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NBA Analysis: Wizards Slow Rebuilding Process Starts Now

By John Powell

Rashard Lewis got off his plane a few hours before the game started and, without much time to prepare to play, addressed the media.

“Now, my ultimate goal is to get this team into the playoffs or into the hunt to make the playoffs and help these guys grow [by] being a veteran in the locker room, not by voice but most definitely by example,” said Lewis, a new veteran in the locker room, drafted back in 1998.

This season was supposed to be about John Wall and Gilbert Arenas playing together, a hope that simply did not materialize. So it will be a different dynamic with Kirk Heinrich and Nick Young stepping in for Arenas. The trade swapped a guard for a forward, but the 13-year veteran will provide some leadership on a team of young starters.

Surely the Charlotte Bobcats did not expect to come to the Verizon Center and lose to a team whose top players were either riding the bench or a plane to Orlando.

But they did. Without Yi Jianlian, John Wall, the new member of the Orlando Magic, Gilbert Arenas, or the new Wizard Rashard Lewis, the Wizards found a way to even the season series with the Bobcats by a 108-75 final score.

It was their first 100-point win in regulation since November 16 against Toronto, and the exclamation point to end a seven game skid.

“As I said to our guys when we were going through a rough stretch two weeks ago is ‘You have to work at it. All the sudden, you don’t just all the sudden start playing well,’” Saunders said. “You might not reap the benefits right away, but if you keep on playing that way, and you establish how you have to play, it’s going to help.”

Dispersed production led to a near-win on Saturday, and similar production led to a win Monday night. Kirk Hinrich, Nick Young, Andray Blatche, Al Thornton and JaVale McGee combined for 81 of the team’s 108 points. It was the second game in a row that five Wizards score in double figures and Kirk Hinrich had a double-double.

“We’re just into it. We’re communicating much better. That’s the main thing,” said Hinrich of the team’s play on both sides of the ball. “We’re putting ourselves between good position and a tight shell and communicating and trying to help each other. And when we do that we have a chance to play good defense.”

The Wizards are finding an identity, and it has been fueled by ball control. The team has not given up more turnovers than their opponent since Dec. 8, six games ago. It culminated Monday night as Charlotte gave up 29 turnovers to Washington’s 14, for a difference of 16 points in the Wizards’ favor.

“As we’ve been going through the season, we’ve been working on our defense more and more,” said JaVale McGee. “And a lot of us are starting to figure out how to help the defense and how to play defense as a team, not just as one-on-one.”

It would seem that a veteran big man on the blocks should add to this success. Lewis averages 4.2 rebounds per game and 1.4 steals per game as a solid defender and he adds a .367 3-point shooting percentage that would be good for third on the team, an impressive mark for a 6-10 230-pound forward.

“Every day is a new challenge,” Saunders said. “What changes consistency is the addition of new players and tomorrow we’ll add another one, as far as working with Rashard. Hopefully he’ll learn quick [sic]. We’re going to add John [Wall]. But you hope that you can establish a system and they can pretty much just plug right into it.”

Team note: Washington waived Alonzo Gee and signed Lester Hudson.


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