Offensive Lethargy Plagues Wizards

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 16, 2008; Page D04

When the news broke that Wizards center Brendan Haywood was expected to miss four to six months with a wrist injury before the season even began, the Wizards expected to go through a painful adjustment period defensively. Indeed, Washington entered yesterday ranked 27th in the NBA in points allowed (104 per game) and 29th in opponents' field goal percentage (48.9 percent).

However, with two returning all-stars in forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison and several players deeply familiar with Coach Eddie Jordan's system, the Wizards didn't expect to have issues scoring points.

The Wizards (1-6) rank 23rd in scoring at 94.1 points per game -- down from 98.8 last season -- and are shooting 43.8 percent (18th) while averaging only 17.7 assists (25th).

The offensive issues were on full display during Friday's 97-77 loss at Miami. The Wizards got off to a slow start and never got rolling save for brief pushes at the start of the third quarter and early in the fourth.

A lack of ball movement, turnovers (13) and a lack of transition offense (only six fast-break points) were all culprits as the Wizards failed to build on the good things they did in Wednesday's home win over the Utah Jazz.

Some of the offensive problems can be traced to a lack of consistent play at point guard. Gilbert Arenas's scoring and playmaking abilities are on the shelf, and Antonio Daniels, who did a solid job of filling in for Arenas last season, has been hobbled by a sore right knee and has missed two games, including Friday's loss.

While Juan Dixon and DeShawn Stevenson are capable ballhandlers, they are not pure point guards, the kind of player who instinctively reads a defense, breaks it down and delivers the basketball to teammates in the right place at the right time.

In too many instances, particularly on Friday night, the ball wound up in a player's hands as the shot clock was winding down, forcing that player to take a rushed or contested shot.

It also doesn't help that the Wizards entered yesterday's games ranked last in the league in three-point shooting (28.3 percent).

"Pretty much it was tough for everybody tonight," Stevenson said following Friday's loss. "Shooting-wise, playmaking-wise. When that happens, you have to play better defense to give ourselves a chance to win the ballgame and we didn't do that either."

Second-year guard Nick Young (15.1 points per game on 49.4-percent shooting) is carrying his weight as a scorer off the bench, and rookie center JaVale McGee has shown flashes of tremendous talent, but no other player on the roster is playing at a high level, including the two all-stars.

Butler was shadowed by Miami's Shawn Marion for most of Friday night's game and finished with six points on 3-of-10 shooting. Butler is averaging 19.1 points this season, but he's shooting only 43.2 percent.

Jamison is averaging 17.7 points -- down from 21.4 last season -- and has made only seven of 29 three-point attempts (24.1 percent).

The team is counting on a big season from fourth-year forward Andray Blatche, but he is averaging just 6.3 points on 34.1 percent shooting and has more turnovers (17) than assists, steals and blocks combined (13).

The Wizards still have plenty of time to figure things out, but there is no question that patience is starting to wear thin.

Butler was visibly frustrated as he left the floor late in the third quarter (he did not return in the fourth when the game was out of hand) and Jamison was pointed in his criticism -- of the team and himself -- for the second time this season.

"You're going to have bad nights but we got it to within six points [early in the third quarter] and then all of a sudden they went on a what, 20-2 run?" Jamison said. "That [stuff] is unacceptable. I don't understand how that can happen. This is a veteran team. We've been there and done that before. I just expect all 12 guys to be prepared to play a more physical, more mental and better basketball game."

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