Blog Entry

Saunders: Wall played in too many summer leagues

Posted on: January 11, 2012 11:47 am
Edited on: January 11, 2012 11:50 am
Posted by Royce Young

There was one good thing about the lockout: How many players took to blacktops, high schools gyms and other place to play in pickup exhibition games and pro-am leagues. Kevin Durant, Brandon Jennings, James Harden and John Wall were among the group of guys that seemed to play in almost everything.

The idea for playing being the more you play basketball, the better you get. Sure, it was for fans and for fun, but these guys were looking to get better too. For instance, take Durant who has expanded his game so far this season to more creative passing and ball handling. Those are things he worked on during the summer league games.

But could all that pickup have had a bad influence? Flip Saunders seems to think it did on John Wall. Via CSN Washington:

"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."

As for the bad habits, just watch a Wizards game this season for proof. With greater repetition than during his strong rookie season, Wall often speeds past teammates into 1-on-3 situations or zooms into a congested lane with the most creative of intentions. [...]

Wall was not the only Wizard in those wild and woolly games or the only player to recklessly freelance. Yet, as the team's point guard, Wall has more responsibility. As the franchise player, he receives more scrutiny, especially on a winless team.

"Usually what happens is it's on the best player and the coach. That's part of the responsibility that we all have," Saunders said. "The positive thing is that when you're the best player, you're usually the one that can [help most]. You can help change things around as the coach can."

You know what this sounds like to me? It sounds like Saunders is looking for excuses. It looks like he's trying to find an explanation for why his team stinks and why its best player has started slowly when it was supposed to be a leap year for Wall. Instead of maybe just saying it's the roster around him, the culture of the team or the system he plays in, just blame it on Wall playing too much basketball during the summer.

Sure, you can develop bad habits in those games. But I tend think NBA players understand that. I think they are fully aware that it's not a good idea to go out and start chucking 30-footers and going for behind-the-back passes every time down. Wall has always had sort of a blacktop-style game and that's just part of who he is. He's got some flash to him. If you try and take that away, you're going to lose the player he could be.

Those "bad habits" aren't pickup problems. They're being-a-21-year-old second-year-point-guard problems. They're being-a-good-player-on-a-bad-team problems.

Playing too much basketball can't be a problem. Look at Harden, who dominated pretty much every summer game he was in and had other NBA guys calling him the best pickup player out there. I think he's benefitted from hooping over the summer. To blame Wall's slow start on that is simply a ridiculous thing to say. There are a lot of reasons for it, but it has nothing to do with practicing too much over the summer.



Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: January 11, 2012 8:51 pm

Saunders: Wall played in too many summer leagues

Royce, calling out a veteran coach who comments on a basketball issue might not be the best move by a basketball blogger (and good at that part.) Saunders might be looking for excuses. We all would on this team. But consider his choices:

  • He says the team stinks because the players stink and the talent is the worst in the league. This means calling out his boss and likely closes his time in Washington within the week.
  • He says Wall is overrated and people's expectations for the team based on Wall are unfounded. Now he is calling out his franchise player and that also will have near-term unemployment consequences.
  • He says he is a terrible coach and/or cannot get through to this team. This also adds to President Obama's unemployment nightmare as Saunders cuts out want ads.
Given these choices Saunders gets a star for creatively deflecting from all three above and providing a basketball explanation that probably cannot be fixed until next summer. Coach does have a point. The bodies need rest after a long NBA season. Those who spurned this rest will pay a price in a shortened season and maybe a shortened career. This point is probably overstated but it is a point.

Since: Oct 2, 2006
Posted on: January 11, 2012 4:15 pm

Saunders: Wall played in too many summer leagues

I toltally agree that the lack of talent around him is what is ailing JW.  Yeah he still is moving to fast some times but far to many times his teammates have bricked wide open shots he has created for them this year.Andre Blatch and Rashard Lewis being the biggest cultprits.  The only true outside threat is Nick Young who just now seems to be rounding into shape after missing the abbreviated training camp.  With him starting at least the oppo has to account for one outside shooter.  Other than him, the whole damn team cant shoot a jumper to save their lives.

Not to mention Jordan (be like mike) Crawford who needs to a an off bench instant offense type.  But man his shot selection is horrible.

I think the bigger question is whether or not he worked on his jump shot.   He seems a little unsure on his shot right now.  Seems to have no confidence in it at all. 

Since: May 26, 2009
Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:42 pm

Saunders: Wall played in too many summer leagues

Good article. I agree.

Since: Sep 24, 2006
Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:07 pm

Saunders: Wall played in too many summer leagues

I don't know ... one theory is just as good (or bad) as another.

One thing I do know is that Wall hit the TOP of the backboard with a jumper in last night's game.

Straight brick.

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