Fanhood is an exercise in highs and lows, so it's fair to take this with a grain of salt. After all, we did just win one game, and it only came after five horrible losses.
But I'm confident that we're on the upswing, at least for the immediate future. Why?
Caron Butler is back to being Tuff Juice. It's safe to say that Butler probably won't approach his insane shooting numbers from the first half of last year, but he's been playing excellent ball, particularly in these last couple games. He was 7 for 12 from the field in Friday's game against Denver, and was 9-20 against Atlanta Sunday. He's taking the ball to the rim more, which is huge, because that's my biggest complaint with him. Most importantly, he's starting to take some of the load off Gilbert Arenas, which will only help this team going forward. Can you remember the last time Butler took more shots in a game than Arenas? It happened Sunday, and the Wizards got a win for it. For the season, Butler's got a 47.5 eFG% and a 53.9 TS%, right about where he ended up last year.
The NBA Source's suggestion to run more of the offense through Butler is a sound one, because we know Butler, unlike Antawn Jamison, will be more patient with the ball. That breaks down, however, when all Butler does with his extra usage is jack up 20 footers, because that'll just make him like Jamison. As long as he doesn't do that too much, it's a good short-term solution, and one that worked against Atlanta.
DeShawn Stevenson finally showed up: 11 points on six shots, plus/minus of 12, all while playing solid D on Joe Johnson. That's the DeShawn we all know.
Eddie Jordan finally showed a new wrinkle: I was so happy to see Andray Blatche and Brendan Haywood play together, even if they were only a +1 during the fourth quarter. We've seen a lot of Eddie Jordan go small, but we rarely see him go big, unless it's with three slow power forwards. Blatche, if used correctly, is the team's best rebounder with Etan Thomas sidelined, so it only makes sense to play him with Haywood, who is great at forcing misses, but isn't the best defensive rebounder in the world. Assuming the Wizards need defense, I hope to see this lineup a lot.
But most importantly, I'm just glad Eddie tried. It shows that perhaps he's breaking from his silly tradition of playing stiffs. Putting Blatche alongside Haywood makes the most logical sense, and it's nice to know Eddie trusts Blatche in the fourth quarter of a game that was starting to get tight.
We cannot possibly shoot this bad, or turn the ball over this much. Eventually, the law of averages will rear its head. For three years, this has been a low-turnover, average shooting team. Last year, the Wizards had the second-fewest turnovers/100 posessions, and had the 18th-highest effective field goal percentage. Sure, they weren't a great shooting team, but they compensated by taking incredible care of the basketball. Thus far this season, the Wizards are dead last in effective field goal percentage, with only Chicago being anywhere near them. But what's even crazier is that, with all the same players, the Wizards are 23rd in turnovers per 100 posessions. Last year, they committed 14.7 turnovers per 100 posessions, but through six games this year, they're up to 18.4. How can anyone explain that?
Mostly, it's Butler and Arenas. Last year, Arenas' turnover ratio was 9.3 and Butler's was 11.2. This year? Arenas is at 16.8 (which is basically awful), while Butler is at 15.5. I mean, sure, both are coming back from injuries, but Butler's hand healed a while ago, and Arenas' knee shouldn't affect his ball-handling that much. My guess is they're still finding a rhythm, and no change we can make will accelerate that process. They'll get better...82 games of evidence is better than 6.
The schedule: Actually, this is the biggest reason. Combined record of the first five opponents: 24-12. Combined record of the next seven opponents: 12-27.
Someone tried to chuck the ball in the air again. Actually, this is the real reason.
This isn't to suggest that the problems we saw in the first five games -- no ball movement, bad shot selection, breakdowns guarding the three point line, silly substitutions, ineffective Gilbert -- aren't going to resurface again. But no matter what, we simply aren't this bad, even if all those issues continue. Eddie's doing the smart thing and not tinkering too much, unlike the coach of another struggling team.
The major problem is we aren't making shots, and we're turning the ball over too much. Historically, we never turn the ball over, and we do an average job of making shots. I'm willing to bet we'll regress back to that mean in the coming games.