That was awful. There's really no other way to describe the Wizards' 93-72 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves to fall to 0-8 on the season. Pointing fingers at any one player or coach misses the point in this one. Everyone's effort was unacceptable. The players had no pep in their steps, the coaching staff failed to empower anyone on the weakside on offense, the shortcomings of the roster (no shooters, no good weakside players, no good screen-setters) were evident and the mentality of "we competed last game, and that's good!" permeated every cut, every dribble and every defensive rotation. Nobody played well in this game. Making matters wrose, the sight of Ricky Rubio carving up the Wizards' defense should have put a sour taste in everyone's mouths.
This was bad. This was really bad. How much longer can anyone within the organization live with being the embarrassment of the league?
Some more notes before I become even more hyperbolic.
- Early on for the Wizards, it was all jump shots, except for one drive by John Wall that resulted in a missed layup. The lack of weakside cutting was especially bad. Not to defend anyone who launched early jump shots, because there was a lot of it, but with nobody moving anywhere else, those kinds of shots become harder and harder to pass up. It was as if the team's energy mirrored the deadness of the crowd.
- Chris Singleton made two really great hustle plays defensively. Once, he blocked Wayne Ellington on a fast break, and another time, he sprinted back to break up an alley-oop attempt. Alas, he still needs to work on his off-ball defense. Wes Johnson slithered around a couple double screens for open jumpers.
- Trevor Booker came into the game midway through the first quarter and made a major difference on both ends. As you figured. He showed that he's the best screen-setter on the team, allowing the Wizards to actually run some real pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop sets.
- I liked seeing Jan Vesely posting up Johnson on the second possession he played. That's where he can be valuable. Air-balled free throw, though. Yeah... The rest of his debut was nothing to write home about.
- Ricky Rubio showed why he's so good in the second quarter, but you have to wonder about the Wizards' defensive strategy. It seems like they attempt to trap and recover no matter who the point guard is. With Rubio and his shaky jump shot, that's obviously not a smart strategy. Notice how very few teams trap and recover on Wall, for example.
- Jordan Crawford needs to listen to the basketball gods that suggest not taking bad shots, not the ones that tell him to keep shooting.
- JaVale McGee really didn't make much of an impact on the game in the second quarter. He forced shots that weren't there. He didn't properly box out on defense. He brought the ball down on rebounds. The Wizards need him to do a lot, but that's life as a big man in this league. When it doesn't happen, it often can't be excused.
- Andray Blatche's closeout on Anthony Tolliver at the 3:42 mark was the stuff of ... well, yeah, insert your own word here.
- Really, really bad end to the half. After Love hit that three-pointer, everyone kind of just walked down the court hanging their heads. The amount of standing around this team does on both ends really is amazing. You're not going to change the game by standing around.
- I was thinking a bit about this: how much does it help Rubio to not start? Asked a couple people this before the game, didn't get much of a response. But he can come in and dominate second-line guys right away, getting his confidence up before he finishes games. Minnesota has a really good veteran in Luke Ridnour who did similar things with Brandon Jennings in his rookie year in Milwaukee. Since he left, the Bucks have struggled. Perhaps the Wizards should have done more to find a vet like this than they did this summer/fall.
- The Wizards' floor spacing is just terrible, especially compared to a Minnesota team that can station shooters across the wings at four positions. Part of floor spacing is intelligence, and part of it is skills. You can't have too many non-shooters on the floor, which is a roster construction issue, but you also need guys who know how to use their skills properly in a team setting. The Wizards too often have neither. When I see how Minnesota moves the ball to an open three-point shooter in the corner on a secondary break, I immediately wonder what Wall thinks.
- There was a stretch where the Wizards fought a bit defensively and got out on the break, but the problems with the half-court offense remained in place.
- Two incredible passes by Rubio late in the third quarter. The first was a crosscourt pass to Derrick Williams for a three when he saw Chris Singleton sink in the lane. The second was when he came down on Young, jumped to take a shot, then somehow spotted Williams in the corner and put it right in his shooting pocket. Two incredible plays, but the Wizards have to know not to leave shooters when Rubio is in the game. Make him beat you by scoring.
- The Wizards left McGee in the game when Minnesota went small with Anthony Tolliver, whose main skill is shooting threes. That's not the best decision in the world, but I understand the coach being in a bit of a bind because it's hard to match up to such a small lineup. That said, if Tolliver is in the game, the Wizards need to try to attack him with McGee in the post on the other end. They didn't. Bad recognition.
- Rubio was great, of course, but you look at how the Timberwolves have surrounded him with shooters, and you wonder whether Wall would be this ineffective with that lineup. I'm not even talking about Love or Williams. I'm talking about guys like Wayne Ellington and Anthony Tolliver.
- And, yeah, I'm done. There's really nothing more constructive to say.
This is the kind of game that often yield big changes. At this point, it's hard to stay patient anymore. Something has to be done, and it goes beyond a coaching change or a trade. This whole thing will need an overhaul before it's too late.