Tuesday January 4, 2011 8:32 p.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
Maybe it's the losing...well, of course it's the losing that has the Wizards practicing with a certain edge these days. With an 8-24 overall record and the embarrassing 0-16 mark on the road, the frustration builds as the losses mount.
After a bumbling defeat to the Hornets last Saturday, the Wizards clearly have stepped it up in practice the last two days leading up to Wednesday night's game at Philadelphia. In the few minutes the media was allowed to watch, the tone was definitely harsher with players and coaches more demonstrative, especially during scrimmages. Now, it is anyone's guess if this will actually translate over to better play and ultimately more wins.
Wizards coach Coach Flip Saunders says it's not the losing but the team's new approach to defense that has the players more feisty and anxious in practice. "Do we want to win on the road? No question, but we are trying to create an environment for long term success and that if we play that way the wins will come whether it's at home or on the road," Saunders said. "I think we are just trying to establish that more than anything else."
Wizards guard John Wall would love to actually start a winning streak and stop the road losing skid and he agrees with Saunders that it all starts on the defensive end. "The main thing for us is playing defense and the last two days we really picked it up and I think that will help us moving into the game," Wall said.
The Wizards have clearly stepped it up defensively after acquiring forward Rashard Lewis from Orlando for guard Gilbert Arenas. The Wizards have held opponents under 100 points in eight of the last nine games with Lewis playing in six of those but the team only has two wins during that span. The Wizards have yet to win back-to-back games this season.
Saunders was also encouraged to have all 15 players on the roster available to practice Tuesday, something he said hasn't been possible since training camp. "I feel good where we are at. We're better than we were two weeks ago. We are better than we were prior to making the trade. We are much better defensively." Saunders said.
Wall has missed several games because of an array of injuries but he is certainly 100 percent
now and is looking forward to seeing how the team responds because there are no excuses now with everyone back.
"We haven't really had everybody here together. We have had so many different starting lineups this whole year. When someone come backs healthy someone else goes down so lets hope nobody else gets injured for awhile and we can just finish the season out healthy," Wall said.
Notes: After missing the New Orleans game with a sore knee, Wizards forward Josh Howard practiced Tuesday and will likely be a game time decision for the Sixers game on Wednesday. The Wizards will get guard Kirk Hinrich back after missing the last two games with a leg injury.
And for those that keep track of these things like I do, Wiz center JaVale McGee sported Peak basketball shoes in practice Tuesday and not his usual Nikes. Looks like McGee is switching to the Chinese brand.