NBA

What’s Wrong With the Washington Wizards?

Washington Wizards basketball

The Wizards are currently 26-21, good for 5th place in the East. They are on a slightly worse pace than last year but the season feels much different. In #SoWizards fashion the team has been much better against teams over .500 than teams below. Teams the Wizards have beat this season include Boston, Houston, Minnesota, and Toronto along with other teams just over .500. Teams the Wizards have lost to: Brooklyn (x2), Dallas (x2), Charlotte (x2), Utah (x2), LA Lakers, Phoenix, and Atlanta.

Last season the Wizards were in a similar funk, until pulling off 17 straight home wins from early December through mid-February. That streak started right after an embarrassing home loss to Orlando when John Wall scored a career high 52 points. Will this last loss to Dallas be that turning point? Wall started and played 36 minutes despite being questionable with migraines. He didn’t put up a heroic effort to keep them close like that Magic game last season, but it still felt important that he came out to battle with his teammates. Wall has been plagued with migraines since before even entering the league, but considering Adrian Wojnarowski’s bombshell tweet about the Cavaliers, it’s great to see Wall continue to fight through injuries and ailments.

From a fan’s perspective the team has become less fun to watch. This season, I have watched by far the least amount of games since Wall was drafted. Some of that is because of grad school taking my attention at least two nights a week. Still, Friday and Saturday games are now extremely hard to watch (want to enjoy my weekend), while supposedly easy wins against terrible teams lead to depressing two and a half hour sights (see Monday night’s loss.) One quick scroll through Wizards Twitter explains perfectly the feelings of the fans and local blogs.

Candace Buckner of the Washington Post wrote an article earlier this week about issues the team has had after its players only meeting early in the year. I do always find it interesting how small details come out of the players only meetings. Yes, specific names are excluded, but one of the most private and intimate portions of the season has already been exposed for the world to see. It’s not unusual for reports of a team meeting to emerge, but it’s usually immediately after the fact, or when the team believes the issues have been resolved, not when they still are clear and evident. In the article Buckner highlights that the players get along behind the scenes, but from one game of watching them, it can be hard to ascertain that from their play.

Now some of the issues have been injury related. The team has not been as healthy as they were last year, but that was to be expected after Washington had among the least games missed to injury in 2016-17. This season, Markieff Morris missed six weeks between training camp and the start of the regular season. Wall missed just over two weeks with a knee injury. Now, Otto Porter is dealing with another hip strain, which has bothered him off and on since coming into the NBA.

Clearly Ernie Grunfeld will be active this trading deadline (Feb. 8), and it will be interesting to see how he looks to fix the team’s current issues. The most problematic part of the issues are that losing this commonly to inferior teams screams a lack of effort.The two players who seem to consistently bring effort on defense are Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre. Maybe they deserve more playing time.

Washington rarely gets blown out against quality opponents, yet it seems that almost every loss to a below .500 team is a blowout. I’m not sure how you invigorate some energy in this group, and fix a problem that has existed in some form for over four years, but the team needs to before it’s too late. While they are only two games behind the also disappointing Cavaliers, they are also only two games ahead of the 8th seed Milwaukee Bucks who fired coach Jason Kidd on Monday.

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