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Jan. 18, 2006

Wizards' woes

by Varun Gulati, Page Editor
The last and only time that Washington was the NBA champion, the late Pope John Paul II was beginning his papacy and Billy Joel was releasing chart-topping hits.

The Washington Wizards or, back then, the Bullets have come a long way since 1978, but they now lack a few of the things they had back then: team chemistry and participation. Sure, we no longer have NBA Hall-of-Famers Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld (who, believe it or not, was in the bottom half of the Bullets roster in terms of scoring back then), but we do have equally good players.

So what went wrong? Well, for starters, everything. The Wizards have become too reliant on Gilbert Arenas, counting on him to make the shots, handle the ball and lead the team. This strategy works out every once in a while, but has one fatal flaw: if Arenas is having an "off" day, then the team is doomed. Even when Arenas is having a good day, the rest of the team is too laid-back and inattentive to perform. Take, for example, the Dec. 30 game against the Miami Heat. Arenas posted a career-high 47 points, yet the Wizards still suffered their fourteenth consecutive loss to the Heat. Surprisingly, Arenas wasn't scoring better than in any other game; he made 15 of 29 shots from the field and nearly all of his free throws. He was simply served the ball more than the others, who lazed around and showed the defensive capability of amateurs, not professionals.

The Wizards' losses have accumulated and left a stain on the team's record, which currently stands at 17-19.

"What does it take to be number one?"

At present, with 30 wins and 5 losses, the Detroit Pistons hold the best record in the NBA. Now get this: of the four teams that have beat the Pistons this season, one of them was the Wizards. What this one game revealed was that the Wizards definitely have the capability to beat whomever they want, if they try.

It's not easy to equate the Wizards and the Pistons. Though both teams may have equally talented players, the Pistons have a few key qualities that make them greater than the Wizards. Mainly, they use their players in the best way possible to create team chemistry. Each player does his job, with every team member contributing to the game. The Pistons don't rely solely on Rasheed Wallace or Chauncey Billups to score all the points. Instead, they have a team where every player gets an opportunity to put their skills and specialty to use. While center Ben Wallace does what he's best at, grabbing rebounds, guard Carlos Arroyo dishes out assists to his teammates. The result is a balance in the playing time for each player, since that everyone is making a contribution.

Perhaps the best way to show what the Pistons have that the Wizards don't is to look at the statistics. The Pistons are churning out an average of 23.9 assists per game (apg), while their opponents are only making 18.8 apg. For the Wizards, these statistics are practically the opposite, with team and opponent apgs of 18.8 and 22.7, respectively. The Wizards are, too often, shooting at inopportune times instead of passing the ball. As the statistic and its name suggest, the Wizards may need to assist each other more often.

Rebuilding and adjusting

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan has been shuffling around the starting lineup, helping each player find his niche and providing helpful advice on team fundamentals. For a team with quite a few new members, the players have used as much time as they possibly can to adjust to their roles and become acclimated to Jordan's Princeton offense. Some of it has paid off. The Wizards have recently recovered from another losing streak and have won five of their last six games. In these games, last-minute defensive contributions from Caron Butler, Jared Jeffries and others have saved the Wizards from any more losses. Ultimately, a win or loss boils down to the team's ability to make effective defensive plays which involve more than just one player.

Rotating the lineup can be very useful. Earlier this season, when guard Jarvis Hayes fractured his right patella, Jordan inserted Butler who averages a solid 16.6 points per game into the starting lineup. Butler was able to give quick points when needed and set up some crucial plays. Moreover, with Butler starting at forward, Jeffries was able to play shooting guard to create mismatches and exercise his rebounding skills. The Wizards' rebounding improved significantly and helped the team win at least seven games. Even rookies contributed during this win streak. In the Jan. 11 home game against the Atlanta Hawks, rookie Donell Taylor scored a career- and game-high 15 points in just 18 minutes. If the Wizards can keep up the teamwork and cooperation they have exhibited in the past few games, it may well be on its way to clinching a playoff spot.

All things considered, the Wizards definitely have the potential to be a great team. Unfortunately, they are plagued with inconsistency, going on losing streaks every four or five games. The Wizards haven't had a record above .500 since the start of the season. Their patchy efforts are, hopefully, just additional adjustments to their offensive and defensive strategies.

Last year's Wizards roster was nothing short of amazing. Before Hughes was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was part of the highest scoring backcourt trio in the NBA along with All-Stars Arenas and Antawn Jamison. The three players guided the team to the playoffs for the first time in eight years and revived a long-stagnant team. Now, the Wizards may not need anyone to step up to take Hughes' place, but instead a whole team to take defensive initiative, as well as lift some burden off of Arenas' shoulders.

The Wizards are currently eighth in the Eastern Conference. Playoffs, anyone?

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  • Kuhnhenn (View Email) on January 18, 2006 at 6:42 PM
    How can you say all this after the wizard's four-game winning streak in which they beat two winning teams in Philly and Indiana
  • Pratik on January 18, 2006 at 9:36 PM
    How can the Wiz get into the playoffs if they can't even beat Orlando? They need to learn how to play some defense. Apparently, Hughes had a bigger effect on defense than a lot of people eh...oh well, worst comes to worst, you can always go watch Ovechkin because the man is simply amazing.
  • we gon make it on January 19, 2006 at 12:23 PM
    wizards gon go to da playoffs and win a bucnh of games u know larry hughes we don need jhim jared jerffry an em bos can play o yeah neither we don need chucky atkins hes gone less go gilbert and twany
  • trio on January 24, 2006 at 8:53 PM
    dang the new trio chemistry is working...arenas' points are down but he's passing more and caron and antawn are making the Js
  • trio on January 25, 2006 at 6:15 PM
    forgot to mention..the Wizards made a mistake in their line up waaay back in the beginning. Jared Jeffries NEVER should have started. He is worse than even some 3rd string players, like Andray Blatche, a rookie. IMO,
    the line up would have been more effective if it were:

    Daniels PG
    Arenas SG
    Butler SF
    Jamison PF
    Haywood C

    Daniels isn't shooting so hot this season but he CAN pass. Arenas has always been more of a shoot-first PG, which is more or less the SG position. Caron has always been capable of playing at SF. Jamison can grab boards very well for his size.

    Like many other teams, the center has been the weak point. The wizards have an excellant trio with an erratic Haywood, the nets have possibly the best backcourt with carter, jefferson, and kidd, but a poor center krstic, and the hornets have
    a talented commander named Chris Paul with no dominant big guy to pass to.

    Pratik -- the Magic are good..I don't know what you are talking about. Francis' numbers are down sure, but he has others to back him up (turkoglu, nelson) even when grant hill is off somewhere dying. And Dwight Howard is simply an amazing, yet underrated PF/C ..
  • squad on January 27, 2006 at 1:40 PM
    trio you are stupid...not even, playa. that lineup would lose every nite--why? because nobody in that 5 can play any D. you are completely undersetimating the value of Jared Jeffries.

    jeffries is the wizards' best defensive player. without him in the starting five, washington could not stop big SF's and PF's. Think about it, Jamison is undersized at the 4 spot, and Butler is small for a 3. Jeffries has guarded the opponents' best player in almost EVERY game--from Jermaine O'neal to Chauncey Billups. Jeffries may not be flashy, high-scoring or "sexy" but he can throw down every once in a while (ask Jared reinar of the Bulls) and is sweet on defense.

    But i do agree with you about Blatche. He and "Party John" Ramos will be studs in a few years. Thank god Kwame aka Kwamisha Brown is gone. And now we got Ruffin starting some games--wat a beast on the boards.

    But really, here's my 5:

    1-Arenas, 2-Butler, 3-Jeffries, 4-Jamison, 5-Haywood

    go whiz kids
  • It could be worse on January 27, 2006 at 11:19 PM
    They could be 0-40
    or they could be one of Ms. Yordan's dogs
    You sir obviously know nothing and by sir i mean as much disrespect as possible with all offensiveness intended.
    That said, this should be the line up

    PG Randy Travis
    SG Mrs. Yordan's she can shoot something, i.e. dogs
    C Bonifa Sharifa Harifa Latifa Juanita Nelson Mandela Jackson
    PF Jerome Bettis
    SF Ally McBeal

    Asst. Coach-Juwanna Man cuz they make one good person
    Head Coach- A Head of Lettuce
  • no on January 29, 2006 at 11:58 AM
    u r not funny
  • jax on January 30, 2006 at 8:45 PM
    forget the wizards what about the miami heat

    Shaq & Wade
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