Continuity Has Not Helped The Washington Wizards | Wizards Blog Truth About

Continuity Has Not Helped The Washington Wizards

Updated: November 27, 2017

All summer long, we heard the same refrain from the Wizards’ ownership and front office: Continuity, continuity, continuity.

Washington made virtually no off-season moves (save for their annual re-shuffling of the bench), yet they considered their summer a success because they brought back their entire high-performing starting five.

With a full season under Scott Brooks’ system, the story went, Washington would hit the ground running in their march to 50 wins. Gone would be the slow starts, defensive lapses and late-game collapses. Unlike Cleveland and Boston, Washington did not have to learn a new system or integrate new players. They could pick up right where they left off and continue their climb to the top of the East.

Almost a quarter of the season is over and it turns out all that talk about continuity was just that—talk. Through 19 games, Washington already has a season’s worth of terrible losses to bottom-feeding teams and blown multiple fourth-quarter leads, with the last two games versus Charlotte and Portland as the latest examples.

What happened to the preseason proclamations about proving they are the best team in the East? What happened to the home court advantage they built with a 30-11 home record last season? What happened to avenging that Game 7 loss in Boston?

Any momentum from last season is gone. The Wizards have not taken any steps forward. Instead, they are running in place. This is the complete opposite of what was supposed to happen. The whole point of maintaining continuity was to avoid this type of disappointing start—a start that has seen a better record on the road (5-4), then they have at home (5-5).

In a way, maybe this should have been expected. If you bring back the exact same team, isn’t the most likely outcome the exact same results? The Wizards—as John Wall acknowledged after an embarrassing home loss to the then-one-win Dallas Mavericks—are simply doing the same thing they do every season: underperforming.

“Oh, we do this every year,” Wall said.“This is not the first time. We’ve been here. So until we lock in and figure it out and everybody takes pride in guarding one on one, and if somebody gets beat, you help the helper and make extra efforts, we are going to deal with the same problem.”

Bradley Beal spun the same broken record after the Mavericks loss:

“I probably sound insane trying to tell you something different but it’s the same thing over and over. We’ve developed a bad habit of not coming out with energy.”

Scott Brooks even took a turn in the DJ booth and played some of Randy Wittman’s greatest hits:

“It’s going to be the same message from me and the players are going to continue to hear it. We have to be a defensive team that can score, and not a scoring team that can play defense when we score. It just has to be that way…

“They’re going to hear the same message, I’m not changing. Like I said, we have enough good players to figure it out.”

Think about what they are saying for a second.

The Wizards need to learn how to play defense? They need to learn how to play with effort? Does this sound like an Eastern Conference contender to you? Lest anyone think these quotes were cherry-picked from a particularly dark locker room moment, similar statements were made after demoralizing losses to the Lakers, Suns, Hornets, and Trail Blazers.

Wall is in his eighth year. Beal is in his sixth year, Otto Porter is on a max contract and Marcin Gortat is 33. The Wizards are supposed to be too old for this sh*t. If these guys need to learn how to close out double-digit fourth quarter leads, then they are nowhere near the 50-win team they claim to be.

This certainly is not the start Ted Leonsis envisioned when he dipped into the luxury tax for the first time to re-sign Otto Porter and John Wall. After Wall’s press conference, Ted wrote via his blog, “Continuity and consistency may not be clickbait, but they are the building blocks of a championship-caliber franchise—and I’m very proud to say that when it comes to the Wizards, we are executing on our long-term plan.”

As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for—or, in this case, pay for. It’s like when you ask a genie for a million dollars and she drops a big pile of doll hairs at your feet. Ted paid big money for continuity—thinking it would lead to continued improvement—but the Basketball Gods only gave him the dictionary definition of continuity: the unbroken and consistent existence of something over a period of time. In other words, the same exact results as years past.

It turns out the Wizards’ problem is not continuity, its consistency. Washington is incapable, or unwilling, to play with consistent energy and effort over 48 minutes. And, on the rare occasions they do put together a complete game, they follow it up with a head-scratching loss.

Consistency is what separates good teams from great teams. It’s why the San Antonio Spurs, who have started 12-7 without their best player Kawhi Leonard, cannot help but win 50 games each season. It’s why Brad Stevens can orchestrate a 14-game winning streak after losing his second-best player opening night and returning only four players from last year’s team. If there’s talent and consistent effort on a nightly basis, there are many more wins than losses to be had in the NBA.

Inconsistency is why the Wizards are 10-9 instead of 14-5. It’s what leads to quotes like this from Beal after an embarrassing home loss to the Phoenix Suns:

“We were undisciplined. We were too cool. We thought it was going to be a cake walk and they bust our ass, plain and simple.

Too cool? Thought it would be a cake walk? Beal sounds like a 15-seed that just got upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That’s the problem. The Wizards act like a great team but play like a good one. Washington has not earned the right to look past any opponent. They cannot coast through games and expect to win.

The fact that they are even having this conversation is a major problem. Conference Finals contenders do not struggle with basic concepts like “trying” (unless you are the Cavaliers and can essentially take the entire regular season off). 

Scott Brooks knows this:

“The first thing is you should never have to talk about effort. You shouldn’t. If you’re going to expect to win in this league consistently you have to do the winning basketball plays…We have enough good players to be able to put better effort.”

And yet here the Wizards are. Singing the same song they do every year. Injuries to John Wall and Markieff Morris are no excuse. They have nothing to do with the lack of discipline, energy and effort that has plagued Washington’s most inexcusable losses.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that the Wizards’ wounds are self-inflicted. To paraphrase Tim Sabean, these problems were created by the Wizards and they can be solved by the Wizards. Washington has the talent to compete with the best teams in the East and they can flip the switch at any moment, like they did with their 17-game home winning streak last season. But having the ability to flip the switch and actually doing it are two very different things. The Wizards certainly talk a good game but it’s time to finally turn those words into actions.

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.