All Out of #EffortTalk — Wizards at Bulls, DC Council 56 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

All Out of #EffortTalk — Wizards at Bulls, DC Council 56

By
Updated: February 25, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Bulls Game 56, Feb. 24, 2016 from the United Center Center, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick).

M.V.P.

The depleted Chicago Bulls.

It seems a dreadful shame to bury the lede, so here it is: The Washington Wizards lost a basketball game to the Chicago Bulls by the score of 109-104. As ennured as many have become to the Wizards losing basketball games, this particular loss crosses spectrums, trips the light fantastic and emerges as a radiant counterargument to a season-long narrative.

Because stop me if you have heard this narrative before—whether it has been espoused by a writer, the Wizards coaching staff a member of the front office…

“What did you expect us to do? We lost X game because Y player (choose from the following: Beal, Nene, Porter, Neal) were hurt so we couldn’t play the way we wanted to. We can only play the people available to us and that obviously changes our scheme.”

You now find yourself in the 2015-16 Washington Wizards season and a refined version of Madlibs that has been deployed throughout the season.

Now let us take a look at who the Chicago Bulls did NOT suit up last night.

Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, Nikola Mirotic, Joakim Noah.

Yet, without their best player (Butler), their once and future star (Rose) or their do-it-all cog (Mirotic), the hastily assembled Bulls led a fully stocked Washington Wizards, now featuring real-real stretch 4 Markieff Morris and Alan Anderson, by the score of 57-55 at halftime. An optimist would hope that this would be the moment where the Wizards locked down on the defensive end and the superior firepower that they brought to bear would begin to tell. Afterall, the NBA is a star-driven league, and Wizards fans have grown accustomed to having their hearts ripped out by the Association’s premier superstars, whether it be LeBron James or Steph Curry.

Instead, here is a snapshot of how the “depleted” Bulls started the third quarter.

11:45 – Mike Dunleavy (age 102) converts layup (assist from flu-ridden Pau Gasol)

11:19 – Tony Snell converts layup (assist from Wizards nemesis Taj Gibson)

10:44 – STOP THE PRESSES. Marcin Gortat converts layup. Wizards down 57-61

10:29 – E’Twaun Moore makes driving layup. 63-57 Bulls.

WIZARDS TIMEOUT – PASS AROUND THE #WITTMANJAVA

Let us take a moment to comprehend the fact that we are less than two minutes into the third quarter and the Wizards have given up three layups, which now has the entire defensive structure sagging. But our heroes remain undeterred.

10:03 – Jared Dudley makes 3-point jumper (John Wall assists)

9:15 – John Wall hits a floater. The Wizards have now cut the Bull lead to one point at 63-62.

AND THEN…

THINGS…..

FALL APART…..

AND THE FLOODGATES OPEN

8:56 – Tony Snell converts a 3-pointer jumper (Taj Gibson again on the assist)

8:26 – Mike Dunleavy driving layup (with all the speed of a hopped up meerkat)

7:58 – E’Twaun Moore converts 3-point jumper (Seriously? Taj Gibson assist?!!!)

7:35 – Mike Dunleavy converts 3-point jumper (E’Twaun Moore assists)

Wizards dead and buried at the score of 74-62

Now there are a lot of things that went wrong offensively for the Wizards during this run (missed Garrett Temple jumpers and one bad pass) but the Bulls, even with their depleted personnel, simply went out in the third quarter and executed their gameplan to near perfection considering the personnel they had on hand.

Or in the words or Bradley Beal:

“They made good adjustments. On their shooters we were going over the top of screens so they were curling a lot and going to the basket so there were a lot of things miscommunicated, a lot of stuff they were just making good reads.”

The frustration in this is that it completely destroys the Wizards self-imposed mythology about what they “haven’t been able to do” throughout the season due to their lack of healthy bodies. So much of the disappointment has been assuaged by the knowledge that the Wizards have never had a healthy complement of players—so that the hellfire they were going unleash upon the league had to be put on hiatus until the players emerged from the knee braces and ice treatments to take the court. Yet the Bulls didn’t seem at all disheartened by the fact that they were missing their “stars,” they acknowledged the fact that they had a puncher’s chance if they executed properly.

There will be lip service paid to the Bull’s “pride,” an ephemeral and fleeting concept that still floats about the organization long since Tom Thibodeau’s departure. The simple truth is that it was yet another game in which the Wizards’ opponent adjusted while the Wizards seemed content to let things play out. The result is that the Wizards were, once again, caught flat-footed.

L.V.P.

The Excuse Factor and #EFFORTTALK.

In the face of such a loss, let us upfront some postgame quotes from last night and see if we are able to draw any conclusions. Let us start with Coach Randy Wittman:

“It’s happened to us numerous times (taking opponents for granted). If you don’t learn from it then that’s our fault. This happens all the time, this team, this group of guys. Last year, year before that, last week. If they are, shame on us.”

And then from Bradley Beal:

“I think we took them for granted. … They didn’t have any of their main guys and that goes to show they were competing and that they were ready to play.”

And one more from Wittman just to come full circle:

“Just not into defending. I don’t know how you come out that way. For whatever reason our focus is good for two or three games and then it leaves.”

These quotes literally yearn for the hottest of #HOTTAKES. So in an attempt to temper a completely kneejerk reaction, let’s parse out what is troubling about these statements.

Problem No 1.

The taking for granted phenomenon.

If the Wizards were a team situated near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, the statements made by Beal and Wittman would make sense. Teams familiar with the sensation of winning many games can have off nights, become too complacent and manage to lose gimme games against poorer personnel. It normally acts as a corrective tonic for good teams to get back to the practice of doing the things that made them successful in the first place. It also puts the stunning accomplishments of the Golden State Warriors into perspective as they continue to perform each night as if they take nothing for granted.

The issue is that the Wizards are NOT one of those good teams. In fact, all metrics and analysis point to the fact that the Wizards are middle of the road to borderline bad. They are a team fighting for a playoff spot in a weak conference so the thought of taking ANY team for granted should not even be a thought that enters the players’ heads. Instead, the Wizards continually speak and play as if they are entitled to that playoff spot—with zero actual on-court proof that they deserve to be even discussed as a possible playoff team. But yet the mindset if obviously there and there has been no course correction.

Problem No. 2

The #EFFORTTALK.

Randy Wittman constantly talks about focus as if it were something you can sell in a bottle for nice profit. But what is fascinating is how he points out that this isn’t an issue that has solely existed this season, but last year and the year before that as well.

That proclamation on the face of it is stunning.

I praise Wittman for his honesty, but if he’s willing to come out and tell the general public that getting his players to focus and execute at maximum effort has been a running problem for three years, well, he basically just signed his own execution papers. What is more stunning is that Wittman states that it’s “this group of guys,” which is a personal indictment of his ability to coach the current roster.

So we will break it down to the headline sentence.

Coach Randy Wittman says that he can’t get his team to focus for more than three games and hasn’t been able to for years.

It is stunning theater, and Wittman has basically stated his own #HOTTAKE while turning up the temperature on his own coach seat by at least 10 degrees. How can the Wizards possibly continue to employ a coach who admits he can’t get full effort out of his players?

Or is this all some sort of bizarre stratagem by Wittman to rally the team behind him. If Wittman is indeed the Ol’ Possum King, then this is perhaps his ballsiest move yet, because he just copped to the futility in coaching the Wizards.

X-Factor(s).

Alan Anderson debuted and looks ready to contribute immediately after a tidy 3-for-4  shooting performance and sinking two of his three 3-point attempts.

Also, the complete absence of a Wizards PR staffer to control the damage.

That Game Was … 

… a surrealist painting of mind-rending skill.

It would be unfair to place any blame on the men and women who work for the Wizards organization and whose job it is to put a friendly face on everything—but today must be a nightmare for them.

It has been a year-long project to build a narrative that the Wizards have been held back throughout this season due to injury and circumstance. For the most part, everyone has toed that party line and the media has been in agreement, constantly churning out pixels that the “true” Wizards lurked somewhere beneath the surface of an injury-decimated team.

Then the injury-wracked Chicago Bulls outplayed and out-hustled a Wizards team whose toy chest was full.

Then the Wizards’ second-best player admitted they had taken the competition for granted.

These sentiments were echoed by the head coach who went on to further state that he hasn’t been able to get maximum effort out of the team for YEARS.

How do you sell that? How do you even spin that?

Come see the Washington Wizards, a team that might show up and could play hard tonight!

Washington Wizards basketball, where amazing occasionally happens, if you’re lucky.

I’m sure there is a backup plan to the backup plan for the marketing strategy and how the Wizards are going to prep for the Summer of Durant—I’m just not sure that any pitch will be effective in light of what has transpired this season.

But hey, all publicity is good publicity.

Sean Fagan on FacebookSean Fagan on Twitter
Sean Fagan
Reporter / Writer/Gadfly at TAI
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Sean has contributed to TAI since the the dawn of Jan Vesely and has been on the Wizards beat since 2008. His work has been featured on ESPN, Yahoo and SI.com. He still believes that Mike Miller never got a fair shot.