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Flip Saunders thinks John Wall played too many summer games

Jan 11, 2012, 1:42 PM EDT

Flip Saunders John Wall Getty Images

The counterbalance to the suits and greed of the NBA lockout this past summer was the rise of the rec league games. The Goodman League. The Drew League. Rucker Park. More than ever NBA players were rolling into these leagues and playing, and soon the leagues were playing each other like the epic Goodman vs. Drew matchups. Then that evolved into countless charity games.

All entertaining if not exactly well played basketball.

But Flip Saunders watched his team get off to a slow start — they picked up their first win Tuesday — and wondered if all those summer games that John Wall, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Nick Young and others played in hurt the team. Here is what he told

“I’ve never been a proponent of all those things,” Saunders said after Monday’s practice. “I think you pick up too many bad habits and a lot of things you think are going to be very easy [are not]. I don’t think I saw a change all summer long.”

Those summer games feature very little defense — there is almost no team defensive play. With guys like Wall or Young, nobody can guard them one-on-one and so in settings like that they can get their shot and score almost at will.

The NBA is different — selfish play will cost you games. It cost the Wizards as for the first eight games there were pick-and-rolls and isolations on the strong side but no weakside movement to free or shooters or freeze defenders. Finally that changed Tuesday.

It’s too simplistic to say the rec league games led to the bad Wizards start. There are a whole lot of problems in Washington that have nothing to do with the Goodman League games. But the games followed by a condensed training camp may not have helped, either.

  1. goforthanddie - Jan 11, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    Summer league helped the guys stay somewhat in shape, esp. with no training camp. Wall’s young, he can handle it. What he needs is a teacher.

    • khuxford - Jan 11, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      Way to read the title, but not the story: no one is saying Wall tired his legs out. They’re saying he fell into bad habits from pickup games that he and the rest of the team haven’t shook off yet. Wall’s being young makes that MORE likely, not less.

      • goforthanddie - Jan 11, 2012 at 4:06 PM

        Maybe he “fell” into bad habits because nobody has yet bothered to teach him GOOD habits? One normally doesn’t revert to bad once one realizes that good works better.
        Or because he feels he has to do it all because he has precious little to work with? They have squat but potential, and some of their “potential” (Biatche, McGee) are more interested in pretty much anything besides learning their trade.
        Flip’s just looking for excuses. He’s the problem, and EG giving him a vote of confidence made things worse.

      • nbascreed - Jan 11, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        Ha! I actually agree with ‘goforth’…well kinda. Flip is expecting talent to be ready made or that teaching involves telling/showing guys something a few times and them being able to go out and do it. Wall is a talent, who doesn’t seem like a knucklehead so Flip should be able to get through but sometimes it takes sustained effort and reduced ego from a coach.

      • khuxford - Jan 12, 2012 at 8:09 AM

        I can’t say there’s no chance this is partially just an excuse from Flip, but, again, if he had a full camp, he’d have had more of an opportunity to get folks back into good habits and running the right plays. The Washington Professional Basketball Team is one of the youngest in the league, which generally translates into a lack of on-court discipline and ability to just jump back from freeplay to teamplay. Their team composition, as far as experience goes, is so bad that an NBA journeyman on the team had to be the one to call the players meeting.

    • redbaronx - Jan 12, 2012 at 1:58 AM

      I agree with goforth. Someone get Larry Brown or Jerry Sloan in here. Flip is not the solution and never has been. They need a defensive fundamentals coach. They need a guy like Larry Brown or Jerry Sloan to teach the Wiz good habits and fundamentals. I hear both of these guys are looking to get back on the floor.

  2. brooklynbulls - Jan 11, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    Selfish is selfish. The summer leagues had nothing to do with their lack of commitment. The guys play unorganized basketball every summer. Flip is desperately searching.

    • khuxford - Jan 11, 2012 at 2:04 PM

      Yeah, but, as pointed out above, they didn’t have as much of a training camp to run those habits out of the players.

      • brooklynbulls - Jan 11, 2012 at 2:42 PM

        And as pointed out in my post, their problems are beyond bad “habits”. Unless you’re commited to defense, team play and developing a serious work ethic, this problem is not solved by any training camp. The mentality or the personnel has to change.

      • khuxford - Jan 11, 2012 at 4:35 PM

        Training camp is where coaches have the chance to break bad mentalities. You’re not being logical here.

  3. zblott - Jan 11, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    I wonder what Flip thinks about the infinite games Kevin Durant played. In case you missed it, KD is the guy whose FG%, 3FG%, and assists are all up from last year.

  4. nightrain42 - Jan 11, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    Quit cryin Flip and try coaching.

  5. lakerluver - Jan 11, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    Flip’s not the problem. Wall should’ve spent less time schooling play ground players and more time working on the fundamentals with an instructor.

    • nbascreed - Jan 11, 2012 at 6:11 PM

      Methinks “fundamentals” is a nice buzzword. (In least challenging tone) give me a list of 4 or 5 fundamentals that Wall should’ve been working on.

      • redbaronx - Jan 12, 2012 at 2:05 AM

        nbascreed… thinks you don’t know ball. Evidently fundamentals is just some sort of fancy word for ‘basic stuff in basketball that I don’t know real good’.

        1) Running the offense
        2) Shot selection
        3) Pick and Roll
        4) Staying in front of your defensive assignment

        How about those four? John Wall should have listed his deficiencies from last season and been working his ass off on those things. I don’t know if he did or didn’t, but it sure doesn’t look like he did. Last year he relied on cutting to the basket and speed. That will only get him so far.

  6. stropcity - Jan 11, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    Nobody hyped those summer league games more than Kurt. Funny writeup I read this summer.

  7. brooklynbulls - Jan 11, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    Watched the Bulls beat the Wizards tonight without Rose, Rip or Watson. The Wizards’ poor decision making, selfish play, inferior basketball IQ, lack of hustle, heart or passion, could’ve been resolved with a full training camp. If only Flip “had a chance!” Khux, you’re brilliant. Thanks for educating me with that logic.

    And next year, after a full training camp, when every coach has a chance, all of the knuckleheads will play brilliantly. I can just see Blatche, Wall, J. Crawford even Cousins out in Sac-town benefiting greatly and making great strides from their camps.

  8. glink123 - Jan 11, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    Maybe Wall should’ve stayed in college for another year or two, if he really needs to learn. I expect more from the first overall pick in the draft. He’s regressing already. Not good.

    • redbaronx - Jan 12, 2012 at 2:09 AM

      I agree. Just because you can beat your man off the dribble doesn’t mean you’re ready for the NBA. He should be learning pick and roll till he’s sick of it. Guiding guys on the weak side. Setting guys up for their shots.

      If I were him I’d be watching a lot of film of Steve Nash. Another slight build guard with a lot of speed. John needs to learn how to deliver the ball to his guys in their sweet spots, master the pick and roll, and learn spacing.

  9. rooney24 - Jan 12, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Until the players WANT to get better, it won’t matter who is coaching.

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