Another Day, Another Wizards Struggle | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Another Day, Another Wizards Struggle

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Updated: April 7, 2018

On the surface, Washington’s 103-97 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the 79th game of an 82-game season is really not that big of a deal.

The Wizards are still in the playoffs, they will most likely play Toronto (the top-seeded team in the East but currently with a fragile psyche) or the Boston Celtics (the second seed but with fragile bones as evidenced by the absences of Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Daniel Theis and maybe Marcus Smart). Now that John Wall is back and looking quick and spry as ever — minus the last minute turnovers against the Cavaliers—there is no reason to suspect the Wizards won’t ratchet up the intensity and make yet another deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs, right? Right.

Unfortunately, the postgame atmosphere during Scott Brooks’s presser and in the locker room afterward reeked of a team that is angry, frustrated and clueless about finding the solution to their spotty play.

Coach Brooks has been frustrated with his team’s inability to defend for the past several weeks, and Friday night was no different. During a three-minute span in the second quarter, Hawks forwards John Collins and Taurean Prince drove right down the middle of the lane for easy baskets. And after each, Brooks quickly popped up off the bench and angrily signaled timeout to the refs. Said Brooks after the game, “Defensively, we made the same mistakes. [We] get beat backdoor, we get beat offensive rebounds. We don’t help the helper. When you don’t do that, you hope that they miss, and you’re playing with fire.”

But against the lowly Hawks, it wasn’t simply the lack of defense that drew the ire of Coach Brooks, it was also the lack of passing. The Wizards have been hovering around 30 assists per game without John Wall on the floor, which more than made up for any defensive deficiencies. But last night, the Wizards had just 18 assists, and Marcin Gortat, center, led all Wizards with four. Yes, four.

Coach Brooks is much too democratic to name the names of the players who were most guilty of not sharing the ball, but given that Bradley Beal took 24 shots to score his 32 points — many of which came via one-on-one plays — it didn’t take a Law & Order episode to crack this particular case.

“Selfish basketball is no fun to coach, it’s no fun to play with and it’s no fun to watch. We’re a selfish basketball team right now. If we’re not going to share the basketball, you can’t just say ‘John’s not here’ and all of a sudden we’re going to be one-on-one players. John’s not here, John’s here, it doesn’t matter. We still got to play the right way.”

In Beal’s defense, whenever the Wizards made a run in the second half, he was the one taking and making the big shots, and he shot 50 percent from the field. But those shots did not come via a Satoransky pass or an Otto Porter hockey assist. They came from in-and-out dribbles and herky, jerky, whirling dervish type moves. Beal escaped from the locker room before the media arrived, so he was spared the arduous task of having to answer for his team’s second loss in two nights. Gortat escaped as well, as did Wall, who didn’t play because of scheduled rest.

It is also worth mentioning that Markieff Morris was ejected less than eight minutes into the game after forcefully voicing his objection to a foul called against him. He did this on a night when Wall (rest) and Mahinmi (concussion protocol) were not available, and his ejection left the Wizards even more shorthanded. “He got frustrated he didn’t get the call. There are a handful of calls every game you don’t get. Not just him, everybody. You watch NBA games, a lot of guys don’t get the calls,” Brooks said after the game. “You can’t get frustrated enough to get thrown out of a game, especially when we’re shorthanded. We talked after; he apologized. He feels bad but we can’t put ourselves in that position. He knows that. He’s been in this league long enough and we cannot continue to put ourselves in those positions.”

Porter was on his way out of the locker room and had to be coaxed back to speak the media by the team’s PR staff.  But once he started talking, it was crystal clear he did not have an explanation for the struggles of his playoff team. And the answers he did give were filled with platitudes and the type of solutions that would be fitting for early in the season, not a week shy of the playoffs:

Satoransky willingly spoke after the game, and he sounded like a jilted lover who was no longer getting the attention he had become so accustomed to at the beginning of the relationship.

“What’s concerning is how we’ve played the last three or four games last week and how we’ve changed from how we played before. Those are numbers are numbers, right, but the way we play, no one is happy about it, obviously. We are supposed to be playing great for the playoffs, improving in all things and now we are just struggling all over the floor. We have to really change it quickly … We are not aggressive like we used to be – without weak side help, without communication, lot of lack of communication for the whole game. It’s a little bit the same on offense. We don’t cut, we don’t pass, we are lacking some aggressiveness, the same like on defense. It was on both ends, obviously, so a very bad image.”

The Wizards have two games left in their mercurial season. First, a potential first round playoff matchup against the Boston Celtics Tuesday, when they will have the services of John Wall. Then, a season-ending game against the Orlando Magic the next night when Wall will rest. Ideally, the Wizards will win both games handily, average 30 or more assists, and play 1990s Detroit Pistons-like defense versus both teams. This would please Coach Brooks, restore the team’s confidence in their ability to make a playoff run, and maybe even strike a little fear in the remainder of the Eastern Conference.

But what if this recent stretch of putrid play is foreshadowing the premature demise of this year’s Wizards? What if the recent struggles ensconcing this team are the norm, not the exception, and both the assist numbers and defensive effort stay low? Would that put Brooks and Grunfeld (ok Grunfeld is a made man never mind ) on the hot seat, or would that prompt Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis to make another drastic personnel move?

It feels a tad melodramatic to ask these types of questions after a loss to the measly Atlanta Hawks.  But given the Wizards’s frustration — from the coach to the star players — it really isn’t that farfetched.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2017-2018, Washington Wizards…

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.