Smoke and mirrors: Flip Saunders wants Gilbert Arenas to play more up-tempo

I missed practice yesterday, but according to Michael Lee, Flip Saunders had a message for Gilbert Arenas.

"We haven't had as much of a thrust with the ball," Saunders said. "We want [Arenas]to be aggressive with the ball, whether it's scoring or distributing, but we cannot walk the ball up the court. That's something we've really been trying to work on, from the beginning of training camp. If there is a miss, we shouldn't be in any sort of set play. We haven't done as a good a job as we need to."

*snip*

"Right now, we're trying to get a better thrust with the ball and trying to get more open-floor opportunities," Saunders said. "I'm usually trying to wave my arm to get him to tell [Arenas] to run faster. It's one of those things, we had more of an emphasis of trying to get out and get some easier buckets."

This all sounds very good.  Right now, our half-court offense isn't working, so getting transition points is key to improving the overall output we have on the offensive end. 

But I'm taking this with a huge grain of salt.  Why?  Flip Saunders-coached teams aren't running teams.  His Minnesota teams were all over the map in terms of pace, but check out the pace ratings of his recent Detroit clubs.

Yeesh.  I don't know how else to put this, but Saunders comments sure sound like he's paying lip service rather than trying to send a message to Gilbert.  Yes, you can see him motioning for Gilbert and the other point guards to push the ball, but it's understandable for Arenas to want to pull back and focus on executing the half-court offense when that strategy is so ingrained in Saunders' way of thinking.

I realize that pace isn't fully synonymous with "pushing the ball."  There are several teams who get a lot of fast-break points, but sit near the bottom of the league in pace (e.g. Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Philadelphia).  However, if you ever watched those Detroit teams, you'd realize that they were slow-paced because they never ran no matter what, not because they would run occasionally and milk the clock in the halfcourt otherwise.  Flip Saunders is a very good coach, but he's one of the last coaches on earth that you'd want if you were hoping to fast-break all the time.

I'll happily wait for Saunders to prove me wrong and employ a faster-paced strategy, but history isn't on his side.  I for one am not expecting Arenas to change his ways much anytime soon on this front.

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