The Washington Wizards Could Use A Good Therapist | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Washington Wizards Could Use A Good Therapist

Updated: March 16, 2017

The key to team defense, like any relationship, is communication. And right now, the Wizards could use a good therapist.

Early in the season when the team was struggling, Wizards players’ constantly pointed fingers. Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat would shrug at each other after every uncontested layup, while John Wall scolded his teammates like Peyton Manning chastising a receiver for running the wrong route.

It didn’t take a body language expert to know that something was amiss. Scott Brooks certainly could tell. He experimented with rotations and implored his players to buy into his defensive system – most notably when he chastised Wall for being the worst defender on the team during a November game.

Wall responded and the whole team followed suit, resulting in a remarkable 40-game run that lifted Washington into the top-10 in defensive efficiency heading into the All-Star break. That one-week vacation, it seems, could not have come at a worse time. The Wizards returned tanned and rested, but their defensive intensity was nowhere in sight.

After awful losses to Philadelphia and Utah, Washington appeared to steady the ship with gutsy wins against Golden State, Toronto, and Orlando. But it was all a mirage.

Like a girlfriend searching for just the right time to pick a fight, Washington’s defense waited until the Wizards travelled all the way across the country to declare, “We need to talk.”

The defense sat there pouting the first four games out west, giving up an average of 121.5 points. The Wizards’ offense responded like most guys would – they ignored the problem and tried to outscore opponents. It worked for a little while, but just like a real relationship, the underlying problems only get worse when ignored.

After their listless 112-107 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at home on Wednesday, the Wizards were finally ready to talk. Scott Brooks set the stage in his post-game press conference: “We need to play better defense, we’ve talked about it for a few games now, but now it’s here.”

[The following is a fictionalized therapy session with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Scott Brooks. The players’ and coach’s responses are taken directly from their post-game comments following Washington’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks.]

Ok, Brad. Why don’t you tell me why you are here. I understand you are having a problem with your defense.

“We are going to get killed if we keep playing like this.”

John, do you also feel this strongly about the defense?

“If you don’t figure it out, you’ll probably have an early [playoff] exit.”

Good, good, let’s talk about this. Why do you think the defense is such a problem? Brad?

“I wish I could really pinpoint it on one thing, because it’s multiple things that we’re giving up. Our pick-and-roll defense isn’t very good, our weak-side help isn’t really good. Heck, our switching is not 100 percent good all the time. It’s a lot of things that we just need to get better.”

That’s helpful. If you had to choose one thing though, what would it be?

“It’s probably just our communication and our willingness to want to get down and guard and get a stop.”

John, do you want to add anything about communication?

“It’s all about everybody talking. So the five guys out there, if you are going to talk, you got to get it right. If it’s only three guys or four guys talking and one guy’s lost, he don’t know what to do, and all it takes is one person to mess up a coverage.”

John, this isn’t the first time defense has been an issue. You struggled early in the season but were able to turn it around. Why do you think the problem resurfaced?

“I don’t know. I wish I had the answer to that. You said it’s kind of boring to keep talking about the same thing. To go from being one of the worst defensive teams early in the season to finishing before the break being a top 10 team, and then coming out of the break being one of the last five teams, that’s not a way you want to go.”

Can you give me an example of what’s gone wrong?

“A couple teams we played, they post their guys up and can score in the post and that caused mismatch problems. We started trying to switch and they scored. We’re doubling at the wrong time, gambling at the wrong time, giving up easy layups, giving up wide open 3s. That’s how you put your team in a bind.”

Scott, you’ve been quiet. Do you want to share what’s been bothering you?

“We’ve been having an issue with guarding the 3-point line and [Dallas] hit seven 3s in [the fourth] quarter alone. We have to figure it out…. We were searching for everything – going small, going big, changing our coverage up.”

John, do you understand why Scott is frustrated?

“Whenever you don’t give your coverages an opportunity first, you never know if it’s going to work, then you start to revert to other things, and that’s what coach had to do because we weren’t following the game plan.”

It sounds like everyone recognizes the problem. Does anyone have an idea of how to get back on track? John?

“Just lock in and play defense. It is simple. All five guys have to be on the same page. You cannot have three guys or four guys or two guys on a page. It just has to be all five guys all on one page, and when you do that it works, and when you do not, you see we showed resemblance in certain times in games when we really need to get a stop, we showed it in those comebacks victories on the road, but we have to learn how to do it for 48 eight minutes if we want to get somewhere special.”

I think this was helpful. Brad, are you feeling any better?

“We’re not going to panic, that’s one thing that won’t happen. We are going to get better. We are going to get back to our style of defense in a way that we are capable of doing.”

Scott, do you share Brad’s optimism?

“It’s not time to panic, it’s time to stay together and figure it out…. The one thing that I love about coaching this team is that we always figure it out. We always try to get better. Even after a tough loss – you can’t point fingers, everybody has to do their job and everybody is responsible for losses and wins. We have to figure it out together, but we have to get better defensively.”

Ok, our time is up. I will see you all on Friday when you play Chicago. Let’s see if you can show some of this progress on the court.


Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.