Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Mon, 19 Nov 2018 14:19:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.11 From The Other Side: Wizards vs. Blazers — A Real Sense of Urgency http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/from-the-other-side-wizards-vs-blazers-a-real-of-sense-of-urgency.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/from-the-other-side-wizards-vs-blazers-a-real-of-sense-of-urgency.html#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 13:52:38 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56228 Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use that access to explore what’s going on with the opposing team. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the sense of urgency in the Portland Trailblazers’ locker room

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, and after the game, Coach Brooks, John Wall and Bradley Beal all attributed the defeat to a lack of defensive stops. Brooks specifically implored his team to “figure it out, get better and come back better on Sunday.”

Before Sunday’s matchup against Portland, when Brooks was asked about the importance of the game—especially since their schedule gets decidedly more difficult in the next six (the Clippers, Raptors, the Pelicans twice, the Rockets, and the 76ers)—he was again critical of his team’s past performance, and hopeful that the lethargy was a thing of the past.

“We seemed to be a step slow on both ends of the floor last game, looking at the film again this morning. Hopefully we play with better juice [tonight] and be able to stay in front of the basketball and play much quicker on both ends. I thought we were slow on offense, just as bad as we were defensively.”

Despite the sense of urgency laid out by Coach Brooks, the Wizards repeated the sins of their recent past, by managing to look even slower than they did against the Nets. At the  3:54 mark of the first quarter, they trailed the Trail Blazers, 32-12. The Capital One Arena crowd booed, Brooks and his assistants angrily huddled and the Wizards players seemed baffled yet again.

The Portland Trail Blazers were also operating under a sense of urgency prior to last night’s game but for different reasons. They lost the first two games of their six-game road trip, and they were badly in need of a win to raise morale.

“I think coming in here today, our urgency was just there. We lost the first two games of the trip. We wanted to come in and be sharp. I knew that being a leader on this team, I had to come out here and kind of enforce that and impose my will and be aggressive and assertive and live with the result. That was my mindset coming in and I was going to keep my foot on that gas until there was no time left to make sure we got it done.” —Damian Lillard

“We just came off two tough losses, so I think we came out with some energy tonight. I think we were ready to go on defense which was the most important thing.” —Jake Layman

Not only did the Blazers storm out to a 32-12 lead, but when the Wizards finally demonstrated a bit of fight late in the first quarter and into the second, the Blazers responded accordingly. Carried by Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who combined for 31 points on 58 percent shooting (50% from 3-point line), they led by 21 at halftime.

The best play of their first half was seven-pass, 23.6 second long possession which resulted in a Layman corner 3-pointer. Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts was so impressed with that possession that he played it for his team at halftime as a form of encouragement.

In the third quarter, due to missed calls, Beal’s five fouls, Lillard’s relentlessness (18 points), lackadaisical defense, and a lack of offensive continuity outside of John Wall (12 points), the Wizards once again found themselves trailing by 21 points.

Coach Brooks seemingly waved the white flag in the fourth quarter by primarily going with a bench lineup of Tomas Satoransky, Austin Rivers, Troy Brown Jr, Kelly Oubre, and Jason Smith (Thomas Bryant came in for Smith at the 4:57 mark of the fourth). The bench unit hustled, scrapped and played with type of give-a-damn that had eluded the Wizards’ starting lineup. As Coach Brooks alluded to after the game, this bench lineup initially not only worked Portland’s bench players, but also when the lead went from 25 to 20, and Coach Stotts inserted two starters (Lillard and Al-Farouq Aminu) into the game (McCollum was on the floor), the Wizards bench continued to play well.

Austin Rivers, Oubre and Jason Smith all hit 3-pointers in the span of 72 seconds and the Wizards whittled the Blazers’ lead down to 15 points. The Capital One Arena shunned the boos in favor of  cheers for this unlikely group of Wizards bench stars, who at one point worked the deficit down to single digits.

At this point, Coach Stotts re-inserted Jusuf Nurkic (who just missed a triple-double with 13 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists) and Evan Turner into the game. Stotts could have trusted his bench unit to hold on, or he could have trusted Lillard, McCollum and three bench players to led his team to victory. But he took no chances and re-inserted his four starters and his best bench player (Turner) to close the Wizards out.

When asked to explain that call with a seemingly comfortable lead, Coach Stotts said, eloquently: “Well, I wasn’t going to screw around with the game, we built a nice lead, I thought it was a chance to get some [bench] guys in there. But like I said, Washington played hard and they made some shots, and anything can happen in this league, so that’s why the stars were back in”

The Wizards bench valiantly battled but ultimately, Coach Stotts’s decision paid off handsomely, and the Trail Blazers held on to their lead, and won the game 119-109.

In the Portland locker room after the game, both Stotts and the players were proud of how they internalized the inconvenience of the first two home losses and turned that into sharp play and, ultimately, a victory over the Wizards.

Meanwhile in the Wizards locker room, Coach Brooks seemed to recycle the same quotes he uttered just two nights ago after the loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

“We got to just play with more enthusiasm, more effort, more energy. That’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing.”

 

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Portland Leaves the Wizards Answering Questions About Effort http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/portland-leaves-the-wizards-answering-questions-about-effort.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/portland-leaves-the-wizards-answering-questions-about-effort.html#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 06:18:26 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56227 Another day, another Wizards blowout loss. Seven of their 11 losses on the season have been by double digits and the Wizards unfortunately boast the fifth-worst point differential in the entire NBA at minus-5.9. They keep saying all of the right things after their losses, in terms of what they need to do to be better, but they fail to apply the lessons on the court.

The team has talked about defending the 3-point line better, but they still allowed Portland to connect on seven 3s in the first quarter alone, including this mesmerizing play that had seven passes and led to a wide-open trey attempt:

This lack of attention to detail led to the Wizards’ 20-point deficit in the first quarter, which Scott Brooks did not appreciate at all. “We got to just play with more enthusiasm, more effort, more energy. That’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing,” Brooks said about the team allowing the Blazers to jump out on them in the first quarter.

The team has talked about communicating better on defense, yet they are constantly getting beaten backdoor for layups. They have discussed putting forth consistent 48-minute efforts, yet the lack of such was once again a point of contention for Brooks. When asked after the game if the Wizards had a leadership problem, Brooks responded “No, there’s a ‘play hard’ issue.”

The Wizards had difficulty staving off the Trail Blazers’ early run to start the game and even when the team was able to cut back into the lead, the Blazers would respond with yet another run.

The Wizards cut the Blazers’ 20-point first quarter lead to five points in the second quarter, then relinquished a 23-7 run to end the first half and trailed 62-41 at halftime. The Wizards’ inconsistent ebb and flow could be traced back to the starters, who simply did not play with the same energy of the bench players–which contributed to Coach Brooks decision to stick with the reserves during their attempted comeback in the fourth quarter.

Brooks felt the bench deserved to finish the game because of how hard they played:

“They deserved to play, and they deserve to play more… I like the way they played. It was a great effort. They did it against their second team then they brought in their stars and they still competed. You win in this league by competing. You lose in this league by not competing. It’s hard to win a game, but if you’re not going to win the game by not competing. And we did that in that fourth quarter.”

Brooks didn’t stop there when referring to his team having to compete: “No team in this league can win games if you don’t compete for your teammates, and I gotta find five guys that are willing to do that.”

While Scott Brooks has been rigid with his starting lineups and rotations during his tenure as the Wizards head coach, the frustration with his players is beginning to grow and he has already made adjustments in dispersing his minutes. During the Wizards three-game winning streak last week, Brooks sat Otto Porter in the fourth quarter  and played Jeff Green and Kelly Oubre due to their energetic contributions.

Just as he did at the start of last season, Oubre once again has the freedom to be aggressive with his shot selection as one of the focal points of the second-unit. Oubre is bringing a high-effort level on a daily basis and he believes that has resulted in increased playing time.

“Honestly, I try to bring consistent effort each and every day [and] I think a lot of guys do the same. Sometimes it ebbs and flows, so sometimes it gets too high or gets too low, and it kind of hurts us sometimes,” Oubre said when asked about the bench’s play in their comeback effort. Oubre also agreed with Brooks’ decision to play the bench players at the end of the game: “I think Coach [Scott Brooks] is right on about the guys who kind of came into the game at the end we’re very excited and energetic to play. That’s kind of the result we got.”

Bradley Beal was disappointed with the effort from the starters, but complimented the reserve unit for playing hard: “It was terrible. The guys who were in it at the end of the game played their asses off – played the way that we’re supposed to play the whole game and we didn’t do that.”

 

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Wizards Win Streak Snapped Due to Poor Execution http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/wizards-win-streak-snapped-due-to-poor-execution.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/wizards-win-streak-snapped-due-to-poor-execution.html#respond Sat, 17 Nov 2018 05:27:49 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56218

Photo Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

The Wizards went into the game against the Brooklyn Nets riding high on a three-game win streak and poised to extend that streak against a so-called inferior opponent. But in classic #SoWizards fashion, they were blown out on their home floor. Maybe the Wizards overlooked a Nets team who came into the game reeling emotionally over losing their best player to a gruesome leg injury earlier in the week, or maybe the Wizards just exhibited their frustrating brand of inconsistency that has plagued them this season (and last season, and the season before that, and the one before that, and….)

Whatever the reason was, the Wizards were simply outplayed by a team who came in with a game plan and executed it to perfection. Scott Brooks admitted as much during his post-game remarks: “They were better tonight. The score says that and the game dictated that as well. We have to regroup, figure out ways to get better tomorrow, and come back Sunday. We had some bad turnovers. Some of the turnovers led to basically one-on-zero breaks.”

In the first half, the Wizards kept the game close and trailed by just two at halftime, but the chinks in the armor were still evident and ultimately led to Washington being run out of the gym in the third quarter. They settled for entirely too many mid-range jumpers in the first half and had the offensive shot profile of a Randy Wittman-coached team–not the “pace and space” shot selection that Scott Brooks has been imploring his team to take since training camp.

John Wall was guilty of this by repeatedly pulling up in transition from the foul line extended, as opposed to passing the ball to open teammates. When asked after the game why the Wizards took so many mid-range jumpers instead of looking for their 3-point shooters, Wall lamented the fact that Brooklyn kind of dictated where the ball would go with their defensive coverages: “They were going to drop their bigs, they just kept their weak side defenders at home on the shooters, so we had to get our threes in transition on drives and kicks and that’s it.”

Wall was correct in saying that the Nets were dropping their bigs, but he was incorrect in saying that they had to get their 3s in transition on drives and kicks exclusively. There were opportunities for the Wizards to generate offense and create 3-point shots, but they were squandered away by poor offensive execution. The Wizards committed just 13 turnovers but those giveaways led to 19 points for Brooklyn. They repeatedly gave the ball away when attempting to commit dribble handoffs (DHO) at the top of the key and the Nets guards were jumping the passing lanes when the Wizards big men tried to get the ball back to the guard. Some of those DHOs were blown up because of poor spacing, while others were simply due to careless passing.

After the game, Bradley Beal talked to the media about the need to get defensive stops that lead to transition baskets and generate more 3s, but he also noted the team’s need to improve half court sets.

“I think we’ve got to play a little bit faster. A lot of our 3s we get in transition. So, getting stops, getting out in transition and getting easy shots. Doing a better job in our half court sets, so more cuts and screening and just being ready at all times,” Beal said. “We’ve got to be a lot more aggressive. I think sometimes we settle for too many jumpers, so getting to the basket more.”

The lack of defensive stops was a major problem for the team, and Scott Brooks kept it simple when pointing out what went wrong: “The problem was that we couldn’t stay in front of the basketball tonight. Joe Harris had his way, [Spencer] Dinwiddie had his way, [Allen] Crabbe had his way, [Shabazz] Napier had his way. We couldn’t stay in front of the basketball tonight and on top of that we couldn’t make any shots.”

Beal admitted that the Wizards settled for too many jumpers, and was just as guilty of falling in love with his mid-range jumper tonight. The offensive sets were not crisp as and that was direct result of uninspired screens and poor spacing. Part of that is on Dwight Howard, who missed all of training camp and the first seven games of the season with a backside injury that is still bothering him enough that he can’t even sit down on the bench when he isn’t in the game.

Howard has not built up the same on-court chemistry that Wall and Beal once had with Marcin Gortat, let alone enough chemistry to allow the team to even run their regular offense. The only way to solve the chemistry issue is to get on-court experience with Howard, who is steadily getting his legs back underneath of him and is doing whatever it is possible to make sure that he is ready to compete at a high level every night. He had 25 points and 17 rebounds in just 27 minutes of play before fouling out with 4:07 left in the game. After the game was over and he gave his media availability, Howard changed out of his uniform and went back out to the Capital One Arena court to get some extra work in.

The Wizards should have and could have executed better, but at least there was no finger-pointing after the loss and no passive aggressive messages about players looking for their shots. Maybe they are growing as a team?

There’s a lot of talk about what the Wiz need to do to find success, on both ends. Now all they have to do is go out and apply it—starting on Sunday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

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The Wizards are Playing “Inspired” Basketball and Winning (for Now) http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/the-wizards-are-playing-inspired-basketball-and-winning-for-now.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/the-wizards-are-playing-inspired-basketball-and-winning-for-now.html#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 18:25:34 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56206

[Photo credit to Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images]

The Washington Wizards are on a win streak, their first of the season. Sure, it’s just two games, but every streak has to start somewhere. Against the Orlando Magic, the Wiz actually played inspired for 48 minutes, buckling down defensively and overcoming a 10-point deficit in the second half to win 117-109.

[Editor’s note: The last time the ‘Zards won back-to-back regular season games was in March, against Boston in OT and at home against the Pacers.]

The Wizards are 2-1 in their last three games. More importantly, the Wizards are 2-1 since Stephen A. Smith apparently lit a fire under John Wall. Last week, Smith went on national television and called out John Wall—and the rest of the organization—for underachieving on the court and for allegedly enjoying themselves too much off of the court.

Wall tried to be coy in the locker room after the game about whether all of the kerfuffle has impacted him. He responding “Nah” to a direct question about Smith’s comments.

Wall’s All-Star backcourt mate, Bradley Beal, had a different take:

“Y’all pissed him off, man. It’s you all’s fault. He is going to come out and play like Wolf Wall. That is what we need him to do. I am happy you guys kind of lit a little flame up under him. He got us all going. It is John, we need him to do that. We need him to lead the ship, lead us and continue to bring it on both ends. I think when he gets after it defensively for us, I think that gets everybody else going, too.”

What is clear is that Wall is playing with more energy, and infectious energy at that. The closeouts are more timely, the switches are being better communicated and the ball is being rebounded. The Wizards out-rebounded an opponent for the second game in a row, totaling 41 boards compared to 34 for the Magic.

After the game as the normal herd of media members walked from the coach’s press conference into the locker room, Stephen A. Smith was already there, bringing First Take to the Wizards face-to-face.

I can confirm that Stephen A. did talk to Wall and Beal individually, and Wall downplaying any “beef” with Smith alludes to the fact that there is a mutual respect between player and reporter.

Wall is simply playing better and his teammates are also playing better (against teams with losing records). Austin Rivers and Tomas Satoransky, for example, had one of their better outings as a backup backcourt duo and their ability to stabilize the second unit while Wall and Beal rested was critical.

Just as critical was the play of Jeff Green, who finished with 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting and had a classic Jeff Green on F Street performance, except this time he did it in a Wizards uniform. Perhaps especially at the 5 spot, Green unlocks a level of versatility in the Wizards lineups that allows them to play smaller and be able to drive 3-point shooters off the arc. After the game, Brooks was very complimentary of Green’s game and what he brings to the Wizards:

“We need his all-around play. He can guard just about everybody on the floor. Certain bigs he’ll have trouble guarding but I thought with that lineup we had at the end of the game, I thought he did a pretty good job on the big fellow. He’s skilled and he’s big and he takes up a lot of space and he scored one time on [Markieff Morris] but he fought for it and it was late in the shot clock.”

For the second game in a row, Brooks elected to go with Jeff Green in one of his forward spots, while leaving “max” contract Otto Porter on the bench for the final frame. Green has played better than Porter this season, but the two Georgetown products are close—there should not be any jealousy or animosity between them, as everyone inside the organization is simply happy to win…

Whether the motivation comes from Stephen A. Smith, vocal fans on Twitter, or the local media does not really matter. The only thing that does, at this point, is that the Wizards are finally here to play basketball.

There are still 69 basketball games left to be played.

Yes, the Wizards beat two teams that had already beaten them, and neither the Heat nor the Magic are contenders, but for a Wizards team with a habit of playing down to the level of their inferior competition, any victory against any opponent holds weight.

Washington finds themselves 1.5 games back of the eighth and final playoff spot, and 3.5 games back of the 4-seed and home-court advantage in the playoffs. Everything this team wants is directly in front of them, and as owner Ted Leonsis stated before the season, “There are no more excuses.”

 

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Large Carrion Birds and a Loss to the Orlando Magic http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/large-carrion-birds-and-a-loss-to-the-orlando-magic.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/large-carrion-birds-and-a-loss-to-the-orlando-magic.html#respond Sat, 10 Nov 2018 16:55:09 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56194

yup pic.twitter.com/l2IqVYkSot

— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) November 10, 2018

2-9. Still no sign of buzzards.

At the very least—the very, very least—the Wizards almost completed a comeback from 23 points down against the Orlando Magic in the fourth quarter. They pulled the game to 105-106, which (for the moment) quieted their most vocal critic:

If I were a glass half-full blogger or I was willing to pay more heed to the words of Scott Brooks, I could make the argument that the Wizards are one or two tweaks from getting over the hump and starting to not only be competitive in basketball games but also begin winning them. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, and Scott Brooks has found an effective small ball lineup in Wall/Beal/Rivers/Oubre/Green—and let’s hand out a participation trophy to everyone because gosh darnit, John Wall manned up and tried HARD. Let’s save our slings and arrows for another day right?

Well then… How the hell did the Wizards end up 23 points down to the Orlando Magic in in the first place?

That general “Wizardness” of it all.

After racing out to an early 14-2 lead, predicated mostly on a nice two-man game between Wall and Dwight Howard, the Wizards slowly and inexorably fell apart and behind (they trailed 63-48 at the half). This was in large part due to their now chronic inability to defend the perimeter (the Magic shot 7-11 from 3-point land in the first half) and the 14 turnovers that ranged from your average “the team isn’t on the same page” to “WTF is going on here?”

It’s this overall lack of attention to detail that has become the hallmark of a Scott Brooks-coached team. One teammate makes a dumb mistake (pick a Wizard at random), Wall or Beal try to overcompensate by playing hero-ball and force shots and without accountability being enforced by either the coach (whose programming has locked him into a pre-formatted pattern for rotations and minutes) or teammates (who you can’t trust to not dog you out sotto voice or sub-tweet you). That’s how you end up with five dudes racing up and down the court and plays that look like this:

Markieff Morris’s body language says it all: “We are gonna be on a lot dudes mixtapes this year.”

Dwight Howard

The work of Kara Lawson and Steve Buckhantz is some of the best broadcasting in the league, especially given the material they have to work with at the moment. However, their coverage and praise of Dwight Howard’s play against the Magic (in a homecoming game) left me at many times scratching my head. While Howard was undoubtedly effective at receiving and converting his touches in the post, his defense was atrocious—and gave you the sense that Howard isn’t even close to 70 percent healthy (let alone 100%). Because if Howard’s posterior is fully active, the following exhibits give one pause that Howard might be washed:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

 

The Rigidity of Scott Brooks

When the second unit entered the game in the second quarter, it was at least semi-heartening to see that Tomas Santoranksy might be receiving more burn as the 7th man off the bench. However, all hope went out the window as Sato spent his brief seven minutes of court time pinned in the corner as a spot-up 3 man and stripped of any meaningful opportunity to create with the ball in his hands. In turn, Sato also looks completely shorn of any confidence that he may have carried over from last season. While still looking to create for his teammates, Sato looks hesitant to call his own number, and what was once the lone bright spot on the Wizards bench looks completely adrift in what few minutes Brooks deigns to parcel out.

As for the man who stole those minutes you ask? Well, it’s Austin Rivers, of course, who played a whopping 23 minutes and took exactly ONE entire shot, which isn’t exactly the microwave off the bench that the Wizards thought they had acquired. I’m not sure whether Rivers ineffectiveness is from an insistence to not force the issue, or struggling to fit in offensively, or whether Brooks has yet to find a way to get him open regularly. But Rivers is stealing minutes from players who could use the development time—all because Scott Brooks feels that Rivers is part of solution in turning this Wizards season around.

Overall

Scott Brooks played John Wall and Bradley Beal 42 and 41 minutes respectively on the first night of a back-to-back in a desperate bid to beat the freaking Orlando Magic. Otto Porter’s game is still in the witness protection program. Ian Mahinmi is being paid $64 million to rack up DNPs and the overall 15th pick in the 2018 draft, Troy Brown, can’t sniff the court because the coach is pulling a Captain Ahab and chasing the magical win that will somehow turn the season around.

But, hey, the Wizards came back from 23 points down to cut the lead to one and only lost by nine. Baby steps, baby.

Wait, what’s that in the distance? Ah. The vultures have started circling.

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TAI Roundtable: Is It OK to Root Against the Wizards? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/tai-roundtable-is-it-ok-to-root-against-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/tai-roundtable-is-it-ok-to-root-against-the-wizards.html#respond Fri, 09 Nov 2018 13:54:37 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56168

There is one universal rule of fandom: Never root against your team. Sports fans usually hold this truth to be self-evident, but what if your team’s short-term success actually hurts its long-term prospects? What if prolonged mediocrity only makes the inevitable rebuild that much more painful?

After the Wizards demoralizing 2-8 start to the season, a large segment of the fan-base is resigned to the fact that the Wizards, as presently constructed, are going nowhere. They have been surpassed by Indiana, Milwaukee, Boston, Toronto, and Philadelphia. There is no switch to flip. There is no panic button to press.

However, those fans also recognize that the owner will never make any meaningful organizational changes as long as the team keeps winning 40-something games each season. This realization has caused an existential crisis for fans who want to root for the Wizards but also want to see major changes with the team.

To help ease their existential angst and provide some guidance for Wizards fans during these troubled times, I posed the question to the TAI crew: Is it ok to root against the Wizards?

The answers ran the gamut from “absolutely” to “hell no” to more nuanced equivocation. For the record, I am aligned most closely with Troy Haliburton’s “hell no” camp. Once the ball is tipped, for those 48 minutes, the only rooting interest is for a Wizards win. Once the game is over, then you can consider the implications for the Wizards future. However, some strong arguments were made in favor of sacrificing the present for a shot at a brighter future.

Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202)

Yes, it’s absolutely OK to root against these Wizards. In fact, I would question whether it’s actually responsible for Wizards fans to root for them.

You know that old bit about if you love something you should set it free? It’s important to remember here. This Wizards’ core was so much fun in May of 2015 and May of 2017, but May of 2019 won’t be a fun one for Washington at this rate. That Wizards core was young and full of hope, while this current Wizards core is rapidly aging, cynical, and painfully complacent.

There’s enough talent here to convince yourself that a players-only meeting or a similar psychological shakeup will right the ship, but that’s not a healthy way of looking at this situation. That kind of thinking leads to overconfidence in your roster and a belief that you’re one role player away, which is how we got where we are now.

Don’t root for them to win in 2018. If you love this team, root for them to have long-term success, and that means losing in 2018.

The only way this roster can be fixed in a reasonable and efficient manner is to tear it down. This can mean one of two things: Trade at least one of Wall, Beal, and Porter, and try to put together a run based on the remaining one or two of those three and whatever you get back in the trade; or trade all three of them for future assets, ideally a combination of draft picks and young players on cheap deals, tank hard for one of Duke’s three stars (or UNC’s Nassir Little!), then start all over again.

Oh. And fire Ernie Grunfeld. Obviously. And Scott Brooks. Equally obviously.

Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)

To turn this question on its head slightly, the act of rooting “against” the Wizards would require sentiment that rises above apathy towards the organization. And not since the heyday of the Susan O’Malley/Wes Unseld “come see the other team’s superstar” has there been such a sense of resignation surrounding the Washington basketball franchise. It’s not that rooting against the Wizards is the act of a traitor—it is that fans are so disengaged with the product that they can’t be bothered to register any emotion at all.

To put a finer point on it: The last two weeks have seen everyone outside of the DMV, from Stephen A. Smith to the local dog-catcher, issuing innumerable #HOTTAKES on how the Wizards are trash, how the Wizards need to be broken up, and how the John Wall needs to be shipped off to Siberia in the next 24 hours. Almost zero defense has been mounted against this stream of criticism. Compare this to when the Washington Capitals hit their annual playoff wall two years ago: The first take was printed suggesting that the Caps trade Ovechkin; people lost their goddamn minds. No such defense has been put forward for a single player on the Wizards. Trading Bradley Beal might be the only player who would raise the ire of what few loyal fans remain.

Because to root against the Wizards is to actively root for change. That change, according to the front office is not forthcoming in either the immediate or long-term future. Further, any change that would happen would need to be down to the roots of the organization, from the players, to the head coach and the general manager. To wit:

  • The GM: Ernie Grunfeld is such a poisoned chalice at this point that even the positive moves he makes for the team come with an asterisk. With a seemingly lifetime appointment, Wizards fans have become inured to being angry at Grunfeld’s continued place atop the org chart but also refuse to engage with the team as long as he remains. Grunfeld could pull a rabbit out of his hat and trade for Giannis tomorrow, and the collective reaction of Wizards’ fans would be “Awesome, but Ernie is still in charge.”
  • The Coach: When Randy Wittman was let go, there was a real excitement about which way the Wizards would turn in their coaching search. Perhaps they would pluck someone from the Popovich team and issue in a new style of basketball in the District. Instead the shortlist read, Brooks, Brooks, Brooks. After taking his work in OKC into account, fans and pundits were worried about Brooks’ ability to manage lineup and inflexibility in play-calling. The honeymoon with new head coach lasted exactly one year until the criticisms sprouted up again. Brooks is who many thought he would be and that perhaps is the most disappointing fact of all.
  • The Players:  The Wizards are such a curmudgeonly, cranky group of dislikable dudes who currently play such an ugly brand of basketball that they have even managed to make the doofy combo of Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre unwatchable. Yet, with three max contracts that are under-performing, the Wizards are stuck with the toxic mess of personalities who seem just fine with gunning for their own stats. The worst part is that the locker room dysfunction has more or less been an open secret for four years. The Wizards response? Continuity.

To want the Wizards to lose is to hope for a change to all three of the above situations. At best, one can hope that things get so terrible that at least one of these elements change. But it won’t be enough to fix the optics surrounding the franchise. If you want to root against the Wizards, you should be rooting to burn it all down so that nothing is left but charred ash and a bag of Dwight Howard’s candy. Just know that when it comes to the Wizards, change is not all the rage.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)

Yes, of course, it is okay to root against the Wizards. In 2018, in this economy, I wish more people would.

I’m not a native Washingtonian, and I’ve rooted against the team for years now, so perhaps this is easier for me to say: Being on the other side of things, even during the playoffs, is a beautiful thing. Because if there’s one thing you can always count on, it’s the Washington Wizards being disappointing. But for a few shining moments, disappointment is the brand.

With that said, from a sports and entertainment perspective, there are two main reasons to root against the Wizards in 2018-19 and beyond.

The first is that, despite impassioned and intermittent cries for attention from both players and ownership, the team does not win enough games to be taken seriously. Every year, there’s talk about big leaps, better benches, deeper squads, and every year it’s the same story. Washington came into the season with a .442 winning percentage since the 2003-04 season (ranked 23rd), when you-know-who was hired as president of basketball operations. They are 2-8 now.

Changes are not forthcoming.

Ask yourself why you spend part of your paycheck on new, overly complicated jerseys or, worse, seasons tickets to prop up a franchise that does not see winning games as a priority. (Oh, have you heard the latest news? Monumental and Etihad Airways announced a multiyear partnership extension.)

The second reason is more about the aesthetics: The Wizards just don’t play pretty ball, nor have they for the better part of the last decade.

Ask yourself why you invest so much time watching a crap (at times gutless) team, when you’d better enjoy your favorite sport by following the action in *checks notes* literally any other contest.

Many of you who were born and raised in the DMV may feel a patriotic duty to support the Wizards. That is fine, even good. It is your right to want this team—your team—to compete. But the truth about it (looks directly into camera) is that, in its current state, under this current administration, it cannot and will not win. To be clear, I’m not suggesting you pledge allegiance to another franchise hundreds of thousands of miles way. I’m simply arguing that it’s possible to love the Wizards deeply and still root against . . . all of this.

The way I see it, too much has been invested in the illusion of competency and continuity for its own sake. By hating on the Wizards now, you’re actually helping to save them—and not a moment too soon.

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20)

When the question of whether or not it is fair to root against the 2-8 Washington Wizards was first posed to me, my knee jerk response was hell yes.

John Wall seems disinterested, Bradley Beal is visibly showing frustration like he did during the Wittman years, Otto Porter’s game seems to have plateaued and maybe even regressed, and while Dwight Howard is performing well, it isn’t translating to wins. Kelly Oubre has been a bright spot intermittently, but he did this last year, too, before fading horribly and drawing the coach’s ire by season’s end.

To make matters worse, Troy Brown, the Wizards 15th pick in this year’s draft, has yet to crack Scott Brooks’s rotation, despite showing promise in both the summer league and in preseason.

All of these things combined with feckless efforts on the defensive end of the floor, and the continual angst attached to Ernie Grunfeld still being allowed to construct and deconstruct underachieving rosters, would naturally lead one to root against the team right now. After all, more losses would lead to a terrible record, a slot on or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and it would surely be a stick in Ted Leonsis’s craw given his “no excuses” speech at the start of the season:

“We need to raise the expectations. We have to make the playoffs. I’d like us to win 50 games. I’d like us to go to the Eastern Conference Finals.We have one of the highest payrolls in the league with the Wizards. They have a beautiful, world-class practice facility. They’re healthy entering the year,” he said. “Alright Wizards. If you have this practice facility and one of the highest payrolls in the league and you’re getting well-tended for your health, nutrition and the like; no excuses. Let’s play ball.”

Then I’m reminded of some words of wisdom from the late, great Angelo Dundee.

Mr. Dundee was trainer/corner man for Sugar Ray Leonard and in the middle of Leonard’s fight against Tommy Hearns, Dundee repeatedly said to Leonard, “You’re blowing it, son, you’re blowing it!” Not only did Leonard regroup, he knocked Hearns out to win the fight.

The Wizards don’t have an Angelo Dundee. Scott Brooks throws out less-than-inspiring platitudes like “its on me,””we’ve gotta do better” and “stay the course.” Dwight Howard is happier than a Pharrell Williams song and Wall and Beal seem to prefer the passive-aggressive method of calling teammates out without actually saying their names. But you know what the Wizards do have as motivation? Bad teams on their upcoming schedule.

Technically the stretch of bad teams began with the Knicks and the Mavericks and the Wizards went 1-1. The next five games are against the Magic, the Heat, the Magic again, the Cavaliers, and then the Nets. Yes, with the exception of the Cavaliers, those teams currently have better records than the Wizards, but those games aren’t nearly as daunting as the next stretch of games against the Trailblazers, Clippers, Pelicans, Rockets, and 76ers.

If the Wizards win three or more of these next five games and start to develop a bit of that proverbial swagger, there is no need to root against the team—which could start to resemble the Wizards from two years ago who won 49 games. Under that scenario, perhaps the team will find its identity offensively and a scintilla of intensity on the defensive end. Maybe then, even a higher playoff seed will be worth discussing again.

If that happens, Wizards fans can longingly look back at that stretch of easy games as the catalyst to a better season (à la Angelo Dundee).

But if these games come and go, and the Wizards win just one, two or none at all, it’ll be justified to root against this team and openly root for trades, firings and tank-for-Zion-Williamson signs, because at that point the ship would be sinking and there will be more angry think pieces on this site and others (I see you, Stephen A. Smith). If that level of losing becomes pervasive, the Wizards frankly would have blown it, son.

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur)

Under no circumstance is it “OK” to root against the Wizards because that goes against the laws of fandom. What kind of fan-base gives up on their team but expects the players to fight until the end? Fair-weather fans, that’s who.

D.C. sports fans should be used to not receiving nice things and anyone who roots against the team is a coward.
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The Wizards Played Charlie Brown to the Mavericks’ Lucy http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/the-wizards-played-charlie-brown-to-the-mavericks-lucy.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/the-wizards-played-charlie-brown-to-the-mavericks-lucy.html#respond Wed, 07 Nov 2018 14:58:00 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56152

Three minutes into the Wizards-Mavs game, Otto Porter single-handedly cut a seven-point deficit to just two points with a 17-footer followed by a 3-point shot. Four minutes later, that smooth Porter stroke gave Washington their first lead of the game, 13-12, and it felt like a perfect storm of positive mojo was in motion. The Wizards were winning and, per Coach Scott Brooks’s directive, Porter was operating under the greenest of green lights.

Sadly, that was the last time the Wizards would lead the entire night. That sliver of hope morphed into the equivalent of Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown.

The Mavericks went on a 23-11 run and led 35-24 after one quarter. It wasn’t just the amount of points that deflated the Wizards’ momentum, it was how they were scored. Luka Doncic seemingly had carte blanche from beyond the arc and in the paint, as did Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr.

It was more of the same in the second quarter, except this time the culprit was Wesley Matthews’s 3-point shooting. He went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, and scored 14 as the Mavs pushed their lead from 11 to 21 points. In all, the Mavs scored 70 points in the first half, while the Wizards mustered just 49 points—partly because John Wall was the only consistent scorer, and partly due to the rotation decisions of Coach Scott Brooks, which remain woefully inconsistent.

Any defensive momentum that the Wizards hoped to carry over from holding the New York Knicks under 100 points just one game earlier was methodically quelled by the hot-shooting Mavs in just 24 short minutes.

The drinker of a glass half-full would attribute the disparity in play between the Mavs and Wizards to the coaching brilliance of Rick Carlisle—perfectly reasonable considering the Wizards have won just twice against Carlisle since 2008 (and losing 16 of the last 17). That same optimist would point out that the Mavericks shot an unsustainable 56 percent from the 3-point line, and 50 percent overall en route to their 21-point halftime lead. If the Wizards continued to shoot around 45 percent as they had in the first half, surely the Mavericks would cool off a bit, and this would be a much closer match.

And just like Lucy says all the right things and holds that football just long enough for Charlie Brown to believe he really and truly has a chance to connect, the Mavs took their foot off the gas, teasing the Wiz with the hope of a comeback.

Led by Porter (9 points) and Beal (8), the Wizards scored 29 points in the third, shooting 44 percent from the floor. The Mavs, meanwhile, went ice-cold from the 3-point line (20%) and shot just 37 percent overall. Just like that, the Wizards trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

That momentum continued for the Wizards in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, with Wall and Co. twice cutting the Mavs’ lead to six points. It looked like with a few stops and some timely shooting by Wall (who had 9 points and 3 assists in the quarter), the Wizards could possibly steal the game on the road.

Then, Lucy moved that football.

The Mavericks went on a 20-7 run the last 5:11 of the game, and during that same span the Wizards shot just 14 percent and made one (one!) shot from the field. In fact, the last five minutes of the game could easily serve as a lowlight reel of everything that has gone wrong for the Wizards this season. There was hero-ball, there were quick shots, missed open shots, and glaring lapses on the defensive end of the floor.

After the game, Coach Brooks repeated that his team simply has to stick together during these challenging times, and Wall blamed the lack of defensive communication—and the slow start—for the loss.

But the bottom line is that, at 2-8, the Washington Wizards are unable to sustain high-level play long enough to give themselves chances to win (even if they’ve shown, inconsistently, that they can play well enough to contend with anyone).

The Mavericks ran out to a big lead, faltered long enough to give a Wizards an easy target to hit, but the Wizards missed it and fell flat. Better luck next time, Charlie Brown.

 

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Communication Was Key As Wizards Snap Their 5-Game Losing Streak http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/communication-was-key-as-wizards-snap-their-5-game-losing-streak.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/communication-was-key-as-wizards-snap-their-5-game-losing-streak.html#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 14:42:23 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56126

When the Knicks tied the game at 84 with just over nine minutes left in the game, it seemed as if the tide was turning against the Wizards. A contingency of boisterous Knicks fans in the Capital One Arena, were awakened by the solid play of Enes Kanter and a contingent of young players. Kanter scored the tying basket on a put back attempt in which he maneuvered around Jason Smith with ease–which was fitting considering the Wizards are the worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA.

To combat that Knicks’ momentum, the Wizards bench listened to Scott Brooks’ new mantra of “stick together,” as the entire bench was up on their feet cheering and exuding positive energy. Part of the reason why the bench has been standing is because Dwight Howard, who is still recovering from a gluteal injury prefers to stand rather than sit and his circumstance has been the catalyst of the Wizards’ bench new cheering section. The team’s energy level needed to be increased not only on the floor but from the bench, and the Wizards were able to help galvanize the team by simply showing more support.

Washington badly needed to close out the game to stop the hemorrhaging caused by a four-game losing streak. To do,  so they would need strong closing performances from their All-Star back court of JohnWall and Bradley Beal.

At the time of Kanter’s game-tying basket,  Beal had already played the entire second half as Scott Brooks decided to shorten his rotation for a game he knew his team desperately needed. Wall rested briefly in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, but he came back into the game ready to lead the team to victory. Scott Brooks allowed Wall to run the team’s angle pick-and-roll to more easily create shots for himself and others as Brooks noted in his postgame remarks; “He took over with playmaking. He took care of the basketball. He sprinkled the offense all the way around. He had Dwight (Howard) a couple times, he had Brad (Beal), he had Austin (Rivers), he had Jeff (Green) for the lob. And he took a jump shot himself, but when we do that, we are hard to beat, cause you don’t want the (opposing) team to know that it’s so predictable.”

The Wizards ran the angle pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter, with Wall as ball-handler and Jeff Green as the roll man. The Wizards took . advantage of the youth and inexperience of the Knicks by forcing smaller defenders to have to make tough decisions  against the Wizards’ horn sets. The defenders had to either jump the coverage and attack Wall as the ball-handler and leave themselves susceptible to lob passes, or sag back and force John Wall to shoot. The Wizards were successful in both of those areas as Wall got into a nice rhythm with his jump shot while Green used his 6-foot-9 frame to play with bigger players such as Entes Kanter and Mitchell Robinson. Green finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds as he stabilized the Wizards bench unit.

The Wizards seemed to click offensively in the fourth quarter, but it was their defensive intensity and communication that allowed them to hold to Knicks to just 11 points in the final nine minutes of game action. When asked after the game about what he thinks the difference is with the team on the defensive end, Dwight Howard did not hesitate to credit the communication level as a catalyst for stronger play: “It’s just communication. We’ve been doing a better job of talking to each other. Our guys are starting to trust that somebody’s going to be behind them. It’s all about trust and communication.”

Wall revealed that he is mindset on defense is somewhat a balancing act of blind trust because he is so focused on what is going on in front of him and can’t see what exactly is going on behind him–but he knows because guys are talking: “I really do not know what is behind me because I am locked on the ball. I want to turn around and look, but just guys communicating, guys being able to help, guys being able to step for the next guy, guys rotating over. It just a lot more communication, a lot more intensity. We are denying the ball a lot, got a couple shot clock violations.”

Washington held their first opponent of the season under 100 points–and accomplishment that was not ignored by Scott Brooks after the game:

“That I didn’t see triple digits. It was nice to see below 100. We haven’t seen that. I think the guys competed. We started off the game with our best defense of the early season and then we finished that.”

This was in fact the Wizards best defensive effort of the season and a large part of that can be attributed to the team putting forth more effort, according to Bradley Beal: “I thought it was just the effort. I think it was put together for whole 48 minutes for the first time. The game’s fast, we played a good first half, we played a good second half, or we just played the whole game without trying to come back from being down such a large deficit. So it was good to be on the other side of it this time and be able to get after it.”

The Wizards put forth more effort andbetter results. It’s not a novelty concept that playing hard works, but sometimes it’s good for the team to see tangible results from simply playing with a sense of purpose instead of just going through the motions.  It also helped that youthful New York Knicks are just 26th in the NBA in points per game. Bradley Beal commented after Friday’s embarrassing lost to the Thunder that he would not allow the Wizards ship to sink, and at least for one night, the team was able to stay afloat.

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The Wizards Keep Collapsing, But Nobody Knows How To Fix Them http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/the-wizards-keep-collapsing-but-nobody-knows-how-to-fix-them.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/11/the-wizards-keep-collapsing-but-nobody-knows-how-to-fix-them.html#respond Sat, 03 Nov 2018 18:25:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56127 You have a table. It’s not an antique, but it’s not by any means a new table.

You also have a stack of books. You put the books on your table, and it collapses and shatters into a dozen pieces. Instead of buying a new one, or at least replacing a few legs, you pick up the pieces, slap on some duct tape, and stand that table right back up. You cut the stack of books in half, put the reduced stack on the table, and the table collapses once more.

At this point, you should accept defeat, throw your table in the trash, and head to Ikea for a new one (some assembly required). But you don’t. You keep trying with this crappy old table, and it keeps letting you down. No matter how much weight you put on it, it’s too much. You lower the standard, but the results remain the same.

Ladies and gentlemen, those are your 2018 Washington Wizards. And also your 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014 Washington Wizards. Each collapse is predictable, and easily explained by the previous attempts at repair instead of replacement. They’re trotting out the same table with new pieces of tape each time, wondering why this time it’s not suddenly different. They had chances several collapses ago, to replace a leg or two — swap out Bradley Beal or John Wall or Otto Porter for different pieces — but instead brought in Jeff Green and Jodie Meeks and Ramon Sessions-brand duct tape.

After the Wizards fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder by an embarrassing 23-point margin Friday night, several players repeated virtually identical lines, reiterating the undeniable fact that Washington is still trying to make this old, broken table work.

John Wall

“Anything looks great on paper until you go out and find that chemistry and do it all as a group and one, and everybody looks at themselves in the mirror, including myself first and everybody else down, and figures out what can we do to make the game easier and better for us and make us one chemistry group altogether.”

“It just looks like nobody’s on the same page [defensively]. If one person gets beat or somebody gives up a wide open shot, nobody is there to help that person or pick that person up.”

“You can’t teach effort. You can’t teach heart. You gotta go out there and compete, that’s something you just gotta be born with.”

Bradley Beal

“We’re just coming up short. We’re not doing the things that we need to do, and we just gotta get better. And the only way we can get through it is we just gotta fight our way out of it.”

“I refuse to let the ship sink, so as one of the captains on the team, I put a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. I’ve got to be better leadership-wise on the floor, giving more, leading by example, and hopefully guys will follow.”

Dwight Howard

“We just gotta stay positive, stay focused, not allow moments like this to kill the atmosphere.”

“It’s all mental. That’s the only way we’re going to change this. It’s mental.”

So how do you improve that? Is there a change that needs to be made?

“You have to continue to tell yourself, ‘We’re going to get out of this.’ You’ve got to stay positive. There’s nothing else I can say. We work. We get in the gym, we put in the work, we gotta trust the work. But now we gotta be able to change our minds. It’s all a mindset.”

Scott Brooks

“I have to figure it out. We can’t just keep watching the same thing over and over and over and expect things are gonna change.”

Scott Brooks has said similar things for a year now. Last year he repeatedly lamented needing to find five guys who would play hard, but his lineups rarely changed. The emptiness of his threats is deafening.

The Wizards starters opened Friday’s game hot, but by the end of the first quarter, Brooks had thrown together a lineup featuring Tomas Satoransky, Austin Rivers, Kelly Oubre, Jeff Green, and Ian Mahinmi. When asked about the five-reserve lineup, which was immediately outscored by 13 points at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second, after the rout, Brooks essentially said, well, the other coach did it, too.

“At that time in the game, they had Abrines, Schroder, Patterson, Noel, and Diallo. They didn’t have a starter on the floor, either.”

Brooks added that, “moving forward, everything’s open” and wondered aloud if playing a “smaller rotation” or “other guys” would be better. There was a time when vague threats such as “everything’s open” would raise eyebrows round these parts, but we’ve heard so many versions of that trope already that it’s easy to ignore. In all likelihood, the same five starters will trot out against the Knicks on Sunday, then the same group of reserves will be on the floor around the start of the second quarter.

Things aren’t changing. Everybody’s still going to be playing with “their own agendas” and other charming code words until real, tangible moves are made at the top.

But Ernie Grunfeld isn’t going to Ikea for a new table, nor is he swapping out one of the broken legs for a new, sturdy leg. He’s hopping in the car, driving right past Ikea, and heading to the hardware store to look for a different brand of duct tape.

And Ted Leonsis will continue to employ this man who is on his seventh roll of duct tape, convinced he can tape up this table in just the right way that, one day soon, he’ll be able to throw his feet up on that old table and relax at the thought of a job well done.

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More Turnovers, More Defensive Errors in Memphis — Washington Drops Fourth in a Row http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/more-turnovers-more-defensive-errors-in-memphis-washington-drops-fourth-in-a-row.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/more-turnovers-more-defensive-errors-in-memphis-washington-drops-fourth-in-a-row.html#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 05:08:48 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56119

Scott Brooks’s message to his team (now 1-6) after losing their fourth game in a row was pretty simple: “Stick together.”

Ten days ago, the Wizards left D.C. heading west to Portland with a glimmer of hope in their eyes. Yes, the team was 0-2, but they’d competed valiantly in home losses to Miami and Toronto. The Wiz were seemingly on the same page. We’ll shoot more 3s, they said, we’ll rebound the basketball, they said.

The Wizards are, indeed, shooting more 3s overall on the season, and against the Grizzlies they actually hit them at an efficient rate, going 14-for-35 from beyond the arc (40%). Making deep shots wasn’t the problem in the Wizards’ 95-107 loss to the Grizzlies. Defending them was: Memphis hit 46.4% of their 3s.

Washington continues to have major defensive communication issues, and they are constantly allowing either wide-open 3-point shots on the perimeter or backdoor layups at the rim. Memphis outscored Washington 44-30 in the paint, as the Wizards were dominated by adept inside-out play.

With the man tabbed to be the starting center yet to suit up, Jason Smith gave a workmanlike effort and even hit a few shots, but he’d never be expected contain Marc Gasol on the block. Of course, Smith was on the floor for 24 minutes because Ian Mahinmi continues to foul at an exponential rate. Ernie Grunfeld’s free agent jewel from 2016 has not been able to transfer his strong play from the preseason into tangible results and his presence only amplifies the Wizards’ glaring need for Dwight Howard to return. League sources suggest that’ll be Friday.

Dwight’s debut should not be viewed as a franchise-saving addition, but he should provide balance with rim protection and rebounding. The only question is how much does Dwight have left in the tank to give to a team that desperately needs him to be near his best? Howard proved lasts season that he could play a more modern style, by setting more screens and rolling to the basket instead of demanding post touches. Whether he can stay on the floor long-term is another question.

Marred By Turnovers

Washington committed an egregious 20 turnovers in the game and nine of those came from an indecisive John Wall, who never really seemed comfortable passing the ball in this one. The Grizzlies got a lot of hands on the ball.

Bradley Beal, who can be jittery with the basketball in certain spots, struggled a bit too, with four turnovers—worse, he was not able to initiate the offense fourth quarter stretch while Wall rested on the bench.

Scott Brooks insists on playing Austin Rivers near starter-level minutes, despite the fact that he has done nothing to earn that extended run. Rivers has looked uncomfortable for the duration of his brief Wizards career, and while he’s never been a player known for getting his teammates involved, in Washington hasn’t even shown the ability to create quality shots for himself either. At some point, Scott Brooks has to be willing see what more he can get from Tomas Satoransky, who proved last season in John Wall’s absence that he can facilitate and get the ball in the hands of the people who need it—and know what to do with it.

Oubre Continues to Ride the Wave

The lone undisputed bright spot for the Wizards this season has been the consistent play of Kelly Oubre Jr. Oubre has kept his energy level high on the defensive, using his length to disrupt passing lanes, end and worked diligently to keep his mental lapses to a minimum.

On the other side of the ball, Oubre is spotting-up well for 3-point attempts (39.1% on shots with zero dribbles) and being decisive with his dribble-drives to the basket. The work that he put in with Drew Hanlen is showing—perhaps there’s already pressure on the Wizards front office for having not offered him a contract extension in the fall to prevent him from reaching restricted free agency this summer. His 14 points per game and .400-plus shooting from beyond the arc are nice, but the Wizards might need even more from Oubre if they hope to turn this season around.

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Where the “Bottom” Can Never Truly Be Reached — Clippers 136, Wizards 104 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/where-the-bottom-can-never-truly-be-reached-clippers-136-wizards-104.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/where-the-bottom-can-never-truly-be-reached-clippers-136-wizards-104.html#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 13:08:31 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56098

1-5 is the feeling you get when the rent is a week late.

1-5 is the slow sinking sensation that creeps in when the check engine light comes on 200 miles into a 700-mile journey.

1-5 is when someone tells you that they aren’t mad, they’re just disappointed.

Let’s lock onto that last feeling for a moment. If you happen to be one of the few certifiable maniacs left who follows this team passionately, the feeling that you are probably grappling with right now isn’t a blinding anger—it is a bitter and consuming despair that nothing, as relates to the Washington Wizards basketball franchise, will ever change.

The Wizards lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, 136-104, on Sunday evening. On the face of it: This result is bad. And yet, when you really dig into it, it becomes so much more deliciously worse. Here are a few precious moments from a loss Sunday:

  • In the second quarter quarter, John Wall listlessly drove the ball up court with his Wizards down by ‘only’ seven points. Wall meandered around the top of the key (while the rest of his teammates stood in stasis) then half-heartedly drove into the teeth of Clippers defense, before kicking it out to Markieff Morris, who missed a 3-pointer. Wall ended up with the ball back in his hands and went up to yam it home—only to have it stuffed back in his face by Tobias Harris. All the Wizards jogged back in transition D.

  • The Wizards trailed the Clippers at one point in the third quarter by 29 points.
  • Montrezl Harrell, the kind of player that the Wizards would pay blood money to have on their team, absolutely destroyed the Wizards on the interior all night. On three straight possessions during the second quarter, Harrell slipped his man in Markieff Morris, either slicing past him for an uncontested bucket or simply ignoring Morris’s “defense” to grab position and put in an easy putback. His final stat line: 12 points in 10 minutes (on 6-7 shooting), 4 boards, 2 turnovers, and plus-6.

 

Let’s kick it over to John Wall for a moment. What say you fearless leader?

Wait, this isn’t very fair. Quick break for some positivity.

There are still some optimists out there on #WizardsTwitter. Those who believe that the Wizards are one ass cheek healing away from becoming somewhat relevant. The founder of this site even conducted an informal poll to capture the madness.

To these loyalist partisans I say: I wish I could have what you are having. As much as Howard might shore up the rebounding issues for a team paper thin in bigs (despite the tens of millions of dollars being paid to them), his arrival also brings along with it the need for more touches. Further, a return the glories of 2011 basketball is not going to right the Wizards ship.

Even more sobering for the Dwight-stans out there on the internet: The Wizards have managed to self-implode even with the combustible Mr. Howard’s personality parked safely 3,000 miles away. Crowdsourced wisdom was that Howard’s mere presence was enough to send the Wizards into paroxysms of self-inflicted madness. Those that predicted a toxic locker room were right—but it turns out that Dwight Howard was not the match needed to light that tinder. The Wizards can be plenty dysfunctional without their shiny new acquisition, thank you very much.

Back to some “key moments” from the night:

  • The Wizards defense is so repugnant, so lazy, so theatrically over-the-top hot trash that when the Wizards broadcast team threw it over to the Clippers for a live listen in to their play-by-play in the third quarter, the first words you heard were “The Wizards are a baaaaad defensive team.”

  • With minutes left in the second quarter, Morris once again did a poor job of establishing positioning and allowed Danilo Gallinari of all people to swipe a board away. In the ensuing tussle, Morris caught an inadvertent elbow to the temple/eye region. The Wizards then went ahead and ran a play 4-5 as Morris lay in a crumpled heap. When play finally stopped to get Morris medical attention, two Clippers (Patrick Beverly and ex-Wiz Mike Scott) stayed with Morris as he was being tended to—not one single Wizard went over to check on their teammate.
  • The aforementioned Mike Scott (who was really excited about a big Skins win today!) did all the usual Mike Scott things, including hitting 80% of his shots, going 3-for-3 from behind the arc and finishing plus/minus of plus-13. It is obvious why the Wizards made no effort to retain him.

Woof. Lemme take another break and have Scotty calm me down…

After Friday’s loss to Sacramento, the usual drivel crept out of the Wizards locker room. There was talk about “agendas.” There was talk about certain teammates by those willing to complain after the game was over—but no one was holding each other accountable on the court. There was (gasp!) the accusation that there were individuals on the team more interested in “getting touches” than playing winning basketball. Yet those same leaders—the Walls, the Beals, the Morris(esssss)—whose job it is to make sure that “everyone eats” and that agendas would not and will not be tolerated were responsible for this stunning statistic as many viewers shut off their television at halftime: the Wizards had a grand total of five assists on 21 made FGs for 54 total points. Meanwhile, the Clippers had 19 assists on 28 FGMs for 69 points.

The Wizards have been thrashed by good teams (Toronto), young teams (Sacramento), and deep teams (LAC). The Wizards are NOT, as Scott Brooks would have you believe, “a play or two away” from having a different record. They have been systematically dismantled in myriad ways by teams with wildly varying different personnel. And the collective reaction of the Wizards coaching staff has been to attempt to keep the fires of the injury narrative burning by pointing to Dwight Howard’s absence—and when that didn’t work, by throwing Otto Porter of all people under the bus for being a selfish jerk who only wants touches.

The Wizards are not 1-5 because an ass cheek will not heal. The Wizards are not 1-5 because Otto Porter has suddenly become a locker room disease on par with Avian Bird Flu. The Wizards are 1-5 because they are a bad basketball team. The Wizards are 1-5 because they are being coached poorly. The Wizards are 1-5 because they have had the same GM running the show since 2003 who insists on painting around the edges of the team rather than trying something, anything that would threaten continuity.

The bottom line is that the Wizards are bad because they are simply a terrible basketball team in all the ways that turn off the casual observer. They are allergic to defense. They do not share the ball. They look and act like they’d rather be doing anything else than playing the game of basketball. And then, to cap it all off, they bitch and moan about how unfair the scrutiny is that they have to endure.

The problem with 1-5 is not that it’s rock bottom. The problem with 1-5 is that “bottom” isn’t even yet within sight.

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Time to Break Up the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/time-to-break-up-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/time-to-break-up-the-wizards.html#respond Sat, 27 Oct 2018 15:16:53 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56086 washington wizards, best backcourt, NBA, truth about it, adam mcginnis, john wall, bradley beal

For countless times over numerous rosters, the Wizards have played down to competition perceived to be of a lower echelon. Even though you would be wrong to convince yourself that no other team does this, Washington most definitely is on a different scale. Accordingly, they fell to the Kings in Sacramento on Friday night, 112-116, after getting outscored 37-27 in the fourth quarter (and after starting it with a six-point lead).

Those entrenched in watching this team are forced to grapple between thinking these Wizards can never maximize their talents, and wondering if they’re just not that good. And to be clear, we’re talking about this team that exists as John Wall and Bradley Beal, and not the surrounding parts. Not even Otto Porter, who shot 2-for-6 for 5 points and zero free throw attempts in 21-plus minutes. Scott Brooks tagged him to the bench for good with 4:39 left.

The game featured the normal ebbs and flows of two similar, middle-of-the-pack NBA teams duking it out. Except one middler featured a veteran lineup — Wall, Beal, Porter, Markieff Morris and Ian Mahinmi (36 total seasons of experience). While the other was a cadre of kids — Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, Willie Cauley-Stein, Nemanja Bjelica, and Marvin Bagley (9 total seasons).

There were 20 lead changes and six ties. The Kings led for most of the first quarter, Washington for the bulk of the second and into the third, Sacramento coming back and pulling ahead, the Wizards wrestling the lead back into the fourth, and the home team closing it out. What’s semi-wild is that the Wizards led for much of game but always seemed to be playing from behind.

How it fell apart offensively for Washington was more dopey and uncoordinated that you could imagine, especially after they didn’t score a point three minutes into the game.

They had the ball, down one point, with 23 seconds left in the game and Beal, unprompted, just lost the ball out of bounds. They had the ball down two with 9 seconds left, and Morris shuffled his feet and traveled. And finally, they had the ball, down two with two-plus seconds left — no timeouts and taking it out from the opposite baseline but still with a chance — and Jeff Green sailed a rocket pass way beyond a teammate’s reach and way out of bounds. Green just kind of shrugged his shoulders afterward.

Defensively, the Wizards were a mess. A poor reflection of their inability to care, a poor reflection of their coach’s ability to get them to care (or maybe just coach). It was only the first quarter and the Wizards were running into each other on screens, watching their fearless leader jog back on defense, and allowing Hield (22 points) to run circles around their efforts.

They played defense to be in a position, spot, in hopes of not being individually accountable for mistakes … instead of playing off each other as a team. Sacramento seemed to pick on one player’s defense in particular all night — Markieff Morris — because they knew it would bear fruit more times than not.

The second half was more of the same, and this writer is ashamed to even describe it. Hard to tell if Washington’s plan was to switch everything in this era of the 3-point ball, or if they’re just — again — that ‘lazy’ word. There was one Kings possessions where Wall was pointing and calling for every switch, so I guess it was supposed to happen when Morris wasn’t ready to jump out on Hield curling off a screen: 3-point bucket.

Sacramento immediately hit another 3 as Morris and Porter crossed wires in transition coverage: Nemanja Bjelica (26 points, six 3-pointers) trailing 3 from the top of the key.

And then it happened again, right away:

The necks of Wizards players twist to-and-fro after poor plays so much that it’s hard to tell if they are taking issue with the referees, or smirking at some teammates to complain about other teammates. This is both unsustainable and unwatchable.

Media reports after the game from the Washington Post and the Athletic relay a disjointed locker room with players snipping at each other. Wall and Beal seemed to lead the way — as if their shit does not stink. The reality is that they are starting to be the common denominator here (with all due respect to Ernie Grunfeld).

“That’s the proof in the pudding. Everybody on their own agenda.” —John Wall

“It’s talking. After the game, you hear it be loud as [expletive] in here, but during the game, it’s church mice.” —Bradley Beal

This looks like the same crappy team that lost to the Lakers and Suns early in last year’s failure of a season. The same team that has for years insisted on barking while their bite is incapable and misaligned.

It’s time to be honest here. It’s time to break up the Wizards.

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Near Career Night For Steph Curry Sends Wizards Reeling http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/near-career-night-for-steph-curry-sends-wizards-reeling.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/near-career-night-for-steph-curry-sends-wizards-reeling.html#respond Thu, 25 Oct 2018 10:59:06 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56073

OAKLAND, CA – OCTOBER 24: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors on October 24, 2018 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Steph Curry played against the Wizards as if he were a man possessed, or rather he played the game like a man defending the honor of his baby brother. The latter is probably a made up narrative, but it might help Wizards fans sleep better knowing that their demise came at the hands of a player who can best be described as the cheat code to the analytics world.

Curry poured in 51 points through three quarters against the Wizards as he was serenaded by MVP chants from the electric Oracle crowd all night. “Some of the shots he was making, you just don’t see it,” says Scott Brooks in his post-game media availability. “It seemed like every three was a back breaker and then it seemed like we missed every chance to cut the lead from eight to five or seven to four,” Brooks continued.

Washington didn’t play terribly in their 144-122 loss, but the team didn’t play all that great either and as the great Jay-Z once said: “Moral victories are for minor league coaches.” The Wizards were at a severe disadvantage to begin the game when they were forced to start Jason Smith at center against the defending champions. Surely Smith did not envision a scenario in where he would be relied on to hedge pick and rolls against Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, but injuries to Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard thrust him into the role.

Golden State started hot by finding Kevin Durant early and often, as the P.G. County native started the game 5/5 from the field with 10 points in the first quarter. Durant’s perfection combined with Curry’s brilliance resulted in the Wizards facing an insurmountable challenge. It certainly did not help that Bradley Beal missed a significant chunk of his first half with a bruised sternum. Beal would eventually return to the game, and wind up leading the Wizards in scoring with 23 points on 10-15 shooting from the field. But he did not receive sufficient help from his Wizards’ teammates to ward off the onslaught of Curry and company.

John Wall did not have his best outing in Oakland as he only shot 5-12 from the field and was not able to really ever seize control of the game as he has grown so accustomed to doing. Wall seemed to be reacting, rather than asserting himself within the flow of the game. Wall has looked sharp driving the ball to the basket, his shooting stoke has not come around just yet. Wall has shot 2-17 from behind the arc for 11% and is still struggling to find his rhythm overall offensively.

On a more positive note, Scott Brooks demonstrated signs of incremental growth with his rotations. For the first game this season Scott Brooks elected to not go to the all-reserve unit to start the second quarter, and chose with Otto Porter surrounded by a combination of versatile athletes. In the past, both Brooks and Wall seemed frustrated with Porter for not aggressively looking for own shot, and Brooks attempted to solve that problem by putting Otto in the best possible position to succeed without Wall and Beal on the court. Otto finished with just 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, but he does appear to be more comfortable as the focal point of the offense as opposed to being a tertiary option

The Wizards wing who is actually hitting his shots this season has been Kelly Oubre who, once again is starting the season on a hot-shooting streak. Oubre was the second leading scorer with 17 points on 5-10 shooting from the floor and 3-6 from three. He continued to play with energy, and his versatility on both ends of the floor allowed the Wizards small-ball units to flourish.

There are still three games left on the Wizards five-game road trip and each one of those games is quite winnable.  There is no shame in losing to the champs by more than 20 points, but it is a not-so-subtle reminder of just how far this team has to go.

 

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John Wall’s Relationship With the Refs May Finally Be Improving http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/john-walls-relationship-with-the-refs-may-finally-be-improving.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/john-walls-relationship-with-the-refs-may-finally-be-improving.html#respond Wed, 24 Oct 2018 21:34:07 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56064
Oct 20, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) argues a foul call with referee Steve Anderson (35) against the Toronto Raptors in the fourth quarter at Capital One Arena.

[Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports]

John Wall’s tumultuous relationship with NBA referees may finally be turning the corner and he may not even recognize it. In the past, the five-time NBA All-Star emphasized that he did not get his fair share of calls from the referees when he attacked the basket.

“You drive to the basket and get contact the whole game and try to make up for those calls the last two or three minutes of the game, it gets frustrating.” —John Wall, March 2017

“Because I try to do the same thing as LeBron. But when I turn the corner and get downhill, I don’t get those same calls when people put hands on me or contact with me. I already knew the play before that when I drove on LeBron I wasn’t gonna get a call. So why even put myself in that position? Same thing happened with Jeff Green. I knew they wasn’t gonna give me a call, so I tried to find a teammate for a wide-open shot. Just give that guy credit for making a great defensive stop.” —John Wall, April 2018

Even just last week, Wall commented on some questionable calls the team received in the loss to the Toronto Raptors, calling it “pretty interesting.”

Wall’s historical complaints about his treatment from the referees are valid. He consistently ranks as one of the top players in the league in drives, yet for his career only shoots 5.5 free throw attempts (FTA’s) per game. This season through three games, Wall has gotten more calls off his dribble-drives to the basket, and he is currently tied with Anthony Davis for the lead in free throws attempted per game at 11.3. To put that into perspective, James Harden led the entire NBA with 10.1 FTA per game last season—and those added points helped propel him to a scoring title and his first MVP award.

The next step in Wall’s progression as a player would be to capitalize on his increased free throw rate by hitting more of his attempts. Wall is shooting a career low 70.6% from the charity stripe, including two critical misses at the end of the Wizards’ thrilling (if also fortunate) overtime win against the Trail Blazers on Monday. The misses occurred with the Wizards up one point with 6.6 seconds left, and allowed the Blazers one last opportunity to win the game. Luckily Otto Porter saved the day with his blocked shot of Damian Lillard’s layup attempt.

Small sample size, sure, but Wall’s increased free throw attempts are a positive sign for him moving forward this season. Wall appears to have more body control on his driving attempts and he has been able to slither his way around defenders as opposed to barreling into them as he did in the past.

Scott Brooks wants the Wizards to play smarter basketball. Getting to the free throw line, and hitting, is one of the most important tenets of basketball analytics theology.

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Led by Morris and Oubre, the Wiz Stamp Out the Blazers in OT http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/keef-and-oubre-lead-the-charge-as-the-wizards-grind-for-their-first-win.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/keef-and-oubre-lead-the-charge-as-the-wizards-grind-for-their-first-win.html#respond Tue, 23 Oct 2018 12:57:25 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56051

[Photo: Associated Press]

With their backs against the wall, two Wizards players saved the franchise from facing the dynastic Golden State Warriors as an 0-3 team.

Yes, John Wall and Bradley Beal made a few plays down the stretch that contributed to the 125-124 victory (more on that later), but this game was won on the backs of two of their most outwardly expressive talents: Kelly Oubre and Markieff Morris.

Keef arguably had his best all-around game in a Wizards uniforms, and his energy and big-time shot-making were catalysts for their first win of the season. He hit a career-high six 3s and each one was more timely—he hit half of them in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Wizards ran a succession of plays to Markieff Morris which allowed him to take advantage of 1) either a smaller defender switched onto him in the post or 2) Jusuf Nurkic lumbering to contest shots from outside. Keef consistently answered the bell and showed why Wall has the confidence to get him the ball at the end of games, and why Scott Brooks will have that same confidence to play Keef at the 5 more often.

Oubre did not have many, or any, plays called for him at the end of the game, but he was impactful on both ends of the floor. He allowed the Wizards to play small for the majority of the game after Ian Mahnmi left in the first quarter with back spasms. Scott Brooks elected to go small with Keef and Jeff Green at the 5, instead of relying too heavily on traditional big like Jason Smith. Oubre did not settle for 3s but was as aggressive as he’s ever been in terms of attacking the basket. With two minutes to go, he pulled in a board and pushed up the court for an and-1, tying the game at 102. That was the exact spark the Wizards needed.

There have been many instances where Brooks has declared Oubre an “X-factor” for the Wizards and on Monday night, he proved to be just that. This warm embrace between Oubre and Brooks at the end said all you need to know about their relationship.

The Wizards need Oubre’s defensive presence more than his offensive output, but last night is proof that Oubre can deliver both. The dribble-drive work that Oubre put in with trainer Drew Hanlen this summer seems to be paying off, as he scored six of his nine field goals on layup finishes at the rim.

Oubre was also disciplined enough to stay in the game after picking up his fifth foul with 1:54 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The team was already running thin in the front-court when Jeff Green hurt himself on the final play of regulation, and Oubre’s presence on the court became imperative. He kept his composure when it was needed most.

Even though the Wizards received strong performances from Keef and Oubre, the team still needed a trio of plays from their three max-contract players to eek out the victory. The first play came from Brad who hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds to go to send the game into overtime. (If I were the Blazers, I’d have just let Wall shoot that 3 at the break.)

The second play was a fortuitous bank shot from John Wall to put the team up four with 10.1 seconds left.

This should have been the game-sealing play, but in #SoWizards fashion, the team allowed CJ McCollum to hit a 3-pointer to bring the Trail Blazers within one. John Wall had the chance to ice the game from the free throw line, but he missed the pair, affording Portland one last attempt to steal the win. An electric Moda Center crowd was assured that “Dame Time” was coming, but not on Otto Porter’s watch (this time, at least):

Washington still has so much to clean up, but credit them for showing grit. A win is a win, and perhaps it’ll have a galvanizing effect as they take on the Golden State Warriors tonight.

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Wizards Fans Have No One to Blame But Themselves http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/wizards-fans-have-no-one-to-blame-but-themselves.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/wizards-fans-have-no-one-to-blame-but-themselves.html#respond Mon, 22 Oct 2018 11:39:07 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56038

Admit it.

You talked yourself into this Wizards team during the off-season.

You said things like:

“This is the deepest team in 15 years.”

and

“What if Dwight Howard has changed?”

You read articles about shooting 3-pointers and you allowed yourself to imagine the team playing a modern style.

You heard all the players say Ian Mahinmi is ready for a breakout, and damn if he didn’t look skinnier and more active in the preseason.

You heard Otto Porter promise to be more aggressive.

You heard Scott Brooks say he wants multiple players bringing the ball up the court.

You heard John Wall was going to play more off the ball.

You heard the team would stop arguing over calls.

You heard they would stop playing hero-ball at the end of games.

You heard all of it and you actually started to believe it all. As the calendar turned to October and optimistic training camp stories from beat reporters filled your timeline, you let your mind wander. Maybe, just maybe, if everything goes right, this team could be pretty good.

Then the season started, and it all came crashing down.

It’s not just that the Wizards lost their home opener to a Miami Heat team playing on a back-to-back with multiple injured players. It’s not just that they followed that up with a loss to a Toronto Raptors team playing on a back-to-back without Kawhi Leonard.

It’s how they lost.

The Washington Wizards are the exact same team they were last year (and the year before and the year before). Nothing has changed. All that preseason talk was just that – talk.

They still argue with refs. They still play hero-ball. Brooks still plays an all-bench unit that consistently gets outplayed. The bigs still don’t rebound. Nobody defends. Ian Mahinmi still fouls too much. John Wall still dribbles too much. Otto Porter still never gets open. Kelly Oubre still makes careless mistakes. Markieff still takes plays off. They still lose to shorthanded teams. They still fail to execute down the stretch of close games.

It’s easy to write off these losses as just two games out of an 82-game season. Scott Brooks attempted to do just that after the Raptors loss: “If it’s a two-game season, we had a bad year. It’s not.”

While Brooks is technically correct, the rest of his quote is revealing:

“We got a lot of basketball left. We’re close, and no athlete, no team, no coach is going to like to talk about close but we are. We got a couple of things here and there that we have to clean up. We’re making some mental mistakes, we have to stay in front of the ball, we can’t get beat back door when the ball goes around us. We got to put more pressure on the basketball and not get so–the ball cannot just get so easily into the key. With all that being said, both games we had a chance to win.”

The notion that the Wizards are “close” is absurd. This is not a brand new roster that needs time to gel. This is Scott Brooks’ third season with the Wizards. This is Wall, Beal and Otto’s sixth season together. The team is now 16 months removed from when they supposedly already “arrived” in a seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal series loss against the Boston Celtics.

And now we are supposed to believe this team simply needs to figure out a few basic defensive concepts and they will be ready to contend? This Wizards core is not an up-and-coming group. They are not “close” to reaching their potential. They have already realized it. They are who they are.

Former CSN Washington Wizards reporter J. Michael tweeted video of a few of Washington’s defensive lapses against the Raptors.

These are fundamental mistakes that have been happening in Washington for years. They are not minor miscues that can be cleaned up with a couple hard practices.

It was a bit comical reading Austin Rivers’ diagnosis of the Wizards’ problems after the Raptors loss:

“We got to rebound the ball, we got to make hustle plays, we got to defend. We are making it much more difficult. We lost to Toronto without Kawhi, we lost to the Heat without their guys, both on a back-to-back. We got to man up and take this personal.”

It reminded me of something that Emeka Okafor said way back in 2012 after the Wizards lost their first two games of that season. The newly-acquired Okafor did not understand why everyone was  so worried about an 0-2 start: “To make it a big deal out of 2 [games], I don’t think it’s fair.”

Both Austin and Emeka had the luxury of not having spent years watching Washington play. Wizards fans have no such luxury. Ted Leonsis may have been correct when he said this is possibly the deepest Wizards team he has had during his ownership. But that says a whole lot more about the ineffectiveness of the 15 previous rosters that Ernie Grunfeld has assembled than it does about the current Wizards’ team.

The Wizards spent the off-season promising a more modern, egalitarian brand of basketball. On opening night versus Miami, and again on Saturday against Toronto, Washington had chances to show how much they had evolved. After back-to-back losses to shorthanded opponents, it is painfully obvious that nothing has changed.

Whether the Wizards go 1-4 or 4-1 on their five-game west coast trip that starts tonight in Portland, their fate has been sealed. As Maya Angelou taught Oprah and Oprah, in turn, taught us: When people show you who they are, believe them. This applies equally to basketball teams.

The Washington Wizards showed us exactly who they are. It’s time to stop making excuses and finally believe them. If not, Wizards fans, you have no one to blame but yourself.

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Disturbing Trends Emerge As Wizards Go South Against the North http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/disturbing-trends-emerge-as-wizards-go-south-against-the-north.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/disturbing-trends-emerge-as-wizards-go-south-against-the-north.html#respond Sun, 21 Oct 2018 07:44:22 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56011 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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Small-Ball Wizards Come Up Short In Season Opener http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/small-ball-comes-up-short-as-wizards-drop-season-opener.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/small-ball-comes-up-short-as-wizards-drop-season-opener.html#respond Fri, 19 Oct 2018 06:43:51 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55982

[Photo credit to USA Today’s Geoff Burke]

Washington came into the season insisting that they would play smaller and faster to adapt to the “pace and space” style of basketball that’s swept the NBA. Although their lineups reflected such, the production did not match.

The Wizards’ hand was kind of forced to play smaller Thursday night because their prized free agent acquisition, Dwight Howard, sat out after missing three weeks of training camp. (He only had three practices under his belt.)

Throughout the preseason, Coach Brooks implored his players to take more 3s during the 2018-19 season, but in their home opener, the Wizards were incapable of living up to their pre-season edict. Washington took 26 shots from 3-point range, fewer than the 30 3-point attempts Brooks asked for, according to Markieff Morris postgame, and drastically less than the 36 treys they averaged during the preseason

Conversely, the Wizards did not do a good enough job of driving the Heat off of the 3-point line, as they allowed Miami to shoot 35 3s in the game. A few of Miami’s 3s came on second-chance opportunities—the Wizards gave up 22 offensive rebounds and were outscored 27-10 in second-chance points.

Rebounding the basketball was a problem and it wasn’t just because the team went “small.”

“Shot goes up, you put four bodies on guys that are not shooting the basketball. It’s as simple as that. If that’s confusing and then we gave up too many easy plays backdoor,” Scott Brooks lamented in the postgame press conference. “It’s the little things that we got to, the mental errors that we got to clean up.”

The team needed to be sharper on the court and Brooks needed to be sharper from the bench. The all-bench lineup, a mainstay from last season, was back on display, despite having ample opportunity to stagger his three “max” contract players. There was a seven-minute stretch from the three-minute mark in the first quarter to nearly the eight-minute mark of the second quarter when the Wizards did not have a single starter on the floor. To the surprise of no one in the arena, besides Scott Brooks, the Heat were able to go on a 13-6 run and get back in the game.

Otto Porter continues to pay the biggest price for Brooks’s lineup decisions. The swingman continues to be a tertiary option playing next to Wall and Beal when his minutes could easily be staggered to allow him to be the focal point of the offense, or at least a top option, at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters when Wall and Beal usually sit. On media day, Scott Brooks implored Otto Porter to take as many 3-pointers as he would like—and for media members to yell at him when he passes up open shots. Even so, it was all too quiet: Porter did not attempt a shot from deep for the first time since 2016.

When asked after the game how he could get Otto more 3-point looks, a perplexed John Wall cracked a smile and said, “Everyone keeps asking that question.” Then he gave a politically correct answer: “When you’re switching 1 through 4 or 1 through 5, it’s kind of hard to get those opportunities. So you come off pin-downs [and] you have to take opportunities to get those or run in transition–we try to get a lot of 3s in that aspect. Other than that, if you’re going to go iso one-on-one and shoot 3s off of that it’s kind of hard. We drive-and-kick as much as possible, but switching 1 through 4 makes it kind of tough [for Porter to get open looks].”

Wall is right to be frustrated by the media’s incessant line of questioning, as if it’s entirely his fault that Otto Porter isn’t more aggressive. While the point guard has some responsibility to get Otto the ball when they share the floor, it is also up to Coach Brooks to put Porter in the best possible positions to succeed. It also seemed as if the Miami Heat made it a point of emphasis to not allow the sharpshooting Porter to beat them this game.

“The way they played defense, everybody’s in,” Porter said postgame. “And they’re able to just move and communicate. [Miami] did a good job of clogging the paint tonight.”

On most nights, Washington may be able to get away with playing smaller. They won’t always face centers like Hassan Whiteside—who refused to let the Wizards to beat them inside (Washington could not make them pay from the outside). Morris mentioned how tough it was to go up against the behemoth Whiteside: “7-foot-1, 250 plus and you’ve got to block him out. It was a tough one tonight, but it’s the first game of the season and we’ll bounce back.”

Whiteside is one of the bigger players in the NBA, but he was not on the court for the last meaningful play of the game. Kelly Olynyk was, he was Markieff’s man, and Morris failed to box out–another mental error as mentioned by Brooks before. TAI’s Rashad Mobley has the full story on that moment.

Dwight Howard, once cleared, should help on the offensive glass and his presence was sorely missed in this game as the Wiz were out-rebounded by 15. But not even Superman can grab every rebound–it will take a concerted effort from everyone on the court to lift this team from mediocrity.

“We did a lot of good things,” Brooks said. “But we got to rebound the basketball. It’s pretty simple.”

 

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From The Other Side: Wizards vs. Heat – Another Kelly Olynyk Dagger http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/from-the-other-side-wizards-vs-heat-another-kelly-olynyk-dagger.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/from-the-other-side-wizards-vs-heat-another-kelly-olynyk-dagger.html#respond Fri, 19 Oct 2018 06:04:27 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55983 Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use that access to explore what’s going on with the opposing team. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the play Kelly Olynyk made to spoil Washington’s home opener.

After Miami’s 113-112 win over the Washington Wizards, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra compared the Wizards’ opening night energy to a playoff atmosphere:

“These home opening nights, there are great for your team because they’re probably some of the closest games–in terms of focus and intensity–you’ll get to the playoffs in the regular season because everyone’s all hyped up your first game playing in front of your fans. So it was good to see us respond in the right way.”

If that is indeed the case, it is fitting that Kelly Olynyk, who slayed the Wizards as a member of the Boston Celtics in the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals, once again played the villain in Miami’s game-winning final play. But that wasn’t initially the plan.

Josh Richardson, who was the Heat’s leading scorer with 28 points, was supposed to get the winning shot. With 6.6 seconds remaining and Miami trailing 112-111, the play called for Dwyane Wade to dribble towards Richardson, who would take the hand-off and create the best shot he could. But Wade quickly assessed the situation and decided to go in a different direction.

“Yeah, I shot it. We had six seconds left, so I wanted to get to it quick to give us an opportunity to get up on the boards,” Wade said after the game. “I didn’t want to shot fake or anything and leave it in the refs hands, I wanted to shoot it to give ourselves a chance.”

Up to that point, Wade had shot just 4-for-10 from the field, so the miss on his 11th shot was not completely unexpected. But what happened next was a bit of a cruel surprise–especially to the Wizards.

Olynyk, who was subject to loud boos the entire night because of his aforementioned Game 7 performance at the Wizards expense in 2017, was subbed into the game for Hassan Whiteside with 6.6 seconds left after a Miami timeout. He anticipated that Wade was going to miss and acted accordingly. He dove to the rim, grabbed the rebound, laid it up in traffic, and gave the Heat a 113-112 lead with 0.2 seconds left.

The Wizards tried for a miracle, but John Wall’s inbounds pass was deflected by Richardson to end the game.

After the game, Olynyk described what his mindset was coming out of that timeout:

“I was looking for space and to cut and when you see him [Dwyane Wade] go into shot motion, you have to go to the glass. The ball came off in a great spot and I was able to lay it in quickly before the time ran out . . . as a rebounder you gotta assume a miss but yeah I thought he was going to make it for sure.”

Olynyk, who finished with nine points and four rebounds in 15 minutes of play, certainly deserves credit for his quick reaction time after Wade’s miss. But also contributing to his unencumbered run to the basket was Markieff Morris’s failure to block out or provide any type of resistance to Olynyk. When asked if he was surprised how open of a lane he had to the basket Olynyk seemed a bit incredulous.

“Yeah. I was surprised I was that open. It kinda just popped open and I was kinda just standing right there.”

For the Wizards, this loss sucked every bit of the festive opening night air out of the Capital One Arena, and it left them wondering what went wrong. But for the Heat–a team that was missing four major contributors (Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and James Johnson) and had lost a game to Orlando in the final seconds the night before–this was a huge confidence boost. That was not at all lost on Coach Spoelstra:

“It was a game that didn’t have a tremendous amount of flow at points during it because of the free throws but you got to find a way. We love this kind of opportunities during the course of an NBA season. Back-to-back on the road, opening up your season like this. Coming off of a tough loss last night. Guys didn’t make any excuses for it. We had to gut this out all the way to the last point too. It was a very tough-minded win with a lot of contributions from a lot of guys in that lineup.”

Before the media scrum left Olynyk’s locker, he was asked if he felt any degree of satisfaction for once again raining on the Wizards collective parade. Olynyk thought about it, and then said with a slight smirk, “I mean it was game one for them, game two for us, so it may not mean a lot in the grand scheme of things, but maybe we’ll see them later down the line.”

 

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Oh My God They’re Back Again: TAI Wizards Season Preview and Predictions http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/oh-my-god-theyre-back-again-tai-wizards-season-preview-and-predictions.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/10/oh-my-god-theyre-back-again-tai-wizards-season-preview-and-predictions.html#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 00:30:56 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=55951

The Washington Wizards are only a few days away from playing meaningful basketball games again for the first time in nearly six months. The last time we saw this team they were limping into a first-round postseason match-up against the Toronto Raptors. That series was one of the most uninspired playoff runs in recent memory, with some even arguing that a 4-0 Wizards loss would be the best outcome for the team’s long-term health.

A lot has happened since the Wizards’ 4-2 series loss to Toronto. Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott, Tim Frazier, and Chris McCullough are gone. Dwight Howard, Austin Rivers, Jeff Green, and Troy Brown arrived. In addition to these roster changes, Scott Brooks spent training camp and the preseason overhauling Washington’s offense, placing a strong emphasis on 3-point shooting and encouraging multiple players to initiate the offense instead of running 99 percent of offensive sets through John Wall.

Given that Washington only won 43 games last season and dropped to the 8th seed, a fair amount of change was expected—and necessary. The question, however, is whether these roster and stylistic upgrades will be enough to change the team’s fortunes.

The TAI crew tackles that and other questions in the 2018-19 installment of the Wizards’ Season Preview and Predictions. Let’s get started…

How many games will Washington win?

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) – 46

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) – 52

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur) – 50

Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202) – 48

Sean Fagan (@McCarrick) – 44 (As much as I would like to drink the crazy juice and believe that the Wizards will finally break the 50-win barrier this millennium . . . it ain’t happening. John Wall looks like he put on 10 extra pounds of muscle and is a step slow, Howard’s back is already creaking, and Austin Rivers has started throwing gas at fires that shouldn’t even be burning. 44 wins, 1,001 different starting lineups and at least 3 “player’s only” meetings.)

How far will Washington go in the playoffs?

@LedellsPlace – With the improvement of Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto (not to mention the expected leap from Milwaukee), there’s just no rational way to predict Washington will advance past the second round for the first time since 1979. Even worse, Washington will likely face one of those above-mentioned teams in the first round so it’s not really rational to predict a first-round win either.

@rashad20 – The Wizards will lose in the second round of the playoffs to the Toronto Raptors. The Wizards will be the fourth seed, the Raptors will be the top seed. Groundhog Day will be in February and May next year.

@TroyHalibur – Eastern Conference Finals.

@BFrantz202 – Lose in second round (to one of the Celtics, Sixers, Bucks, or Raptors).

@McCarrick – As Icarus flew too close to the sun, such is the hubris of those predicting the Wizards to escape the first round. Aside from Boston and possibly Indiana, the Eastern conference is wide open—but the Wizards penchant to lose winnable regular season games against the likes of Phoenix and Brooklyn will keep them around the 5th or 6th seed. From there I expect the usual combination of poor rotations, hero ball and at least one stupid technical to see the Wizards unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs.

Who/What will be the Wizards’ biggest X-factor?

@LedellsPlace – The Austin Rivers/Tomas Satoransky back-court pairing. In 2016, the Wizards started the season with Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton as the second-unit guards. In 2017, it was Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks. If Rivers and Satoransky can stabilize the second unit and allow John Wall and Bradley Beal to hover around 33 minutes per game, the Wizards may finally establish a consistent rotation that has the energy to finish games.

@rashad20 – Otto Porter. On the surface, it appears to be a bit cliché to place the “biggest X-factor” crown on the head of arguably the third-best player of the Wizards. But when Scott Brooks dedicated a bit of his Media Day speech to communicating his desire that the team—and specifically Otto—increase their 3-point output, it justifies that claim. The past two seasons, Porter has averaged fewer than two made 3s per game. If he can increase his 3-point attempts and makes and push his per game total closer to 20 points, it will put even more pressure on opposing defenses. That is bigger than any production Dwight Howard can provide, and more significant than any bench boost from Jeff Green, Austin Rivers or Troy Brown.

@TroyHalibur – Kelly Oubre. This team thrives when they play small and Oubre is the key to unlocking the versatility on offense and defense.

@BFrantz202 – Dwight Howard. The best-case scenario is he matures (no chance), stays healthy (not a great start), and plays like the Dwight Howard of old, or at least of last year (reasonable chance). But there is also a chance he plays fewer than 20 games this season due to injury, in which case you’re forced to rely on Ian Mahinmi as your primary big. And, of course, there’s always the chance he is the atomic bomb that finally blows up the Wizards locker room.

@McCarrick – The boring and safe pick would be Dwight Howard, because he either buys into the system and gives Washington the interior defensive presence they have been missing or he begins to bitch about touches and the entire house of cards crumbles. Instead, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Troy Brown. If Brown can have any impact at all on the offensive end with his slashing game, it would immediately make the Wizards more attractive trading partners to the league at large. His emergence could put either Porter or Oubre on the market, and while either player would have wildly varying returns, it would allow the Wizards to create cap space or address areas of need such as power forward.

Complete the sentence.

The Dwight Howard Experiment will be…

@LedellsPlace – …exhausting.

@rashad20 – …largely underwhelming.

@TroyHalibur – …successful because all the talk around him being a problem in the locker room is overblown.

@BFrantz202 – …a disaster, probably. But maybe not! But it probably will be.

@McCarrick – …a beautiful mirage that everyone will set up shop in for two months before they wake up to the reality that they are residing in a water-parched desert. Big men plus back problems equals bad news. I actually believe that Howard does want to buy into the system and be a model teammate, I just don’t think his body will hold up over the long haul.

I am optimistic about the Wizards because…

@LedellsPlace – …it’s easy to be optimistic in October. On paper, Washington is much improved and Scott Brooks has shown a willingness during the preseason to evolve from a one-dimensional offense relying solely on Wall’s play-making to a more diversified style with multiple players bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense.  

@rashad20 – …Beal and Wall are in their primes and the bench seems formidable enough to give them sustained relief and energy late into the season.

@TroyHalibur –  …the East is weak and the Wizards have more depth than they’ve ever had before.

@BFrantz202 – …LeBron is gone! And the Raptors are a question mark! And we don’t yet know if the Bucks and Sixers are ready to make the leap from trendy upstarts to contenders! And the Celtics are … well, anyway, at least the other teams have question marks. As for the Wizards, well, Troy Brown looks like a nice piece?

@McCarrick – …sometimes making a move that the world at-large views as completely idiotic can actually be a stroke of genius. Bringing in two known agitators in Howard and Rivers has set NBA Twitter aflame with jokes about when the first punch will be thrown in the Wizards’ locker room. But the moves by Team President Ernie Grunfeld strike me more as “crazy like a fox” rather than straight crazy. The Wizards could use all the hot takes and agita directed at them as collective fuck you and, spurred on by their maligned acquisitions, actually make some noise in the East.

I am pessimistic about the Wizards because…

@LedellsPlace – …weren’t they in an even better place at the beginning of last season? After the Game 7 loss to the Celtics, everyone expected Washington to join Cleveland and Boston atop the Eastern Conference. Instead, they completely flopped. Now, coming off a first-round loss as an 8-seed, we are supposed to believe this is the season they finally put together a consistent 82-game effort?

@rashad20 – …Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto could take sizable leaps which would leave the Wizards in the dust once again.

@TroyHalibur – …of health.

@BFrantz202 – …The Celtics are too good and too deep to really be threatened by the Wizards, and the Raptors just swapped DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, while also adding a quality 3-and-D guy in Danny Green. The Sixers are going into the season with basically the same team as last year, but now they have a (supposedly) healthy No. 1 overall pick from a year ago in stow. And the Bucks have arguably the best player in the conference, just about to enter his prime, and playing for a good coach for perhaps the first time in his career. Meanwhile, the Wizards added Dwight Howard and Austin Rivers.

@McCarrick – …because mediocrity will no longer be accepted in the DMV. For years, #LOLDCSPORTS has kept players and management more or less unaccountable for under-performing. But in the world of post-Capitals Stanley Cup run, the usual excuses are not going hold up if the Wizards start slow or someone considered vital gets injured. The Wizards will be expected to rise above adversity—and for a team that is often all bark and no bite, I see an internal implosion as not a likelihood but an inevitability.

Who will be the most surprising team in the East and why?

@LedellsPlace – Milwaukee, led by new coach Mike Budenholzer, will make the leap into the top 3 that everyone hoped Washington would last season. The preseason is a small sample size, but Budenholzer appears to have unlocked the Buck’s immense talent that has been hindered the last couple years.

@rashad20 – Toronto, even without DeMar DeRozan, will be the No. 1 seed over Boston and Philadelphia. Kawhi has something to prove, the defensive lineups they can throw at any team will be stifling, and in the LeBron-less Eastern Conference, that will be enough for them to win the top seed. Boston will struggle through most of the season, get a 2- or 3-seed, and ultimately get it together enough to advance to the NBA Finals—which is what should be expected out of a team that loaded.  Toronto’s regular season success this season will be a surprise.

@TroyHalibur – The Nets will surprise everyone in the East and make the playoffs.

@BFrantz202 – …The Pistons. Reggie Jackson’s injury was a huge blow to them last year. With him healthy, plus an offseason of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin working together, and the addition of Dwane Casey, I think they contend for the middle of the playoff race. If Stanley Johnson can take a step forward, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them finish above Washington in the standings.

@McCarrick – This is a pretty lukewarm take, but I think Philadelphia takes a step back this year. Boston delivered a blueprint to the league on how to guard Ben Simmons, Fultz’s jumper is still MIA and I’m not sure whether Joel Embiid is beloved by his teammates or the next Gilbert Arenas. I see a slide back to the 5th seed and a lot of “process”-related memes taking over the internet in mid-January.

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