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Playing The Pauses, Past The Redline And In The Halfcourt

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The pace of the lockout-shortened season has put the screws to rosters around the league. Youth is a major advantage in combating the grind, but experience also allows a player to be more effective with less energy expended. Youth combined with basketball IQ is a force to be reckoned with in the redline model. Embracing the maxim of 'attack on defense, rest on offense' requires superior (or any) off-ball movement in the halfcourt and the Wizards aren't quite there yet.

There isn't a thing that happens outside of context, a fact I let myself forget during the Rockets loss last Friday. Normally, I hold myself back in such moments, but I had my 'What's Going On?' moment (thanks for putting up with me, Sean). Yes, it was a 27 point loss in a game completely winnable at half-time against a team that had wrenched another close game away in the second half earlier this season. But the coaching change and vow to get out and run more constituted more than disingenuous window dressing, and expectations need adjustment once more.

We've all commented one time or another, especially with respect to Andray Blatche, that playing your way into shape is no winning strategy. That is exactly what the Wizards have been forced into and we are going to see losses that bear more than passing resemblance to the same ol', same ol'.

It's all well and good to be young, but running around like crazed O-Zone fans is going to take a hell of a toll on anyone's stamina. The adjustment period is going to be punishing, even for a team that plays as fast as the Wizards. And there is no ability to focus on only one thing at a time, all phases of the game are concurrently affected by the increased tempo.

There are two yardsticks I'm looking to right now: transition defense and the halfcourt offense. When the Wizards surrender a quick two after getting a quick two from their high octane defense-triggered transition, that's a zero sum game with significant energy expended. I'm extremely eager to see how Kevin Seraphin and Hamady N'Diaye deal with protecting the rim after a successful break. I've been dying to see a streaking guard run into the brick wall that is Hamady...had to have been my favorite highlight from Summer League 2010.

We've talked about the woes of the halfcourt offense, how everyone seems to just be standing around. Other than timeouts and free throws, this is pretty much the only time players have to breathe. Having been through some demanding workouts myself, I can tell you that standing still is often a horrible idea...the floor has a tendency to swallow your legs if you don't keep them moving.But Randy Wittman has the right idea; introducing only a few things at a time.

Why? Fewer wrinkles means less time spent thinking. There's something I used to tell my students: 'Your brain is a whole bunch of folded tissue, it's crammed pretty tight in there. The longer it takes to think about how to do something, the more likely it is that it'll get tangled in your thinkbox. That's why when you're tired, you go back to the basics. Which is what we'll be drilling for the next hour /cuegroan.' The idea is that the less you're thinking, the more you're doing as the gauge nears 'E'.

What Wittman chooses to reinforce in the spare practices between games, how he chooses to play the pauses, so to speak, will be crucial. If it takes every coach screaming 'FREEZE!' before every shot, then 'FIND SOMEONE TO BOX OUT...GO!' then that's what it takes. In the end, even if you don't buy any of this, these are your Washington Wizards until the All-Star break. Then we'll see what Ernie Grunfeld has planned about that Sword of Damocles suspended just over his head. Until then, as Sean said, enjoy your punk squad.