Poll Dance Tuesday: Leonsis’ Wizards Are 2-7, So What Now?
[Andray Blatche had "Lapdance Tuesdays"... Well, we at TAI have "Poll Dance Tuesday," where we break down a situation with the Wizards and ask you, dear reader, to give your opinion via vote. Democracy! (without all the grinding)...]
Yesterday morning on Tony Kornheiser‘s radio show, David Aldridge (of NBA.com and TNT) went into a bit of a mini-rant about the Washington R*dskins, who lost to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, 24-16. In the game, Washington fell behind 24-0, fought back to cut the lead to 24-16, but lost late thanks to a Robert Griffin III interception. Aldridge went off:
“See, I’ve seen this before… I covered the Washington Bullets for five years. This is what I call the Ledell Eackles gamut. From November to March, Ledell Eackles stunk, but March to April? He was the best player in the NBA. You couldn’t stop Ledell Eackles from March to April. He averaged like 27-28 [points] a game when they were 24-60. So when they [Washington] were down 24-0, I turned the game off. That whole comeback was meaningless.”
Note: During his career (six seasons with the Bullets and one with the Miami Heat), Eackles averaged 18.6 minutes and 9.8 points per game from November to January, and 23 minutes and 12.8 points per game from February to April.
In 2012-13, mainly because of injuries to John Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene, the Wizards’ season had a Ledell Eackles-like arc. They won just four of 28 games (14%) over the first two months of the season, won 23 of 45 games (51%) from January to March, and then they fizzled in April, winning just two of nine games (22%). They fell just short of the playoffs, but the promise the Wizards demonstrated at full strength during the heart of the season was enough to raise the expectations of the team owner and some of the players.
“We’re just at that point now, it’s the fourth year, we’ve retained our players, we’ve added players, we’ve spent a lot of money. And I expect us to be a playoff-caliber team.” —Ted Leonsis
“I feel like if I’m winning games and I have my team in the playoffs and I’m doing okay, leading my team, I feel I have a great shot at [making the NBA All-Star team].” —John Wall (who has also begun to write the word “playoffs” on his shoes)
“I think we have a great mix of guys. We have a lot of veterans, we have a lot of talented young guys, and bringing every day that energy we had last game. And if we’re gonna play hard, if we’re gonna play like a team then I don’t see any reason why we can’t win 40-plus, maybe 50 games.” —the newly-acquired Marcin Gortat
Nine games into this season, Washington is off to yet another poor start and are currently tied for the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 2-7. Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wizards lost, despite Cavaliers coach Mike Brown’s admission that neither he nor the players “knew what they were doing.”
But the Wizards themselves, who have helped to provide some of the highs, have also had a hand in the lows—directly or indirectly. Trevor Ariza is scoring 14.8 points per game with career-high averages in rebounds (6.6) and steals (2.1), but now he’s out after hearing something pop in his right hamstring. Bradley Beal has been downright unstoppable at times—as he was in Oklahoma City (34 points)—but then has struggled to find the range as he did against Dallas (9 points on 2-of-10 shooting in 37 minutes). Nene and John Wall, arguably the two most important players on the Wizards, have been just as mercurial. Wall plays like a complete point guard one half, then he morphs into a shooting guard over-reliant on his jumper for extended stretches. Nene, who (kind of) called out Wall for being focused on numbers only, has been semi-injured, sometimes dominant, and poor from the free throw line all at the same.
Under normal circumstances, the company line for fans, players and coaches is to say how early in the season it is, and that these close losses (and occasional blowouts) are just speed bumps on the road to something greater. Even Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog yesterday that this is a “difficult learning process” for the young Wizards. However, as Aldridge knows all too well, this 2-7 start is very familiar and #SoWizards*. So the question is, especially if this trend continues, what do the Wizards do?
Do they make a panic trade like New York Knicks are allegedly attempting to do with Iman Shumpert? (If you ask Grantland’s Bill Simmons, the Wizards have already used up their panic trade card via the Gortat move). Do they fire Randy Wittman and his .350 winning percentage with the Wizards (.333 overall)? Do they make an unprecedented move of only firing Ernie Grunfeld but not Wittman? Do they get extra bold and fire both Wittman and Grunfeld? Or do they simply stay the course? It is worth mentioning that the Eddie Jordan and Flip Saunders were fired after 11 (1-10) and 17 (2-15) games respectively, so an early, impatient move is not out of the realm of possibility here…
What do you think?
* [Note: Kevin Broom put up a post on his website yesterday breaking down Ernie Grunfeld's month-by-month record while at the helm of the Wizards. During October/November/December, Grunfeld's teams have sported a .353 winning percentage. In January, Grunfeld's Wizards winning percentage is .447, and in April it's .427. Over the doldrums of February and March, however, Grunfeld's teams field a .375 winning percentage. Slice that up how you want.]
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