Will The Wizards (Finally) Walk It Like They Talk It? | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Will The Wizards (Finally) Walk It Like They Talk It?

Updated: October 10, 2018

[Original photo: instagram.com/kellyoubrej]

Everybody is talking about the Washington Wizards this week! … But it’s not for the right reasons.

“A year ago,” NBA.com’s John Schumann wrote on Tuesday, “Bradley Beal called his Washington Wizards ‘the best team in the East.’ It wasn’t the first time that the Wizards made a claim that they’d yet to earn. And after this particular boast, the team proceeded to finish eighth in the Eastern Conference and lose in the first round of the playoffs.”

That’s just a taste.

What follows is a back-and-forth between me, John Converse Townsend, and TAI contributor Troy Haliburton, who took particular exception to some of the maybe salty/snarky stories shared across the internet over the past 48 hours or so. Was it the framing? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Read on.

Troy Haliburton: The Wizards cannot seem to stay out of the news for all of the wrong reasons. Last week it was John Wall “parties” too much, while this week’s headlines revolve around Dwight Howard butt injuries and Austin Rivers taking shots at the Celtics. While some of this coverage is fair, it has become painstakingly obvious that the national media has a certain lens through which they cover the Washington professional basketball team.

John Converse Townsend: A lot of this stems from random people sending off-the-cuff stuff on Twitter, though. The fact that the national media turns tweets into news stories is, as you so often say, The Game.

Haliburton: Okay, but take the John Wall clip for example. I was the reporter who asked Wall about fans having unrealistic expectations as far as what professional athletes can and can’t do during their free time. Wall’s answer: He’s a grown man and should be able to do what he wants to do.

Nowhere in my question or his answer is the word “party” every mentioned, but publications across the country ran with the term “party” in all of their headlines, making it seem as though John Wall has a problem with his going out habits.

Townsend: Let’s not forget, here, that the party kicked off with @kayyyyyyG_ tweeting: “swear [Wall is] at Rosebar every weekend lmao like didn’t preseason start get in the gym sir lol”

That tweet got 10 whole retweets. That’s not even peanuts, and I love peanuts.

Wall, of course, responded with “U get in the gym,” despite not being @-mentioned, which is not only very mature but also in no way going to invite extra attention. Wall denied the partyboy charge the same way Trump denied making his money through serious, felonious, decades-long tax fraud—that is to say, he did not deny it at all.

Haliburton: Still, the national media seems to have a negative slant toward the Wizards and a lot of that has to do with the team’s inability to keep its foot out of its mouth at times.

Townsend: Also, they just won’t shut the fuck up.

Haliburton: Bradley Beal made headlines last season when he said he felt like the “Cavaliers were ducking the Wizards in the playoffs,” and honestly, that is an irresponsible assessment on his part. One of my favorite quotes from arguably the best television series ever “The Wire” comes from the character Omar Little: “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

Beal’s verbal attack on the LeBron James-led Cavaliers was a huge miss, coupled with the reality that the Wizards would have had the chance to face off against Cleveland if they would have taken care of business in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the Celtics. There have been a few other more subtle missteps like Markieff Morris saying that he still feels like the Wizards are better than Boston at this year’s media day.

Townsend: This is what I’m talking about. It’s 100% hashtag Fake News. The Celtics have won 50+ games in the last two seasons with a fresh roster and, last year, without All-Star Gordon Hayward. I’d love to know what Morris’s credit score is because his mouth writes a lot of checks his ass can’t cash.

Haliburton: There have also been hypocritical moments like people getting up in arms about the Wizards’ infamous “funeral game” against the Celtics in February of 2016. There has been a growing narrative that NBA players are too friendly with one another, both on and off the court, but as soon as the Wizards put a little showmanship into a genuine dislike for another team, it is a step too far for some people.

All of this leads up to the Wizards’ latest headline fiasco involving Austin Rivers’ comments to James Herbert of CBS Sports. The notable bit was Rivers being quoted saying that “everybody’s so f—ing gassed up on the Sixers and Celtics.”

The problem I have with this coverage is that it took @CBSSportsNBA three cracks at the tweet in order for it to get any attention, with the most salacious of the three allowing the interview to go viral—and on top of that, Rivers wasn’t even talking about the Wizards specifically in that quote.

“And nobody seems to talk about the Pacers because everybody’s so f—ing gassed up on the Celtics and the Sixers. And rightfully so: they’re both talented teams. But Indiana is just as good as both those teams. And I think we’re in the same situation.”

This is a situation where CBS clearly wanted to get as many views and clicks as possible without conveying the point that Rivers was trying to get across.

What’s Austin supposed to say at that point: “Nah, the Celtics and Sixers are better than us”?

Townsend: I actually think you’re being overly critical of CBS’s coverage, here. First of all, we all want as many views and clicks as possible. But also, Rivers was thrice quoted as feeling slighted that more people weren’t talking about the Wizards as, what, contenders for the Eastern Conference title? Let’s review:

“I think we’re heavily slept-on.”

“Nobody seems to talk about us.”

“I just think we’re heavily slept-on.”

All that before his “gassed up” comment and Rivers claiming the Wizards, who finished with 43 wins last year, are “just as good” as the Sixers project (52 wins) and the Celtics (55). And also before Austin Rivers said that, thanks to Austin Rivers, the team’s second unit is “not gonna be a problem no more.”

That remains to be seen, as is the Wizards winning 50 games in a season—which, let’s be honest, even if they do so this season doesn’t punch their ticket to the Finals or anywhere close to it, contrary to what Ted Leonsis or the players might think.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that Ben Becker of Bullets Forever even listed bench depth as one of Washington’s four biggest weaknesses this season, which is rich.

HaliburtonI get it, JCT, the Wizards talk too much. And I may be overly critical of outside media coverage of the team, but that does not mean they are without fault in this situation. This team is desperate to get off to a hot start because the national media vultures are circling around them.

Scott Brooks made it known that he wants the Wizards to talk less, but it’s impossible for the team to be completely silent when they have half a dozen media obligations to uphold on a weekly basis. We get so mad at athletes when they don’t speak, but are also overly critical when they actually do speak their minds.

The Wizards have to find the balance between asserting themselves among their peers while realizing they still have much to prove. Until they win, people will control the narrative around them.

Townsend: That’s life. And I think that, in the end, we’re aggressively agreeing.

At the same time, the Wizards’ players want to be loved, respected, and celebrated. Problem is, they don’t play pretty ball, they do talk too much, and they don’t win enough games.

Until that changes, until they change that, people won’t take them seriously. Their superiority complex doesn’t do them any favors.

John Converse Townsend on EmailJohn Converse Townsend on FacebookJohn Converse Townsend on InstagramJohn Converse Townsend on Twitter
John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.