Wizards' Descent Into Darkness Continues in Dallas | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards’ Descent Into Darkness Continues in Dallas

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Updated: January 23, 2018

Where did it start? Or rather, where did it end? Or maybe, when WILL it end?

Chalk up another embarrassing loss for the Washington Wizards on Monday night in Dallas.

Let’s start where it ended, with the coach, Scott Brooks, who after the game sounded as clueless and oblivious as imaginable as to the true, current sorry state of his squad.

“It’s offense. We could not make a shot. We couldn’t make a wide open shot. We couldn’t make a layup. We couldn’t even make non-contested free throws,” Brooks told the media afterward. “It was one of those nights. Offensively, we got a lot of good looks. We got a lot of good 3s; they just don’t fall. But I thought we were competing throughout the game. We had enough defensive effort and energy, we just couldn’t make any shots.”

Coach, please get a grip. These are lies. Your team is in a mental black hole. They are concentrating on the wrong things. Your stars are hijacking the offense. Body language is horrendous. Team culture is atrocious. It was one of those nights — where the basketball being played hardly qualified as professional. Defensive effort? The 106.9 DefRtg yielded to Dallas ranks the 25th highest of 47 season games. Please don’t talk about effort.

Another guns in the locker room incident might not save this team. At least that gave Ernie Grunfeld an excuse to blow up the mess he’d gotten himself into. With Gilbert Arenas no longer a useful player and a locker room cancer, Grunfeld was able to initiate the reset by jettisoning Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and Deshawn Stevenson — not for assets but for mere financial relief. The Wizards would end up with the No. 1 overall pick after that 2009-10 debacle (enter John Wall), and later turned Arenas into Rashard Lewis who beget Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor who beget Marcin Gortat, who is currently, essentially washed.

Now Grunfeld has another mess on his hands. Gortat, Markieff Morris, Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith are all washed, wastes of money and space and time. There are no deep investments on the bench. Promising youth does come in the form of Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky, as well as three mid-life veterans locked into max contract, Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. But none of that, paired with very little roster turnover, seems to matter.

The disaster level has even reached the top of the player pecking order in Wall. The team leader is more worried about complaining for missed calls or squaring up against JJ Barea in a blowout (Wall disparaged him by calling him a “midget” after the game) than he is about getting his team on the right track. Wall thinks that his moxie, ability to play hurt, and screams of “This is my city” is the cure for what ails his team. He’s not leading at all. Neither is his partner, Beal. Both players continue to make a habit of exchanging turns at playing hero ball. Maybe they really do dislike each other on the court.

“We just need to win ballgames,” Beal told The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner during the off days before the loss. “Like I told the guys, it doesn’t matter how many meetings we have. We can have a meeting after every game, but if we’re not mentally prepared for each game, we’re going to lose again.”

More from Buckner’s article about a rudderless, ineffective recent players only meeting:

And if games like the Charlotte loss happen again, then 14 guys sitting in a locker room will not be able to fix it. Wall extended his index finger to the ceiling and suggested the issue would have to be promoted to a higher power.

“Upstairs,” Wall said. “Front office got to figure it out.”

The first quarter in Dallas started innocently enough. Wall, playing through a migraine, happened to be hot on pull-up jumpers — an area where his output is pretty much a career-worst negative this season. Gortat was matched up against Dirk Nowitzki, which, sure. And the Wizards seemed content to switch on most matchups 1-thru-3 and often 4. Considered the lazy way to play defense by the Randy Wittmans of the world, such was probably more born out of necessity here, considering how often Washington’s perimeter players have allowed the ball to be driven past them. The opening stanza ended with a boring 22-22 tie.

The unraveling began in the second quarter. Because of a cut to Mahinmi’s head, Brooks was forced to insert Jason Smith at 5. The defensive combination of him and Mike Scott at the 4 versus the combo of Dirk and Dwight Powell was doomed before it started. Rick Carlisle knew it and took advantage of such with his play-calling of crafty ball screens that left Washington’s interior D confused. And then Satoransky had plenty of trouble trying to stay in front of smaller guards like Barea and Yogi Ferrell. Lo and behold, the bench unit (plus Otto Porter, who would later exit the game early with a hip) got in an eight-point hole, 26-34.

Re-enter the starters to save the day, right? Wall, Morris and Beal checked in alongside Oubre and Porter. Instead of working together to shovel out, the game turned into a dirt-throwing contest. Porter missed a four-foot jump hook in the lane; Dallas answered by passing the ball after an offensive rebound to secure a corner 3 — 11-point Dallas lead. Down the court, a one-pass possession for the Wizards where Beal dribbled the ball a bunch, got into the lane, and then tossed up an airball as others watched. The Wizards got a dunk off a turnover to cut the deficit to nine, but Dallas immediately answered with a Wes Matthews 3-pointer — Beal chased but allowed too much separation between him and his man. Then it was Wall’s turn: a dribble-around brick from the left elbow was his attempt to address the damage. And so another damning sequence went: Wall careless turnover, Morris technical foul, two passes actually taking place to get a cutting Porter a bucket, and then another dribble-to-nowhere turnover, this time by Beal.

The last 100 seconds of the first half ended without the Wizards scoring. Instead: Wall turnover (offensive foul), Morris turnover (offensive foul), and Beal turnover (dribbling into three Mavs).

Whatever was said in the locker room at half time must’ve been the same ol’ refrain. Wall took and missed five uninspired shots to dropping just one assist over the first eight minutes of the third quarter as the Wizards hovered around a double-digit deficit. The rest of the game was a moot exercise, with entertainment — if you can call it that — coming in the form of wondering just how many terrible-looking shots the Wizards would continue to miss. (Would they/could they shoot sub-30 percent on the night? Not if Tim Frazier had anything to say about it in garbage time.) The ways and forms in which the Mavericks television broadcast crew would trash the Wizards became more interesting than the game. It went something like this:

Guy 1: “And the bricks just keep on coming at the other end of the floor for the Wizards. I’m sorry to sound so harsh about it…”

Guy 2: “It is what it is…”

Guy 1: “But 29 percent, I rest my case.”

Guy 2: “Just say it again, 29 percent.”

Maybe a third guy, who knows: “Hey, they’re going to have to get hot just to score 75 tonight”

(The Wizards did end up scoring 75, but hot they were not.)

Guy 2: “The way they played at both ends of the floor, it has to be one of their worst performances, to be quite frank with you. I think it starts with the head of the snake. I love John Wall — all star, all pro — numbers speak for themselves, but does he have what it takes?”

To pile on, ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently observed this in regard to Wall’s movement, or lack thereof:

Wall is shooting 42 percent, his lowest mark since he was a rookie, and he just hasn’t played with enough vigor on either end of the floor. One measure of that: He has spent 76.57 percent of floor time either standing still or walking, the largest such share among all rotation players, according to tracking data from Second Spectrum. Dirk Nowitzki is right behind Wall, and he’s almost 40.

It’s unclear how much that metric means. Most of the guys near the top are slow behemoths — as we’d expect. LeBron is No. 4, and James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, and Jeff Teague all populate the top 20. Ball-dominant stars need to conserve energy. Some guys shift from walking to turbo mode without spending much time in between. But regardless: Wall should not be freaking last.

Washington’s situation is not all on Wall’s shoulders. Ernie Grunfeld is at fault for poor roster construction. Scott Brooks is at fault for not being able to coax simple sandbox decorum from his kids. Gortat and Morris are at fault for being lackluster, or immature, or both. But neither Wall nor Beal are helping — that’s for sure.

Where do the Wizards go from here? Anyone’s guess is as good as mine. They are at the point of needing to make roster change for the sake of change, instead of in an attempt to improve the team for the playoffs.

They will continue to preach patience. There will be an All-Star break for a convenient mental reset (and a break where Wall might get more rest than he had hoped for). There will be some sort of adjustment. There could very well be more finger-pointing, another team meeting, and plenty of other ways they can find, or lose, themselves.

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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 lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.