I caught The Sports Junkies from January 3rd's Wizards are Winless podcast (thanks to jasonj and Rook for the link), and found myself laughing. Typical radio mentality, I thought, listening to one putting Ernie on blast for not getting more out of the Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood/Caron Butler/DeShawn Stevenson trades. Of course, they never approached Colin Cowherd levels of idiocy. Of course, the chuckling stopped when I considered the root cause for all the frustration. We're six games into a shortened season and it feels a helluva lot longer.
Really, there's only one legitimate option to letting the frustration boil over; patience. Fans of rebuilding teams are well-acquainted with the need for patience. And to be honest, as bad as this season has gone thus far, at least we're not the New York Knicks. Being the Wizards, much is made of our speed and youth. Consequently the Wizards' opponents have come out pumped up and executing with an intensity that quickly blunts the advantages age and athleticism might have imparted.
I am not offering excuses. Any way you slice it, the beginning of this season is a catastrophe and the word 'patience' is starting to make my gorge rise a little. There is still merit in it, though, and I am not prepared to declare the sky is falling.
There is a level any basketball team must play to. The Toronto Raptors under Dwayne Casey are playing a different breed of basketball, and immediately. After a lockout with no training camp. I know it's a small sample size (if I had a dollar every time I read 'small sample size' this season I could put a down payment on my WRX STI), but not if we're talking about how these teams have come out of the gate. The way the team looks reminds me of the epic road losing streak last season, and whether you agree with that sentiment or not, everybody wants to know what is happening inside that locker room and on the practice floor.
Some suggest it is Flip's fault. Some suggest no one could motivate a roster like the Wizards enough to win, ipso facto Ernie's fault. The more disgusted prefer a package deal and wouldn't mind canning both in one go. I think it's worth taking a look at what players are trying to do that represents something new, before starting down any of those paths.
Nick Young is making a push to become a complete player. My face is perfectly straight. His quotes with respect to how seriously the league takes everything seem to indicate he's received the clarion call to maximum effort we were hoping he'd hear sooner. But then again, you are ready to hear it when you are ready to hear it. I'm a few years older than Nick, still learning about myself, how to make the right decisions and that includes the obvious ones. Some of his struggles are growing pains, not doing what comes perfectly natural, he is going to do some thinking rather than acting as he starts to hone his limited court vision. If his shooting form returns when he starts to get comfortable making the extra pass, a hefty pay day is all but assured.
But we could go on and the simple fact remains; this team is not playing team basketball. As much as Ted reminds us this is year two of the rebuild, wicked pixels are an inevitable result of what appears to be a zero accountability environment. Should the losses and inexcusable team play continue, the nature of fan patience is going to change. More and more fans will simply start marking time and placing prop bets on how long Flip has until he gets the boot.
Whether or not he deserves it is pretty much beside the point. My father is fond of saying, 'the players play, but coaches are the ones who get fired.' Either the team is going to start putting out a different vibe or Flip is gone. The quotes coming out from the locker room are alarming to say the least. We've got a divide a mile deep forming between the players. Ted won't wait forever, not while John Wall's attitude towards DC continues to corrode. No matter who the problem is, Flip has to be the solution.