The problem with a team that returns only four players that finished last season, is that they appear to have forgotten lessons that they seemed to have learned last year. When the Wizards play with energy and enthusiasm their effort will often mask any deficiencies in talent (see their win over Denver last year), but when they display no energy or enthusiasm their weaknesses are magnified. Well they also had two players - Josh Howard (for four games) and James Singleton - who played with a feistiness that seems foreign to many players on this current roster. But more on that later.
In the first half the Wizards seemed to be taking a page from Muhammad Ali's famed Rope-a-dope style, hoping that by letting the Raptors run that they may eventually tire out. Well their inability to stop the Raptors from scoring at will lead to the Raptors scoring 72 first half points. 72 first half points! This is the same Raptors team that in its previous game, an 18 point loss to the Atlanta Hawks, managed to score 78 points for the entire game. Yes, nearly its full game point production in one half of basketball. Shameful.
"I don't even want to talk about it. That's a video game stat. That's like somebody that studied a video game so much that he knows exactly when to shot it and get any shot he wanted. That's basically how it felt. They can get any shot any time. They were getting dunks after dunks, layups after layups and foul after foul."
-- John Wall on the Raptors' hot shooting, as reported by Holly MacKenzie, for NBA.com.
Yes this team is young and I buy the argument of building around a young nucleus. However, isn't it then critical that the organization ensure that they play the right way? It is important that young players aren't allowed to establish bad habits, like not boxing out, drifting up court before securing rebounds, not paying attention to detail on defense, generally playing as if they are uninterested, etc. If young players, even those with potential, are not playing properly when on the floor, then you must find ways to communicate what is expected in a way they receive it loud and clear. That may mean limiting their playing time. If this team is truly in a rebuilding phase then wins and losses are secondary to establishing a proper foundation for the future - which should include playing high energy, fundamentally sound basketball.
"Like Coach Flip and Coach Wittman said, we were walking around, acting like we didn't want to do nothing. We just weren't in to it. If you come like that early in the morning that's going to tell you how your game plan is. To hear your head coach say that he don't have faith in you that early in the morning by shootaround, that means it hurts us [when] we went out there and proved exactly what he thought."
- John Wall as reported by Holly MacKenzie, for NBA.com
What is most disappointing is that this team with much less talent seemed to get this towards the end of last season. With essentially a collection of cast offs, young players and spare parts they were able to play with energy and enthusiasm and they were a joy to watch. There are many things that a team cannot control such as injuries, but you can control the amount of effort that you put forth.
Which brings us to what I believe is the elephant in the room. There are many elements of the game that can be taught, such as strategy, boxing out, proper spacing, etc, etc, etc. However there are also elements that cannot be taught such as desire, passion, competitiveness and fire. In many walks of life we have come across people who have the proper "resume," but they seem to lack the intangibles. Last season, Josh Howard (prior to his injury) and James Singleton demonstrated the intangibles. Currently, few of this current crop of Wizards players are demonstrating the intangibles, the intestinal fortitude, and heart.
- Who on this team is tired of losing and is willing to put themselves out there to lead this team? Who is willing to be that player that others don't want to let down? Who is that player that will bite someone in the butt when they miss their assignment? This can't just be the coaching staff's responsibility; it must also be someone on the floor. John Wall? Kirk Hinrich? They are the captains. Gilbert Arenas? When there is a lack of leadership someone, even a rookie, must stand up to be accountable.
- Bright spots were few and far between but JaVale McGee finished with 21 points and 7 rebounds. Coming off the bench John Wall finished with19 points and 8 assists.
- Speaking of John Wall. Given that he is still recovering from an injury and his team was getting blown out, why was he still in the game late in the 4th?
- If Hamady N'Diaye can't see any playing time in a blowout loss, then it is time to either assign him to the NBADL or cut your losses. If I am not mistaken they only had 11 players available for last night's game and were down essentially to one true Center (JaVale McGee). If they are unable or unwilling to use him, then why not use the time to assign him to the NBADL to get him some playing time?