Can we not jump to conclusions about Gilbert Arenas' relationship with Flip Saunders after seven games?

We all know that sportswriters do a lot of writing these days.  Feature stories, blogs, Tweets, video, etc.  Not to mention that there are ... um ... fewer of them with the industry struggling.  The only problem is that there isn't more time in the day for all these articles to be written, so writers are forced to file stories much faster than ever before. 

This is why I'm willing to somewhat give Ken Berger the benefit of the doubt for this blog post.  He also filed a story on Amare Stoudemire and has a blog and tons other stuff to write.  I can't imagine writing that much that fast, and I like to think I'm a guy who has the ability to churn out stuff pretty quickly. 

But regardless, the conclusion Berger makes -- "Arenas, Flip Not on Same Page" -- could not be more off the mark.

Saunders was right when he described the Wizards’ offense as "stagnant." Arenas was right when he said the team is still "trying to find out where we are, what we are." The common ground ended there.

"We’re just trying to figure out how we can put the ball in the basket, what coach wants from each player," Arenas said. "That’s what we’re struggling with."

Once again on Sunday, the ball wasn’t moving, the cuts weren’t crisp enough, and there was little trust in the system that Saunders brought here. The typical offensive set consisted of someone getting the ball on the wing, dribbling toward the basket, and shooting. Yet listen to Arenas’ assessment: He thinks the Wizards aren’t shooting fast enough.

"I say it’s when we have shots open, we’re not taking them," Arenas said. "We’re trying to do the extra dribble, or get closer to the rim, or pass the ball an extra time when we could just take the first shot. If you look at a team like Phoenix, the reason they don’t have turnovers is they’re launching ‘em. They’re letting it fly so they don’t have a chance to turn the ball over."

Contrary to Arenas’ assessment, the Wizards’ brass knows the opposite is true. The Wiz need to play more structured offense and pass the ball more, not less.

Here, Berger completely ignores context of Arenas' quote.  Want to know what it was?  I know, because I was the one that asked the question.  The question I asked had to do with how he felt about the Wizards' offense having more turnovers than assists.  It was a very specific question about a very specific stat.  It was not necessarily a question about what was wrong with the offense as a whole. 

So when Arenas says the Wizards need to shoot quicker, it's specifically a way to get turnovers down.  His point is that Phoenix gets fewer turnovers and more assists because you aren't dribbling to get your own shots.  He's right.  In Seven Seconds or Less, Mike D'Antoni made literally the exact same point. 

And even if Arenas is trying to make a general point about the offense as a whole (and despite the specific context, I do think he was, to a point), is he really contradicting Saunders' message?  As Berger himself writes, Saunders' main message was that the Wizards' offense has been "stagnant."  What's the opposite of a stagnant offense?  An offense that's "in the flow."  What do you often see from an offense that's "in the flow?"  Quick passes, quick decisions, quick, in-rhythm shots that are good shots, open shots, but still shots that you take without surveying and thinking.  Basically, you see the Suns offense.  

As Saunders himself said:

"We're taking too many contested shots.  If you're taking contested shots, it probably means you're putting the ball on the floor and you're trying to take a shot on your own instead of creating a shot for somebody else."

A Family Foundation:

And as Arenas said later:

"[The problem] is dribbling to go get it up.  The ball's swinging.  If it's swinging to, like, [Oberto], [Oberto's] making passes.  I'm making passes.  But if you don't shoot the initial shot (long pause)."

Does that sounds like two guys who aren't on the same page?  It doesn't to me.  Obviously, they aren't saying the exact same thing, which is why I titled that section of this post "The Alternate Explanation (Sort Of)."  But the nuts and bolts of the argument are the same.  Both want everyone to be more decisive out there.  Both believe in quick decisions, whether it's moving the ball to an open man or taking an open shot instead of thinking, surveying and such.  Neither wants the offense to get stagnant. 

It might be (okay, fine, it is) true that Arenas is struggling to execute Saunders' vision.  But it isn't true that coach and player fundamentally disagree.  I know it's easy to think the free-spirited Arenas is rebelling against his coach, but it's just not happening right now. 

So please, kindly file this story away and relax.  Arenas and Saunders are fine.

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