By Sean Sweeney
Already this year, we’ve seen Washington get embarrassed at home in a preseason game and now they’ve lose their opener to the New Jersey Nets after going up 36-12 in the first half. Afterwards, disagreements between players and coaches spilled into the media; Andray Blatche ripped Flip Saunders‘ play-calling and offense after he heard some remarks from the coach that appeared to be directed at him. Sound familiar? With a talented group completely devoid of leadership, these first few weeks of basketball have me worried all over again about that team in Washington. They should be turning a corner this year. But first, they have to get over themselves.
Blatche played 39 minutes and went 5-for-13 from the floor for 11 points and eight boards, but complained loudly after the game that he needed the ball on the block more often, despite going only 2-for-6 from nine feet and in.
Blatche told The Washington Post:
"I said that I need the ball in the paint to be effective. You can’t keep having me pick and pop and shooting jump shots. Give me the ball in the paint. That’s what I’m most effective at. I’ve been saying that since training camp — I need the ball in the paint. I don’t want to be the pick and pop guy that I used to be. Because it’s not working for me. I’m not saying the offense has to flow through me, but I prefer to be in the paint."
Saunders complained of selfish play and that some of his players were trying to do it all themselves instead of focusing on making it work together. A few of Blatche’s teammates didn’t exactly take their big man’s side either. John Wall reportedly was confused by Blatche’s anger and said in practice, Blatche gets the ball in pick-n-pop situations as well as on the block. It’s only up to the play being called. Nick Young also said he felt Blatche was taking everything a little too personally now that the big man was really intent on being a leader.
Blatche is really trying to make a change in the Wizards’ culture, but all in all this team is running in circles right now. With all of the talent they have – Blatche, Wall, Young, JaVale McGee, Jordan Crawford – hopefully they can focus.
Just as they could’ve easily blown out New Jersey by 30 and no one would’ve batted an eye, the Wizards are ripe for collapses like this because they do play so up and down. Just one regular season game into the year, it’s clear: Without a turn in attitude, what might be the league’s most immature team could be in for yet another disappointing season.