Wizards' Pick-and-Roll Is a Coming Attraction

Andray Blatche (12 points) is guarded by the Mavs' Eddie Jones as the Wizards improve to 2-0 in the preseason.
Andray Blatche (12 points) is guarded by the Mavs' Eddie Jones as the Wizards improve to 2-0 in the preseason. (By Jacquelyn Martin -- Associated Press)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 14, 2007

Darius Songaila jokingly labeled it "telepathy" while Antonio Daniels cracked that he and Songaila are so in tune with each other on the basketball court, they have "espn."

Whatever they call it, there is no denying that Songaila and Daniels have some chemistry. That is a good thing because the two veterans will be essential elements in the upcoming season for the Washington Wizards, who improved to 2-0 in preseason play with a 90-86 win over the Dallas Mavericks at Patriot Center last night.

A unit consisting of Songaila, Daniels, Andray Blatche, rookie Dominic McGuire and Roger Mason -- and later, rookie Oleksiy Pecherov -- keyed a 29-point second quarter for the Wizards in a win at Cleveland on Tuesday and will form what Coach Eddie Jordan hopes will be a more productive bench this season.

"Within that second unit, I feel we have capable defenders and capable scorers," Jordan said. "I think they are a lot more balanced than the first unit in some ways. Overall, I think the second-unit guys are a little more solid defensively."

Songaila and Daniels are particularly effective on pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop plays, which require Songaila to set a screen for Daniels above the lane, or on the wing. Based on what the defense does, Songaila will either roll to the basket and receive a pass from Daniels or, pop out and receive a pass for an open jump shot.

If Songaila's man doesn't jump out on Daniels as he dribbles off of the screen, Daniels can either take a pull-up jump shot or drive to the basket.

The play was a staple of Washington's offense late last season and in the first-round playoff loss to Cleveland, when injuries to Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler forced the pair to carry the offensive load along with forward Antawn Jamison.

"We understand each other," Daniels said. "It's gotten to the point that when I run a pick-and-roll with him, I know exactly where he is going to be because we're reading the same thing. I can look at him before he sets a pick and I know what he's going to do and that just comes from us playing together so much last year. Last year, we always checked in together so we had a chance to develop a real good chemistry and it's just carried right over to this season."

Observed Butler: "Those two just know how to play basketball. It's as simple as that."

Songaila worked on his game and his conditioning while playing with the Lithuanian national team this summer and said he is feeling only minor effects from a back injury that required surgery and forced him to miss the first 45 games of last season.

"He showed us how good he could be at the end of last year and did all of that without being able to jump over a Sunday paper," Jordan said. "He's really solid."

With Etan Thomas potentially out for the season after undergoing open-heart surgery on Thursday, the Wizards will rely heavily on Brendan Haywood at center. So far, Jordan has been pleased with Haywood, who finished with 10 points and three rebounds in just less than 11 minutes last night.

"He played well in camp like he played well in camp last year, so we just want to see consistency and so far, I think he's done things a lot more consistent," Jordan said. "He's been a shot blocker, he's always talked well on defense and he's doing that even more and it just seems that he just looks different. He's playing bigger. All through camp he played big and he's continued that in games."

Wizards Notes: Blatche continued his strong play by leading the team with 12 points and 10 rebounds in just more than 25 minutes last night. . . . The Mavericks played without regulars Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse, Devean George, Jason Terry and Erick Dampier. . . . The Wizards play tonight in Philadelphia.

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