Disturbing Trends Emerge As Wizards Go South Against the North | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Disturbing Trends Emerge As Wizards Go South Against the North

Updated: October 21, 2018

Scott Brooks was a bit elusive with his answers after Washington’s 117-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night, but he was spot-on when he was asked to assess his team’s 0-2 record.

“If it’s a two-game season, you know what, we had a bad year. But it’s not. We’ve got a lot of basketball left.”

He’s absolutely correct about the amount of time the Wizards have to “overcome” this two-game losing streak. Given the fight that his team demonstrated — especially John Wall and Bradley Beal — in the fourth quarter to cut Toronto’s lead from 13 to three points, it isn’t unreasonable to think that momentum could carry over to Monday’s game in Portland.

And if Dwight Howard is finally able to shed the conditioning demons and make his debut on the court during Washington’s upcoming five-game West Coast road trip, he will help solve the rebounding woes that have contributed to both of the Wizards’ losses.

But even in this two-game sample size, there are some disturbing trends and disappointments which should not be happening this early in the season. The first one involves composure with the referees.

When NBA referee Scott Foster spoke to the Washington media prior to the season, he mentioned that there would be growing pains among referees, players and coaches, as a result of the new rules that were being enforced. Coach Brooks also had the media’s ear prior to the start of the regular season, and he said his message to his team was “shut up and play.” He wanted the Wizards to stop talking to other teams, stop boasting via the media, and stop chirping to the referees.

There were questionable calls doled out to both teams throughout the game and, for the first three quarters, both teams reacted reasonably. However, things turned in the fourth after Wall drove to the basket and was called for a turnover instead of drawing the foul. Wall pleaded his case to the referees respectfully, but Beal was a bit more demonstrative and got a technical foul. Coach Brooks could have diffused the situation by calling his team to the bench, but instead he chose to passionately engage with the referees, and he was ejected. After the game, Brooks was in the awkward position of having to explain away the very behavior that he implored his players to avoid. He apologized to his team and the media and said that he promised to do a better job.

Where’s Otto?

After the first game when Otto Porter had just nine points and no 3-point attempts in 34 minutes of play, both Coach Brooks and Wall were questioned about it. Brooks said it was probably a combination of the bad play-calling and Otto passing up open opportunities. Wall was annoyed at the line of questioning initially and then said the culprit was the other team switching and Otto’s inability to run with him on the fast-break.

Otto played just 25 minutes against the Raptors, and although he hit two more 3-pointers than he did on opening night, he had just 11 points. Coach Brooks seemed to be more comfortable with Austin Rivers’s contributions off the bench than he did with Otto. As a result, Brooks and Wall were once again asked about Otto after the game.

And Wall was annoyed, again. After he told the media he would no longer discuss Otto’s play going forward, he once again blamed Otto’s lack of shots on situational factors dictated by the other team. Coach Brooks wasn’t nearly as passive about Otto’s play after the game — in fact, he blamed Otto directly.

First, he said Otto had to “get himself open,” then he implied he wasn’t playing as hard as some of the other guys on the team. Last season, Coach Brooks called Kelly Oubre’s lackadaisical play out via the media, but that was toward the end of the year. For Brooks to up the criticism ante on Porter so early in the season — especially when he indicated that Otto’s 3-point output needed to increase in order for the Wizards to have success this season — it’s just as disturbing as their 0-2 record. If the head coach and the point guard don’t appear to be confident with the ball in Otto’s hands this early in the season, one has to wonder if they will ever have confidence in Otto.

No Kawhi, No Problem.

With the loss to Toronto, Washington has twice failed to maximize on scheduling and injury advantages. Toronto arrived in Washington on the second night of a back-to-back, having defeated the Boston Celtics on Friday night. Plus, they were without their best player (Kawhi Leonard) and a valuable bench option (Delon Wright). The Wizards, on the other hand, had not played since Thursday night, and still lost the game.

Similarly, Miami played a close game against Orlando the night before the Wizards home opener. The Heat were also missing four rotation players (Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, and James Johnson). Conversely, the Wizards were playing on six days rest with only Dwight Howard unavailable.

Two games against teams playing the second night of a back-to-back, and two losses. The Wizards didn’t try to outrun their opponents or take advantage of what should have been a disparity in energy levels. The Wizards simply played to the level of their competition, or a half-step worse, and lost both games — something they frequently did last season.

It feels foolish to be gleaning anything substantial from a team that is only two games deep into an 82-game season but there is cause for concern. After Saturday night’s loss, Coach Brooks said that his second unit didn’t play well because they were going up against a Toronto team that “had a lot of reps under their belt” and that had been together for awhile.

The Wizards nucleus of Wall, Beal, Porter, Markieff Morris, and Ian Mahinmi also has reps under their belt after three seasons, but Coach Brooks is using phrases like “we’re close” and “we’re getting better.” Not exactly confidence-inspiring rhetoric.

Next up?

A five-game, nine-day road trip against Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Memphis Grizzlies.

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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.