Wizards Blog Truth About It.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network 2018-12-06T05:45:30Z http://www.truthaboutit.net/feed/atom WordPress Troy Haliburton <![CDATA[Shorthanded Wizards Take Care of Business Against Struggling Hawks]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56359 2018-12-06T05:45:30Z 2018-12-06T05:10:59Z

(Photo credit Kevin C. Cox Getty Images)


The Washington Wizards entered their game against the Atlanta Hawks a bit shorthanded. John Wall had to leave the team for personal reasons (presumably to fly back to D.C. for the birth of his first child), Jeff Green was out with back spasms, and Dwight Howard continues to recover from back surgery. Considering the Wizards have not fared well against inferior opponents, this could have been a difficult test for Scott Brooks and his team, but Bradley Beal led the charge in “Everybody Eats”  fashion to secure the victory.

Entering the starting lineup to replace Wall was Austin Rivers, who has been barely serviceable as a rotation player for the Wizards on most nights. The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner made waves through Wizards Twitter before the game when she tweeted that Brooks announced during his pregame media availability that Rivers would be starting at point guard.

TAI’s own Adam Rubin had the perfect response to this report:

Thankfully, the coach’s pregame edict was just talk, and Tomas Satoransky was appointed to bring the ball up the court for the majority of the night. And he led the team to a type of play that was eerily similar to the stretch of games he started last season while Wall was out for 41 games due to knee surgery. Sato finished with 14 points and seven assists in a season high 38 minutes, but more importantly he ran the team in an efficient manner which kept the ball moving. The Wizards as a team dished out a season-high of 35 assists.

Washington’s lone All-Star who played, Bradley Beal, led the way in the assist department with nine, but he also contributed 36 points to lead the charge. Beal’s much improved ball-handling skills allow him to not only free up space for his jump shot, but also drive the ball downhill towards the basket. On the season, Beal is taking 22.9% of his field goal attempts within three feet of the basket, and he’s connecting on 76.6% of those — both career highs for him as a player. In Wall’s absence, Beal has found a himself in the role of a distributor and scorer, which is something that he and Wall need to better balance when they share the floor.

In the front court, Washington was led by Thomas Bryant who finished with a career-high in points (16) and rebounds (9). Bryant continues to be the perfect example of controlled energy on the basketball court, as his constant movement is a catalyst for many of the good things that happen to the Wizards on the court. This team spent the first month of the season getting off to slow starts, and Scott Brooks complained about lack of effort. But in a limited sample size, Thomas Bryant in the paint has eradicated both of those issues and blossomed.

Otto Porter finished with a team-high 11 rebounds, while also chipping in 20 points. Porter is finally finding his rhythm as a scorer is seemingly more aggressive with his own shot. One of the things that Otto did not do in this game was pass up many open looks when the ball came to him. Instead he was ready to catch and shoot, and although he only hit two of his nine attempts from 3-point range, the aggressive style will certainly serve him much better than the passiveness that has plagued him this season.

The shorthanded Wizards bench managed to score 36 points, lead by Kelly Oubre’s 19 points on 5-for-10 shooting. Oubre continues to excel on the road this season boasting road splits of 46% shooting from the floor and 38% from beyond the arc, while only shooting 37% from the floor and 20% from 3-point range at home this season. These splits go against what is normally expected from role players and they are certainly something to monitor over the course of this season. Balancing out Oubre’s scoring was a steady performance from Markieff Morris, who scored 12 points of his own.

In what should have been an opportunity for the Wizards to play Troy Brown Jr. some meaningful minutes, turned into a second half battle after the Wizards allowed 45 third quarter points from the Hawks, who cut a 23-point halftime deficit to five points. This caused Brooks to leave his starters in the game for a lot longer than he probably intended. The Hawks only have five wins this season, but that win total is the result of a lack of talent, not effort. John Collins and Kent Bazemore led the way with 26 and 22 points, respectively, and they both helped the Hawks to rally back into the ball game. Once the Wizards started protecting the basketball and stopped allowing the Hawks to take advantage of those miscues, they were able to cruise to a relatively easy win.

Since the Wizards started out the season 2-9, they have a record of 9-5, which is a winning percentage much closer to what this team expected to be when the season began. They are finally figuring out how to play better with one another, and Scott Brooks is doing a better job of coaching up the players, putting them in better positions to succeed, and being more flexible with the starting lineups. The arrow is seemingly trending upwards for a franchise that has experienced much drama this season already.

Saturday will be another test for this team to prove to their doubters and themselves that this trend is for real, as they take on another struggling team in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Sean Fagan <![CDATA[Wizards’ Stars Don’t Dim in Big City’s Bright Lights]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56343 2018-12-04T14:19:59Z 2018-12-04T14:09:23Z Insider tip: If you want to experience a celebrity sighting in NYC, avoid the marquee matchups. Avoid the Lakers, Warriors and Celtics and instead circle your calendar around the dregs of the league and contact your local ticket reseller accordingly. Because if one thing is true it’s that New Yorkers love their bread and circuses. Even more so, they relish even odds of their beloved Knickerbockers winning a tilt. (The Wiz were 2-point faves on Monday night.)

Such is the case that you had such luminaries as Cam’ron, Pete Davidson, Darryl Strawberry, Bernard King (traitor), and Saquon Barkley on hand to watch the Knicks try to upend a Wizards team that has veered from completely dysfunctional to borderline competent over the course of the last two weeks—all narrated to the smooth tones of Clyde Frazier.

To their credit, the Wizards played the part of Generals to perfection during the first half of the game. The ball didn’t move, the Wizards steadfastly refused to defend the perimeter and Enes Kanter had his way on the interior with the Wizards “bigs.” Add in the spicy little moments that have thrown up red flags through the season (John Wall bitching at the refs, Beal leaning too hard on the hero ball, confusing rotations) and you could almost hear the New York crowd baying for blood in the background as Frazier intoned: “And the Wizards seem…um, content to keep things in the half-court. They don’t want to run.”

Everything was poised for the happiest outcome. The Garden was rocking, Tim Hardway Jr., was cooking from downtown and you could smell the roasting hashtags about Wizards #EffortTalk all the way from Herald Square.

Then the Wizards played the best damn quarter of basketball they have the entire season.

Let’s encapsulate it.

It wasn’t just Markieff Morris who was throwing it back all the way to 2016, every single member of the Wizards squad suddenly and unexpectedly had out of body experiences and started playing in such a way that Ted Leonsis could cut a highlight package and sell it to season ticket holders. There was Kelly Oubre picking pockets and yamming it in the face of Kevin Knox, there was Otto Porter (pulse included) raining hell from the arc, taking an elbow to the chops, shaking it off and getting back into the game. Tomas Satoransky sacrificed his body the entire quarter, flinging himself after loose balls and ragdolling himself at the legs of Knicks defenders.

And above it all were Wall and Beal, imperious, conducting the entire quarter perfectly. Wall’s jumper suddenly wet and his passing vision cured of myopia, with Beal cruelly dissecting the Knicks’ younglings from long range. The duo even threw in their patented (and overchoreographed) jump dap which they haven’t had a chance to break out since we elected the last President. All told, the Wizards erased the nine-point advantage that the Knicks held at the half and went on a 20-4 run which was only slightly spoiled by a taunting penalty called on Beal for hanging on the basket.

But it wouldn’t be drama without the possibility of heartbreak, and the Wizards did all they could to undue the success of the third quarter within the fourth. Scott Brooks, mad scientist that he is, decided the best way to fix the Wizards success was with a healthy dose of Austin Rivers, who almost single-handedly shot Washington out of the game. Oubre hoisted himself on his own petard, consumed by his own hubris and began taking the low percentage shots that have infuriated onlookers all season. Most depressingly, the Wizards were bullied on the boards (they lost the battle 55-38 on the night) as we can see from this key sequence where the Wizards haplessly watched the Knicks play volleyball for over 30 seconds.

And yet, despite every effort to be #SoWizards, the Wizards triumphed despite their myriad faults. One even got the first DAGGER of the season.

It’s your choice what you want to take from this game. You can either hope that the Wizards found their lightning in the bottle during the third quarter and can use that energy to scratch and claw their way back towards .500. Or you can look at the other three quarters and say that this was business as usual and even bad teams will fumble their way to a few wins over the course of a season.

I, for one, am just happy that New Yorkers headed to the subway disconsolate, without their pound of flesh.

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Rashad Mobley <![CDATA[From The Other Side: Wizards vs Nets — Spencer Dinwiddie and His Magical Shoes]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56336 2018-12-02T05:18:08Z 2018-12-02T05:18:08Z

Here are those magical Harriet Tubman shoes Dinwiddie will be wearing against the Wizards. Shoutout to Fiji Water too. pic.twitter.com/T0n6jNlxey

— Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) December 1, 2018

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie did not exactly have a memorable game in the 88-102 loss to the Washington Wizards. In 28 minutes, he shot just 3-for-9 for eight points, although he did manage to tie his season-high with eight assists.

Dinwiddie and the rest of his Nets teammates looked lethargic on both ends of the floor, which was perfectly understandable considering the Nets dropped a heartbreaking double-overtime game to the Memphis Grizzlies the previous night.

But off the court–more specifically, on his feet–Dinwiddie was winning in a big way.

Dinwiddie has his own shoe line for the first time in his basketball career, thanks to a company called K8IROS (pronounced KY-ros) which specializes in making shoes that have both a full-length foam sole and a meaningful message.

So far this season, Dinwiddie’s shoes have featured the likes of Langston Hughes, Nelson Mandela, Frederick Douglass and the late Stan Lee. For the game against the Washington Wizards, he chose to feature Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist/activist, who escaped from slavery and rescued other slaves, family and friends via the Underground Railroad.

It isn’t every day that one sees the likeness of Harriet Tubman on any shoe, let alone the shoe of an NBA player during an NBA game. On that premise alone, it behooved me to ask Dinwiddie a few questions about those shoes specifically, and the line in general.

Rashad Mobley: What was the thought behind the Harriet Tubman shoe?

Spencer Dinwiddie: She was born in [Dorchester County] Maryland, so obviously that’s in the DMV area. And when you come back to the nation’s capital, where there’s a lot of slave history–last month I did Frederick Douglass, who spent a lot of his life out here–that’s kind of the mentality behind it.

RM: Is this the first season you’ve done this?

Dinwiddie: Yeah, this is the first season I’ve had my own shoe, so we’re trying to do something different with a lot of my custom touch on different historical figures, and things of that nature. I think that’s something we kind of lose sight of. This game is entertainment, but there also happens to be real life out there and there are things that we need to think about as cultural leaders.

RM: What kind of feedback have you gotten from other players and your teammates?

Dinwiddie: It’s much all positive. People kind of think what I’m doing is dope. But you know, I’m really just kind of having fun with it. It just took somebody to step out on a limb, and the right partners obviously, because it’s not like I could physically build the shoe myself—that’s not my expertise, so, you know, thank you to my partners that actually help build it. And congrats to the artist that draws it and is able to execute that, and we’re able to have fun with it.

RM: Do you think you’ve educated anyone so far?

Dinwiddie: [chuckles] Uh, we’ll see. I don’t know yet, but I hope so. I certainly hope so.

 

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John Converse Townsend <![CDATA[Black and Blue: The Wizards Take a Beating in Philly]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56323 2018-12-01T03:24:25Z 2018-12-01T02:53:21Z

BASKETBALL IS FUN! GO WIZARDS! pic.twitter.com/HvsO1zSN0y

— Proven Veteran (@Truth_About_It) December 1, 2018

“This is a black and blue city and you’ve got to be sure to come with your lunch pail,” was the first thing I heard when I turned on the game. It was the voice of Alaa Abdelnaby, a former first round pick who played for the Sixers on a pair of 10-day contracts back in 1995.

I’d missed the first four and a half minutes of the first quarter, and by then, coming out of a Wizards timeout, Philly already led Washington 13-7. Yeah, it was about the start I’d imagined from both teams. Joel Embiid was larger than life, as everyone has come to expect—7 rebounds in 7 minutes, and he’d scored the last seven points.

Ian Mahinmi checked in. The five-point lead became 7. A minute later, Jeff Green, a game-time decision with a back issue, checked out with an injury.

J.J. Redick swished a tight 3, leaning right, and talked shit (it’s unclear as to whom) on his way back down toward the defensive end. He then banked in a reverse layup on a cut into the lane from right to left.

In full control of the game, Sixers coach Brett Brown replaced Redick with T.J. McConnell, which was not a show of mercy. The 6-foot-2 point guard scored five points in five minutes and grabbed two boards. On one transition play, he manipulated the Wizards defense, feigning a drive before pulling out toward the break at the 3-point line. Lulled to sleep, the lane opened wide, and with the type of behind-the-back pass perfected by Steve Nash, McConnell connected with Ben Simmons who finished the play with a tomahawk slam.

Philadelphia’s players were quicker to loose balls, and as the passes zipped around in attack (an attack that never really allowed the Wizards to breathe), there were nothing but open looks on the offensive end. The seven-point lead became 11.

They missed a heap of looks, but the Sixers owned the offensive glass. Still, Brett Brown didn’t like his 25-14 lead. Too sloppy. He called timeout.

The quarter ended in a stalemate, each team scoring five (including a 3 at the quarter buzzer from Austin Rivers). Philly finished with 24 rebounds in the quarter, and led 30-16.

I watched the rest of the game so you didn’t have to. (I hope some of you turned it off right then and there.) For those wondering, yes, it was more of the same. When the Wizards weren’t snapping at the referees, they were conceding more points, trailing by as many as 29.

As I watched in a daze, I kept thinking back to Abdelnaby’s words when I tuned in:

This is a black and blue city and you’ve got to be sure to come with your lunch pail.

His words rang true from the initial 11-point Sixers run to the second 11-point run, when Brown gathered the crew with 2:45 to play in the first quarter. It tells you everything you need to know about both teams.

Like, when I watched Bradley Beal cross up Redick on a dribble drive, right to left. But instead of taking it strong to the hole (the lane was there), he pivoted out toward the free throw line, and took a floating jumper. It went in, and it sure was pretty, but plays like that don’t win you basketball games.

In Sixers-land, the name on the back of the jersey or the size of the check in the mail doesn’t seem to matter as much as they do in D.C,  where they play with pride for the name on the front of their jersey. More importantly, the Sixers play as a unit. Everyone is there to do a job, they know exactly what their respective roles are and they embrace them. Eight Sixers players finished in double figures.

It’s not always easy, but more often than not, this post-Process version of the 76ers takes its knocks in stride, cracks you across the dome with its lunch pail, and gets the job done. They’re now 16-8. If you come with that weak stuff, you’re taking an L. It’s a black and blue city.

As for the other guys, the ones repping D.C.?

For years, the Wizards have explained why they suck 55% of the time by confessing they don’t play with effort, or just plain don’t play defense. They’ve talked about lacking mental physicality. And, oh boy, they talk a lot (A LOT) about not having a full roster. In a way, it’s kind of crazy because the ‘just gotta play hard’ diagnosis is right, night after night. There’s no accountability. They don’t really want none.

They’re also second in the NBA in isolations. Really, that’s Wizards Basketball™ right now.

I could have ended this report with ‘The Wizards suck and every bad thing you’ve read about them is true,’ but it’s only right I give Abdelnaby the last word.

“If you have John Wall and Bradley Beal as your backcourt, and you have to settle for isolations, that says something about your system. It’s not good.”

 

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Troy Haliburton <![CDATA[Too Easy in the Big Easy, the Pelicans Outduel Washington’s Stars]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56297 2018-11-29T05:24:55Z 2018-11-29T05:24:55Z

Photo: Gerald Herbert / AP Photo

Washington appeared to be turning the corner as a team–right up until the moment they were blindsided by Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans. Davis and Holiday played like All-Star caliber players against the Wizards, propelling a mostly mediocre cast of talent to victory. John Wall and Bradley Beal did not play like All-Stars at all and that disparity of play determined the outcome of the game.

New Orleans made the first chess move of the night by inserting Tim Frazier into the starting lineup at point guard, which allowed Holiday to play off the ball and attack the Wizards with weakside cuts and drives. Holiday finished with 29 points on 12-for-19 shooting from the field, including nine field goals made inside the paint. Holiday moved with impunity on the weakside due to the attention Anthony Davis drew in the post and high screen-and-rolls. Davis made Thomas Bryant look like a player who was making only his fifth career NBA start, and even though Bryant has been everything the Wizards could have asked for during his time starting in Dwight Howard’s absence. Asking the young gun to slow down an MVP candidate was ambitious from the start; Bryant played just 14 minutes as a result.

The stats may show that Wall and Beal weren’t too far off of their normal productivity, but the eye test clearly showed they were not close to the “House of Guards” mode with which they out-dueled James Harden. Beal had four turnovers and John Wall had for of his own, to go along with missing his first four 3-pointers. Their miscues amounted to far too many wasted possessions, and the Wizards never really found themselves competing in this game.

The starting backcourt finished with the worst plus/minuses on the entire team, with a minus-19 for Wall and minus-20 for Beal. For Wall, he started out the game struggling with his jump shot and, once he realized it wasn’t falling, pivoted to unsuccessfully attacking the basket. After a few drives with no foul call, Wall began to complain to the referees, which eventually culminated in him receiving a technical foul. Beal also shot the ball poorly from deep, only connecting on one of his five attempts. And although he finished with a season-high 11 assists, a handful of his passes seemed to leave teammates reaching. New Orleans took advantage of the Wizards carelessness and converted 20 turnovers into 24 points on the night, while also outscoring the Wizards 26-8 on fast break points.

The overall construction of the Wizards roster is flawed and this team can ill-afford to have off nights from their two All-Stars. The Wizards did get solid performances from Kelly Oubre Jr., though, who was playing in his hometown on a night where he and his father’s philanthropic endeavors might have been the only positive takeaways. Oubre finished the game with a career-high nine made field goals that led to 22 points and got his 3-point shot to fall after struggling mightily over the last few weeks.

Maybe Wizards fans who were skeptical after Tuesday’s win against the Rockets were right all along. Washington wining three of their last four games was all fool’s gold for a team that literally cannot stop anyone on defense. Washington currently has a 110.4 Defensive Efficiency rating, which ranks 28th in the league and the Wizards’ defensive performance against the Pelicans reflected that ranking. Most nights this season the Wizards have been guilty of giving up too many 3-point shots to their opponents, but in this game the Wizards were exposed around the basket. New Orleans scored 62 points in the paint and out-rebounded the Wizards 64-38.

The Wizards admitted to being embarrassed by the drama that’s unfolded, but despite their talk about improved effort and focus, their performances on the court suggest they’re still falling into the same traps. They have a day off before taking on the 76ers on Friday. They need to get their minds and bodies right, quietly. As the great John Wooden once said: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

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Rashad Mobley <![CDATA[Pelicans 125 – Wizards 104: Where It All Went Wrong]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56298 2018-11-29T21:20:13Z 2018-11-29T04:58:03Z

#Wizards update: pic.twitter.com/darOvoEMwE

— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) November 29, 2018

Although the Wizards entered Wednesday night’s game against the Pelicans having won three out of their last four games, some might put an asterisk by each of those victories.

They defeated a Los Angeles Clippers team that had played the previous night in Atlanta against the Hawks, then the Wizards defeated the aforementioned Pelicans without Anthony Davis, and just two nights ago they defeated a Houston Rockets team that did not have the services of Chris Paul (and Gerald Green)–although James Harden and Eric Gordon combined for 90 points.

Wednesday night’s matchup against the Pelicans represented a shot at legitimacy for the Wizards. Not only were the Pelicans winners of nine of 11 at home this season, but Anthony Davis was also in the lineup this time. A win for the Wizards would’ve made them winners of four out of the last five. Perhaps it could have given them confidence going into Friday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, and served as notice to the rest of the NBA that their worst basketball was in their rearview mirror.

As nice and neat as that narrative would have been to watch (and write about), it didn’t fall into place quite that easily. Or at all.

The Wizards lost 125-104, they were out-rebounded 64-38, Anthony Davis torched them for 28 points and 15 rebounds, Jrue Holiday had 29 points, and Tim effin’ Frazier–the same Tim Frazier who woefully underachieved in a Wizards uniform–had 12 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in 36 minutes of play. Frazier hadn’t scored that many points since March of 2017, during his first stint with the Pelicans. He never scored that many points as a Wizard.

So where did it all go wrong for the Wizards?

At the 2:33 mark of the first quarter, the Pelicans were leading the Wizards 25-15 when Tomas Satoransky came into the game for John Wall. Satoransky and Austin Rivers were in the backcourt, Jeff Green and Kelly Oubre (who had 12 first-quarter points and played aggressively all night en route to 22 points including 4-8 from the 3-point line) were the forwards, and Markieff Morris was at center. They closed out the quarter on a 9-6 run, and the bench, unlike the starters who were struggling with ball movement and hitting open shots, flashed the necessary offensive continuity to keep the Wizards within striking distance.

Coach Brooks allowed that same lineup to start the second quarter, and while they weren’t able to come closer than six points, they continued to put pressure on the Pelicans—lifted by the hot 3-point shooting of Nikola Mirotic.

In response, Coach Brooks subbed out the hot-shooting Oubre in favor of Beal, and 30 seconds later the Pelicans increased their lead to 11 thanks to yet another 3-point shot by Mirotic. Then Green and Morris combined to score 10 points for the Wizards and the New Orleans lead was back down to six points. It crept back up to eight, and then Brooks took out the hot-shooting Green in favor of Oubre, and he brought back Wall for Satoransky.

That is exactly when the Wizards starting trending in the wrong direction.

From the 6:18 mark when Wall and Oubre were subbed back into the game until the 1:59 mark of the second quarter, the Wizards were outscored 10-0. With 1:58 left in the first half, Wall hit a desperation, double-clutched 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired. The Wizards scored just four more points the remainder of the quarter, but the Pelicans scored nine more. The halftime score was 67-47 in the Pelicans’ favor.

Wall played like a man possessed in the third quarter (9 points, 5 assists), as did Beal (12 points, 3 assists), but unfortunately for them Anthony Davis played better with 16 points. The Wizards never got closer than 11 points for the remainder of the night, and Coach Brooks was never able to find that magical lineup to slow Davis, Holiday or even Tim Frazier.

The loss dropped the Wizards to 8-13 overall and 2-8 on the road, which provoked a return to the woe-is-me platitudes from the team:

“We found our spirit at home… We still have to try to figure it out. We need to do it soon, because we’ve got a bunch of road games coming up in this month. There’s definitely a difference in the energy and intensity.” —Scott Brooks

“Didn’t guard the ball, didn’t help each other out. Transition was terrible. As to why, I don’t know. It’s kinda like we went to old habits tonight.” —Bradley Beal

The good news for the Wizards? They get a second chance at legitimacy on Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. Bad news? The Sixers have Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and now Jimmy Butler. A daunting task indeed.

And now, we’ll end on some positive words courtesy of Kelly Oubre, Sr.

 

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Rashad Mobley <![CDATA[From The Other Side: Wizards vs Rockets — One Loss, Three Perspectives]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56270 2018-11-27T17:30:53Z 2018-11-27T17:11:08Z 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  focused on the different perspectives of a loss from the Houston Rockets locker room.

The Washington Wizards defeated the Houston Rockets 135-131 in overtime, which meant for at least one night the noise associated with being an underachieving team was hushed. Postgame, there was no discussion about the personal lives of the players, nor fights during practice or trade rumors involving everyone on the team. Criticism about the Wizards’ porous defense, which allowed 131 points to a Chris Paul-less Rockets squad, would have been justified. But with a win, that would simply be nitpicking.

If the Wizards had some how managed to lose last night’s game, the gloom and doom motifs would surely have resurfaced, as would the calls for changes in personnel, coaching and front office guidance.

The Rockets, who have underachieved as much as the Wizards this season, dropped to 9-10 after last night’s L, and are now losers of three in a row after previously winning five straight.

On the surface, this loss highlights how far away this Houston team is to matching the accomplishments of last year’s squad, who fell to the Golden State Warriors in seven games. Their loss to the Wizards also shines a light on their poor defense (they allowed 135 points) largely due to their inability to retain Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute and their bumbling of the Carmelo Anthony situation. But in the locker room after the game, gloom, doom—and the type of woe-is-me attitude that seems to consume losing teams—was nowhere to be found.

In fact, the response to the loss varied, depending on where in the Rockets locker room the media sought out quotes. Some comments were louder than others, like this from Houston boss Mike D’Antoni:

“Yeah, I mean we’re asking especially James [Harden], ‘Hey you know what, play 54 minutes and make every play.’ There’s just going to be periods where he is gassed. Until we get our guys back and get some more bodies on the floor, it’s a long road trip, hit us with a schedule that was tough. As you just saw, he brought us back single handily and had us there and just couldn’t close the deal because he got gassed, PJ [Tucker], and Eric [Gordon], and Clint [Capela]. You know, we got some tired guys….we didn’t have the necessary force to close them out when we needed to and we made some mistakes going down the end. We had some turnovers.”

Chris Paul and Gerald Green played in the first game of the Rockets’ road trip (a loss against the Pistons), but in the second road game, Paul sat out with an injured hamstring. Prior to the contest against the Wizards, D’Antoni announced that both Paul and Green would sit out the game. The newly signed Danuel House (more on him later) would take Green’s minutes and Harden would be forced to take on even more ball-handling duties.

D’Antoni knew full well that his team would be shorthanded, and he knew that his team’s fate would be heavily dependent on Harden’s ability to score. And score Harden did. But he was ultimately beset with fatigue, and when Eric Gordon (36 points) no longer had any energy to give, the Rockets lost yet again on the road.

Clearly, D’Antoni was not happy with the loss. While he credited the Wizards for making timely plays and pouncing on his Rockets as they missed shots, played substandard defense and committed lazy turnovers, D’Antoni also spoke like a man who knows full well that these struggles are temporary. “It’s just a matter of trying to bridge these troubled waters a little bit. Go ahead. We’ll get there.”

Danuel House’s post-shower body language indicated that he too was disappointed with the Rockets’ overtime loss to the Wizards, but his words and his smiling face told a much different and happier story.

Earlier in the day, the Rockets called him up from Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the G-league, where had been averaging a team-leading 20.4 points a game. After the game, House gave the media details about how hectic his life had been leading to up to the game against the Wizards:

“I had just came out from playing a game in the G-league (on Saturday night) and then getting a call later that night, packing up the whole house in Rio Grande with my wife and kids, and my mom and pops, and pushing everything in two vehicles. And then trucking to Houston and then catching another flight and arriving at 12 and waking back up, but I’m grateful though, but its an honor and privilege to be here especially since I’m from Houston”.

House, who spent most of his rookie season with the Wizards (including two summer league stints in 2016 and 2017) mentioned that Bradley Beal, John Wall and Otto Porter all came up to him to say how happy they were for him.

On the court, House finished four points and three rebounds in 28 minutes of play, and after the game he admitted that he had to get better. But off the court, despite the loss, House could not stop smiling at what this latest opportunity could mean to his family:

“Going back home like I said because I’m from Houston, it’s going to be huge. It’s an honor because it’s my family name. It’s about showing my little cousins and people that’s around me, to never give up and continue to fight. Life can throw you down but you gotta be judged by how you stand up”

James Harden finished with 54 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds and an alarming 11 turnovers in 47 minutes of play. Twenty-one of those points came in an amazing third quarter of play, when Wizards Coach Scott Brooks unsuccessfully threw the kitchen sink at him. Harden scored just 10 points after that quarter (including a four-point play late in regulation to give his team a four-point lead).

During the postgame, Harden would have had every right to fall on the ‘I just got tired’ scenario that Coach D’Antoni had mentioned a few minutes earlier. But Harden, who, with our without Chris Paul’s presence on or off the court, is still the leader of the team, chose to focus on his team’s deficiencies:

“It is about our entire team. We had a really good start to the game, kind of let our guard down and they made some shots and got comfortable and we all know what happens when a team gets comfortable and wins the game. It is frustrating…John [Wall] got to the rim making some layups, he hit some good shots, Brad [Bradley Beal] hit some good shots. We get into them aggressively and we started to foul them too much, put them in the penalty with 10 mins in the second quarter and you cannot be aggressive because every time you foul, they are at the line, so we will watch some film and get better.”

Not once while discussing the Rockets’ loss to the Wizards did Harden mention fatigue or the absence of Paul or Gerald Green. Only when he was asked to discuss why the Rockets had dropped three straight games after a five-game win streak did Harden mention the lack of depth–and  he abruptly ended his postgame comments after that.

Coach D’Antoni had perspective, Danuel House had unadulterated joy and James Harden was critical. One loss, three different viewpoints, and one hell of a game.

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Troy Haliburton <![CDATA[The Wizards Outlast the Shorthanded Rockets for a Much Needed Win]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56269 2018-11-27T15:52:32Z 2018-11-27T14:13:07Z

(photo credit AP)

When James Harden hit a four-point play with a little over three minutes to go in the game, a collective groan could be heard from the more than 16,000 fans in attendance at Capital One Arena. The Wizards looked set to receive their 13th loss of the season.

The game was tied at the time, and that critical play gave Houston a four-point lead and Harden his 50th point of the night. Washington staved off the Rockets, though, thanks to the stellar play from their All-Star backcourt, which combined to score 68 points and made critical plays down the stretch.

Washington was able to hold Houston to only four points for the rest of regulation (after Harden’s four-point play) and made life difficult on the Rockets by taking the ball out of Harden’s hands. That is no easy task, as Scott Brooks made clear postgame:

“We tried everything on Harden. We absolutely tried to take it out of his hands early, take it out of it late. Keep our hands out of his shooting pocket. We tried the switch, we tried the show. He was playing at high, high, high level, and his step back threes [were on]. And they iso you so if you double team him, you are going to double-team him from basically 30 feet from the basket, and he is such a great passer as you know; 13 assists tonight.”

Wall and Beal took turns guarding Harden in the clutch and the team found success in funneling the defense toward Houston’s ancillary role players. After Harden’s 50th point, he went just 1-for-3 from the field over the last eight minutes of game action, including overtime, and accumulated three turnovers.

Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni was critical of his team not being able to protect the ball down the stretch and giving the Wizards an opportunity to close out the game: “They did what they were supposed to do and they played well. But we didn’t have the necessary force to close them out when we needed to and we made some mistakes going down the end. We had some turnovers.”

The Rockets players appeared to be gassed at the end of the game, as their already short rotation was cut down even more by the absences of Chris Paul and Gerald Green. D’Antoni was forced to play Harden a little more than he would have liked.

“Yeah, I mean we’re asking especially James [Harden], ‘Hey you know what, play 54 minutes and make every play.’ There’s just going to be periods where he is gassed. Until we get our guys back and get some more bodies on the floor,” D’Antoni said.

As much as this game was about the Rockets being unable to put away the Wizards, this game also proved that D.C.’s finest (they’re the pros) are starting to find effective lineups needed for them to compete on a nightly basis. This is mainly because Scott Brooks has made three critical rotation adjustments which have allowed the Wizards to get into a rhythm on the court.

The first of those moves was inserting Thomas Bryant into the starting lineup and removing Jason Smith and Ian Mahinmi from the rotation. Bryant—at least until Dwight Howard returns from injury—gives the team more energy as an athletic, mobile big man. The second move was to flip Tomas Satoransky and Austin Rivers’s minutes to allow Satoransky more opportunities to play point guard with the second unit and distribute the basketball. This has allowed Rivers to play off the ball, which has given him more space to operate. The last, and maybe most important of those moves, is moving Markieff Morris to the bench in place of Kelly Oubre. While Oubre has not shot the ball particularly well this season, he brings a versatility with his ability to effectively guard perimeter players in smaller lineups.

Morris is an effective pick-and-pop player on offense and an even more effective small-ball center on the defensive end because of his ability to switch onto smaller defenders. Morris finished the game with 22 points, 10 rebounds and was the stabilizing force in Washington’s fourth quarter and overtime efforts to seal the victory. Morris played 41 minutes and was tied with Satoransky with a game-high plus-21 plus/minus for the game. The Wizards ability to switch 1 through 5 with Morris in the lineup was a luxury that allowed the Wizards to force the Rockets role players to play out of their comfort zones.

“We did a great job of limiting the other guys. We knew he [Harden] was going to go out there and get his numbers. Him and Eric Gordon played a great game. We just tried to limit the other guys and came up with the victory,” Morris said after the game. The Wizards only gave up 41 points to all non-Harden and Gordon Rockets and that was a key to them pulling out a much needed victory.

When asked if the team is finally turning the corner after getting to 8-12, Morris made sure to let it be known that he’s being cautiously optimistic: “Yeah, for sure, but we just gotta wait and see, man. At the beginning of the year, you know how all you guys get, blow the whole the thing up. We are just gonna wait and see.”

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Kyle Weidie http://www.truthaboutit.net/ <![CDATA[E is for Effort, L is for Loss — Wizards Retreat from Toronto Once Again]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56264 2018-11-24T15:51:59Z 2018-11-24T15:47:03Z
[No longer pictured: Randy Wittman]


Bestow upon the Wizards a capital E for above-minimal effort in Toronto on Friday night. As a collection of individuals, they did just a little more to cut hard, jump into passing lanes, make the extra pass, and get back in transition than their prior attempts to Effort during NBA basketball games. Too bad, though, it only amounted to a loss.

Washington, once again, facilitated a double-digit deficit in the first quarter but ended it down 8 points. A stronger second quarter and an extra push of effort after halftime even gave the Wizards a 71-70 lead just over three minutes into the third quarter. But then they never led again, and Scott Brooks’s babblers were gently laid to rest by Nick Nurse’s squadron. It ended 125-107 in favour of Toronto with Washington shooting less than 20% from deep on 46 heaves while the Raptors shot 44% on 39 attempts from afar.

Brooks once again started Kelly Oubre over Markief Morris and, with Dwight Howard still out, the upstart Thomas Bryant once again got a chance to make his mark. And that he did with 7 points, 8 rebounds (4 offensive) and 2 blocks in 17 minutes. Bryant attempted four 3-pointers (they were mostly good looks) to help keep things honest, but made just one, going 3-for-7 from the field overall. Still, he displayed energy; he moved in the paint; he stretched his arms to intimidate the offensive predators and kept his eyes wide to see them. Bryant was the lone bright spot on this night — past mere fleeting effort from the team — and Brooks may just need to better use him in rotations. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Kawhi Leonard, my friends: he needs no introduction and that wasn’t much of one for the way he rendered the Wizards frozen in the moment. Oubre learned the most about how goofy ol’ humans will never truly be able to complete with machines. Leonard scored a tight 27 points on 22 shots to go with 10 rebounds in 30 minutes-flat. Now that’s how a superstar makes use of his time.

That the Wizards could be ‘getting there’ did not go unnoticed. But, it wasn’t just the aforementioned 3-pointers (providing 51 of Toronto’s points to 27 for D.C.). It was a hefty bench advantage (59-39 in points for the Raps), and it was the crisp zips of passing from the North. The Wizards had no hope of keeping up, as mere 8-0 runs by Toronto (a norm in today’s NBA and never insurmountable, anyway) seemed like just another nail in the coffin that would leave Washington gasping for air and unable to recover.

Familiar foe Fred Van Vleet did the damage of scoring 5 points and assisting on a 3-pointer over the last 75 seconds of the first quarter, and followed that with another 3-pointer and an assist in the first 60 seconds of the second. Van Vleet finished with 13 points on 7 shots and was a strong counter to pockets of Wizards ineptitude.

Wall bricked so many 3s. Beal would zing passes out of bounds. Oubre and Morris sometimes got confused retreating in transition. Austin Rivers is still frozen in a block of ice.

At this point in the blog, it still feels like there hasn’t been enough back-patting for the Wizards taking a 71-70 lead early in the third quarter thanks to a 9-0 run out of the gates. But they ended up getting outscored in the period by six points with two of John Wall’s 7 turnovers and two of his six missed 3-pointers (1-7) coming in the period. He didn’t make much noise overall with 11 points, 13 total shots attempts, zero free throw attempts, and 11 assists. Wall didn’t even chirp much with the referees. Nobody knows nothing, and nobody wants to be here, apparently.

Bradley Beal chipped in 20 points on 16 shots, Otto Porter 17 points on 12, and Oubre 13 on 14 attempts. The starters collectively went 4-for-26 on 3-pointers — no one made more than one. All bench players were adequately subpar, and Ian Mahinmi received his seventh DNP-CD over 18 games.

In summation, the Wizards were the dumpster without the fire on Friday night. Nice that the flames weren’t scorching for a change if you yearn not to be totally negative.

This evening the Wizards, at home versus the New Orleans Pelicans, will once again search for fire in their belly … while hoping to bury conventional and persistent issues with the magic of letting it fly.

The Plan, a plan — or at least just something to do:

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Troy Haliburton <![CDATA[The Wizards Still Searching Within Despite Comeback Victory]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56248 2018-11-21T21:36:01Z 2018-11-21T19:17:19Z The Wizards got a much (much) needed win against the L.A. Clippers by coming back from a 24-point deficit. Somehow, that galvanizing victory didn’t help some members of the team move past the events of the previous 72 hours. As John Wall put it offhand to a few members of the media who lingered around his locker after his official availability had ended, “There’s a lot of fake shit going on around here.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you address that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Rashad Mobley <![CDATA[From The Other Side: Wizards vs. Blazers — A Real Sense of Urgency]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56228 2018-11-19T14:10:49Z 2018-11-19T13:52:38Z 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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Troy Haliburton <![CDATA[Portland Leaves the Wizards Answering Questions About Effort]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56227 2018-11-19T14:14:14Z 2018-11-19T06:18:26Z 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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Troy Haliburton <![CDATA[Wizards Win Streak Snapped Due to Poor Execution]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56218 2018-11-19T14:19:46Z 2018-11-17T05:27:49Z

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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Troy Haliburton <![CDATA[The Wizards are Playing “Inspired” Basketball and Winning (for Now)]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56206 2018-11-13T18:25:34Z 2018-11-13T18:25:34Z

[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.

https://twitter.com/dmvfollowers/status/1060572105182494720?s=21

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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Sean Fagan <![CDATA[Large Carrion Birds and a Loss to the Orlando Magic]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56194 2018-11-10T18:25:16Z 2018-11-10T16:55:09Z

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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Adam Rubin <![CDATA[TAI Roundtable: Is It OK to Root Against the Wizards?]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56168 2018-11-09T14:34:24Z 2018-11-09T13:54:37Z

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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Rashad Mobley <![CDATA[The Wizards Played Charlie Brown to the Mavericks’ Lucy]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56152 2018-11-07T15:12:20Z 2018-11-07T14:58:00Z

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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Troy Haliburton <![CDATA[Communication Was Key As Wizards Snap Their 5-Game Losing Streak]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56126 2018-11-05T14:42:23Z 2018-11-05T14:42:23Z

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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Bryan Frantz <![CDATA[The Wizards Keep Collapsing, But Nobody Knows How To Fix Them]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56127 2018-11-03T18:25:10Z 2018-11-03T18:25:10Z 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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Troy Haliburton <![CDATA[More Turnovers, More Defensive Errors in Memphis — Washington Drops Fourth in a Row]]> http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=56119 2018-10-31T05:08:48Z 2018-10-31T05:08:48Z

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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