Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

Darius Soriano —  December 7, 2010

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Records: Lakers 14-6 (4th in the West), Wizards 6-13 (13th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 115.2 (1st in NBA), Wizards 103.5 (26th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.8 (12th in NBA), Wizards 111.6 (28th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Wizards: John Wall, Kirk Hinrich, Alonzo Gee, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Theo Ratliff (out); Wizards: Josh Howard (out)

The Lakers Coming in:  It’s funny what a blowout win (regardless of opponent) and some days off can do for a team.  Before Friday’s demolition of Sacramento, the Lakers looked worn down and were in midst of a 4 game slide.  Now, nearly every story details how things are looking up.  After a couple days of rest, Pau Gasol’s hamstring is much improvedAndrew Bynum continues to progress and is now practicing, participating in full court, 5 on 5 scrimmages, and could be back in the next week.  Ron Artest may be struggling some, but with the team winning more than it’s losing, he’s perfectly fine with a reduced role.

Really, this all falls in with what we consistently try to focus on around these parts: it’s a long season and there will be ups and downs.  Last week was definitely one of the valleys of this season but those times are unavoidable in all but the most historic of seasons.  The Lakers must continue to take the long view and things will sort themselves out over time.  It doesn’t change the fact that frustrations will occur (just as those remarkably high moments will), but if the goal is to be playing the best at the end of the year it’s times like the recent lows that help a team build towards that end point.

Transitioning back to tonight’s game, FB&G did choose a winner for our “rookie love” ticket giveaway for tonight’s Wizards game.  There were many great entries and after reading them all and debating, we whittled them down to a handful that we really liked most.  At that point we randomly chose a winner and Chris’ memory of Eddie Jones’ performance against Philly on the road was the lucky entry.  Thanks to all of you who shared your favorite rookie moments and another special thanks to StubHub for providing the tickets to tonight’s game.  Hopefully we’ll be able to do this again before the end of the season.

The Wizards Coming in: The Wizards have won once in their last 6 games.  They’re playing like a team that was in bad enough shape to earn the #1 overall pick in last year’s draft and have mismatched parts that only have a casual relationship with playing offense and defense correctly.  Despite the bright light that is John Wall, the Wiz just don’t have the right mix of players or the winning culture to turn around a team that is still recovering from last year’s fire sale of Butler, Jamison, and Haywood and the return of Gilbert Arenas from health and his suspension due to locker room “issues”.  But rather than take my word for it, here’s an excerpt from Truth About It’s Kyle Weidie when he recapped the Wizard’s most recent loss to the Suns:

This Wizards team is hard to dissect, and I don’t mean “take apart,” as Steve Nash did on Sunday evening on his way to captaining his Suns to a 125-108 victory.  The Wizards are hard to dissect in the sense of separating individual parts to determine why the team continues to lose in the worst of ways (and win by the skin of their teeth). Anything and everything could go wrong on a given night.  On offense, in general, the team wastes too many possessions with bad shots. Pretty simple to conclude that they could use a lot more discipline in this regard. On defense, it comes down to focus and will, something several Wizards have major issues with.

Wizards Blogs: As briefly shown in the above sampling, Kyle Weidie and crew run the great site Truth About It that chronicles the daily happenings of the team in our nation’s capital.

Keys to game: The Wizards aren’t a much better team than the Kings so a win is there for the taking if the Lakers play with aggression and focus.

Offensively, the Lakers should attack inside with both Gasol and Kobe and make the Wizards make hard choices about whether or not to send double teams.  Gasol will be matched up with one of the more athletic bigs in the NBA in JaVale McGee, but the Wizard Center is also undisciplined in his approach on defense.  Pau should be able to attack McGee on the left block by backing him down and setting him up for his baseline lefty hook or by driving hard to the middle and getting off his short jumper.  Where Pau could struggle is if he tries to finesse McGee too often in the post by always relying on his turnaround jumper, but if Pau shows variety in his attack by facing up and then driving into his post ups, he should have good success.

As for Kobe, he’ll likely be guarded by Kirk Hinrich – a player that’s one of the more underrated perimeter defenders in the league.  I anticipate Kobe having trouble beating Kirk off the dribble (even guys like Lebron and Wade have trouble with him, so Kobe likely will too), so where Kobe can do damage is out of the triple threat and on the low block or elbow in post up situations.  When Kobe makes perimeter catches, he needs to be judicious with how he uses his dribble and not tip his hand too early by putting the ball on the ground immediately.  Instead, Kobe can use his array of jab steps and feints to create space to shoot his jumper over the top of Kirk or put the ball on the ground to go into back down moves from the short wing.  Once in the post, Kobe can use his superior size and strength to get good position and either shoot over the top or pick out cutters or shooters cross court who should be open against a collapsing defense.

Defensively, the Lakers need to be prepared to defend in transition and on the pick and roll.  John Wall is simply dynamic in the open court and will try to single handedly break down the Lakers transition D by pushing the ball and probing for any sliver of space to get to the basket.  Plus, as mentioned, McGee is one of the more athletic bigs in the NBA and he serves as a great running mate for Wall.  McGee loves to run post lane sprints and catch lobs against bigs that can’t match his footspeed so the onus will be on Gasol and Odom to change ends well.  This will not only to contest McGee’s runouts, but will also help block off the lane against Wall.  The flip side to McGee’s (and Blatche’s) tendency to run out is that they often do not handle their defensive rebounding responsibilities.  So, tonight is a game where Odom and Gasol can feast on the offensive glass but they will need to balance that with knowing when the board is secured by the Wiz and then turn and sprint back.

When defending the P&R, the Lakers need to have a consistent strategy in place and I believe it should start with going under the screen on every ball handler that initiates this action.  While Wall shows decent shooting ability, he’s much more dangerous against a trailing defender when he can turn the corner and attack the paint so the Lakers should surrender the long jumper to both him and Hinrich when either are handling the ball.  Make these guys beat you from the outside and not in the paint where their attacking ways can get the Lakers depleted front line in foul trouble.  Arenas is a bit trickier on this action, but I suggest letting him fire away until he proves effective from long range.

The battle of the benches will also be big tonight.  The Wiz aren’t an especially deep team, but they do bring the aforementioned Arenas off their bench as an offensive spark.  Tonight Brown and Blake will have their hands full dealing with Gilbert’s varied offensive game where he’ll shoot or attack off the bounce in any given situation.  Obviously his knee issues have limited some of his explosion at the rim, but he’s still a dangerous penetrator that will finish inside if the big is back pedaling when he turns the corner.  And when you combine Arenas with Nick Young and Yi, the Wiz do bring scorers off their bench and the Lakers second unit will need to have even more of a defensive mentality than usual tonight.

When analyzing this match up, the Lakers should win.  But should and certainly will are two different things.  The Lakers have the ability to outclass this team early and turn the game into a blowout if they operate with the proper mindset.  However, this Wiz team does show some fight (they forced a triple OT game against Philly last week) and won’t stay down with a foot firmly planted on their neck once they show weakness.  The Lakers have that ability – we’ve seen it many times this year – but they’ve also shown the ability to coast.  Depending on which Laker team shows up will go a long way in determining how close this game is going into the 4th quarter.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time out West on Fox Sports.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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44 responses to Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

  1. #2. That video is awesome. The one thing that always made me appreciate Ronnie was that even from the bench he was fully into the game. That video is just further proof of that.

  2. any chance at the trading deadline of picking up Ronnie? pretty sure Sasha will be dealt, (or they’ll pay someone to take him) sure could use a backup big.
    (I’ll be surprised if this makes it on the board ;)
    I really miss ol Ronnie too
    so much HEART!

  3. Great preview. I just love to watch McGee, there will be at least one very exciting moment per game with him. Great shot-blocker, also from the weak-side, but leaves his feet way too easy, so let’s hope Pau uses his arsenal of pass fakes and up-fakes and maybe also gets him in foul trouble. McGee makes a ton of mistakes, but to me that’s part of his appeal – sometimes it seems like he’s being controlled by a 12-year old playing NBA 2k11.

    Blatche on the other hand leaves me pretty underwelmed despite of his solid stats. The tools seem to be there, but somehow it doesn’t add up to a complete player as well as it should. Something feels missing, and for a lack of better term I’d say it’s the feel for the game – something Gasol and Odom excel in.

    Wall is one of the quickest guys end-to-end that I have seen this season, maybe even quicker than Westbrook or Rose. It seems like he needs just 4 dribbles to sprint down the whole court if he is unimpeded. So transition defense focusing on him is very important. If I were Phil Jackson, I’d give him the same treatment like Westbrook, trying to make him a jump shooter and keeping him out of the paint.

    Arenas should probably rather be bodied up and forced to make plays inside to keep him from getting hot from three.

    All the Wizards’ games I’ve seen this season have been pretty fun to watch. Still, if the Lakers play anywhere near their potential, this should be decided by the start of the 4th.

  4. I think too many people are overanalyzing artests defense, its his offense which is worrisome. The lack of defense is easily explainable. Defense is a team arrangement, and the team is just not expending the energy or focus. necessary to play world class D like last years playoffs. I wouldn’t worry too much, this lakers D will come around when it needed to. Also people shouldn’t discount bynum’s contribution to the D. He may be the most important player to the lakers D. Without yao, bynum may be the longest player in the nba. It’s not his blocks but rather how many shots he alters. Not to mention that he is the toughest guy in the interior. Bynum is a beast! His value is always underestimated.

  5. Wall is one of my favorite players since I am from Kentucky and all, but there are two areas he needs to improve on that the Lakers can exploit. He is and has been very turnover prone even at UK so with the right pressure they can force him into turnovers just do not overextend on him (kind of like guarding Rondo). The other is his shooting, while he already is a better shooter than Rondo and Rose were when they first entered the league, his shot is still spotty at best especially midrange, so force him to shoot jumpers and he will have a long night. He is also struggling to finish at the rim against NBA players unlike he did consistently against college players last year so playing sound defense should mean some blocked shots for Pau and Lamar. Gonna be a fun one, I hope Wall gets a triple double but I hope the Lakers blow them out. That’s me being greedy

  6. This might increase our street cred. I’m not sure.

    http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/12/07/snoop-dogg-picks-purp-yellow-to-three-pete/

    That has to be our theme song from now on.

  7. On to the 2nd Quarter of the season after a Disappointing 1st quarter (N my Opinion, but I’ll get back to that later). The Bulle … er Wizards are another team that we shouldn’t have any issues with (especially after coming off of 3 days rest & playing at home). A last place team (division wise), 13th n there Conference and they have no offensive or defensive discipline. An extremely young team that’s long on athleticism, but short on intelligence. This game should be over faster than a 40 yd Dash.

    Now back to the 1st quarter of our Season. If anyone can say with a straight face that they’re Happy with our performance over the 1st 20 gms, I’d like to suggest a career in Politics or as a Lawyer. Let’s view the 1st Quarter & let’s keep it 100.
    1. Kobe has been atrocious from the field and even worst defensively.
    2. We’ve gotten nothing from Ron Ron offensively or defensively.
    3. Pau has been forced to play too many mins and because of this, he’s having Stamina & Hamstring issues already (even with taking the summer off).
    4. Our overall Team Defense has been Brutal and there has been too many occasions in which we haven’t run the Offense. Instead, settling for Iso’s or Long Jumpers.
    5. After a fast start, our bench has been suspect as of late. ShanBrown has cooled, Blake has been inconsistent, Theo got injured, the Pups have been, well Pups and Sasha & Luke have been dead weight. Barnes has held his own, so far.

    Now some might say that after all that I’ve mentioned, 14-6 is a Decent Record. But keep n mind, I never mentioned anything ’bout our record. I’m speaking of Performance. Also let’s take a look at our Schedule during the 1st qtr.
    1. We’ve only played 5 teams that’s over 500 (Phoenix twice, Denver, Utah, Chicago & Indiana).
    2. We’ve played Golden State, Sacramento, Minn, Houston & Memphis twice. Including the Blazers and Clippers (who we haven’t played as of yet, meaning Clippers), these are the only teams that’s under 500 n our Conference.
    3. We blew a 14 pt second half lead at Denver and went on to lose, we blew a 19 pt lead (though early) at Utah and went on to lose, I respect the home loss to Phoenix because they just shot lights out n that game, but can not excuse the home loss to Indiana (a game n which we just didn’t show up/took them for granted). Equally upset with the road loss at Houston, who were extremely short-handed (without Yao and Laker killer Brooks).

    And to top it all off, we’ve yet to play any of the Big 3 from the East (Bost, Orl or Miami), nor have we played the Spurs, Mavs, Thunder or Hornets.

    So please tell me, if not Disappointed, how would U describe our 1st Quarter?

  8. The team is cruising (I’m not saying this is a good thing, but we’re definitely half-asleep/bored with the regular season) The bad news is that this team reminds me too much of the ’04 Lakers rather than the ’03 Lakers. Hopefully I’m wrong.

    Looking forward to watching Wall. I’ve watched him several times this season and I don’t see the crazy athleticism and potential everybody sees. Hopefully it’ll be on display tonight.

  9. 9. You don’t see his potential? The guy had a triple double in his 6th game of his NBA career on a terrible team that’s pretty impressive. You really can’t see his athleticism consistently because the Wizards IMO limit him on offense (especially when Arenas is playing). Wall literally can jump out of the gym and he is quicker than Rondo (not sure about Rose cuz his first step is insane). If Wall develops his shot he could be the best PG in the league in 2 or 3 years, he has the work ethic for it and all the tools necessary, the only thing that he has going against him is being stuck in a dead end franchise in Washington. Also he has been playing with a bum ankle for awhile now, which could explain why you’ve seen a lack of explosiveness.

  10. anyone got a working livestream?

  11. Seriously Lamar has played like an allstar this season in my opinion

  12. Odom is having a fantatic first quarter, he even went to the right and used his off hand to draw a foul

  13. Man do I love Stu Lantz. He really deserves someone much better/less annoying to work with than Joel Meyers.

  14. 14: Most def. He’s been amazing.

    Pau working on a triple-double tonight, despite a rather poor shooting touch..

  15. Anyone else think that the Wizards play entirely too slow on offense with the pieces they have their?

  16. 14 – he has, but not still not good enough to earn a spot in the crowded West forwards group.

  17. 20: That’s exactly a week from today. Looks like he wants a couple of games in before we take on Voltron.

  18. I’ll say it one more time: Stu is hilarious. Here’s what he just said:

    “The worst thing you can have in transition defense is when your bigs run down center of the floor without talking to one another, and then an offensive player like (it was Derek Fisher, but you can hear Stu hesitate here, for good reason)… a guard… take it to you.”

    ROFL.

  19. Oh yeah and I forgot to mention, when exactly is the last time Fisher got an and-one in transition?!

    Stu’s right, epitome of bad defense.

  20. Poor rookies don’t get any respect. Caracter was not credited for an assist on that great pass to Odom under the basket.

  21. 2.) Great vid. Miss the energy, effort, and smiles.

    Stu Lantz said it well at the end of the first quarter; I think we’re moving very well off the ball. I don’t think the defense has really been that bad. Young just happens to be shooting very very well. If he only has ten points, our defense looks much more respectable. Stats look great at half, Pau and LO filling it up.

    For me, whenever Fish comes out and knocks down one of his jumpers early, I see it as a sign of good things. And it has clearly translated into Blake and Brown hitting shots too. ; )

    9.) Well, since I’ll be taking the bar exam in May, I’ll take you up on the offer. With the caveat that we are down Drew, I think it’s a respectable 1Q. Say he gives us 2 more wins if he’s healthy, that makes us 16-4, puts us on pace for 64 wins. Granted all of the above concerns are true and we’re still trucking along, I’m not going to complain just yet.

  22. On a team of generally very good passers, Kobe might be the best. LOVE his behind the back routine with Gasol.

  23. #18. They’re middle of the league in pace, but with Wall, Arenas, and the bigs they have they should probably be in the top 10.

  24. I don’t understand Phil…why play Gasol so much? It is getting beyond ridiculous now. You’re up by 20 and you’re still playing Gasol every single minute of the game with the exception of 2 minutes at the end of the first half…what’s he thinking?

  25. Anyone following from the expensive courtside seats? I’d like to know what Fish said to get the T, quite uncharacteristic.

  26. @24. Looks like Caracter got that assist upon further review by the statistician. LOL…comedy of errors in transition but it’s 86-68 already.

  27. Am I the only one appreciating attempts like the one Lamar just tried to Pau? I mean…these are the Lakers we’re talking about, and they are facing a vastly inferior team – why not bring us a little showtime?=)

  28. Caracter just looks awful every time he’s been out there the last five games. Is it me??

    What a terrible way to end the 3rd, up by just three after being up 19. Those “showtime” efforts were even more ill-advised I’m hindsight…

  29. I’ll tell you exactly what the end of that quarter looked like…shades of last year.

    The starters build us a bit of a lead, the bench comes in and cannot execute at all. So much for resting in the 4th. The early bonus for the Wiz didn’t help much either.

  30. I guess I should eat my words after those last minutes..

  31. There is no way the Lakers are losing this game tonight. It was just terrible play at the end of that quarter

  32. They refuse to give Pau his final assists…this is getting ridiculous:D Should have had 12 dimes now at the very least.

  33. Odom with a horrible 3, he should of held the ball to milk the clock

  34. Pau played 42 minutes tonight. 42 minutes! And still the Lakers let a horrid (horrid!) team hang around all night.

    Why? Are they already bored with the season, just 20 games in?

  35. My god, I love Pau, but he always has these monster stat games when I go H2H against the team that has him on their squad.

    I can live with him getting 20-10, but 8 assists and 5 blocks is just too much for my fantasy team to take.

    And Wall with 3 blocks? ARGH!

    Anyway, good win ;)

  36. Knickers = Amare. Trying to drum up some support to get voted into the East All-Star squad. Because that matters.

  37. If only Kobe would stop shooting so many 3’s, limit it to 3 a game, he’d have some great FG %’s.

  38. I see in the paperback version of Bill Simmons’ book, he has raised Kobe’s ranking to 8th best of all time, don’t have a real problem with that, Kobe lacks the signature championship-winning moments or dominating finals stats of those above him:

    http://www.austinbell.tv/bookofbasketball.html

  39. Is it just me or does it seem like, in some regards, the season hasn’t really even started? I can’t wait until we actually play a *real* team– i.e., just one single game against Bos, Mia, Orl, SA, Dal, OKC or even NO. Meanwhile, it’s pretty hard to accept 6 losses when the best team we’ve played has been the Bulls (maybe Den). I think a real argument could be made that we’ve should have only dropped 1 or 2 so far…

    on that note: Clippers tom’w!