In this young NBA season, no team has been a bigger disappointment than the Washington Wizards. With Gilbert Arenas being healthy again and having arguably one of the deepest rosters in the league, there were high expectations for the team coming into the season. Right now, the Wizards’ record stands at 3-7 – fourth in the Southeast Division. Prior to last night’s big win against the Cavs, Washington had lost six in a row and four of those games were by double digits. That dramatic opening night road victory in Dallas seems like a distant memory.
Luck hasn’t been on their side so far. Just like in years past, the injury bug has hit the Wizards as several key players including Antawn Jamison have already missed significant time this season. The players who have been on the court have not produced like they should have. Gilbert Arenas is putting up good stats 22.9 points and a career high 6.5 assists (his 10 apg in ’08-09 don’t count because he played in just 2 games), but has admitted he has struggled getting comfortable in the new offense and says he finds himself thinking too much on the court.
“I find myself doing more thinking than I am just reacting, off my instincts. Players in this league, they react,” Arenas told the Washington Post. “I was a reactor. Now I find myself being a thinker. I’m sitting there concentrating on getting assists — averaging eight assists, averaging nine assists — because I want to be labeled a ‘point guard.’ You see the players out there, Chris Paul averaging 20 [points] and 10 [assists], and you know they consider him the best point guard. So you put that in your mind, like, ‘Man, in this system I can average 20 and 10. Let me go average 20 and 10.’ And then I catch myself trying to force it.”
Caron Butler has struggled a little bit in the new offense as well. His shooting percentages are down, his steals are down and his assists are way down. He averaged over 4 assists per game the past two seasons, but is averaging just 0.9 dimes in ’09-10. Besides injuries and problems scoring the ball, the Wizards have all looked hesitant out there. The ball movement has been bad and there was too much standing around watching Gilbert or Caron do their thing. Nobody else looked like they wanted to shoot the ball.
Antawn Jamison is back in the lineup after missing most of the preseason and the first eight regular season games and looked good in his debut last night against Cleveland, scoring 31 points and 10 rebounds. Now that the big three of Arenas, Jamison and Butler are in full force, the Wizards have no more excuses. I understand, the team still has to adjust to Flip Saunders’ system and all the new faces on the roster like Mike Miller, Randy Foye and Earl Boykins. Even Arenas, who basically missed two seasons, is still trying to find his chemistry with the team again.
Bottom line is Washington has enough talent on that roster to finish in the top five of the East. The ball movement looked a lot better last night and maybe this win can get their confidence up. If the team can get comfortable in the offense in the next 10 games and the team escapes any more injuries, than this team has no excuses why they shouldn’t be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. But even with injuries, it shouldn’t be an excuse. Last year, Orlando and L.A. made the Finals with some of their key guys hurt, so why can’t Washington do that?
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