Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boswell says the Wizards "need to practice"

Thomas Boswell frequently writes solid columns. His most recent column on the Wizards, though, struck me as a bit simplistic. Don't get me wrong: He brought up some interesting points and even crunched some numbers in the second part of his article (where he "added up all [players'] points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, then subtracted [their] turnovers and missed shots of any type" and compared various players. The Wizards don't have anyone elite in that category, if you were wondering). But his main point, essentially, is that the Wizards have "a chance to be a losing team, but a respectable one . . . [i]f they work hard."

Yes, for Boswell, it's about practice.

This column was primarily written because of the Wizards practice controversy on Monday, when Flip Saunders stormed out of practice and held a second one later in the day. Apparently there was a lack of effort, and also some complaining, so instead of sticking around, Saunders just rolled out. But after Tuesday's practice, Saunders seemed pleased with the level of effort at practice, saying, "We had better concentration. More concentrated effort, mentally and physically. Comprehended more things. Hopefully message delivered, message received."

I'm not saying that Saunders overreacted -- far from it. But coaches do occasionally pull stunts like what Saunders did to motivate their players. So if the Wizards do happen to beat the Rockets tonight, don't be stunned to hear about how focused the team was, or how much more effort the team exerted.

But back to Boswell's column. He also makes two other points:
  • "This year's team could go either way - dramatically. They have just enough talent, plus the Wall spark, to be fun most nights. But Monday's eruption is a major red flag. The Wizards need to be honest with themselves: Less than full effort will be a disaster."
  • "All in all, by this measure and plenty of others you can use, the Wizards are not doomed to be terrible. But if they want to compete with anyone, they must use every iota of ability, not force the coach to kick them out of practice in disgust."
I don't think anyone would disagree with these two statements. All fans want their teams to hustle and play hard every game, and lackadaisical effort gets booed and written about negatively. For the most part, most Wizards fans didn't see this current team as anything special (other than John Wall). I still think they'll improve on last year's 26-56 record, but a lot of that hinges on Wall's improvement, Gilbert Arenas's health, how much production the Wiz can get from Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee, and several other factors.

However, if the Wizards continue to play poorly, it'll be pretty easy to blame their lack of wins on effort, or a lack thereof. Not that he's played flawlessly, but it's not Wall's fault that the Wizards don't have a great rebounder or a strong interior presence. And it's not his fault that Saunders insists on a three-guard lineup that doesn't seem to be working too well. Despite the effort/practice cliche, talent wins in the NBA. Boswell briefly touches on this later in his article when looking at the best three players on the Heat, Lakers, and Celtics -- three of the league's best teams. The Wizards simply don't compare to those teams over a full season, and no amount of hard-nosed practicing will change that.

That's not to say that the Wizards can't or shouldn't practice harder and give more effort, but sometimes that's not enough. Even Saunders would admit that.

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