Wizards offense sputters in preseason opener

October 8, 2012

Jordan Crawford struggled against the lowly Bobcats on Sunday.

Recognizing that the Wizards had some difficulty running a fluid, coherent and efficient offense in their preseason debut doesn’t require any more than glancing at the following stat: The Wizards needed 99 field goal attempts and 21 free throw attempts to score 88 points.

Need more? How about the Charlotte Bobcats, the league’s worst offensive team last season, scored 100 points on just 71 field goal attempts – or just five more shots than the Wizards missed.

Still not enough? They had 19 offensive rebounds but just 11 second-chance points. They had more turnovers (21) than made free throws (16). Only five of the 12 Wizards who appeared in the game made at one-third of their shot attempts.

Get it? Got it? Not good.

“We have to play more together,” Kevin Seraphin said. “That was our first game. We have to adjust to everything. That’s why we played this preseason game, to be better.”

Without John Wall and Nene, the Wizards entered training camp in search of players capable of putting the ball in the basket. With Emeka Okafor, Trevor Booker and Jannero Pargo all sitting out against Charlotte for either precautionary reasons or legitimate injuries, the challenge of scoring became that much greater at Time Warner Cable Arena.

But the Wizards probably didn’t realize that they would have so much trouble generating offense — and that the attempt to do so would be such an eyesore.

Of course, several other factors contributed to the Wizards’ woes in Charlotte.

They are still developing chemistry with so many new faces, and so little time to develop familiarity. They also committed 31 fouls, sent the Bobcats to the line for 46 free throw attempts and had limited opportunities to get into an offense without having their opponent already set up.

Jordan Crawford placed the blame on simply being worn down after having eight practices in five days. Coach Randy Wittman gave his players the day off on Monday to let their bodies and minds recuperate from the grind of the past week.

“I think fatigue beat us more than anything, to be honest,” said Crawford, who scored just six points on 3 of 12 shooting. “I think fatigue made us weak, made us have mental lapses.”

Crawford had a few lapses of his own. In one of the worst possessions of the game, Crawford dribbled down the clock until their were almost four seconds remaining on the shot clock and fed Jan Vesely in the post. Vesely rushed a jump hook that missed badly, grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked the ball back to Crawford. Crawford fired up a quick baseline jumper and had it rejected by Bobcats forward Tyrus Thomas.

In the second half, Crawford thought Chris Singleton was going to cut to the basket for a layup and fired a pass ahead. Singleton didn’t react until too late and the ball sailed into the front row. On the next trip down, Crawford jumped but was ready to take a shot and the ball squirted out of his hands.

“We got to get a rhythm,” Crawford said. “Everybody is trying to find their role on the team. It’s going to work out more as it goes along.”

Trevor Ariza is expected to be one of the primary scoring options for the depleted Wizards. Though he has played that role before in Houston and New Orleans, he is at is best playing off others. Sunday, Ariza got in trouble against Charlotte when he tried to do too much. He committed six turnovers, was called for traveling twice while attempting to drive and also had the ball stripped clean by rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

“That’s not something we’re going to see with him,” Wittman said of Ariza’s team-high turnover number.

After struggling to stay out of foul trouble in the Las Vegas summer league, Vesely again was overly aggressive against the Bobcats. He had four of his five fouls in the first half, including a hard foul on Kidd-Gilchrist to prevent him from making a layup.

“It’s hard decision. Sometimes, I try to play hard and I play harder and sometimes I need to slow down and take care of those fouls,” said Vesely, who also finished with seven rebounds and two points. “Sometimes, I want to do things so bad, I just stop concentrating on defense and I just go fast. I need to slow down.”

When asked what it would take for the Wizards to improve offensively, reserve forward Martell Webster explained, “It’s going to take a lot of studying. It’s a lost art. Watching film, getting in the lab with coaches and really understanding the offense. It’s one thing to see the Xs and Os on a piece of paper and you go out and execute and you see teams running different defensive schemes, you can be exposed. Really understanding how our offense is ran is going to be crucial for us.”

The Wizards will also need some time and the return of some of the banged up talent.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · October 8, 2012