A Locker Room Without Harmony: Wizards Embarrassed By Heat 112-88
As you can imagine, it’s not fun to be in the locker room after a losing effort, especially after the poor showing the Wizards gave to their home crowd on Friday night. But if you like watching people and their mannerisms as I do, being in a room full of divided millionaires is great fodder for the brain, but not so much for Wizards fans.
Enough of the train-wreck analogies and how their imagery seems too painful on the eyes, yet unavoidable to watch. No, these 2009-10 Washington Wizards are like a ship going down in deep waters. The vessel is sinking fast and everyone wants to bail.
I’m not going to claim the post-game emotion was more distraught after the 112-88 loss to Miami than it has been for any of the other 28 losses this season, but it certainly was one of the most interesting, at least in terms of home games since I’m not a traveling blogger.
The post-game scene made it clear that Caron Butler going rogue on Flip Saunders was just a microcosm of an entire team trying to read the same old, tattered book, but with everyone turned to different pages.
I don’t want to portray that players are at odds with each other or that others have stopped listening to Coach Saunders. That is not what I witnessed, although I can’t speak for what goes on behind closed doors and in the minds of individuals.
The Wizards are simply not playing together. And it’s not going out on a limb to say that against the Heat, they lacked energy, heart and pride. Miami smelled blood like a jubilant young predator going for its first kill. Coming off a dreadful 104-65 loss in Charlotte on Wednesday, Dwyane Wade and company came to Washington hungry.
The Heat laughed and dunked their way to a blowout victory while throwing unnecessary behind-the-back passes and talking smack. Jermaine O’Neal even made an effort to say something in Flip Saunders’ face during one of his several trash-talking passes by the Wizards’ bench. Miami left their starters in long after Flip took his main guys out. They wanted to make a point that if the Wizards didn’t have their tails tucked between their legs already, they were damn sure going to head to the locker room that way.
After the game, Saunders said his team had “no juice,” and that they even lacked energy going into the first basketball activities of the day.
“I was concerned a little bit out of our shoot-around that we had [Friday] morning,” said the coach.” I don’t know if it was the loss to Dallas that just took it out or everything caught up to us, but we didn’t seem to have life no matter who we put in. We didn’t have mental quickness.”
A team captain didn’t quite concur with the coach. When asked about energy, Antawn Jamison said, “I don’t even think it was that, they came out aggressive, knocked us in the mouth, and we just stood there and took it.” Jamison gave praise to the Heat for their efforts, as he probably should have. Miami served as a fine example of a team that followed the instruction of their coach.
When asked about energy and focus during that morning’s shoot-around, Jamison said, “I don’t think we’re losing focus. We’re 14-27, how do you lose focus?” But the Wizards’ record doesn’t exactly support the “not losing focus” argument.
The forward also scoffed at the notion of lacking energy in shoot-around, saying that it was short and guys were into it. He instead opted to cite the aggression of the Heat as the reason for the game’s outcome.
On the other side of the locker room, Brendan Haywood insinuatingly smiled and facetiously told the awaiting media, “You guys want to talk to me? I didn’t even play.”
Haywood went on to speak like a company man, willing to comply for a new contract. When asked what went wrong, he responded, “Everything,” and then first called out his team’s propensity to settle for jump shots. And of course, on his 18 minutes of action, Haywood said, “I don’t comment on my minutes, that’s the head coach’s decision.”
What about Flip’s observation of pre-game energy? “I have no idea. Didn’t see it, but hey … I don’t know,” said the center.
Saunders did single out three players for their efforts, Fabricio Oberto for his defense in pick-and-roll situations, Earl Boykins for his energy, and last, but often least, Andray Blatche.
Seven Day Dray pulled down 19 points, 11 rebounds (six offensive), dropped three dimes and had no qualms about basking in his one day of hustle. Andray almost poetically spoke of the Wizards needing more heart and how he was personally “touched” because Miami was laughing, lobbing, hi-five-ing and dunking.
The youngster was embarrassed, saying “I felt I was the one that should of did something about it. I tried my hardest to do something about it, but it wasn’t enough.” With Blatche’s convenient excuse about his single-serving of personal motivation, one could only hope he plays every game like the other team is laughing at him.
Meanwhile, Randy Foye is perhaps becoming the most earnest guy in the locker room. He said Saunders stressed how Miami was going to come out in Thursday’s practice and again at Friday morning’s shoot-around, but said that the team just didn’t “bring it.”
Speaking of the Wizards’ offensive flaws, Foye hit the nail on the head, “With this system, when guys are open you gotta take shots. I think sometimes guys try to do, or feel, ‘This is not my shot, I’m not going to take it,’ but when you’re open, you gotta take it. When you dribble into the defense, that’s how you get turnovers and that’s how you take bad shots.”
Again, more indication of guys not trusting the system and trying to do things on their own.
Foye, like Blatche, was embarrassed, calling unprofessional the way Miami coach Erik Spoelstra left his starters in so late to get dunks and alley-oops. Personally, I can’t blame Miami. They had to vent from getting blown out the previous game, and who knows, maybe them laughing in the Wizards’ face will be a wake-up call, although I highly doubt it. This team has already slept through several morning rings from the front desk.
Caron Butler, who selectively avoids the press, mostly by his usual choice to get dressed in the training room while most other players get dressed at their lockers, did not speak with the media.
You can’t completely accuse Butler of ducking reporters with his dressing habits. The covertness of the training room allows Butler to preserve his image by making his first public appearance dapper and suited, as you would come to expect from the team fashionista. The scuttlebutt whispers are that Caron ripped his grand entrance routine from Kobe who in turn ripped it from Jordan.
This Wizards locker room is full of good guys who are just in a very bad situation. And instead of sucking it up and persevering together, they are playing without confidence in the dark as individuals with a fear of the unknown future. This team has no harmony, time to re-tune the instrument.