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Mack Fights For His Job In Washington
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On October 19, 2012 @ 9:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
In the NBA, one player’s misfortune is another’s opportunity. An injured left patella tendon will sideline John Wall for the preseason and possibly the entire first month of the regular season, which opens up both playing time and a chance for the Washington Wizards’ other point guards to win a spot in the rotation.
“Guys are getting opportunities to get out and play more minutes than they probably would if we were healthy,” Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said. “That’s a good opportunity for guys that are trying to make the team.”
The Wizards signed A.J. Price to a veteran’s minimum deal in July and picked up Jannero Pargo on a partially guaranteed contract after Wall’s injury. However, it’s their own second-round pick from last season, Shelvin Mack, that may benefit the most from this opportunity.
Mack, whose contract for this season is only partially guaranteed, saw his minutes increase from 10.7 in January to over 14 in April under Wittman last season and his production increased as well. While Mack played well, it obviously wasn’t enough to discourage the Wizards from bringing in some competition for the back-up point guard spot. However, the 22-year-old has responded to the challenge.
“He has done a good job obviously,” Wittmam said. “Going into our last game, he didn’t have a turnover. He had three turnovers in Brooklyn, but his assist-to-turnover (ratio) is the best of the three (point guards) and he is developing an understanding of what we are doing and how he has to go about doing it, orchestrating the offense and the flow of the game. That is something we have been working with him with and he has done a better job of that.”
An eight-year veteran who has played for five teams, Pargo understands what the sophomore point guard is going through and believes the young man can earn a spot in the league.
“(Mack) is doing well,” Pargo said. “He is very receptive to any information anyone gives him. He is just taking it all in. He is playing extremely hard, playing well and I am happy for the success that he is having.
“Coming in, more of a scorer (first) and playmaker second, it’s tough to do both and that’s why I take my hat off to guys like John (Wall), Chris Paul and all the points guards in this league who make plays and score because it’s a tough job. It’s one that I’ve struggled with and I still struggle with a bit to this day, but I have gotten better at it and I think Shelvin will to.”
This is Mack’s first full training camp and preseason because of last year’s lockout and he has been taking advantage of the opportunity to further develop his game. He knows that it is important for him to improve.
“It’s been good for me so far,” Mack said. “I have been able to – with no lockout this summer – work out with the coaches, so I think that’s been helping me out with my game.
“It’s a challenge. I just look at it as a different way to try and get better. You want to get better as a player. You don’t want to be just one-dimensional. I been watching film and listening to (assistant) coach Sam (Cassell). They lead me in the right direction and I’ve been taking advantage of those opportunities to create for others.”
Mack has been figuring out how to create for others and keep his turnovers low. Through five preseason games, Mack has averaged 3.2 assists in 14.6 minutes and has less than one turnover per game.
“(I am) just trying to be a playmaker,” Mack said. “Just trying to make the right play is the best thing I can do when I am on the court. Trying to make the easy play, the simple passes, swing it to the next guy. High-reward, low-risk plays and just keep doing the little things and that is helping me to take care of the ball.”
However, Mack needs to do more than just being a better playmaker if he wants to get playing time after the preseason is over. A point guard has important defensive responsibilities and good decision making applies equally at both ends of the court. Mack easily identified what Coach Wittman wanted him to do before his last preseason game in Toronto.
“Control the other point guard and always getting back to eliminate transition because everybody in the NBA gets easy buckets in transition,” Mack said. “Getting back on defense and being the first one and being able to talk to everybody.”
Unfortunately, Mack failed to execute those instructions at the end of the first half.
“The way the first half ended just can’t happen,” Wittman said. “We get our four man matched up on their point guard 94 feet (away) and they get two free throws to end the quarter. They are little things. They are not big things. We just have to understand the little things can add up to a situation where you are in a tight game.”
Mack was rewarded with an earful from his coach and a spot on the bench for the second half of the game in Toronto.
“It’s called coaching,” Wittman said.
While Mack is the youngest and the least experienced of the three point guards vying for backup minutes on the Wizards, he may be the one with the most upside. Washington has 19 players on their preseason roster and Mack’s deal is only partially guaranteed. There are three preseason games left for Mack to make an impression before roster decisions have to be made. It is up to him to make the most of this opportunity.
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