Preview & Chat: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  January 26, 2010

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Records: Lakers 32-11 (1st in West) Wizards 14-29 (14th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 108.8 (10th in league), Wizards 105 (22nd in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 101.8 (3rd in league) Wizards 109.4 (23rd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Wizards: Randy Foye, Deshawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antiwan Jamison, Brendon Haywood

Lakers Updates: Ron Artest was at shoot around today and will play tonight (likely getting a key matchup on Caron Butler). I will add that this is one guy who could benefit from the upcoming All Star break. A few days without the pounding on the hardwood will help the plantar fasciitis he is fighting.

Wizards coming in: Do I really need to go into the ugly details here? Well, I think we do on this point: While the Gilbert Arenas/Javaris Crittenton gun charges get the mainstream media attention, the team’s problems on the court are much deeper than that. The guys at Truth About It nailed this the other day.

It would be simple to cite constant themes of lacking energy and settling for jumpers and conclude that this team has quit on their coach, themselves, the franchise, and the fans. But these issues have plagued them since the beginning of the season. So, and pardon me if I’ve said this before, you technically can’t quit if you never start playing.

Early season issues arose from the players’ unfamiliarity with a new offensive system. That quickly beget reoccurring situations where they should have known the system, but didn’t trust it. The most recently evolution involves one of the team’s captains ignoring the coach and running his own play with the game on the line.

Wizards blogs Did I mention Truth About It?

Keys to game: We complain sometimes that the Lakers aren’t focused and can just win on talent and not teamwork, but it is nice to have a few of those on the schedule. Like when you’ve been struggling and need win. This should be one of those games. Should.

Both teams have had weak bench play of late — if one of them can get a good spark off the bench it will be a huge advantage. Mike Miller has been a Lakers killer, the Lakers need to focus on him. Also, Andre Blatche has a lot of talent when he decides to focus. Against the Lakers may bring his “A” game, and that could be a problem because he is long and more athletic than our bigs.

The Lakers need to communicate on defense tonight because Flip Saunders’ offense can score points when it is executed. Always has, Washington just tends to not execute it well. But Butler and Jamison have the talent. They love to set a wing up on the weak side, have run a strong-side pick and roll where the screener rolls to the weak side and the ball handler drives. The goal ball reversal (a problem for the Lakers with their current defensive scheme) and to get easy weak side looks for the wing (who can also set to the new post on the weak side, who should have deep position). Saunders offense needs ball movement, and when the Wizards do it they can cause problems.

Where you can watch: Early 4 p.m. start here out west, on KCAL 9 locally plus NBATV where you are. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.