes of Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudamire or Blake Griffin?
Suspect Effort on the Glass
With a pair of starers like JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, 7'0'' and 6'11" respectively, the Wizards should never trail by much in the rebounding department. Somehow, the Nets made away with 58 boards to the Wizards' 38 on the night.
When Kris Humphries and Damion James combine to rival a team total for rebounding, there is something incredibly wrong.
Give credit to Humphries and James for doing what they did on the glass, grabbing 31 combined rebounds against the Wizards. For Washington, it is difficult to overlook the halfhearted effort displayed by the team on the boards. The Wizards allowed 18 offensive rebounds to the Nets, which is as good as 18 second chances at scoring.
Luckily for Washington, the Nets weren't able to cash in on those extra opportunities. They won't win many games with this type of effort.
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The Wizards made more free throws against the Nets than the Nets took on the evening. Washington shot 34 free throws and made just 21, while New Jersey went to the line 20 times and made 16 of their attempts.
Free throws win games no matter the level of competition, and the Wizards had more than enough opportunities to win from the charity stripe.
Five of the 13 misses came from JaVale McGee, which is understandable but inexcusable. John Wall, who shot an underwhelming 75.4 percent from the free-throw line last season, missed six of his 13 attempts against the Nets. Wall put in a lot of work this offseason, but how much of it was spent on free throws?
Brook Lopez Didn't Play
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The Wizards built a big lead and saw it crumble before their eyes, ending in a six point defeat at the hands of the New Jersey Nets. Kris Humphries recorded a double-double, Deron Williams flirted with a triple-double and Anthony Morrow chipped in 16 points to go with Damion James' 15 rebounds.
Troubling statistics aside, the Nets managed to overcome the early burst from the Wizards without their second best player in Brook Lopez.
Lopez accounted for more than 25 percent of New Jersey's scoring from last season, and would have increased the rebounding disparity in the game. If Washington couldn't beat the Nets a man down, what chance do they have against the Celtics, Magic and Knicks to start the new year?
JaVale McGee looked rough against Johan Petro, who is essentially a reserve center for the Nets. That does not bode well for the Wizards.
Poor Game Management
The Wizards built a 20-point lead midway through the second quarter, and looked like they were on their way to an easy win to start the season. The Nets closed the gap to eight points at halftime and had evened the score midway through the fourth quarter.
The teams exchanged the lead for most of the fourth quarter, but the final minute was all New Jersey, capping off their comeback.
Leads come and go as games progress, but giving up a 20-point lead in a quarter's time is unforgivable. Washington showed early that they could capitalize off of mistakes by doubling up the Nets 26-13 in the first quarter. The Wizards finished with 12 assists to 11 turnovers, which is more of what they did last season.
Their late-game collapse, however, shows how far they are from being contenders this season.