Washington Wizards work on cutting down turnovers as season nears


John Wall had six turnovers and three assists in the preseason opener against Philadelphia on Friday night. “I think everybody has to look at themselves in the mirror and see what they can do to make this team better,” said forward Rashard Lewis. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)
December 18, 2011

Shortly after the Washington Wizards’ preseason opener, Coach Flip Saunders said the ball was “sticking.” It’s a term Saunders frequently has invoked to mean far too much shooting and not nearly enough passing.

Such was the case against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. Washington managed 10 assists and committed 20 turnovers in a 103-78 loss that left Saunders using four-letter words to voice his disgust. The next afternoon, Saunders put his players through a spirited workout, concentrating on turning practice fundamentals into game production.

Players also held themselves accountable for the debacle, with point guard John Wall shouldering much of the blame. The No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft shot 3 for 12 and turned the ball over six times while collecting only half that many assists. Both he and Saunders called that showing unacceptable.

“Guys understand you’re trying to judge where you are,” Saunders said after practice on Saturday. “They were very receptive. We had a long film session to go over what we did wrong, things that we did right. Maybe not a lot of things, but we did some things right. It was a very serious situation.”

The Wizards followed that practice with a bit of levity, participating in a scrimmage to headline Fan Fest at Verizon Center. Several thousand fans filled the lower bowl to witness acrobatic dunks from Wall, a three-point shooting display from forward Andray Blatche and the debuts of forward Trevor Booker and guard Maurice Evans.

Evans joined his teammates for the first time since the lockout ended. The free agent signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum after playing part of last season with the Wizards. The decision to re-sign him unfolded in part because shooting guard Nick Young remains a free agent, and an opportunity for more playing time appeared imminent when Josh Howard opted for a one-year contract with Utah on Thursday.

The team did not practice Sunday.

Evans, 33, came to Washington last season, along with Jordan Crawford and Mike Bibby, in a trade-deadline deal for Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong. Evans played in 26 games with the Wizards, averaging 9.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. The eight-year veteran started 12 games, and the club values his professionalism in addition to his on-court production.

Evans is a vice president in the players union and worked closely with NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter and President Derek Fisher to help negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. Wizards teammate Roger Mason also is an NBAPA vice president.

Booker, meantime, looked fully healed from a right thigh contusion that derailed his time with Bnai Hasharon in Israel during the NBA lockout. In order to have his physician examine the injury, Booker came back to the United States before he was able to play a regular season game overseas. The 23rd overall pick in last year’s draft missed all but the final two days of training camp and did not play against the 76ers.

The Wizards’ next and final preseason game is Tuesday in Philadelphia, but in the interim, players are using a day off to rest and reflect following a week-long training camp, a preseason clunker on Friday and Saturday night’s fanfest in which the team played 24 minutes of leisurely basketball.

“I think everybody has to look at themselves in the mirror and see what they can do to make this team better,” said forward Rashard Lewis, who shot 1 for 5 against Philadelphia. “I thought overall we played better on the offensive end [in practice]. We moved the ball around from side to side instead of playing one-on-one basketball. I think we still have to cut back on turnovers. We turned the ball over a little in practice. We’ve got to take care of the ball.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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