We've already posted a link to Michael Lee's report of Nick Young's workout with Sam Cassell and Flip Saunders, but even though I read it pretty thoroughly the first time, this line jumped out at me when I went back to read it again just now.
In addition to taking defensive tips from Saunders, Young has also been working on getting shots off the ball. Young said Saunders has been putting him through some of the same shooting-off-screen drills that Richard Hamilton used in Detroit.
"Something I'm not used to, but it's working for me," Young said.
Wait a minute. If I'm reading this correctly, Nick Young, going into his third year in the NBA, hoping to make it as a shooting guard next to one of the league's most ball-dominant lead guards, hasn't actually practiced catching and shooting off screens much in his entire basketball career? How exactly did the team expect him to fit in with Gilbert Arenas anyway? What, was he going to learn the skill by osmosis?
Now, a lot of this isn't the team's fault. They aren't responsible for Nick Young's high-school or college coaching, which probably didn't emphasize the fundamentals enough. But it's now been two years since Nick was drafted. You'd think that, if Gilbert was in their long-term plans, the Wizards would find a guard who demonstrated some skill in playing off the ball and spend their draft pick on him rather than a misfit like Young seemed to be. Even if Young was the obvious pick (which he was at the time, despite being a bit of a misfit), you would think the coaching staff would be drilling him constantly in playing off the ball.
See, when I and others whine about the poor player development skills of the previous regime, this is what we're talking about. It's true, Nick Young needs to put in work to become better, but one doesn't simply improve the skills they need to learn exclusively through their own commitment. It takes a dedicated coaching staff that is willing to actually put themselves out there to help rather than just expecting the player to figure it out studying his peers. To hear Nick Young say that he isn't used to drills that improve his catch-and-shoot game makes me think that either the Wizards didn't think he needed to work on those skills (which is foolish) or thought he did, but didn't take enough time to actually work with him on them (which is negligent).
The days when NBA coaching staffs would simply coach, expecting players to know all the fundamentals already, went by the wayside as soon as the high school AAU-type culture became prominent. You have to be able to teach prospects basic fundamental skills in this day and age. The best teams understand that. It sounds like the Wizards finally do get that now. I just wish they could have gotten it sooner.