Most of you probably know my distaste for the word "energy." Why don't I like that word? Because it's often assumed to be the cause of bad play rather than the result. In other words, we think teams play badly because they don't bring enough energy, when in reality a team's energy level drops because they're playing badly. "Energy's" proper use is as a catch-all phrase to indicate bad play, because what exactly does it mean to increase one's energy? Jump up and down more? Run like you're running harder? Any action that could be interpreted as "playing with more energy" can be redefined and specified more clearly.
Flip Saunders, for the second straight game, expressed frustration about the Wizards' energy. One game after saying he could sense the Miami game would be a letdown because of the lack of energy at shootaround (a claim Antawn Jamison, among others, denounced), Saunders repeated the criticism yesterday.
"We're coming into games as if we're 26-8 or something," Saunders said. "That's got to stop."
But is the problem a lack of energy, or a bad approach? Brendan Haywood, for one, believes it's the latter.
"It's bad shots," Haywood said, referring to the team's problems at the start of the game and the start of the third quarter. "It's not like guys are coming out with bad energy."
And I, for one, agree with Haywood. The Wizards took 81 field goals in yesterday's game. Forty-nine of those were shots from outside of 16 feet. Want to know how many of those the Wizards made? Thirteen. Thirteen of 49 from 16 feet and beyond. To put it another way, over 60 percent of the Wizards' shots were long jumpers, and of those 60 percent, the Wizards hit just 27 percent of those shots. Damn, son.
"At the beginning of the first quarter, and the beginning of the third quarter, we need a Wizards manlaw. Take the ball to the basket," Haywood said.
It was an across-the-board problem too. Caron Butler took 17 shots; 11 of them were outside of 16 feet. Six of Randy Foye's seven shots were outside of 16 feet. All five of Mike James' and DeShawn Stevenson's shots were outside of 16 feet. In fact, the only two people who took the ball closer to the basket were Antawn Jamison (eight of 15 shots inside of 16 feet) and Mike Miller (four of eight), who really should be shooting jumpers because it's his strength.
So, Caron Butler, why do you and the rest of the team take jumpers even as you continue to stress the importance of driving to the basket?
"Everybody's trying to ... get into a rhythm, and defenses sag off. That's a shot you're comfortable w/ ... so you take that shot," he said. ... "But you still got to force the issue and get in that paint, get on their heels and create for a teammate."
Forcing the issue would be nice, if the Wizards weren't also 4-14 from shots inside of 10 feet that weren't at the rim. I don't want to defend the jump-shot happy players too much -- Butler had several driving opportunities he passed up, and Foye continues to believe it's right for him to take 22-foot two-point jumpers early in the shot clock to keep defenders from focusing all their attention on Antawn Jamison (Randy, I'm pretty sure the defense wants you to shoot that shot). But many of Saunders' plays don't exactly lend themselves well to going to the hoop. We're seeing Butler catching the ball in the corner at 19 feet. We're seeing Foye coming off a screen designed to shoot the jumper. We're seeing pick-and-slips to Jamison in the corner. Where are the plays going to the basket? Do they exist? If not, then your players will try to get to the basket by themselves off broken plays, which, judging by the players on the roster, is not the strength of anyone.
So again, a lack of energy seems like the wrong thing to focus on. Better energy comes with a better mindset and better execution. Emphasize those problems, not a lack of "energy."
Four Factors (Bold=very good | Italics=very bad)
Snap Reaction: Pitiful offense, as expected. The key stat to me, though, is the terrible turnover rate. What happens when a bunch of guys who can't drive decide they need to make plays on their own, rather than execute plays that naturally get them closer to the rim? A lot of turnovers.
Highest individual plus/minus: Mike James and Mike Miller (+3 in 19:06 and 33:18, respectively)
Lowest individual plus/minus: DeShawn Stevenson (-16 in 12:24)
Best five-man unit: Mike James/Mike Miller/Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison/Brendan Haywood (+6 to close the first half)
- Worst five-man unit: Mike James/DeShawn Stevenson/Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison/Brendan Haywood (-5 in a tiny stretch in the third quarter)
Snap Reaction: Flip Saunders on Mike James' play: "He didn't always play effective at times, he made some mistakes, but he played hard and played with energy." Sounds about right to me.