Not a Team of Great Rebound
Wizards' Use Of Small Lineups Is Part of Problem

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 20, 2006

Legendary coach Pete Carril is best known for designing the fluid Princeton offense, but it was something Carril said about rebounding that stuck with one of his proteges, Washington Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan.

"An old coach once told me, 'If they don't bite when they're puppies, they aren't going to bite as dogs,' " Jordan said.

Translation: Jordan knows these Wizards won't suddenly morph into a new-age version of Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn and the 1980s Detroit Pistons -- teams that pounded opponents into submission on the boards -- but Jordan does want to see his team be more intense when rebounding.

After being outrebounded by an average of five in the first eight games, the Wizards held a 41-37 edge in Saturday night's 111-99 win over Cleveland.

Caron Butler, who has never been accused of lacking bite, led the way with 10 rebounds to go with 11 points; Antawn Jamison and Etan Thomas grabbed eight boards each, and guard Gilbert Arenas complemented his 45-point scoring performance with five.

The Cavaliers are one of the top rebounding teams in the league and outrebounded the Wizards 50-33 in a season opening 97-94 victory in Cleveland.

During the third quarter Saturday, when the Wizards outscored Cleveland 31-16 and took control of the game, Butler grabbed seven rebounds -- three offensive -- and the Wizards held a 13-7 advantage for the period.

During one key sequence, with the Wizards leading by seven, Jamison missed a three-pointer but Butler beat out 6-foot-11 Anderson Varejao for the rebound and powered his way back up for a basket.

Jordan acknowledged that one explanation for Washington's rebounding difficulties has been his use of smaller lineups. During many games, the Wizards are noticeably smaller than their opponent, especially the starting unit.

Arenas (6-4), DeShawn Stevenson (6-5), Butler (6-7), Jamison (6-9) and Thomas (6-10) typically give up a few inches to the man they are guarding but Pistons Coach Flip Saunders said Washington's speed presents a different set of issues.

"All three of those guys can score, so it really puts pressure on you defensively to match up with them," Saunders said before Detroit's 100-91 win over the Wizards on Friday. If one of them gets it going, you can find yourself in real trouble."

That's what happened Saturday night when Arenas shook off three consecutive rough shooting performances and lit Cleveland up with seven three-pointers en route to his third 40-point game of the season.

Going into Sunday night's games, Arenas had accounted for three of the five 40-point games in the NBA this season.

"We know they want to run and we know they want to put up a lot of points -- they want the game to be wide open," Cleveland Coach Mike Brown said. "It's going to be tough to beat them trying to win that way."

Wizards Notes: Wizards guard Jarvis Hayes, who was taken off the floor on a stretcher after a hard fall late in Saturday's game, suffered a back contusion and hit his head. Hayes was released from Sibley Memorial Hospital late Saturday night after X-rays showed no structural damage. Hayes is listed as day-to-day . . .

The Wizards were off yesterday and will return to practice today before embarking on a three-game trip that includes games at Dallas (tomorrow), Houston (Wednesday) and Memphis (Friday). The Wizards are 0-4 on the road. . . .

The Wizards have averaged 112.2 ppg in five homes games and only 92.5 in four road contests.

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