Tapscott Promises More Freedom for Wizards' Young

Interim coach Ed Tapscott took blame for making second-year guard Nick Young think too much during games.
Interim coach Ed Tapscott took blame for making second-year guard Nick Young think too much during games. (By Ned Dishman -- Nbae/getty Images)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Basketball players, especially young ones trying to establish themselves in the NBA, need the freedom to play through mistakes and find their rhythm.

Coaches, especially ones who take over struggling basketball teams, need to know that the players they put on the floor will execute the game plan and avoid mistakes that lead to losses.

Therein lies the challenge for second-year Wizards guard Nick Young, whose playing time has recently decreased, and interim coach Ed Tapscott, who is searching for a consistent playing rotation that will help the 4-18 Wizards get out of the Eastern Conference cellar.

Tapscott, who worked closely with less-experienced players such as Young, Dominic McGuire and Oleksiy Pecherov as an assistant before replacing head coach Eddie Jordan on Nov. 24, believes it's time to take a different approach with Young.

"I'm going to take a little blame for Nick's troubles," Tapscott said. "I've had him thinking a little too much. Sometimes you can stress execution, execution, execution, and what that does is force a guy to start thinking about everything he does. Some guys are better just playing in the flow, so I gave him the release today. I said, 'Look, I'm going to play you the full segment and leave you alone and let you play.' "

It's a message Young appreciated after playing a total of nine minutes in the last two games.

"He sat down and talked to me, and that was big, I needed that," Young said. "Lately I've been getting three minutes, four minutes and that's kind of hard coming from the minutes I played. . . . If I make a mistake, I won't have to look to the bench knowing I'm coming out. Hopefully that will give me a little leeway out there."

Young, who ranks third on the team in scoring (10 points per game) and is shooting a decent 44.3 percent, has been on a short leash recently after frustrating Tapscott with mistakes at both ends of the floor.

Whether it's giving up an easy score defensively, taking an ill-advised shot or not being in the right place at the right time, Young's second season has looked a lot like his first, when he averaged 7.5 points on 43.9 percent shooting while committing a lot of the same mistakes.

"It all depends on the effort and the execution out here on the practice floor," Tapscott said. "The guys who play well will get a chance to play. I always tell guys: I don't have a doghouse, I have a palace of good play."

Some of Young's minutes have gone to newcomer Mike James, who arrived in a trade from New Orleans last Wednesday.

In three games, the veteran James has scored 18 points on 6-of-23 shooting while playing both point guard and shooting guard. The other player acquired in last week's trade, second-year point guard Javaris Crittenton, has seen only spot duty in two games as he continues to learn the offensive and defensive systems in practices and shoot-arounds.

One of the team's major issues all season has been a lack of scoring from the guard position -- the guards were a combined 5 of 23 from the field and totaled 14 points in Monday's home loss to Indiana.

But scoring is something Young has excelled at since he was a prep star in Los Angeles.

Tapscott (and before him, Jordan) has been trying to get Young to grasp other parts of the game since the team selected him out of Southern California with the 16th pick in the 2007 draft.

Like Jordan, Tapscott has praised Young's work ethic and attitude. But he remains a one-dimensional talent, a player who flashes skills as a scorer but also tends to dribble too much and is not an exceptional passer or defender.

In time, the team hopes that Young will improve in those areas and become a more well-rounded player. For now, Tapscott sounds like a coach who is willing to take what he can get.

"You've got to let a guy use his gifts," Tapscott said. "If a guy's gifts are at the offensive end, sometimes you're just going to have to suffer through the defensive lapses; and if you've got a guy who've gifted on the defensive end like I believe Dominic McGuire is, anything offensively he gives me is another gift. What I've got to do is get Nick in there and get him the ball where he is comfortable."

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