The Week in Wizards, the basketball ones – Oct. 28 to Nov. 3
The week that was and the week that is in Washington Wizards, #SoWizards, and pixels otherwise — mostly to do with basketball.
Rough start for the Wizards, huh? Randy Wittman’s seat is already hot (at least that’s the presumption of national media). And the angst of an already-tortured fanbase is festering.
Too soon. We know, we know. When the Wizards talked playoff hopes, when John Wall promised that he’d write the word on his shoes, they didn’t say there wouldn’t be growing pains.
Then there are actual pains. The most recent first-round draft pick, Otto Porter, barely played in Summer League and has yet to sniff a court since. The highest-paid player, Nene, has missed 66 percent of the season through three games. Washington’s entire 2011 draft class could be all but ghosted 35 months after being selected. Also, John Wall has been bothered by back spasms and asked to come out earlier than usual in the first quarter of the second game of the season because he was expending too much energy.
Boy, this franchise can’t give itself a break. Or the reality: they’re operating with little margin of error. It’s like if Jan Vesely were shooting free throws for your life.
The Wizards started out this season against a Detroit Pistons team that swept them 4-0 last season, and a team that’s probably the worst possible non-Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers matchup for the Wizards in the East. Plus, they had to be in Detroit. Bizarro Trevor Ariza led the way by hitting six 3-pointers, Nene hurt his calf muscle by landing with all of his weight on one leg after shooting a jumper, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond dominated, and the Wiz Kids let a 37-year-old Chauncey Billups play Mr. Big Shot again.
With a day’s rest to lick their wounds, the Wizards opened at home last Friday night against a presumed patsy, the Philadelphia 76ers. John Wall scoffed at the presence of rookie Michael Carter-Williams, forgetting that he himself has proven nothing (his Wizards have won just 72 games in three seasons and counting). Washington got off to a chest-thumping start at the Verizon Center, but in the end, that Sixers rookie and two veteran bigs came out on top—if Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young give the Wizards fits, most teams with heart-pumping bigs will do the same. Perhaps you get what you pay for, and, technically, Wall’s not getting paid like a max player this season (only $7.459 million). He’s getting paid less than either Marcin Gortat or Ariza and won’t be Washington’s top salary-earner until next season ($13.7 million).
Team owner Ted Leonsis took to the pixel waves after the embarrassing loss to Philly: “We took an early lead – looked energetic and focused – and basically then cruised into a loss against a hungrier and scrappier team last night.”
With another day to keep a stiff upper lip, various Wizards tipped off the Internet of their travel intentions with ‘wheels up’ and ‘wheels down’ airplane tweets en route to Miami. Those same tweets didn’t necessarily exist on the return flight, and we all know why. The Wizards put on a better display against the Heat (they always seem to put on a better-than-usual display against the Heat), but never looked to be on the same plane as the world champs. And without current max player Nene, Washington will have a hard time standing a chance against most teams in just about any game. The final 10-point margin of losing in Miami was much closer than reality.
[See: Wizards at Heat D.C. Council]
But there are plenty of games left. We’ve all seen how sports and the teams involved can quickly turn the ship around—is an 0-3 start really that intimidating? [FWIW, the Wizards started 0-3 in 2008 and later made the playoffs with a 43-39 record, per tweet of the Washington Post’s Michael Lee.] Plus, if Randy Wittman didn’t lose his team after an 0-12 and then a 5-28 start last season, he’s owed a lot more leverage by circling vulture media than he’s getting (as if they care!).
Every next game is a chance to show something, and the Wizards will have two (2!) whole days off before traveling to Philadelphia for revenge. You can safely dub Wednesday’s game a must-win without over-consideration of the actual consequences if they don’t. Plus, Wittman’s team can kill off some road woes, where they’ve lost 10 in a row going back to last season (last road win: at the L.A. Lakers, March 22, 2013). Another clue: in their past 15 games, road or home, going back to last season, the Wizards have only won thrice. On Friday, the Wizards will welcome Andray Blatche and the Brooklyn Nets to Washington, and on Sunday they will kick off a three-game Midwest road trip against the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
If anything, the Wizards need to play their asses off in Philadelphia after costing their coach $20,000 on Monday (a hit on Randy’s pocket book that’s probably the equivalent of a light fixture at Wall’s new mansion). Wittman was fined by the NBA for the use of profane language in his press conference after the 76ers game. Ain’t that some shit?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was your opening week of Wizards, the basketball ones.