In the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, the Washington Wizards tallied just 10 points on 3-16 shooting. They turned the ball over six times, allowed six offensive rebounds and only managed two assists, which is pretty good in respect to three made field-goals. The Wizards lost to LA 92-78, their 29th defeat in 43 games.
It would be simple to cite constant themes of lacking energy and settling for jumpers and conclude that this team has quit on their coach, themselves, the franchise, and the fans. But these issues have plagued them since the beginning of the season. So, and pardon me if I’ve said this before, you technically can’t quit if you never start playing.
Early season issues arose from the players’ unfamiliarity with a new offensive system. That quickly beget reoccurring situations where they should have known the system, but didn’t trust it. The most recently evolution involves one of the team’s captains ignoring the coach and running his own play with the game on the line.
What’s next? Will Flip Saunders start sending ‘read between the lines’ messages about not having adequate personnel for his system? The scenario seems unlikely, but at this point just about anything can happen. The coach, in just his first season with the franchise, has made his mounting frustration more visible as of late. Drastic change could be right around the corner, and not much can be done when a team is playing poisoned. In the meantime, abruptly ending pre- and post-game press conferences and slamming doors to the coaching quarters might have to suffice as a release valve for Saunders.
Rashad Mobley has a good piece about Flip’s mounting frustration on Hoops Addict.
And here we’ve come to the intersection of patience and common sense. I wouldn’t call the locker room wrought with cancer, but there are a couple benign tumors hanging around. One almost hopes Ernie Grunfeld cleans house as soon as possible, rip the band-aid off quickly for the sake for the players, the fans, and Flip Saunders. Then again, the decision makers should be patient, seek maximized value in return. That value could be cap room, could be a player, could be future draft picks, could be any combination of the three.
Grunfeld must be careful about who he keeps and who he moves. As Mike Prada mentioned on Bullets Forever, the building blocks are not strong, but there is a way to maneuver this team to be somewhat competitive while still remaining flexible for the future. It would be foolhardy to completely blow it up and start from scratch. Grunfeld may have made some questionable decisions, but has not proven himself to be a fool.
But until moves are made and as losses mount, everyone will be on pins and needles, from those on the court to those in the front office whose careers might be in peril because of an ownership transition. A change that could mean the end of those with complacent tenure who attained their positions because of loyalty to a former regime.
The losses to Miami and Los Angeles were two of the worst showings in a season filled with poor effort being a consistency not a rarity. Change can’t come soon enough. But the constantly moving parts on the court and off, such as today’s development with Javaris Crittenton’s gun charge, make it a deliberate process. The fact that David Stern is supposed to decide Gilbert Arenas’ NBA fate this week will help.
If one thing arises from the festering frustration surrounding the hornet’s nest that is the Washington franchise is the reassurance that not only is rebuilding the right thing to do, but it almost becomes something to look forward to. Imagine that. Hoping to be in a situation like the Sacramento Kings with a pair of young, exciting guards.
Wizards fans are reduced to the hope they can create in their imaginations, like John Wall being Washington, DC’s ‘Chosen One’. As unrealistic as those dreams may be, they are still probably more reliable and much more entertaining than what’s on the court.