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Randy Wittman, The Wizards And Pushing The Ball

One of the things Randy Wittman said during his first press conference as the Washington Wizards' head coach is that he wants to get out and run a little more. This was laughed off by a number of people who noted that the Wizards are already second in the league in pace factor, so it's not like they can push the ball more.

On the one hand, I'm snickering with them in this respect: the phrase "we want to get out and run" is the "I want to lose weight" of NBA coach-speak. Everybody says it, but few have the discipline to actually follow through. Coaches find that pushing the ball doesn't always lead to easy layups, and players find that sprinting up and down all the time makes them tired. Many coaches and players -- some being very good ones, mind you -- just realize it's not possible to stay disciplined to follow through on their promises.

But on the other hand, I think screaming "LOOK AT THEIR PACE NUMBERS, LOL" misses the point. This brings up a issue I've long had with pace factor: it doesn't differentiate between fast breaks and quick shots. If a player forces a turnover and scores a fast-break layup in five seconds, it counts as a possession. If a team forces a dumb shot in a half-court set in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, it counts as a possession. The former jives with the idea of "getting out and running," but the latter does not. Nevertheless, if you do the latter a lot, you're going to have a high pace factor.

In the Wizards' case, they do the latter a lot. They're fourth in the league in jumpers from 16-23 feet and hit 33 percent of them. They shoot 54 percent of their shots within the first nine seconds of the shot clock. They are a below-average offensive rebounding team. This all means that they end a ton of possessions with missed jumpers in half-court sets. When they do fast break, it's often John Wall rushing against three defenders and missing with his teammates lagging behind him. This all drives up the Wizards' pace factor, but it also means the team as a whole isn't "getting out and running" as Wittman suggests.

To reiterate: I'm skeptical that Wittman can actually get the Wizards to run more effectively. I'm just combating the idea that they're doing it already. They're not, despite being a "fast-paced team."