For the Wizards, it has been an embarrasment of misses


Since moving to the starting lineup, Nick Young is averaging 13.3 points and shooting just 34.2 percent . (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)
January 12, 2012

In a season just 10 games old and already filled with some dubious distinctions, the 2011-12 Washington Wizards can now say they have bumped Michael Jordan from the franchise record books. Of course, it wasn’t quite the record that Jordan would want attached to his legendary career anyhow.

In the city where Jordan built his esteemed legacy, the Wizards set a franchise record for scoring futility, shot a horrific 31 percent and went scoreless for the final five minutes of a 78-64 loss to the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls at United Center.

“We had open looks. We just didn’t knock them down,” Trevor Booker said after the Wizards dropped to 1-9. “I guess it was just one of those nights.”

It’s actually been one of those seasons for the Wizards. They got off to the worst start in franchise history by losing their first eight games, got a win over Toronto, then came crashing down with an ignominious performance in Chicago.

The Wizards had never put together a more awful offensive performance than Jordan’s Wizards had on Dec. 13, 2002, when they scored just 65 points in a 14-point loss to the New Jersey Nets. Only five seasons ago, Gilbert Arenas scored 60 points in a game all by himself.

“The Bulls are a good team and they are a good defensive team. They was playing good D. We also missed some shots, but we ain’t worried about it,” Jordan Crawford said as the Wizards prepare for a home-and-home, back-to-back series with Philadelphia beginning on Friday at Wells Fargo Center. “We are playing D. Once we start making shots, then we’ll be really hard to play against.”

Washington has improved on the defensive end, ranking 18th in points allowed (93.8) and 17th in opponent’s field goal percentage (44), but it currently has the least efficient offense in NBA history, producing just 90.6 points every 100 possessions. They are on pace to obliterate the previous low mark of 92.2 points produced per 100 possessions shared by the 17-win Denver Nuggets in 2002-03 and the 23-win New York Knicks in 1976-77.

If not for the Detroit Pistons, the Wizards would be the lowest-scoring team in the NBA, averaging just 83.6 points per game. They are shooting a league-worst 39.7 percent — and an even worse 36.7 percent on the road. No team has shot below 40 percent for an entire season since the 1961 Boston Celtics, who oddly enough went on to win their fifth consecutive NBA championship that season.

The Wizards have shot better than 43 percent in just two games, when they defeated the Raptors and came within a Carmelo Anthony three-pointer of upending the New York Knicks. Coach Flip Saunders was hailed as an offensive genius upon his arrival in Washington two-plus years ago, but the Wizards have already had two games this season in which they failed to score at least 80 points. They had five games with 79 or fewer points last season.

Saunders isn’t surprised by the Wizards’ offensive woes, given the personnel of his 15-man roster. Since taking John Wall No. 1 overall in 2010, the Wizards have surrounded him with tough, defensive-minded players such as Booker, Chris Singleton, Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely. None of those players is noted for shooting expertise.

“Going into the season, we thought that was one of the things we would struggle with. Based on the history where these guys have been and what they do. We were not going to be a team that’s a lights-out shooting and a three-point shooting team,” Saunders said. “We don’t have people that we can put in and say, ‘Hey, go get me eight points,’ because we’re having problems scoring.”

The Wizards’ designated scorers — Wall, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Jordan Crawford — all have struggled this season. Wall and Young, the team’s leading scorer at just 14.5 points per game, are the only players on the roster to score at least 20 points in more than one game this season.

Wall had two impressive dunks on Wednesday but still finished just 4 for 13 from the floor, continuing his season-long travails trying to run a team with non-shooters while not making shots himself. His assist total is down to 7.1 from 8.3 last season and he has the second-worst shooting percentage in the NBA of players who qualify in that category at 33.8 percent.

“It’ll be a lot easier for me if we can shoot over 40 percent,” Wall said. “I don’t know. We’re all getting good shots. There are only a couple of games in the beginning when we were taking bad shots, but lately we’ve been getting good shots. They just haven’t been falling and hopefully down the road they’ll start falling for us.”

Since moving to the starting lineup, Young is averaging 13.3 points and shooting just 34.2 percent (39 for 114) from the field in eight games. With Blatche sidelined against the Bulls with a sore right shoulder, Young was expected to assume more of the offensive load but scored five points on 2-of-11 shooting.

“I really haven’t had a good shooting night, the whole 10 games,” Young said, forgetting about his first two games, in which he scored 37 points on 57.1 percent shooting. “We’ve just got to find, get people in spots where they need to be in and are most dangerous and go from there. Just got to hit the gym, put some shots up.”

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