CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 11: Kyle Korver #26 and Omer Asik #3 of the Chicago Bulls leap in the air as Jordan Crawford #15 of the Washington Wizards gets ready to shoot at the United Center on January 11, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Has everyone heard Kierkegaard's parable of the duck church? I'll sum up briefly:
- Ducks have a church.
- Duck preacher says 'You have wings and you can fly like birds.'
- Duck congregation says, 'Amen!'
- Duck congregation waddles home.
This seems to be precisely the beef Wizards fans have with Flip Saunders. Flip is correct in that you can't give 82 Knute Rockne speeches (especially since there's only 66 games this year), but you damn well shouldn't have to. The coaching ability Wizards fandom is desperately seeking evidence of is transformational leadership, and the roster change may represent Flip's last stand. I'm glad Sean mentioned identity in the Bulls recap, because that is precisely what the Wizards have to discover and own for there to be any positive progress as a team this season.
Whether it's betting Trevor Booker he's going to get suckered by an Andrea Bargnani pumpfake or handing out hard hats/gamechanger coins, Flip and Co. are definitely not lying down on the job. The effort is there, but as it's been said in the gamethreads with respect to the defense (pre-starter shakeup), it takes more than that.
The essence of transformational leadership is creating a shared identity. Ted has been talking about the necessity of losing as part of the process, offered up the 'wicked pixels' gem but hasn't openly acknowledged the fundamental source of Wizards fans' angst: for a team built to create fast break opportunities and use superior athleticism to get out in transition, the lineup wasn't structured to play that way.
I am no advocate of owners telling coaches how to do their job. As a fan, I am not impatient for wins. I don't believe Ted told Flip: 'I don't care how you do it, win games with this roster.' If that was the case, Flip probably would have been fired. Ernie talked a little about possibly pursuing a big name or two in free agency, and to that end, it might be possible that Ted/Ernie told Flip win if you can. If we're competitive sooner than expected, we might be able to get you some outside help sooner than you think.
If two thirds of Nick Young/Rashard Lewis/Andray Blatche shot well from the field while John Wall continued breaking down opposing defenses and Javale McGee minimized his mistakes, the Wizards being competitive must have sounded fairly possible. Of course, there's been no offensive synchronicity with any of our primary sparkplugs. With this having resulted in Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker being inserted into the starting lineup, has this historic beginning been a blessing in disguise?
There's an off and on debate over at Hogs Haven (one of scores) revolving around Mike Shanahan imposing his system on the Redskins rather than letting the talent dictate the offense. This is more of an option in the NFL than the NBA given the sheer volume of available talent, but with this particular debate centering around the QB position, it takes on a lot more relevance with respect to the NBA. I ended up about here: looking for a franchise QB for the Redskins with a pure system coach would feel like watching our breadwinner panning for gold by flashlight instead of daylight, never sure if he’s going to miss the big meal ticket because he isn’t seeing everything there is to see. Doesn't matter how hard you squint, Flip. Jan Vesely isn't about to morph into Tayshaun Prince.
Flip likes having a floor full of guys who can take 16-23 foot jump shots, and hopefully we've seen the last of those as our signature offensive weapon now that the kind of athleticism -> defensive stops -> athleticism -> transition -> athleticism -> finishing play style we were looking for seems to be gestating at long last. It's up to Flip to be the duck preacher that gets the Wizards into the air and believing in the team identity we've been sold on. And if the starting lineup goes back to the status quo, I swear to god I will shut off all the lights in my apartment, face the mirror and say 'Don Nelson' three times. Winning games is all well and good. But if it reinforces a model contrary to what this team is supposed to be, how can that be considered part of the rebuilding process?