Wizards Want Starting Guards to Score More

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 29, 2008

It took just two games for Ed Tapscott to be confronted by his first conundrum as Washington Wizards coach: How to get more scoring out of the back court?

The easy answer would be to get three-time all-star Gilbert Arenas healthy enough to play, but that won't happen until next month at the earliest. In the meantime, Tapscott has to squeeze more out of what he has.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Wizards' starting back court (four players have started) is averaging 12 points per game this season. No other team's back court averages fewer than 20.

Nick Young is putting up a solid 12.4 points per game on 46.2-percent shooting, but every other guard on the roster has struggled, including DeShawn Stevenson (7.8 points per game on 31.9 percent shooting), Antonio Daniels (4.0 points, 36.4 percent), Juan Dixon (5.0 points, 35.1 percent) and Dee Brown (1.9 points, 31 percent).

The Wizards (2-11) are averaging 96.5 points on 44.1 percent shooting as a team and are making just 28.2 percent of their three-point attempts.

If the Wizards are going to find a way to break out of their early-season slump, getting more offense out of players other than all-star forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison will be crucial.

"The other guys in the league watch tape too and they know we have two all-stars here and that those guys are going to carry us, so they are going to gear what they do defensively to limiting them," Tapscott said. "Now, what we need to do is find some alternatives and some scoring from other people."

Tapscott believes the key to doing that is creating easier scoring opportunities for his guards. That entails better ball movement, screening and, in some cases, patience from Butler and Jamison when they are double-teamed.

After making 7 of 13 shots and scoring 19 points in the first half of Thursday night's 105-90 home loss to Orlando, Butler was met by more traps and double teams in the second half as Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy made a concerted effort to limit his opportunities.

As a result, Butler was 2 for 5 in the second half with six points and three turnovers.

"The second half, they really threw some different defensive looks at me," Butler said, "so guys are going to have to be ready and prepared to knock down some open shots."

Stevenson thrived in that role during the 2006-07 season when he complemented Arenas, Butler and Jamison by shooting a career-best 46.1 percent, including 40.4 percent of his three-point attempts, also a career best.

This season, with Arenas out and Daniels limited by a sore right knee, open shots have been tougher to come by, and Stevenson, who is making 29 percent of his three-point shots, hasn't been a consistent threat off of the dribble.

Stevenson was 2 for 7 from the field with six points and six assists in less than 28 minutes Thursday night. He, Brown and rookie center JaVale McGee, who was making his fifth start, combined to score 14 points.

Orlando starting shooting guard Mikael Pietrus scored 17 points by himself.

"This is my third year here and I've never, ever had to create for myself," said Stevenson, who has racked up 33 assists in the last five games. "My game is to spot up and hit threes. When you look at the shots I made [Thursday night], they were spot-up threes. That's no excuse. I'm a pro, but right now, we need a point guard to distribute the ball to our scorers and that's what I've got to do.

Tapscott could inject more offense into the first unit by starting Young, but he isn't nearly the defender or distributor Stevenson is and Tapscott needs Young's scoring punch off of the bench.

"A lot of it has to do with getting shots that aren't stressful," Tapscott said. "When the ball is really moving and there is a rhythm then bang, you get a good shot. It's tougher when somebody has to make a play to get a shot. Those are stressful shots and as we work to get better execution, we can create easier shots."

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