Bullets Fever

A blog and community website for the Washington Wizards and their fans.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wizards 87, Wizards 82: The Real Problem is Clear

With 4:45 left in the third quarter, Tracy McGrady's three pointer gave Houston a 15 point lead. The Wizards then went on a 26-12 run to pull to within one point at 72-71 with 5:43 left in the fourth quarter. This was probably the best offensive stretch the Wizards have had on this road trip. But a second glance at the play-by-play of the stretch reveals the very problem the Wizards' offense has had.

During the stretch, here are the facts.

Number of Gilbert Arenas shots during the stretch: 3
Number of Gilbert Arenas points during the stretch: 4
Number of Gilbert Arenas shots the rest of the game: 23

In those 11 minutes, Arenas shot only 3 of the Wizards 15 field goals and scored only 4 of the team's 26 points. Yet during this two game road trip, Arenas has jacked up 51 of the team's 159 shots. Nearly one third of the Wizards shots on this road trip so far have come from the hands of Gilbert Arenas. This all despite the fact that the Wizards best offensive stretch on this road trip came when Arenas was shooting the least.

The problem, therefore, is clear. If the Wizards do much better when everyone is involved in the offense, why is Arenas shooting the ball so damn much? Where is that Princeton-style rhythm offense that was so good last season? How the hell are the Wizards supposed to win games scoring only 87 and 82 points?

When most basketball pundits analyzed the Wizards' potential problems this year, chief among them was the defense. Well guess what. The defense is doing quite well. The Wizards held Dallas to 40 percent shooting last night, and they held Houston to 41 percent shooting and only 86 points tonight. DeShawn Stevenson has been really solid on the wing, and Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood have given the Wizards some semblance of an inside presence. All should be good. But instead, all is bad.

The Wizards can't win on the road right now because Arenas is taking matters completely into his own hands. The Wizards are never going to win by going down the court and adopting the Arenas attitude, jacking up the first decent look they get. There are certainly times when Arenas' quick-scoring ability will be instrumental. Hell, he almost brought the Wizards back with that bank three in the final seconds. There is a reason why you can rarely count the Wizards out of any game.

But you can't do this for 48 minutes. If all you're doing is jacking up shots with 18 seconds left on the shot clock, no matter how good the shot is, you're incredibly easy to defend. Opponents have to expend very little energy on defense and can therefore focus on attacking a suspect Wizards offense. It's no wonder the Wizards have had three games in the 80s on the road this season.

Here's what needs to happen on offense. Antwan Jamison has his faults, for sure, but he is an extremely difficult matchup off the dribble and off the ball for any power forwards. Jamison is at his best hitting open threes or driving to the lane. Instead, Jamison is simply jacking up mid-range jumpers and missing them at an alarming rate. It's as if Arenas' disease is rubbing off on Jamison, who had previously been one of the league's most efficient scorers.

More importantly, the Wizards must get Caron Butler going. Butler is such a tough matchup off the dribble. He's strong enough to post up most threes, but has too good of a mid-range jumper to lay off him. If you get too close to him, he can take it to the hole and is among one of the best finishers in the game. Butler is also a monster on the offensive glass, and his rebounding has been awesome so far this year. There is no reason why he should not be getting 18 shots every game.

Finally, Antonio Daniels, when he's in the game, needs to be utalized offensively. He's among the best slashers and finishers out there and has become adept at the mid-range jumper. It seems like every time the Wizards make a comeback, it is a Daniels drive and three-point play that catalyzes it.

When Arenas shoots the ball 26 times a game, that means fewer shots for those 4 players. The Wizards offense functions best when Arenas is Option 1, Butler option 1A, and Jamison option 1B. When Daniels is in the game, he is usually option 3. The four of them played off each other
so well last year, so I really don't understand why suddenly it's become this bad. Arenas doesn't strike me as the kind of player who will suddenly become big-headed, making this all the more worse. Quite simply, this has baffled everyone, including me.

Oh, and one more thing. I don't think this is Eddie Jordan's fault. Sure, he's made a couple questionable substitution patterns, but it's not his fault if these guys have concentration lapses. Ivan Carter, in his latest Washington Post chat, said it best.
Didn't this guy just take this franchise, which hadn't pissed a drop in decades, to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons? Am I missing something here? Who do you want to hire? Sam Mitchell? Flip Saunders after he's fired in Detroit? Isiah Thomas? Larry Brown? Bill Fitch? Leonard Hamilton? Gene Shue? Kevin Loughery?
I agree 100 percent. There's nobody out there better at this point.

Anyway, I've aired my grievances, and I'm sure you have some, so I'll step aside for now and let you guys have the floor. Consider this an open forum for complaints thus far. I realize it's the time of year to be thankful, but I'm sure people have a lot to say.

[editor's note]: The title is actually the number of points the Wizards scored in the last two games, not the actual game score tonight. I realize it's pretty misleading, but I was trying to illustrate how bad the Wizards offense has been. It is pretty confusing though]

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