Minus Zero, Wizards challenge Hawks

Remember the preseason hype?

Gilbert Arenas was coming back to the hardwood. The Wizards were going to be so good. The Hawks were going to battle THEM for the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference this year, NOT the other way around. The Wizards were going to challenge, and possibly go further. But it was not to be. Of course, the national media wanted Agent Zero back so bad, they kept pumping it up. Agent Zero isn’t talking, and it’s a good thing, they said. Agent Zero this, Agent Zero that. But the wins just weren’t coming. Agent Zero was what it was always about, what it has always been about. After recent events that I’m sure everybody is now aware of, the Age of Agent Zero may have finally come to an end in Washington. It’s too soon to tell, really. But a new era may be dawning.

This team is determined to make things up to their fans, as evidenced by the seemingly heartfelt pre-game speech made by Washington forward Antawn Jamison a night or two ago. These guys want to restore some respect and competitiveness to their names. They want to become the Wizards again, not Zero and his band of ball players. That alone makes them dangerous. Could it be that this team finally presents a true challenge for the Hawks now, minus Zero?

 

HAWKS VS WIZARDS

Even as fans, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of “oh, we should beat that team with no problem.” So it can be for players, I’m sure. Washington may as well be our polar opposite in the win-loss column, as they stand at 12 and 24, with us soaring at 25 and 13. But they are also a team that has recently beaten the Orlando Magic. Oh yea, THOSE guys. The ones we can’t even compete with. So what, you say. That doesn’t prove anything. They also lost to the Pistons and the Hornets. Um, so did we. Which leaves one to thinking that maybe the Wizards match up rather well with us….minus Zero, that is. The question is, will that matchup be in our favor, or theirs?

 

The Guards

With Arenas out indefinitely, the Wiz will probably go with Randy Foye and Mike Miller, bringing Nick Young off the bench. Foye is a fairly quick combo guard with decent size, who can also draw fouls on his way to the basket. In his last three games, he has averaged right around 20 points per contest. His assist numbers for the season have been anything but impressive, but in the last two games, his playmaking ability has resurfaced. Suffice it to say that Bibby will have his work cut out for him. Bibby struggled in the last meeting between these two teams, though his assist/turnover numbers were pretty good (7 to 1). Bibby will have to shoot well AND help keep Foye from penetrating at will. If not, then the job will fall to Joe Johnson or the switching defense. Or, we could see a heavy dose of Jamal Crawford. Whether or not Teague sees any significant time remains to be seen. The same could be said of the improvement of his shooting percentage….

Off the ball, the Wizards are at an assumed disadvantage. When they’re not stuck trying to figure out how to guard Joe Johnson, they’ll be chasing after Jamal Crawford. Wizards head coach Flip Saunders may dig deep and have veteran Deshawn Stevenson guard Joe or Jamal if either is lighting up Young and Miller. Or, he may have to switch Caron Butler onto him. Either way, the matchup should be in the Hawks’ favor.

The Bigs

In the last matchup, Al Horford traded performance statistics with the bigger, taller Brendan Haywood. While Haywood outscored Horford 19 to 10, Horford outrebounded Haywood 12 to 9, and blocked 5 shots, to Haywood’s 2 rejections. The difference was at power forward, however, where Josh Smith was more than Fabricio Oberto and Andray Blatche could handle. His 8 rebounds nearly matched the combined efforts of the two Wizard players (9), and added to a Hawks overall advantage of 47 to 40. In addition, Marvin Williams added a solid 9 rebounds of his own, to go along with 10 points. Caron Butler played only 17 minutes and didn’t muster much in that time period (I think he incurred an injury, if I recall correctly). But somebody was missing from the party. Antawn Jamison, to be exact. Washington’s resident 20 and 10 man will be present for THIS contest, and he promises to be a load. While Jamison and Smith share near identical rebounding numbers, there is a bigger difference in scoring. Jamison has dipped below 20 points in just one of his last nine games, and has recored better than 25 points in 5 of his last 6. It’s not just that he can score, it’s that he can score from anywhere he chooses, as 37% shooting from the three point arc will attest to.

Truth be told, the individual matchup between Antawn Jamison and Josh Smith may just be the most pivotal one of the game. Or, it may not. What do you think?

Bench Mob and The Suits

What with the latest “developments”, Flip Saunders finds himself in an unenviable position. Mike Woodson may not be happy about his contract status, but I’ll bet he wouldn’t want to trade places with Saunders right about now. Yes, sometimes your grass is definitely the greener side. In any case, Woodson’s rotation is fairly well set. Saunders? Not so much. Anybody in the starting lineup could spend more time on the bench in this game if things aren’t going so well, and anybody expecting to get splinters may find themselves getting significant minutes. So, comparing benches is probably a bit difficult to do. Instead, let’s discuss who we figure will make the biggest contribution from the bench.

My pick is Andray Blatche. Nick Young might be a more exciting and daring pick, but he is less consistent with his shooting stroke, and will be facing two veteran guards who are prolific scorers. Blatche on the other hand, can be a matchup problem. A near seven footer with a good shooting stroke out to about 20 feet, Blatche can put up 10-15 points rather quickly and efficiently. He brings with him decent rebounding (over 5 a game in less than 23 mpg), and decent shooting (47% from the field, 76% from the line).

Bottom line, the Wiz are hungry for respect and would like to shed the bad vibes associated with the recent drama and all the losing. Meanwhile, the Hawks have to be happy about their recent mastery of the Celtics. For now, they have to re-focus on being consistent, and beating the teams they should beat.

 

One to Watch Out For

As usual, there is one guy who can really turn a game. He may not score 40 points, or grab 20 rebounds. He may not get 15 assists. But he’ll hurt you in so many not-as-obvious ways, and his effect can be felt well beyond his position. Who is that guy for the Wizards, that the Hawks need be wary of?

Here, my pick is Mike Miller. Why? Miller is pretty good at ball movement, and when he gets hot, he’s hard to stop. On defense, he’s no star, but he’s opportunistic in the passing lanes, so no lazy passes around this guy. Don’t sleep on this guy. Having only played 11 games this season, and averaging just 9 points a game, Miller may not seem like much of a contributor. However, he is also starting in each of the games he has played in, and getting over 28 mpg. The real kicker? Miller is shooting 58% from the field, and 60% from the three point line.

66 comments Add your comment

Rod from College Park

January 14th, 2010
5:06 pm

Dumb statement by Woodson especially considering the fact that we lost in the playoffs last year because we could not score, and obviously we can not win by defending Lebron or Dwight better, because of the superstar factor. They will get all the calls in the playoffs and we won’t, so I would think that he might want to adjust that strategy. We will have to outscore these teams to be successful. Al and Josh will not be able to defend Shaq and Ilguskus, or Howard in the paint no matter what they do. We will have to outscore these teams to be successful in the playoffs.

richbrave

January 14th, 2010
5:16 pm

HAWKS fans:

The latest segment of “AS THE WIZARDS TURN.”

“Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas was charged Thursday with felony gun possession, a crime that carries a maximum five years in jail and a fine, authorities said.
The charge was announced Thursday afternoon by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District.
Arenas’s attorney and prosecutors had been negotiating a plea deal during the day and it was not immediately clear whether the filing of charges was a part of the deal. Court officials said they had been told to prepare to have Arenas in Superior Court on Friday.”

“D.C. and Arlington police searched the home of Washington Wizard Javaris Crittenton Thursday morning looking for a gun he reportedly used in a locker room confrontation with teammate Gilbert Arenas, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Police did not find the gun at his Arlington home in the 7:15 a.m. search, one of the sources said.”

My prediction. ARENAS is found guilty of a misdemeanor, gets a suspended sentance, has to do more community service than he already is, and pays a heavy fine. The indeterminate NBA suspension is given a limit, another fine, and finally whatever the WIZARDS want to do with him. But he stays. And he plays. That contract is untradable, and not voidable at this point. Nothing less than a felony conviction will suffice for that. Ain’t happenin’. The franchise has to deal with the poison pill that contract represents for the next four and one-half seasons. There is a player option before the 2012-2013 season. Think GIL will exercise it? Me too. 20.5 mill that season.

JAVARIS skins out of the mess with nothing but here-say evidence against him. The brandishing a loaded weapon will not prove out, but CRITTENTON will never wear a WIZARDS uni again. And his 1.45 mill is up at the end of the season.

There’s a very good point guard coming onto the market soon HAWKS fans, if you’re interested. Personally, if I were a GM, I would consider it.

richbrave

January 14th, 2010
5:25 pm

Fundamentals

January 14th, 2010
8:27 am
How can richbrave comment if he didn’t even watch the game.

Fairweather!

If you can’t endure the entire Magic loss looking for some signs of hope you don’t need to be on this blog.

Last night was ugly, but the W goes to Rio & the 2nd unit.

FUNDAMENTALS:

I live in the D.C. area. They don’t telecast the HAWKS on Mid-Atlantic cable t.v. So no, I didn’t watch the HAWKS-MAGIC. But when they’re on TNT or another national hook-up I do if I know they’re on. That is, when my local boys are not playing like they were last night..

Thanks RAY. I put this comment on you. Hell no. I’m a HAWKS fan too. I just want them to get that raggdy-azz MAGIC monkey off their back.

Astro Joe

January 14th, 2010
6:34 pm

I guess no one has ever stood in front of employees (or children) and used hyperbole to stress a point, huh?

Here’s my guess, by the time an NBA player makes it to the pros, he’s probably had 10+ years of offensive coaching. When you watch rookies in the league, most likely they have decent offensive skills and very, very few defensive skills. And if you take the time to read the article, you see how the coaching staff stresses weakside defense and how to read the opposing team’s offensive set (think like a MLB) to ensure that you are in a a better position defensively. All of that seemed like pretty heady stuff… not likely taught in high school, AAU nor most college games.

Lastly, players will develop their offensive games with assistant coaches and player development types (like Mark Price). But when Marvin goes to UNC, Smith goes to Hakeem and Horford goes to play for the DR, they are not likely focusing on team defense. So Woody “over-compensates” with that type of statement to drive home a point. When my father said “I will kill you if you bring home another D”, I always assumed that he was speaking in that manner to drive home a point. I understood the difference when I was 10, I’m guessing that the Hawks understand what Woody is doing as adults. Or maybe that’s why Salim kept shooting those mid-court shots, because he thought that Woody wouldn’t care. Oops.

Sautee

January 14th, 2010
9:33 pm

AJ,

On one hand, that’s a plausible scenario.

On the other hand…….. maybe it explains why Josh could take eighty-something threes last year (at 27% or whatever) with no accountability.

Big Ray

January 14th, 2010
10:11 pm

Richbrave ,

You put WHAT comment on me? Hey, all I said was “sour grapes” because I was teasing you. Guess I won’t be doing that again….. ;)

Rod ,

I have to agree with you on those statements by Woody. At the same time, I now have more respect for what he’s trying to do defensively. I still don’t think he has quite all the personnel he needs that naturally fit that system, and I think there are some personnel on the team that specifically DON’T fit the system, no matter how much they “buy into it.” But that’s just my opinion.

Astro Joe ,

I can see that as a plausible scenario as well. But I’m not sold on the idea that this is 100% hyperbole either. Woody and his staff clearly spend a great amount of time on his defensive schemes and what not. Maybe it’s easier to pin the offensive stuff on one of his assistants, I don’t know. What I do know is that the inconsistencies on offense are rarely answered for. Woody can always tell you what went wrong defensively. Anybody doing an interview or chronicling what goes on in practice or whatever always mentions what he has to say about defensive mistakes.

When it comes to offense, about the most I’ve heard is “we didn’t make shots”, or “I’ve got to find a way to get player A to score more”, or “we couldn’t get the ball down low so easily against the zone, so the jumpshots looked appetizing.” So because you ran up against a zone, a much lower percentage shot looked appetizing? What was appetizing about it? Why didn’t you look at ways to beat the zone besides throwing up a bunch of appetizing, low percentage shots? It bothered me because it seemed like there wasn’t much mental effort involved there, nor any concern about executing on offense.

I get your point about coaching defense and how players get plenty of offensive coaching. Well, that’s only natural. If you can’t score early on, you don’t get to play much unless you do something else really well. Like defend and rebound. With coaches like Billy Donovan and so many others, there is clearly some defense being taught plenty in college. Note how Woody said he didn’t have to treat Al as a rookie because there was so much that he already knew how to do defensively. AAU is a different deal altogether….

Anyway, this is not to say Woody doesn’t know anything about NBA offense or the strategies thereof. It’s just to say that I think there is something that can be chalked up to hyperbole. And there are some things that can’t be.

richbrave

January 14th, 2010
11:30 pm

Richbrave ,

You put WHAT comment on me? Hey, all I said was “sour grapes” because I was teasing you. Guess I won’t be doing that again…..

Not much understanding right now here in D.C. locker room. Sorry RAY.

wordsmithtom

January 15th, 2010
4:41 am

Richbrave,
I hear you on Critt; he is now “damaged goods” around the league; who needs that! Yet to be seen the extent of his problems with the law. He’s young, and this could be a “wakeup” or a sign of more trouble ahead. Knowing Josh Smith likes him could make a “rehab” possible. Does concern me that Hawks have built a roster of “high character” guys; why mess that up? Main reason I didn’t want them to go after AI. If Critt is seen as a “gangster”, would that impact our chemistry? Potentially. Also, have we determined Teague is not the guy at point? He’s not ready now, but he has talent, and you can’t coach up his speed.

Notwithstanding the talk about Johnson being our “allstar”, this is Smoove’s team. I think GM should be talking to him about Critt to see if he passes muster. Arenas is a self-admitted goofball, not a “gangster”. Still, this kind of horseplay, in light of the “gangster” image problem overhanging professional sports is a real concern. Atlanta is a small market city. A sports franchise in a small market can’t afford to carry “bad boy” “gangstas” on its books. Too many families don’t want their kids emulating this crap. Maybe Boston can get away with it, but it won’t sell in Atlanta.

Marcus

January 15th, 2010
6:30 am

Ray,
If we bring it every nite, we can do this. I still count 6 “winnable” LOSSES we have had and hope that the 2nd half of the season eliminates those:
Turkey Day vs. ORL
Loss @ DET minus 3 starters (next game after ORL debacle)
Both home games vs. NYK
OT loss to CHI @ CHI (mid December)
Game 2 of CLE back-to-back

Astro Joe

January 15th, 2010
7:36 am

Sautee, and that is why I often argue that Woody allows more player freedom than maybe he should (at least offensively). I still think that the classic Bibby “well get him out of there ” comment was less about Woody calling a play with Smith standing 23 feet from ther basket and more that Bibby was telling Woody to use his coaching authority and tell Smith that he can’t stand (and shoot) 23 feet from the basket. Freedom for Smith, frustration for everyone else (Bibby and fans included).

Ray, we certainly runa very elementary offense which likely isn’t too hard to defend. Atthe same time, it is supported by the emphasis on low TOs and stellar defense. I honestly haven’t spent enough time watching other offenses to know how much of Orlando (as an example) is scheme vs. talent. I don’t hink that the Celtics nor Cavs operate world-class offenses… Cavs have iso-LeBron and Celtics have pick & roll assasins. But Woody has also created a “system” that has allowed 6 guys to score in double-digits for like the last 3-4 years, allowed Flip and Jamal to have exceptional seasons without much assimilation and has provided Smith and Horford room to grow as offensive players. If we won the shot-clock game and Joe hit that lay-up in Chicago, I think we’d like feel a lot better about this offense right now.

JSS

January 15th, 2010
9:26 am

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HawksFan11

January 15th, 2010
9:31 am

Astro Joe

Great post, very insightful. Bibby is right on point (pardon the pun) about Woody, and for that matter,te entir coaching staff. Not one of them says a word to a player coming off the floor, the players just take a seat on the bench and try tofigure it out fr themselves. It is legal to coach/teach during the game, isn’t it?

Lastly, if we had a real systematic offense, it, and not little things like one shot clock malfunction or one missed layup (after 7 other ISO miscues) would determine the outcome of the game.

JSS

January 15th, 2010
9:46 am

I put a note of THANKS over on the Wizards/Hawks to all of you good people!

JSS

January 15th, 2010
9:48 am

Ewww!!!! $8 hours without sleep does that to a guy!

My BAD!

JSS

January 15th, 2010
9:49 am

“48″ hours

Sautee

January 15th, 2010
11:31 am