Flip Saunders hopes Wizards individual development can translate into team wins


Although Saunders has admitted that, as a coach accustomed to going to the playoffs, he has struggled some while adjusting to a game plan in which winning games doesn’t take precedent over player development and improvement. As they open a five-game-in-seven-days road trip on Tuesday in Portland, the Wizards (17-51) are tied with Minnesota and Sacramento for the second-fewest wins in the league, but Saunders said Leonsis likes the direction of the team.

“I think he’s excited about our rookies and our young players,” Saunders said. “I think, as he said, he see . . . we show signs of being a very competitive team at times. What’s happened is, at times, we’ve had lapses that have led to our downfall. That happens sometimes that happen with young players. As we saw with the NCAAs, young players make mistakes that make you think, ‘How could you think of doing that?’

“I think [Leonsis is] happy the way our guys are responding, how hard we’re playing and that our young guys, not only are playing, but are counting on to be forces in the game. John [Wall], Jordan [Crawford], [Trevor Booker], those guys are becoming main focal points in an offense. Usually at this level, you might have one rookie as a focal point, but very rarely are you going to have two or three or at times have four rookies on the floor at the same time.”

Wall has been at the center of the Wizards since his arrival, but Crawford has developed into a primary offensive weapon — scoring at least 20 points in four of the past six games — with injuries to Nick Young and Andray Blatche and Booker has proven to be a solid role player capable of making game-changing plays.

Saunders said he has seen players make strides individually in recent weeks, but “our next step is taking our individual development and taking it towards the team, so that we can win games. Sometimes one has to happen before the other. When they come into the league, a lot of times, young players, their agenda is to establish who they are, rather than establish who they are, as far as winning. Young players that go to winning type teams, they progress a little bit quicker in some ways, from a mental aspect because they are going into a situation, some of those young guys where all they care about is winning. Individual stats don’t mean a lot. You hope what happens you keep working with the players that you have and help to understand, team success helps with individual success. Not necessarily the other way around.”

FROM THE POST

John Wall is gaining confidence in his jumper.

Maurice Evans is getting comfortable in Washington.

The Wizards added nearly 2,400 new season ticketholders this season.

AROUND THE WEB

Leonsis realizes that doing everything perfectly in sports doesn’t guarantee anything (Washington Times).

In case you forgot, Wall is fast (Truth About It).

Jalen Rose responds to Grant Hill’s response to the Fab Five documentary (WSJ.com).

Adrian Wojnarowski says CarmeloMelo wilting under burden of lifting Knicks (Yahoo!Sports).

David Aldridge analyzes the upcoming crop of point guards (NBA.com).

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.

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