Opening Statements: Wizards at Celtics, Game 13 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Celtics, Game 13

Updated: November 27, 2015

Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics - Truth About

Teams: Wizards at Celtics
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Television: CSN+
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Celtics fav’d by 3 points.

The Wizards have an organization full of minds fretting over what’s wrong with the team. They are paid, however, to balance that threat with a practical approach, and be patient. They have to deal with a roster of personalities, a coaching staff full of thought, oodles of analytics, and an overall plan that must keep knee-jerk reactions in a vault. But also, what’s wrong with the Wizards?

Roster constancy was supposed to keep goals in tact, or at least help with the transition to a new style of play that was best suited for John Wall all along. Of course, the team was also inserting two new starters into the lineup: the still very evolving Otto Porter and the new-career-path Kris Humphries.

So the Wizards are fourth in the NBA in Pace (101.83 possessions per 48 minutes, up from 95.96 last season, ranked 16th), but they are also 25th in team Turnover Percentage (16.1%). This does not deviate much from their 23rd ranked 15.5 percent last season. Running and reckless.

The Wizards now are ranked 16th in Offensive Rating (101.2) and 22nd Defensive Rating (103.9). They have improved three spots in OffRtg (19th ranking in 2014-15, even though they are scoring slightly less at 101.8), but they have dropped 17 spots in DeftRtg (5th in 2014-15, 100 points allowed per 100 possessions).

At this point it’s worth at least halfway contemplating on a groggy, day-after-Thanksgiving morning: How much in the territory of wrong are the Wizards? Twelve games is early and .500 ball was once a dream—there are five Eastern Conference teams at .500 or within a game of .500. But should the 6-6 Wizards, with benchmark aspirations set by two consecutive second round playoff appearances, be keeping current company with the Pistons, Magic, Knicks, and Celtics? The answer is no, relatively unequivocally. (They were expected to set a the winning pace in the Eastern Conference.)

And of course we have a lurking problem: both Wall and Bradley Beal needing to grow up more and pout less (and being called out by Randy Wittman for such—not by name, however). This was sprinkled with Wall taking public issue with Wittman, in a crucial moment of their most recent game, had both lead guards on the bench.

Wittman was surprisingly subdued after the Wizards got spanked by the Pacers, 106 to 123—the ‘oh, shucks, they just made shots’ B.S. line that was regurgitated by his players. Game 11 on the season was far from a playoff-style matchup, but would a coach ever say that in the playoffs? Coach and players took solace after that one: At least we get to play tomorrow.

Then they went out and put up the biggest choke-job in franchise history, missing 17 straight shots in the fourth quarter versus the Hornets, not scoring a single point over 9:30 of game action, and going 1-for-20 from the field in the final period. It was the fewest number of points (6) that the franchise has ever scored in the fourth quarter—the Wizards led by nine points with 9:53 left.

The bench actually gave Wall and Beal a five-point lead, 85-80, when they were inserted back into the Hornets game. Yet Wall still found it necessary to publicly opine about Wittman’s decision to leave he and Beal on the bench when the Wizards had a chance to build upon their momentum. Not that there is something off with coaching decisions this season, although we’d be hard-pressed to be an exact finger on it.

The issue isn’t so much with the new style of play as it is with some of the sets they seem to be running. Even as the Hornets held a four-point halftime lead and the Wizards fought back in the third to lead by seven points going into the fourth, the crispness and refinement of Washington’s offense seemed to pale in comparison to Steve Clifford’s Hornets. Yes, even in a close game. But also: Wittman is allowing his players more freedom in on-court decision making than ever. The heart of the issues is somewhere between the lines.

Alas, the sky is not falling. These are the growing pains of a team, even a team led by two relatively young players who aren’t so young anymore. (One could also include veteran Marcin Gortat amongst those capable of pouting; Nene, too.) CSN’s J. Michael has some good insight on the path of both Wall and Beal as it applies to learning leadership, dealing with coaching, and being directed by veterans who’ve seen a lot. Worth the read. Also worth reading is Jorge Castillo’s article in The Washington Post about Wall admitting that he needs to play better. And maybe that’s what it “boils down to,” as goes one of Wittman’s favorite sayings. Castillo also relays something Wittman asked before the season as it pertains to Wall’s leadership (and at some point very soon, Beal): “At what point is he a veteran?”

With that, the Wizards get another high-level chance to redeem themselves. They play a Celtics team in Boston tonight that embarrassed them on the same court by 20 points about three weeks ago. NBA players are great about expressing the need to put bad losses behind them and move on, but in most cases like this, it doesn’t pay to have a short memory.


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.