HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’re sure some people are calling him crazy this morning, but all we’ve got for Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders is a salute of approval.
Saunders did what any self-respecting coach would do Monday and stormed out of his team’s morning practice and invited them back for another, unscheduled afternoon session in the hope that they would come back with a bit more urgency than they showed the first time around.
Two-a-days, baby. Who doesn’t like two-a-days?
Now the critics will point out that Saunders struggled to hold his team’s together in both Minnesota (during the later stages of his tenure there) and Detroit (where he struggled to win over a veteran cast used to Larry Brown‘s style). But what else is he supposed to do? The Wizards are 1-4 and rather than see them fall completely apart he decided to make his stand early this season.
Good for you Flip.
Even better, some of the Wizards’ veterans didn’t hesitate to back up their coach, per our main man Mike Lee of the Washington Post:
“Y’all better wake up. You’re making it harder on yourselves,” veteran Josh Howard said as players started quietly heading toward the locker room. Hilton Armstrong wasn’t willing to just let practice end in that fashion, so he called his teammates together and told them there was a reason for the extra session. He could see the frustration but said, “The coaches only want to make us better. Real talk.”
It seems a little “Real Talk” is what’s needed in Washington. This crew is already trying to dig out of the hole of last season’s tumult, trying to mesh the games and personalities of both rookie sensation John Wall and veteran star Gilbert Arenas. All Saunders is asking for is maximum effort and energy from a group that couldn’t get right last season.
If that’s too much to ask for then maybe he’s right to work them twice a day until he gets what he needs out of them.
The Wizards would be wise to listen to Howard, who has been through early season struggles before and come out on the other side. He’s coming back from knee surgery and wasn’t cleared to go full tilt until last week. But he knows of what he speaks when he tells his teammates, young and a little bit older, that now is the time to change their ways.
“I told some of the guys. ‘We getting ready to get a paycheck on the 15th.’ For right now, they getting a paycheck for nothing,” he said. “I can honestly say that. I don’t think guys are really buying into this. If anything, we need to work for this paycheck.
“I’ve been in situations where we started out 0-4, 1-5 and turned it around quick,” said Howard, who won 67 games with Dallas in 2006-07 after the Mavericks started the season 0-4. “It’s a correctable mistake and guys need to go out there and sell it out for one another.”
Five games into their season and it appears these Wizards are already at the crossroads. Saunders is trying to steer them down a different path, one that has to be better than the one they’ve been on the past couple of years.
Now it’s time to see if the Wizards are ready to travel that path.