Magic 106, Wizards 103: Armchair NBA Analysts, Listen Up!
I guess if there's any good that can come from this game, it's that perceptive people can finally realize what's really wrong with the Wizards defense. Those people that think the Wizards defense will only get better if there is a physical Ben Wallace-like presence inside need to stop it. Etan Thomas showed today that, when healthy, he can be a really good defensive presence inside. The problem is much more basic than that.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again. The bottom line is, the Wizards' perimeter defenders give up way too many open shots.
The Wizards struggle so much with getting through screens and general lack of concentration. There's no reason that Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling should be getting all those open looks. The Wizards emphasized improving on the ball defense by signing DeShawn Stevenson, but he struggles to get through screens and allows too many open looks for his man. Same with Caron Butler, who would be a phenomenal defender if he scaled down his gambling a little bit.
Through the first three games, this has been a recurring theme. Wizards opponents have shot at least 47 percent in every game, and the opponent's three-point percentage has gone up every game. There's absoultely no reason the Wizards should have lost today, but their inability to grasp the finer points of defense cost them once again. As long as Etan Thomas is healthy and the Wizards are outrebounding a team with Dwight Howard and Darko, the interior defense is fine. But when Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling are keying a fourth quarter run from the outside, that's a major problem.
Can this be corrected? I think that Wizards fans need to be patient. For the Wizards to truely be a stout perimeter halfcourt defensive unit, they need to start getting away from the gambling perimeter game that has dominated the team in the last two years. Sure, it's nice when Arenas and Butler get easy steals and dunks, but we may need to see fewer of those for the defense to really improve. For every time that one of them gets a steal by jumping the screen, there are two or three times where their man will run a simple fade cut and get an easy jumper. These habits are hard to shake, especially when there's a stigma that forcing turnovers is necessary to mask the apparent lack of size inside. It'll take time for the Wizards perimeter defenders to fully get it, especially when it seems like their gambling is encouraged to some degree.
It may be worth it for the Wizards to make a move to get a veteran perimeter role player to help those guys figure it out, but I don't know how possible that is at this point. For now, let's hope the perimeter guys can do a better job of preventing open looks, because that is clearly the problem.
I was going to end this here, but I just saw this news item that made me cringe. Haywood and Thomas apparently have a history, but this is still unacceptable at this point. I really don't know what to do with Haywood. On the one hand, how many teams can trot out a legitimate 7 footer with his contract and length. On the other hand, he kills the Wizards offense when he's in there, and he has a horrible attitude. It may be time to get rid of him, but the Wizards need to be careful to make sure that they get good value in return, because 7 footers aren't easy to find. Maybe Memphis will be willing to give Stromile Swift for him. Who knows?
Postgame thoughts? What are your impressions from tonight's loss? Also, throw out some Brendan Haywood trade possibilities.