The Wizards don’t have much time to correct all of the mental errors and offensive struggles that were readily apparent during their two preseason games against the Philadelphia 76ers. They lost both games, but the final results weren’t the only problem. How they played — or rather, didn’t play — together on offense remains a concern.
After the Wizards’ 101-94 loss on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center, John Wall gave an answer to a question about the team’s readiness for the season opener against the New Jersey Nets next Monday that summed up the primary dilemma on offense: The players don’t trust each other yet.
“We’re still trying to figure out what each others’ roles is, who’s going to be the main scorer, who is going to be the secondary scorer,” Wall said. “I think when we get that down pat, we’ll be pretty good.”
That time certainly isn’t now, as the Wizards often appeared to be in a competition to see who could take the most questionable shot. Through the first two games, the Wizards are shooting a dreadful 34 percent from the field (61 of 179) and an abysmal 15 percent from beyond the three-point line (5 of 33).
They were more effective in the open court on Tuesday, with JaVale McGee or Trevor Booker getting rebounds and setting up fastbreak opportunities. But they will have to establish a better rhythm in half-court sets and go into each possession understanding which matchups to exploit and how to make the extra pass in order to get a more efficient shot. That starts with Wall, who has had just six assists and 10 turnovers through the two games, and has had difficulty deciding if he wants to be the primary scorer or setup man.
Jordan Crawford has yet to find a comfortable place within the offense. He rarely gets the ball in great position for an open look, and has forced up a lot of shots if he goes a few possessions without a touch.
“I thought Jordan, he tried to do too much,” Saunders said of Crawford, adding that he and Nick Young often tried to “outdribble the trap” rather than move the ball.
Crawford shot just 9 for 31 through the first two games, but was more encouraged after scoring 18 points in the second game. “Last game, I felt I didn’t have a rhythm at all. I’m glad we had another preseason game to feel a little better.”
Shelvin Mack has played well as a reserve point guard through the first two games. He hasn’t appeared overwhelmed and done an effective job of getting his teammates in the proper spots on offense. Mack has averaged six points and three assists in about 20 minutes, and the offense has run more fluidly with him on the floor.
“I was trying to get into a rhythm,” Mack said. “Just keep trying to stay positive. Make sure I know what everyone’s tendencies are as a team, to make sure I put them in position to be successful.”
He is still trying to develop chemistry with some of his teammates – such as a time when he missed an opportunity to throw an alley-oop to Nick Young and took an ill-advised jumper – but he is playing with confidence. “At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I’ve been playing the game my whole life,” he said. “I’ve played at the highest level at the Final Four. And I’ve also had the chance to play against this guys at the USA select team, when I scrimmaged against Derrick Rose, [Russell] Westbrook and [Rajon] Rondo. So I’m pretty confident when I’m out there. So I’ve just got to stay in control and continue to do the things I know I can do.”
Booker also provided a boost, making his presence felt in his preseason debut, as he brought some tenacity on defense by blocking a shot into the front row and got physical inside. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, including five offensive. “That’s what they want me to do — go out and play hard on defense,” said Booker, who missed the first few days of training camp while nursing a bruised right thigh. “It felt pretty good. I was in better shape than I thought I was. I thought I was going to get tight quicker, but I felt pretty good.”
McGee was also his most engaged after Saunders said 76ers center Spencer Hawes “kicked his [rear]” in the preseason opener. McGee had 20 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. He was active on both ends, grabbing four offensive offensive rebounds and limiting Hawes to just two points.
“I feel like we played better the second game because we had something to look at on video to see what they’re doing and stuff. I feel the first game was just all playing together for the first time.”
They played together for the second time on Tuesday, but was that enough to get them ready for the Nets?
“It’s all we got is two preseason games, so we’ve got to be ready,” Crawford said. “We made progress, but it’s nowhere where we want to be.”