Wizards Attempt to Regroup From Loss to Woeful Grizzlies

As the Grizzlies outplayed the Wizards in Monday's 4th quarter, interim coach Ed Tapscott, left, was stoic, but assistant Randy Ayers couldn't watch.
As the Grizzlies outplayed the Wizards in Monday's 4th quarter, interim coach Ed Tapscott, left, was stoic, but assistant Randy Ayers couldn't watch. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

One day after his team absorbed one of its worst losses of the season, a 113-97 beating at the hands of the lottery-bound Memphis Grizzlies, Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott put his team through a lengthy film session and practice aimed at correcting the mistakes that have contributed to the team's 10-38 record.

Whether yesterday's work did any good will be determined tonight when the Wizards continue a five-game homestand against the New Jersey Nets at Verizon Center.

"A lot of it was mental," forward Caron Butler said. "Just digesting that loss and understanding what we've done wrong. But at the same time, we needed some hard work, getting up and down, running over our offense, executing and working those cobwebs out. Just preparing for [tonight]. Hopefully we can get a win."

The issues that led to Monday's loss were familiar: a shorthanded team missing several key players, spotty point guard play, poor perimeter defense, turnovers and an inability to stop the Grizzlies from ripping off a game-changing run.

For the first time since taking over for Eddie Jordan on Nov. 24, Tapscott also pointedly questioned his team's level of effort and hustle. One day later, he specifically pointed to the start of the game when the youthful Grizzlies, who start three rookies and entered the night on a 12-game losing streak, gained confidence by building a 12-point lead.

"The effort problem I thought was in the first quarter, the way we started the game," Tapscott said. "When you open a game giving away checkers it's hard to stop. And so, that's what that game turned into: You score, I score. You score, I score.

"We preach trying to get some stops and I don't think we had the effort to get that done, so you end up giving up 113 points and that's a very difficult game for us to win."

The challenge for Tapscott continues to be trying to establish some kind of rhythm with players who simply do not appear to fit together very well. The only players who have consistently produced at a high level statistically are Butler and Antawn Jamison, and neither player has been a great defender.

Tapscott and his staff go into every game wondering what they are going to get out of the remainder of the roster -- depending on how much of the roster is available. Guard Juan Dixon became the latest Wizard to go down when he injured his right elbow during the fourth quarter Monday night. He is out tonight, and DeShawn Stevenson will likely miss his second straight game and 16th of the season with lower back pain.

That leaves Tapscott with nine healthy bodies including a starting point guard, Mike James, who is shooting 22.2 percent over the past five games, a starting small forward, Dominic McGuire, who is a non-threat offensively, an undersized 6-foot-9 starting center in Darius Songaila, and a group of young players who are consistently inconsistent.

Despite those issues, Jamison doesn't want to hear excuses nor is he ready to pack it in and begin the slow march toward the offseason. Losses like Monday's -- in which bad play was equaled by poor body language and led to the Wizards being booed off the court by what was left of a season-low crowd of 11,442 -- suggest that a few players might already be leaning that way.

"As long as I'm on this team and as long as I'm not doing that and [Butler]'s not doing that, it won't happen," Jamison said. "And I don't want to hear 'Play the young guys and get them ready' either. Nah, I'm not going to be a part of that. It's about going out there and competing with the guys you feel can help you win the game. Of course we've got to have some guys play minutes they wouldn't normally play, but in the words of Herman Edwards: 'You play to win the game.' That's what I plan on going out there and doing."

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