Wizards Are Building Up to Up-Tempo

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The best thing the Wizards have going for them is head coach Eddie Jordan. Washington dreams of becoming an exciting and competitive team, able to run with anybody. They want to be the next New Jersey or Sacramento. At first blush it appears the crux of those teams is fast breaks; therefore, the Wizards should play up-tempo ball. That's true, as far as it goes. But the reason their fast breaks work is because the Kings and Nets have great passing veterans at every position and the nucleus of each team has been together for years. Kwame Brown, Gilbert Arenas, Jarvis Hayes, and Jared Jefferies are all 22 years old. That nucleus will likely be together for years to come. So the key to the Wizards prospering as an up-tempo team is coaching stability. The key is Eddie Jordan.

He was an assistant both in Sacramento and New Jersey before becoming the head coach of the Wizards. While he's likely disappointed with this season's results, building a fast break team doesn't happen overnight. As David Stern says the league tells all prospective new franchise owners, everybody's just one player away from a championship. Of course, he goes on, usually that player is Shaquille O'Neal and he's playing in Los Angeles, but still.

The Nets struggled into the playoffs their first year under Byron Scott, and only with the blockbuster deal that brought Jason Kidd in did the Nets finally gell into the multiple Eastern Conference champions that they've become. So hitting the lottery in Jordan's first year as head coach is no shame. So long as he spent this season teaching them how to play fast break basketball, it's like building a house. You need a strong foundation before you can build turrets and towers.

The important thing is that they play together and under a stable head coach. Running fast breaks is not an easy thing to do: it requires great instincts born only of long practices. Any group of five players can run half-court sets. But playing up-tempo requires constant court vision and super intelligence to try to outguess the defense. It leads naturally to secondary break opportunities even out of a half court possession. It improves every player as an individual and the team as a whole.

The Wizards may draft their missing piece or they may trade for him, but as long as the nucleus keeps running together, the dream is still alive.

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George Solomon ofThe Washington Post writes: The Wizards compiled the third-worst record in the NBA (25-57) and missed the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year, their games missed (more than 220) because of injuries topping the excuse board. In fact, since 1988 the team has been in the playoffs only once, in 1997 when the Chris Webber-led Wizards were swept by Chicago in three close games. That 16-year run is not only depressing but rather incredible since eight teams make the playoffs from each of the two conferences.I tried to do a Lexis-Nexis search on all the players and coaches who have worn the uniform during this span -- and to measure their statistics and psychological states before and after their stays here -- only to be informed by computer message that men and machine have better things to do than answer such meaningless queries, adding the fool requesting such information should get a life.

Scott Howard-Cooper ofThe Sacramento Bee writes: The Lakers remain the consensus pick around the league, just as they were at the start of the season. And everyone goes with the same disclaimers - if no one is hurt, if they don't hurt each other, etc. "It always goes back to the Lakers being out here," Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said of the West race."It always comes back to that. That's the ace in the hole. ... If the Lakers are in sync, and everybody is healthy, it's swimming uphill." If the Lakers are in sync.

Bob Cohn ofThe Washington Timeswrites: Doug Collins, who coached Michael Jordan and the Wizards for two wild and wacky years before returning to the relative sanity of broadcasting after the 2003 season, said he voted for [Memphis Head Coach Hubie] Brown.

SI.com interviewedtelevision analyst and former Wizards head coach Doug Collins about the NBA playoffs.

Dan Steinberg and Desmond Bieler ofThe Washington Postwrite: Indeed, this week of rehash and renewal caused nearly everyone to reflect on the classic sequels: ... "Dawn of the Dead," Eddie Jordan: Wizards boss wraps up his first campaign. Meanwhile, Jerry Stackhouse calls reporters to announce that he's done for the season.