Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships. — Coach Pat Summitt
Through 14 games this season, the Washington Wizards are 5-9 but they are improving from game to game. But make no mistake about it - they are a young team and they will make plenty of mistakes this season. These kids are learning or re-learning the necessity of playing basketball the right way at the professional level. Quite frankly, this means that the Wizards will take their lumps during this season but they have a golden opportunity to finish with a respectable record at the end of the year. But in order to accomplish this goal, the team must listen to the instructions given to them by the coaching staff.
Because this is a young team, there are some things that the coaching staff will have to stress over and over again until it finally sinks in. One of those things is the ultra importance of rebounding the basketball. As NBA coaching legend Pat Riley so eloquently remarked, “No rebounds, no rings.” This simple statement was true when he made the comments in the1980's as Head Coach of the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers and it is true today. Granted, the Wizards will not be competing for a championship this season, however, if they take the step of becoming a better rebounding team, they will at least be competitive against the upper echelon teams in the league.
Even though rebounding the basketball is one of the most critical aspects of the game, it is oftentimes one of the most overlooked components as well. Let’s face it, rebounding is not sexy like a no-look pass to a streaking player on the wing for a posterizing two-handed dunk. Likewise, being a great rebounder will not earn you a spot on ESPN’s Plays of the Day. But nevertheless, teammates love, coaches adore and opponents respect someone who is willing to grab the tough rebounds which could very well decide the outcome of the game. Rebounding is all about desire, hustle and a willingness to do the dirty work. “I’m hungrier than those other guys out there,” said quintessential rebounder Dennis Rodman during his playing days. “Every rebound is a personal challenge.”
The Wizards, as a team, average 39.5 rebounds per game this season. In case you’re wondering, that places them 28th out of 30 teams in the league. Since I don’t believe in coincidences, it is no wonder that in seven of the Wizards’ nine losses, they have been outrebounded by their opponents.
After a recent home loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, Wizards’ Head Coach Flip Saunders made it perfectly clear that he was not happy with the team’s overall performance in the rebounding department. “We got our asses kicked on the glass,” shouted a clearly distraught Saunders. “Either our guys in there have to rebound or get new people in there because we can’t put ourselves in that situation. This team [Charlotte] is not a great rebounding team but they chase down. They had almost as many offensive rebounds (16) as we had defensive rebounds (17). The amazing thing is how we can even be in the game. We’re in the game because we created 25 turnovers with our defense. You can’t get your butts kicked on the glass like that.” A-M-E-N! Truer words were never spoken.
Conversely, in four of the five Wizards’ victories this season, they have won the war of the boards. Again, no coincidence. “The games we won, we outrebounded teams,” stated rookie sensation John Wall. “The games we’ve lost, we got outrebounded by a wide margin.”
Apparently, the threat that Coach Saunders made to the team of either playing with intensity and grabbing tough rebounds or riding the bench has resonated with the young players. The big men on the team including Andray Blatche and Javale McGee have taken it as a challenge to get in the thick of things and clean up either the opposition’s missed shots or their own.
McGee has especially been productive on the glass over the last two games. In a losing effort against the Detroit Pistons, the Wizards’ young center grabbed what was at the time a career best 16 rebounds. He followed up that performance by pulling down a new career best 18 boards against the Philadelphia 76ers. “I was just trying to get 10 rebounds in the first half,” said McGee after the overtime win against Philly. “That’s my goal every game I go in to and once I do that, I know I’m being aggressive. As a team, we’re gonna go hard on the boards.”
The Wizards have lost some very close games this season simply because the team did not rebound well. Because the team is not very tall, they need everyone from the point guard to the center to help secure rebounds. If they learn this lesson and take the necessary steps to implement it, they will give themselves a fighting chance to win those close games.
The one thing that I do that nobody else does is jump three and four times for one rebound — Dennis Rodman