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Washington Wizards Defeat Milwaukee Bucks Despite Dribbling Exhibition

One would think that having a 16 point, 17 rebound game would leave you free from criticism for the evening. Alas, you are not JaVale McGee and you do not play center for the Washington Wizards, so the mistakes you make on the court will be rehashed to the media despite your solid effort.

Flip Saunders:

Beat em' by 12. JaVale was very active rebounding wise and did some nice things offensively. As we explained to him at the end of the game as he started to go on his dribbling exhibition, that's one of the reasons why we lose on the road. Because we get in close games and we do those things. I tried to ask, I said "Why?" He said, "I can't explain." Well, you can't do that because players lose trust as far as throwing him the ball in a late game situation and then it becomes easier for teams to defend against you. That's probably the most glaring as far as a negative we had because we had an opportunity to close out the game but we had a couple of bad possessions.

Now compare this to the comments on Cartier Martin:

Well Cartier was huge. I told our guys, I gave him game ball. Y'know he came in, made shots, defended the three well, played within the things he could do well. Just gave us a good boost.

Now, JaVale was not the only player criticized by Flip Saunders in the postgame conference. Nick Young was also singled out for taking bad shots throughout the game. Further, it is probably stretching a comparison to place Martin alongside McGee, as one is a role player who rarely leaves the bench and the other is a starter trying to increase his minutes. Still, I think the comments bear some scrutiny.

The simple fact of the matter is that McGee does not have the luxury of simplifying his game to the degree that Martin or to a certain extent Young do to become more effective. I think the most telling quote was when Flip stated that Martin "played within the things he could do well." For Martin, that is becoming a three and D guy who limits the degree to which he puts the ball on the floor. Because as fun as Martin is to watch, he still lacks the the ball handling ability to be anything more than a 8th or 9th man on an NBA squad. Young too has managed to improve his game through simplifying it to catching and shooting and effective man defense. In fact, it appears to vex Saunders that over the course of the last few games Young has tried to stretch his role and has begun to freelance at a more frequent rate. Tonight, Young was most likely excused, because Flip is a firm believer in the "hot hand." However, if those habits reappear in the San Antonio game, it would not surprise me to see Young sit for a "teaching moment."

That leaves us with McGee and whether removing him immediately after a mistake is helping or hindering him at this point in his career. Because along with the stick there must come the carrot. Is it truly worthwhile to bench McGee on two occasions on the evening for mistakes when he was also making an effort to grab defensive boards, something he is not known to excel at? Further, there remains a question of whether these mistakes are all created equal. To yank McGee following his third dribble drive could be defended, but the argument is weakened when McGee was also pulled for attempting a dunk on a clear path to the basket. At this point, it might be better to limit the stick to one particular action, rather than a myriad of offenses that freeze up the player and have him perform at less than his optimal level.

Wizards Notes

  • John Wall didn't have night to blow your mind statwise, unless you happened to look at the Bucks boxscore. When you hold Brandon Jennings to 9-24 on the night, you have done a pretty good job defensively.
  • Andray Blatche looked more aggressive on the night, even if his shot was not falling. Even better was the fact that Blatche teamed up with McGee to play solid interior defense for most of the evening. The duo still gave up 46 points in the paint to the Wizards 36, but the improvement on both players' parts should be noted.
  • I think Rashard Lewis needs a rest. It was good of him to give it a go considering he was a gametime decision due to his knees, but he didn't appear healthy on the floor. I worry that Lewis is molded in that Mike Miller warrior cast in which he won't ask out of a game unless he is physically limping. It might be best to cut his minutes down over the course of the next few games to give his knees a break.
  • DUNKS! If there is one reason to be a Wizards fan this season, it is because they dunk the ball in truly impressive fashion. Nick Young had three on the night, which he noted might have been a career high. JaVale also had a few impressive jams on the night. I hope the team is keeping a running scoreboard.
  • BLOCKS! OK, not a impressive night blockwise, but special mention should be made of Kirk Hinrich's rejection. I never knew he had it in him. Young complimented Hinrich's "bunnies," which has to be an NBA first.

More tomorrow.