One of the more unique experiences I’ve had in my three short years of covering the Washington Wizards came during the 2008-2009 season. Eddie Jordan had been fired, Ed Tapscott was the interim head coach, Gilbert Arenas was out for the majority of the season with a knee, and that all added up to a dismal 19-63 record. But the locker room dynamic was fascinating to watch, particularly after a loss.
During his post-game press conferences, Coach Tapscott’s comments did not focus on whether the Wizards won or lost, but he focused on who played well, how hard his team fought, and the lessons that could be learned. I did not know whether it was Tapscott’s demeanor, or if he was taking that stance because he knew his time as Wizards head coach was temporary. I just knew he preferred the diplomatic approach as opposed to, say a Flip Saunders, who is much more pointed with his comments.
Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Deshawn Stevenson were the veterans of the locker room that season, and I always respected how they carried themselves after a loss. They were somber, angry and frustrated, but most of the time they would answer all questions thrown at them. It was clear they really did not want to talk to the media, but they understood it was their duty as professionals. It was also obvious that all of the losing was taking a toll.
Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Dominic McGuire (I would include JaVale McGee, but he was relatively mute during his rookie year) were the youngsters of the team, and their collective attitude in defeat came in stark contrast to the veterans. By the time the media hit the locker room, they would be laughing, smiling, comparing attire and having a good time. I did not know whether they simply didn’t care about the mounting losses, or if they just had the ability to quickly move on and not dwell on them. I just knew that on certain nights, the veterans were visibly upset that the entire locker room wasn’t as affected by the losses as they were.
I saw that same type of locker room atmosphere after the Sacramento Kings lost to the Washington Wizards 136-133 in overtime on Tuesday night.
The veteran Kings players were represented by Francisco Garcia, Beno Udrih, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. Garcia and Udrih talked to the media after the game, but the looks on their faces were similar to that of Jamison, Butler and Stevenson in ’08-09 (and likely the same as Jamison’s in Cleveland this season). Garcia complimented Nick Young’s stellar game, but was clearly annoyed that it happened at the expense of his team. Udrih was a bit more talkative and reflective about what went right and wrong for the Kings, but it was clear that he was not happy about yet another loss. Thompson and Landry both chose to get dressed extremely slow, and they did not talk to the media.
Darnell Jackson, Donte Greene and DeMarcus Cousins played the roles of Young, Blatche and McGuire. They made jokes about the scarcity of lotion, the post-game meal, and Greene even posed for a picture with a member of the Israeli media (she was covering Omri Casspi). An outsider who hadn’t seen the game would not be able to tell by looking at these three players that the Kings had lost a heart-breaker in overtime. Jackson did not play, and Greene did not have an impact on the game, so I did not approach them for interviews. I wanted to speak with Cousins (who shot 4-19 and had 10 points and eight rebounds), but he was whisked away by a Kings PR person.
Does Paul Westphal’s approach to a post-game loss compare to the optimistic, positive approach of Ed Tapscott two seasons earlier? You be the judge: