Key Legislature: Wizards 80 vs Nets 102 — Two Teams Entered, Two Wholly Renewed Teams (Hopefully) Emerged | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 80 vs Nets 102 — Two Teams Entered, Two Wholly Renewed Teams (Hopefully) Emerged

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Updated: January 17, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 40 versus the Brooklyn Nets in D.C.,
via Chris Thompson from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Chris Thompson.

In his post-game presser (a mercifully short and refreshingly frank affair) Randy Wittman’s usual post-loss grumbling—about effort, focus, intensity, sharing the basketball, respecting the game, walking to school in two feet of snow, the simple pleasures of a blue-collar existence in pre-Cold War America (probably)—seemed closer to the mark than usual. That’s not necessarily to say his assessment of the component pieces of Friday night’s blowout home loss was any more thorough or sincere than other, previous assessments which, invariably, have taken a similar shape. It’s possible every loss, in Wittman’s eyes, is the result of a breakdown in intangibles, and it’s equally possible he’s just not willing to talk much about the tangible parts of a loss. We did not have a credible plan for attacking the heart of Brooklyn’s defense. Too close to home? OK, try this on: Our guys didn’t respect the game or our opponent.

So, he said the usual things, but, whether by some coincidental blast of truthfulness or an equally coincidental alignment of boilerplate assessment and observable reality, he more or less described to everyone’s satisfaction what had just taken place. Leaving aside the fact that Washington really didn’t seem to have much of a plan for opening up a Brooklyn defense that seemed determined to wall off the paint (testing, incidentally, Wittman’s “take what the defense gives you” philosophy), the Wizards really did seem to enter the game unfocused and incapable of mustering the energy to will into existence a respectable performance. This was evident from the very opening moments of the game, when Mason Plumlee seemed to get his fingers on every missed shot at both ends, often in situations where, had anyone boxed out with even modest commitment, young Plumlee would have been yards away from the rebound.

It’s hard to look at anything that happens in one NBA game—aside from, say, Trevor Booker’s once-in-a-lifetime buzzer-beating volleyball move from last week—and believe that it falls far enough outside of what is common as to be genuinely telling in one way or another. Here’s what I mean: the Wizards came out flat after a series of tough opponents, Brooklyn played with more energy, and, in a relatively lifeless arena, the Wizards suffered an embarrassing loss, but one that is otherwise no more significant than any other. That’s a perfectly fair way to look at it. After all, 16 playoff teams will play 656 home games this season, and most if not all of them will give away similar games. Simply by virtue of the NBA season being very long, anything that happens in one game is likely to be repeated in other games. Depending upon how you look at it, this is either to the NBA’s credit or its great detriment: no one regular season game is all that important.

But, of course, part of Wittman’s post-game assessment, and echoed later by Paul Pierce—gracious and humbled in defeat but eager to get the hell out of the building—suggested otherwise: the notion that “good” teams don’t lose like this. While careful to give credit and respect to the victorious Nets, Wittman made this point very clearly: a team that hopes to be elite, that hopes to be a legitimate contender, does not lose in this fashion to such an opponent.

And so the question becomes this: How much of Washington’s story is written by this single loss? If it’s true that a contender does not lose a game like this, can we now say that the Wizards are not a contender? Isn’t that, in fact, what Wittman has now told us? He was not interested in waiting around for any follow-up questions (and who can blame him?) but such a statement, presented as an essential truth of NBA basketball, finally coagulates into an existential quandary. Have we learned what the Wizards are not?

The glass-is-half-full way of answering this says what we’ve learned, really, and hopefully, is what the Wizards were not. Before the clock struck midnight Friday the Wizards were a solid team capable of doing good things but also not a contender. They were, as of Friday night’s final buzzer, a team who does lose like this, and that was a critical flaw. Free of the context of 656 regular season home contests, divided up in some combination of great wins, narrow wins, narrow losses, and disheartening losses (in which games just like this one are bound to happen to perhaps everyone) it may be possible to see the Wizards as two distinct teams: one which entered Verizon Center solid and fun and hopeful but also capable of Friday night’s awful display; and another one, embarrassed and humbled, hurrying to dress and make a flight to what Pierce described as a “must-win” Saturday rematch in Brooklyn, having learned whatever it is that is learned from such a defeat that renders it and its kind permanently an artifact of this new Wizards team’s pre-birth.

That, then, is the test. If each tomorrow presents each NBA team with a chance at redemption and reinvention, the Wizards can emerge from Friday night’s humiliation strengthened by whatever lessons were learned and become the contender they thought they were. Maybe that step along the path is only taken in this particular, painful way.

 

Chris Thompson