The Wizards Still Searching Within Despite Comeback Victory | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Wizards Still Searching Within Despite Comeback Victory

Updated: November 21, 2018

The Wizards got a much (much) needed win against the L.A. Clippers by coming back from a 24-point deficit. Somehow, that galvanizing victory didn’t help some members of the team move past the events of the previous 72 hours. As John Wall put it offhand to a few members of the media who lingered around his locker after his official availability had ended, “There’s a lot of fake shit going on around here.”

Wall was referring to yet another Stephen A. Smith report coming out of the Wizards locker room, this time sourced by an actual Wizards player:

“We love Scott Brooks. Love playing for him. He just can’t coach John,” Smith said on his radio show Tuesday afternoon, reading a text message that anonymous team member. “John just walks all over him and it frustrates everybody. The way he plays is impossible to play with. We have so many guns, not enough bullets. If John would just play off the ball and let others eat, we’d be fine. But that’s a difficult thing for him to do, and sometimes it’s difficult for us to watch.” 

While Smith was on the radio, Brooks and Washington’s three max-contract players were walking up one by one to speak to the media in a pseudo state-of-the-franchise type of setting. The vibe was odd enough, since Brooks normally does not address the media at the shootaround before home games, and stranger still with three players speaking at the same media availability session. The message was clear from the Wizards—and getting out in front of this story seemed to be a priority from the organization.

After yesterday’s shootaround, the common theme among each player who spoke was disappointment that details from practice were leaked.

“Unfortunately things get out there, you always talk about keeping everything in,” Brooks said.

“Most of the time you try to keep those things in the locker room,” Wall said. “Other than that, we look past them and realize we’ve played two games since that.”

“What happened in practice happened in practice. Practice is closed. Practice is not a public thing,” Bradley Beal added.

Scott Brooks made waves in his pregame media press conference when he shared with the room that Thomas Bryant, not Ian Mahnmi nor Jason Smith, would be making his first career start. Bryant did not know he was starting until the Wizards shootaround that morning and while he was excited for his debut, he tried to do everything within his power to stay within his normal routine. He did call his mom and dad to let them know, but said all his friends would have to find out on Twitter or by watching the game.

Bryant played well in his first meaningful minutes of the season, finishing with seven points, three rebounds and one block (on Marcin Gortat) in 19 minutes of game action. Bryant used his athleticism and seemingly endless motor to bring a level of intensity the Wizards have long been calling for. Thanks to his strong play, he may have earned the right to get more playing time, even when Dwight Howard returns.

The other rotation decision Scott Brooks finally made was playing Tomas Satoransky more minutes. Brooks even acknowledged after the game that he has to get Sato more minutes going forward.

“I’m slow. It took me 15 to 16 games to figure that out, but he’s earned it with the way he’s playing,” Brooks echoed to reporters in a self-deprecating manor. “A lot of times, I try to find everybody some minutes, but I’m finding him minutes,” Brooks said. “I’m finding him minutes. I don’t care who [it affects], I’m finding him minutes.”

Satoransky seems to play timid in games where he knows he has a short leash, but when he is given extended time, he strings together consistent play. Ideally, Brooks would play him alongside both Wall and Beal which could potentially unlock all kinds of opportunities for Brooks to stagger his two All-Stars more.

While Thomas and Tomas got the Wizards train back on track with their energy and effort, the Wizards still needed star performances from Wall and Beal, along with a few clutch plays from Markieff Morris, to close out the victory. Wall scored 20 points in the second half and hit five 3-pointers to lead the Wizards’ charge, and Beal complemented Wall perfectly with his aggression attacking the basket. The two played like the All-Stars they are in the second half. Think about how much of the misery and angst the team has endured this season would never have come to pass had they put together more performances like Tuesday night’s.

Morris came off the bench for the first time since 2016, when he had just been traded to the Wizards. By all accounts, Keef took his benching like a professional and still played 25 minutes to Kelly Oubre’s 12. Morris was the small-ball center and was able to compete down low with Montrez Harrell, who he has a size advantage over. One of the biggest plays of the game was Morris’ corner 3-pointer that finally put the Wizards on top, 110-109.

But after the game, Morris focused less on his performance and more on the situation involving a Wizards player leaking information to national media:

“It’s f***** up what’s going on. So I wouldn’t say that it makes it nicer. We’ve just got to figure it out,” Morris said.

“What’s fucked up,” asked The Athletic’s Fred Katz?

“The comments that’s coming from the locker room is f***** up. It don’t happen in other sports. So it’s messed up”

“Do you address that?”

“I don’t know who it is, so it’s hard to address it,” Morris said.

And that’s the kind of week (and season) it has been for the Washington Wizards. Even in victory—a victory which saw them erase a 24-point deficit—the team can’t properly celebrate due to a potential leak. This is a troubling sign for the Wizards because knowing the personalities in that locker room, they won’t be able to let it rest until they find the culprit and when they do, player X will certainly be ostracized.

On the other hand, for a player to leak information like that—in an almost sinister attempt to bring unnecessary attention to the already struggling team—is detrimental. It almost has to be addressed within.

It’s not just to Stephen A. Smith that random Wizards player(s) are chirping to, either. Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer wrote yesterday: “Several sources painted it as an issue of Wall against the rest of the locker room. There’s a belief that Wall has been coddled for too long and that neither the coaching staff nor the front office can properly manage him.”

Wall may have some room for growth as a leader, but he should absolutely take offense to someone essentially snaking him while smiling in his face. Whoever it is inside the Wizards organization is breaking one of the biggest cardinal sins in sports by purposely leaking information to cause more distress. This factor can not be overlooked, and it apparently it will not go to rest until the team finds out who did it.

Next up for the troubled team from Washington? The team with NBA’s best record, the Toronto Raptors, and Kawhi Leonard. And after the Wiz have spent Thanksgiving on the road… together. 


Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.