Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Wittman criticized the Wizards' young players following Wednesday's loss to the Cavaliers, saying they think too much about scoring. This sounds familiar.
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards are now 3-23, and when that happens, a coach has trouble finding unique things to say about each individual loss. In that respect, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that Wittman repeated a phrase that has seemingly been used for years here.
"We've got too many guys that just worry about shooting the basketball and not about other parts of the game," Wittman said.
Wittman was answering a question about Kevin Seraphin, but his comment appeared to be directed at several different young players on the roster. In many respects, you could argue that he was talking to Bradley Beal, who had one of his worst games as a pro, or Chris Singleton, who is out of the rotation. Regardless, the quote is incredibly similar to so many that Eddie Jordan and Flip Saunders once gave, and it illustrates once again that there might be something about this organization that causes young players to stagnate.
The frustrating thing is that this year was supposed to be different. The youngsters that thought only about their numbers were jettisoned for high-character veterans that were supposed to lead the way. Instead, the veterans have mostly blocked the youngsters' playing time, forcing those same young players to have to show Wittman their stuff in limited minutes. Sound familiar?
Heck, this script even has the grumpy veteran venting to the media again. Earlier this week, Nene told NBA.com's David Aldridge that the team's young players lack "respect for the game" and don't take advantage of their opportunity. It was a very Antawn Jamison-like line. (On this night, Nene wouldn't bite when I asked him if he agreed with Wittman's quote. "I'm a player. Ask Randy.").
The question is, do Wittman's words have validity? I asked three players -- one veteran, one player in his prime and one youngster -- after the Wizards' 87-84 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night.
EMEKA OKAFOR: "In general, we're an offensive-minded society. Everybody puts an emphasis on offense, offense, points, points, points. Sometimes, you forget that you can impact a game a lot -- depending on your skill set -- way more in other categories. You might not get the glory for it, but you can. In that regard, as a younger player, you might put a little more emphasis on scoring than you should."
MARTELL WEBSTER: "Young fellas are a victim of that. I was too. It's just part of the process, part of the learning experience, part of the learning curve. You've just got to get it out of your system. [But] I didn't really feel that tonight. I didn't really see it. We do have to be a little more aware on the defensive end of the floor and play for each other, but from training camp to now, we've gotten a lot better."
BRADLEY BEAL: "I agree [with Wittman]. But I wasn't really even thinking about scoring, to be honest with you. I was thinking about getting stops and rebounding the ball. I think did a good job of defending and doing a good job on that end. The offense just wasn't there. I didn't let that get me down or affect my defensive play."
If we take Wittman's words at face value, I understand Webster's and Beal's confusion. The Wizards' problem generally hasn't been attention to detail, professionalism or any of the little things that you traditionally associate as a shortcoming of young players. Sure, they've had breakdowns, like they did in the fourth quarter last night, but those things happen over the course of an 82-game season. The Wizards' biggest problem has been offense, and while you never want to get tunnel vision when trying to fix it, devoting attention to getting more points is exactly what this team needs.
But really, the comments were just codewords for a more general problem. Once again, young players are not developing. Once again, the men in charge of trying to develop those young players are venting that they may think too much about themselves instead of the team as a whole.
At a certain point, maybe it's not the players themselves that are the problem.