LAS VEGAS -- Well, that wasn't the start the Washington Wizards wanted at the 2012 NBA Summer League. Sloppy mistakes and tired legs were the culprits as the Wizards fell, 102-82, to the Atlanta Hawks in their opener.
Several Wizards players had their moments. Bradley Beal looked very good in the first half, and Jan Vesely's jumper was on point early on as well. Unfortunately for the Wizards, those were just flashes. The Hawks played consistently, making few mental mistakes and dominating the Wizards in the paint. The Wizards, meanwhile, looked mentally out of it throughout the contest.
Some more chronological notes on the players below the jump. More to come later.
- You have to like the pace Bradley Beal plays at, but the first few minutes were a good indicator of how the NBA game is different. He had a wide-open lane for a layup off a curl on the Wizards' first possession, but was too slow to explode to the hoop and missed the shot. Then, on a secondary fast break, Beal rushed the pass to Shavlik Randolph, which forced Randolph into a cringe-worthy isolation. The speed of the game is different on this level.
- Jan Vesely's first jump shot was pure, and to get on the court, that needs to continue. Nice confidence, follow-through, balance, etc.
- The Wizards seemed a bit over-aggressive defending pick and roll, throwing hard hedges towards the Hawks' guards and leaving the big men open for jumpers. I wonder if this was by design.
- Nice ball pressure from Shelvin Mack early in the game. He just needs his teammates to communicate behind him to help out.
- Lots of sloppy errors -- moving screens, poor dribbling, poor help defense -- doomed the Wizards midway through the first quarter. Another mistake that won't get attention: Mack looking away from a wide-open Vesely on a side pick and roll because he was fixated on Randolph diving into the middle on a misdirection play. Mack was executing the play, but he should at least look off the defender.
- Tomas Satoransky simply can't make the pass he tried to make to Vesely on his first possession. In Europe, you can get away with that. NBA athletes are too good to do it.
- Vesely and Chris Singleton both did a very poor job on the defensive glass, allowing too many second-chance opportunities for the Hawks. Both tried to box out, but they're not strong enough to hold their position. At least Vesely was aggressive offensively. (It should be noted that Shavlik Randolph was also pretty bad on the defensive glass).
- After his slow-ish start, Beal really rebounded nicely. I liked his defensive energy, and I especially like how under-control his game is. David Thorpe described him as having "a game, and a plan." I think that's the best way to describe him. He's not always spectacular but he finds ways to do his thing without messing up the team dynamics.
- More shakiness from Satoransky in the second quarter. You can tell he knows what he's doing, but he has no clue yet how to deal with the speed of the game. He's going to have to make an adjustment.
- Vesely wasn't happy with his illegal screen and loose-ball foul calls, but they were fouls. Touch fouls, maybe, but fouls nonetheless, both due to poor defensive positioning. Vesely has to realize that you need to do more of your work early to prevent from having to do too much work late.
- It was kind of concerning to see Mack get a whole side of the court on an isolation and not be able to get by his man. He still hasn't demonstrated to me that he can handle the ball in a way that allows him to change speeds easily. It's still way too hard for him.
- On the bright side, Vesely's jumper looks really good. Now, he needs to add back his athleticism in a way that is productive on the court.
- To be fair to the rest of the Wizards, Shavlik Randolph's inability to do much of anything strength-wise on the inside accounted for a lot of the defensive breakdowns.
- Being able to maintain your dribble in the face of pressure requires staying low and still being able to keep defenders off-balanced by changing speeds. I'm not sure Mack is capable of doing both of those things at the same time.
- Really liked Singleton's shot fake, drive and dish to Mack for an open three-pointer. He successfully got his shoulders by the initial guy, then dropped it off as soon as the help came.
- Vesely continues to make mental mistakes, such as needlessly reaching in to try to make a mid-court steal and falling asleep on an air ball instead of grabbing the rebound. I don't know if it's fatigue or thinking that his athleticism can make up the gap, but those are the exact kinds of things that could keep him on the bench.
- Also not thrilled with his lack of hustle getting back on defense. He looked tired even after just three and a half minutes in the second half.
- Beal's defense was a bit shakier in the second half. It's tough to guard a shooter like John Jenkins when he's as much of a focal point as he is on the Hawks' summer league team, but I thought he took a couple poor angles on plays.
- It was nice to see Singleton be more aggressive driving to the basket and trying to finish. It didn't always work, but he played with more strength in the second half.
- Frank Hassell, who used to play for Old Dominion, just killed Vesely inside in the second half. Very discouraging the way Hassell was able to maneuver for good post position.
- One of the byproducts of Beal's style of play is that his actual production can be so dependent on whether that jump shot is falling. He'll run the play, almost to a fault. That's why I would say he wasn't playing worse offensively in the third quarter despite not scoring as much. He was just missing the shots off the pindown plays that he made in the first half.
- Earl Calloway looked way better than Mack, which is concerning. Maybe that's the Wizards' backup point guard solution.
- Satoransky looked better in the fourth quarter, as if the game slowed down for him a bit. He was playing in a garbage-time situation though.
- Another player who looked much better in the second half? Singleton. He showed a lot more strength getting to the basket.
- Otherwise, though, yuck.
- Jan Vesely, 10 fouls? That's ... bad.
All in all, it's just one game. I had also heard that the Wizards were delayed getting out of DC yesterday and got in way later than expected. Perhaps that contributed some to the sluggishness.
But the fact remains: they'll have to play much, much better in their next four games to get the most out of their Summer League experience.