Key Legislature: Wizards 81 at 76ers 89 — God Help Us If This Isn't Rock Bottom | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 81 at 76ers 89 — God Help Us If This Isn’t Rock Bottom

Updated: February 28, 2015

Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 59 versus the 76ers in Philadelphia,
via Chris Thompson (@MadBastardsAll) from the DMV.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Chris Thompson.

So, let’s wander afield for a minute or two. Imagine, if you will, that the exact position you are in, sitting or laying wherever you are, and exactly the whole person you are as you sit there, as a sort of inevitable sum of exactly every single thing that has ever happened in your whole life. Like, if you took a blank person—just a human template—and input into it exactly the details of your life, one long timeline of innumerable inputs, that this template would invariably be exactly you, sitting exactly where you are, reading this thing, wondering where the hell I’m going with this, and feeling a low-grade, persistent misery about the state of the Washington Wizards.

Who the hell can say whether that’s true. But, I don’t know, surely answering the question of why you’re sitting where you are right now, reading this thing, feeling the way you feel about the Wizards, is somewhat more complex than this is my favorite chair or my desk is here and I like to read at my desk. Why is that your favorite chair? Why is your desk positioned so, in this room? Why do you live in this place with this room and this chair? How did you assemble whatever preferences influenced your choice of place to live? Why, for the love of God, do you root for the goddamn Wizards? The how of how you came to be exactly who you are, where you are, right this minute, is infinitely complex.

This will be a fun way to answer your spouse the next time you are asked why you didn’t take out the trash last night. It will take you literally years to explain. That’ll teach her!

What I’m getting at, here, is this: the Wizards lost to the goddamn Sixers Friday night, in Philadelphia, and the task of pinpointing the why and how is, frankly, dizzying in its scope and implications. It’d be easy enough to point to John Wall’s horrific shooting night and abysmal body language, the recent and profound two-way uselessness of players like Rasual Butler and Drew Gooden, the palpable tension and frustration of the entire team (apparent from the very opening tip), the lack of finishing around the basket, the inability to engineer free throw attempts, and the staggering, fatally inept 3-point shooting that has recently plagued the team. Yes, in a very box-scored way of understanding how the Wizards came to lose Friday night to Philadelphia, to hit an all-new and crushing low in their humiliating spiral back into familiar obsolescence, the simple nuts and bolts stuff will suffice. They were outscored by the Sixers, and so they lost. Here is how they failed to score, etc., etc.

Mere shooting numbers, though, and the extent to which the final score of this game or the particulars of this slump or the trajectory of this season are conveniently explained by those numbers, would seem to obscure what I think we all kinda know is the basic truth of the bigger how: where the Wizards were as a team the moment the final buzzer sounded—exactly in the shape they’re in, pointed in exactly the sad, ultimately hopeless direction they’re pointed—was the only possible outcome of all the combined decisions along the way. Because where they are right now is bad—excruciatingly, apocalyptically bad—those actors most responsible for setting and maintaining the direction of their path to this place are, safe to say, not very good. That this is a truth we have mostly known about Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman for virtually their entire respective tenures only reinforces the notion that this misery was the inevitable now-point of their combined influence. Maybe we’d all convinced ourselves otherwise along the way, but here we are, just where, realistically, the clear-eyed among us might have predicted at the outset of this unholy union.

If this all seems fatalistic, consider what most observers have long said about the self-imposed limitations of Washington’s basketball product, from the old and scavenged roster to the hilariously prehistoric philosophy of their offense to the exact particulars of its execution. Ultimately, without profound change, these things acted as a hard cap on what Washington’s core might otherwise be capable of. And, well, here we are, at the moment when the urgent necessity of profound change finally crashes all the way home.

Putting this collection of players together and saddling them with this offense and this coach and these substitution patterns, and all the rest of it, is simply asking too much of either the players or the gods of chance or both. If change was always going to be an inevitable necessity, this sobering crash downward through the Eastern Conference standings and this whole new low-point are, finally, and thankfully, at least an intellectual endpoint, if not an immediate organizational one. Because, seriously, anyone among us who thinks there is some way to solve this mess while incorporating the stewardship of Wittman or the management of Grunfeld is dismissible offhand. That notion is lunacy.

So, finally, here’s what happened Friday night in Philadelphia: Grunfeld assembled a horribly deficient roster out of spare parts, overwhelmingly as a series of band-aid moves to cover critical wounds of his own doing, and sent them out with a coach, in Wittman, who, through stubborn philosophical entrenchment and a persistent and generally hostile refusal to accept any personal accountability, has ground the already limited potential of his roster to sand. Because the owner doesn’t care much past patience and bottom lines, this stew was allowed to overcook to the point of spoilage. A team—in this case, Sam Hinkie’s cynically gathered near-random assembly of tall people who just want to play basketball and earn a paycheck—needed only a minimum dose of cohesion and belief to flush the whole damn thing. That’s what happened.

Of course it’s time for a change. Of course it is. What’s already in place brought us here, and here is nowhere.


Chris Thompson