Where Patience is Not a Virtue — Wizards at Hornets, DC Council 49 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Where Patience is Not a Virtue — Wizards at Hornets, DC Council 49

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Updated: February 7, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Hornets, Game 49, Feb. 6, 2016, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick).

[via @wzzntzz]

[via @wzzntzz]

M.V.P.

The patience of Wizards fans.

There have been many apologies made for fans of the Washington Wizards throughout the years for the peculiar behaviors they demonstrate toward their hometown basketball team. Many outsiders mock the penchant for native Washingtonians to show up midway through the first quarter, as well as their inability to drown out the opposing cheers of rival fans who are more invested in the fortunes of their team than the possibility of a free chicken sandwich. Several have pointed out that Washington’s identity as a city of transients makes it difficult to establish a rapport between fans and franchise, because so very few people actually think of the District as “home.” This lack of identity is especially difficult when one considers fans of other franchises who often show up to games in droves to root against the Wizards—from the sitting president who is an avid fan of the Chicago Bulls, to the legions of suddenly omnipresent Warriors fans who appeared out of the ether on Wednesday night to watch the best team in the NBA dismantle a surprisingly frisky Wizards team.

With these excuses out of the way, it is time to side with the poor, maligned Wizards fan and mount a defense for the passive-aggressive behavior they often display toward their own team. How many fans spent their Saturday night at home only to watch the Wizards cough up a 19-point lead (twice!) to the less-than-glamorous Charlotte Hornets? How many of these fans white-knuckled their remote controls and muttered to themselves, “I’ve seen this before,” yet remained stoically in front of their televisions, hoping that the seemingly inevitable was not once again going to take place? And how many of those fans woke up this morning to the dismal realization that the Wizards currently sit five games under .500 at 22-27, behind the Hornets and Pistons for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference with no real reassurance that anything either structurally or organizationally about the team is going to change in the imminent future?

The Wizards are an example of a solidly conceived marketing plan that has gone so horribly wrong that no one has any idea of how to get the project on track, or even where the track is in the first place. The premise under which this season started was that the Wizards were going to make a concerted effort to pay attention to course change in the NBA and adapt their personnel to a new world order in which 3-point shooting is emphasized. The Wizards made the necessary acquisitions to put this plan into place (Gary Neal, Alan Anderson and Jared Dudley), while deftly managing their salary cap to leave room for pursuance of Kevin Durant, the D.C. native who for the past two years has had to undergo an inquisition every time he returns to D.C. about whether he is willing to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder (currently 38-14 and in third place in the brutal Western Conference) and come home to be a savior for Washington.

If it all sounded so promising on paper, the reality of the situation has left much to be desired. This, of course, is where the patience of Wizards fans has to be applauded. Just hold on for this year, the organization appears to say, because better times lay ahead. We promise that at the end of this process there will be a big shiny reward for your patience and in the meantime we will field a team competitive enough to keep you from pulling your collective hair out.

Yet, these promises appear to ring false. For the past three years, Randy Wittman has staked his coaching reputation on his ability to put together a stalwart defense—a reputation that has taken a severe beating as the Wizards continue hemorrhage points on a nightly basis, particularly from behind the arc. Stephen Curry almost tied the record for 3-pointers made in an NBA game against the Wizards and scorched the Wizards for 51 points. Three nights later, the Hornets shot 12-for-27 from behind the arc (or one more made 3 than Steph Curry). The Wizards currently sit at the very bottom of the league in 3-point percentage allowed at .390. The second worst team, the Phoenix Suns, clock in at .376, which demonstrates just how truly dismal the Wizards are at preventing long-range bombs. So while the kinks in Washington’s newfangled offense continue to be worked out, the defense has regressed to a point where any type of offensive innovation is unlikely to make much of a difference.

Add this to the gut punch that there are now rumors that the Golden State Warriors may pursue Kevin Durant in free agency. The same Golden State Warriors who are attempting to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls record for wins in a season. So Durant could either join a team that comes close to or breaks a historical landmark, stay with his already successful Oklahoma City unit, or make the completely deranged choice of joining a Wizards team that may set a mark for defensive futility and are on track to end up in the lottery.

Yet, despite this and despite the fact that the Wizards blew a 19-point lead to one of the two teams that they currently trail for the final playoff spot, there is nary a cry of outrage to be heard. The patience of the Wizards fan is boundless because the organization—from the players to the coaching staff to the management—appear able to construct new levels of psychic torment for a group of people who just want to see a reasonably competitive, capably coached basketball team.

L.V.P.

The inevitability of the status quo.

Let’s return to a point in the previous paragraph that may have been buried. We shall put it in bold so that proper emphasis can be made.

The Wizards blew a 19-point lead to one of the two teams they trail for the final playoff spot and lost the game.

Yet the day after such a loss, it appears to be business as usual. NBA franchises and players point to the fact that it is the nature of sports writers and fans to overreact to one result and that a season cannot be summed up by the shortcomings in any given 48-minute span. However, the frequency in which the Wizards lose leads, fall apart in third quarters, and appear to do everything short of committing open mutiny against their coach has done nothing to raise temperature on the job status of either Randy Wittman (or Team President Ernie Grunfeld, who has been around since 2003). No amount of players-only meetings, cajoling for a more concerted defensive effort, or intra-team sniping seems to move management out of its position of stony indifference.

The Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt despite owning the best record in the Eastern Conference because none of his players responded to him (and possibly because LeBron James is a huge asshole), and because they felt that they could be better with a different voice at the helm. The Sacramento Kings right now (after last season canning Mike Malone, who is now in Denver) are considering removing George Karl, a surefire Hall of Fame coach, because he can’t put out the tire fire that is the Kings franchise, notwithstanding the fact that the Kings have only ONE LESS win that the Wizards. The Thunder fired their long-time coach Scott Brooks last year, because the Thunder failed to meet expectations, and hired Billy Donovan, despite the fact that the Thunder brass could have easily pointed to the fact that Oklahoma City was as injury-riddled as the Wizards currently find themselves. Kevin McHale and Jeff Hornacek lost their coaching seats this season, too.

Wizards fans remain patient (or perhaps indifferent) because it appears to be a continued organizational failing to tack appropriately when the wind changes course. The organization can continue to point to injuries as the prevailing narrative of the season, but it can’t hide the fact that by every discernible metric, either statistical or observed, that the Wizards are getting progressively worse as the season slogs on. The defensive metrics remain abysmal, the coach continually returns to stratagems that have proved ineffective (the Nene-Gortat on court duo, the reliance on the long range 2, or putting Gary Neal in to defend more than capable scorers), and there seems to be no real pressure from above to demand better performance. Instead, the Wizards are lauded when they actually wake up and play 40 or so minutes of concentrated basketball against teams like Golden State. And yet…

The Wizards blew a 19-point lead to one of the two teams they trail for the final playoff spot and lost the game.

Perhaps that’s the only fact that anyone needs to know about Saturday night’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets. The sad part is that it isn’t going to raise any eyebrows nor is it going to bring about change.

X-Factor.

When does the tide of evidence become overwhelming?

As Kyle Weidie pointed out on Twitter, the Wizards will most likely defeat their next two opponents (the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks) just to further baffle their fan base and create a sense of false hope. The question is what happens if the Wizards drop both those games? Will management finally be moved to make some comment as to the state of the franchise, or will the season continue on in its current fugue state in which we all seemed to have entered into a Devil’s Pact to not acknowledge what is taking place before our very eyes?

That game was … wholly unsurprising.

As the lead slowly disappeared in the third quarter, Steve Buckhantz put on his “the Wizards are about to lose this lead” voice, which has become all but a staple this year from the seasoned play-by-play man. What is most surprising is how unsurprised Buckhantz and his broadcast partner, Phil Chenier, sound as they watch events unfold, victims of too much Wizards PTSD. One thinks of Buckhantz, sitting alone in his Charlotte hotel room practicing the voice of doom that has become all too familiar this season.

“And how do ya like that, Phil, all of a sudden the Wizards’ lead is gone.”

Soon enough, so will the hopes for this season.

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.