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Timberwolves Vs. Wizards: Flip Saunders And Others On Preparation

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Flip Saunders' post-game press conference following the Wizards' 93-72 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves almost sounded like a job interview. It makes sense, considering his boss, Ted Leonsis, had a front-row seat to the debacle that just transpired.

There was Saunders making a pledge about what he'll do when he has the position.

"My job over the next few days is trying to find five guys who can play the right way and five guys who can play with some heart," he said.

There was Saunders saying that as important as he is, it's a team effort.

"You can't give 82 Knute Rockne talks, every night," he said. "Your job as a professional in this league is to start preparing for a game the day before and be ready to play. That's what you do."

There was Saunders saying how he needed to improve.

"I'm going to go home tonight and say, 'What can I do better as a coach to make us better. Because I haven't done a good enough job. We're not getting totally through to guys, and some guys continue to play the way they want to play and not the way we need them to play as a team."

But then, there was Saunders digging a bit of a hole for himself and pinning it back on his players.

"You give them a different message every game, so maybe that wasn't the right terminology. What I'm saying is that they have to be prepared. I'm talking about their preparation prior to the game. What are you doing the night before a game? Are you getting up and getting your breakfast the day of a game? We send out more scouting reports and more stuff on YouTube as far as video scouting reports than probably anybody in the league. How much are you taking that stuff in?"

The point isn't whether this is right or wrong. The Wizards probably aren't preparing well, and I'm sure Saunders is giving the team plenty of scouting reports. Blaming the coach isn't not blaming the players. But there's a certain desperation in a coach when he has to frame it in such a way where he looks like he's working tirelessly. We send out more scouting reports than probably anybody in the league is an awfully political thing to say when you're the coach of an 0-8 team.

In Saunders' defense (sort of), he has a supporter in that locker room.

"Flip's message should be getting through to everybody," Andray Blatche said. "Even though he's been hard on me in the past, coming from me to another man, he's a great coach."

When presented with Saunders' quote about the scouting reports, Blatche very quickly agreed with it.

"Our coaching staff gives us more than enough information on the next team. They give each player the offense and defense of the player they're guarding, offense and defense of the team. They give us scouting reports. They give us more than enough. Now it's basically on us," he said.

It sounded sincere enough to the point where you can assume Saunders hasn't lost Blatche, at least to the point where he'll speak out publicly. John Wall, though? Somewhat different story.

"I thought we did [prepare]. I just thought they did a great job running pick and roll today," he said.

Oh. Well that's interesting. I asked Wall if he was saying this was an execution issue rather than a preparation issue.

"It could be both. We were trying to go by the game plan, but we got to help when somebody got beat, and when we helped, they found the right guy, and they made a lot of shots."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Saunders' comments. In fact, in listening to Wall, he almost seemed jealous of the situation Ricky Rubio walked into in Minnesota. As so many of you have noticed, the Timberwolves have surrounded Rubio with tons of shooters. When Rubio penetrated, he found those shooters and they knocked down those open shots.

I asked Wall if having as many shooters as the Timberwolves have would make things easier for him.

"We got guys that can shoot," he said, correcting me. "I just think that, like I said, at times we aren't taking shots when we're supposed to. We're pump-faking or taking an extra 2-3 dribbles when we don't have to. We got guys who can make shots. We just need the confidence to take them when we're supposed to."

I'm not sure I buy that, to be honest, but it's still a secondary point. The major question is whether Saunders is getting through to his team, and specifically, his star.

"I think it's getting through," Wall said when asked. "It's just tough out there. The other game against the Knicks was the first time we shot over 29 percent in the first half. Just for us to make shots and play together as a team, that's what we've got to do."

I'll let you decide how you feel about that quote, but to me, it sounds pretty evasive.