By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 2008
"Change" is a word that has been thrown around a lot in Washington lately, and it could come soon to the Wizards if Coach Eddie Jordan doesn't see drastic improvement from his 0-3 team.
Jordan remained in the locker room longer than usual after Wednesday's 112-104 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and when he did emerge following a long talk with his team, he wasn't happy.
"That was not NBA basketball," Jordan told reporters.
Yesterday, Jordan burned off some stress with a brisk jog on a treadmill after his team's practice. His words after the jog carried less of an edge than they did Wednesday night, but his message was the same.
Specifically, Jordan let his starters and veteran players know that if they don't play better, the team's reserves and young players could see an increased role.
Following Wednesday's loss, in which the Wizards missed 17 free throws, blew a 14-point lead and were outscored 14-6 in overtime, Jordan talked about how some of the team's reserves have been outplaying starters so far.
"I was a little bit incorrect in saying we've been seeing a trend the last two games; we've been seeing a trend since the beginning of training camp, actually," Jordan said. "What we've been saying is that the second unit has been very, very competitive against the white team, the starters, in camp, in preseason, and it's showing up in real games. So that's the trend."
The Wizards are getting limited production out of the starting back court of Antonio Daniels and DeShawn Stevenson, who combined to make 3 of 13 shots and score nine points Wednesday night. Bucks point guard Luke Ridnour finished with 20 points and 11 assists.
All-star forward Antawn Jamison is shooting 37.7 percent overall and has made only 2 of 14 three-point attempts. The center position, which has been manned primarily by Etan Thomas, Andray Blatche and natural forward Darius Songaila, has produced modestly, and Jordan hinted following Wednesday's game that the time may soon come when talented but raw rookie first-round pick JaVale McGee plays more.
In 13 minutes Wednesday night, McGee had nine points, five rebounds and a blocked shot, and he scored the first field goal of his career on a spectacular drive and dunk early in the fourth quarter. McGee dribbled to his right from the top of the circle, rose up and smashed down a one-handed dunk while being fouled by Bucks rookie Luc Mbah a Moute. McGee missed the free throw.
"I was excited about that," McGee said. "It's natural for me to dunk so it wasn't all that special. It was my first field goal in the NBA though, and that was exciting."
However, one thing Jordan wants McGee to work on is knowing when not to go after opponents' shots. Moments before the dunk, for instance, McGee swatted away a shot by Bucks guard Ramon Sessions that was clearly on the way down. He was called for goaltending.
"For the first time in practice today, he pulled away from an obvious goaltending," Jordan said. "Small things like that mean a lot in a coach's mind. But I thought he really stuck his nose in there; he tried and didn't back down."
Jordan has also been pleased with what he has seen out of reserve guards Nick Young and Juan Dixon, who have successfully played in tandem during the past two games.
Young is third on the team in scoring behind Caron Butler and Jamison at 15.7 points per game, and Dixon has connected on 9 of 16 shots with seven assists and only one turnover.
"Juan keeps us organized at both ends, he's a good talker and they're both confident in their scoring ability," Jordan said. "They have the ability to score, they're running the offense and they're really doing better defensively, pressuring the ball and getting into people so, both ends, they're showing growth and confidence."
Wizards Note: Thomas, who missed Wednesday's game with a left ankle injury, practiced yesterday and could return tonight against the New York Knicks if he doesn't experience any setbacks at shoot-around.