– Washington Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan made an excellent observation about Dwyane Wade and the rest of the NBA players who played on the Olympic Team in Beijing this past summer. Jordan said that all of the players on the squad have come into the 2008-2009 season with a renewed commitment to playing defense. When Team USA was coming up short prior to the Beijing Olympics, the defense was shaky and the effort was even shakier. This year Coach K and his coaching staff did a tremendous job in getting the team to lockdown defense the entire game and as Coach Jordan mentioned the carryover is noticeable.
– DeShawn Stevenson was diagnosed with a nerve problem in his hamstring and it continues to plague him now. Coach Jordan said that it is not an issue that can be easily corrected and it is entirely possible that he’ll be fighting this the entire season. Given that Stevenson is going to be guarding Wade tonight and the best guards and small forwards on opposing teams all season, this is definitely something to watch carefully. This could possibly lead to Nick Young starting sometime in the near future.
– Coach Jordan spent the bulk of his pregame chat talking about the factors that he feels have led to the Wizards’ slow start. He mentioned that Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood are out; he mentioned that Juan Dixon and Etan Thomas did not play for the team last year and now they have been thrust into major roles; he mentioned the inconsistent play of the younger players like Dominic McGuire, Nick Young and Andray Blatche; he discussed that JaVale McGee, as well as he has played, still misses defensive assignment from time to time. And finally, he mentioned that the Wizards have played the fewest number of games of all the teams in the NBA. According to Coach Jordan it is hard to establish a rhythm when games are as spread out as they have been for them.
– Coach Jordan also gave some insight as to why Blatche’s minutes are so limited He mentioned that Blatche’s conditioning is not where it should be considering he’s been in the league for three years. When asked to be more specific, Coach Jordan said, “[His conditioning] is up and down, that’s the political way to say it.” He said that he continues to be frustrated with Blatche’s inconsistency. He’ll play brilliantly for four or five minutes at a time and then he’ll miss defensive assignments. Before tonight’s game Blatche spent an extended amount of time working on his shooting and his ballhandling. In 15 minutes of play tonight Blatche scored just six points and was a non-factor.
– Antonio Daniels is still battling a sore knee so Dixon will make his third start of the season. Depending on well his knee responds to rest Daniels may play on Friday against the Rockets
– The Wizards lack of a serious low post presence is part of the reason why they struggled against Miami. Michael Beasley started off guarding Etan Thomas yet the Wizards did not take advantage of that matchup despite Thomas’ 30 pound weight advantage. Thomas would roam the perimeter setting picks and rolling to the basket, but at no point did he set up down low, call for the ball or take it to the basket strong. JaVale McGee is a force on defensive end but on offense he primarily scored on putbacks and lobs despite being guarded by 6’7″ Shawn Marion and 6’8″ Udonis Haslem. This is where the Wizards sorely miss Brendan Haywood who rarely wandered out of the paint during any given game.
– Juan Dixon is struggling to run the team right now. He’s picking up his dribble too early and he’s looking for his shot first, then tries to run the team later. As a result, Butler and Jamison were frequently put in situations where they had to make one-on-one moves before the shot clock expired and the offense was never fluid. Dee Brown, who is more of a traditional point guard, was not effective either. He provided substantial pressure on Mario Chalmers and Chris Quinn on defense, but on the offensive side of the floor he was ineffective. As Coach Jordan said after the game, it is awfully tough to win games when the backup (Dixon) to the backup (Daniels) is put in a position where he has to lead the team. Tonight, it really cost them the game.
– McGee continued his streak of producing a jaw dropping plays at least once a game. In the first half of the game, he really just ran up and down the floor without really making any contributions. However, in the third quarter he broke the Wizards four minute scoreless streak with an impressive two minute stretch. First he scored on a swooping left hand move to the basket, then he slammed home a lob from Butler, after that he went down and blocked a shot on the defensive end and then he drew a three point play on the offensive end. He is still a rookie, which means he cannot sustain this play throughout the game, but he continues to show promise.
– When I spoke to Mario Chalmers this past summer he was in the midst of several NBA workouts trying to convince teams that he could play point guard in the NBA. At that time, he was projected to be drafted in the middle of the first round. In what had to be a huge disappointment Chalmers was drafted with by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round and he was later traded to the Heat. Four months later, he is now the starting point guard of the Heat and he played solidly this evening. In the third quarter alone he scored 10 points and handed out four assists. Unlike Dixon and Brown of the Wizards who struggled mightily, Chalmers did an excellent job of knowing when to pass, when to run the offense and went to score. He finished with 15 points and six assists.
– Watching Dwyane Wade with the Heat is a lot like watching LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Wade can score at will, then he can draw the defense to him and pass, he directs traffic and tells everyone where to go on offense and on defense he defends on the ball while getting int the passing lanes to steal passes. Wade’s teammates can play without feeling any pressure at all because Wade accepts that burden. This is the exact reason why the Wizards are struggling right now. As Coach Jordan said after the game, this current Wizards team is built around Gilbert Arenas. When he is out, it forces other players into roles they normally would not fulfill and it can be too much pressure.
– After the game Coach Jordan said that Butler and Jamison are visibly frustrated by the team’s play. Jamison scored 25, Butler scored 21 and they both grabbed 12 rebounds, but they had little help from their teammates. Nick Young, who has been playing well of late was the only other player in double figures with 12. But down the stretch Young turned the ball over during possessions that could have given his team the lead. At this pace you really have to wonder how much Butler and Jamison will have to give during the second half of the season.
– Earl the Pearl Monroe, who was featured in the ESPN documentary Black Magic, was in attendance at the game and he did not receive enough of an applause in my opinion. Considering the man’s Baltimore Bullets #10 jersey hangs from the rafters I feel like everyone in the building should have stood up and clapped for Black Jesus.