WASHINGTON --There's no advanced statistic that can convey this, but I'm pretty sure there's a direct correlation between the feeling of disappointment in a loss and the amount of time it takes Randy Wittman to address the press after a game.
After a game won on defensive principles, the coach is ready to go and eager to speak. It can be hard to decipher what the players are saying due to the boisterous music coming out of the shower stalls.
After a game lost due to defensive lapses and offensive anemia, Wittman is less keen to speak to the press inside the room whose gray walls make one homesick for purgatory. As you walk back to the locker room, you hear a different version of the same quotations you've heard all year, but this time they're softer and more strained.
When the other team has a more balanced offense, a crisper defense and wins in overtime after withstanding a 20-point comeback and a stroke of luck on a foul-to-give-that-was-never-given, the hum from the halogen bulbs in the locker room is deafening. All you can hear is what's not said.
"The whole first half was a total disappointment," the coach said after the game. "To have no more energy or drive ... they've done it so many times."
When pressed on his players' performances, Wittman spoke highly of his front line. "I thought [Nene] did fine," the coach said about the Brazilian big man in his first game back from injury. "For being out seven weeks, he was a little rusty, a little winded. But you can tell a big difference that he makes for us. It’s good to have him back."
Wittman was equally effusive about Trevor Ariza, saying despite his zero point performance, he "fought" hard, particularly for "being under the weather." Wittman especially appreciated Trevor Booker's 16-point and five-block performance tonight. He thought Booker was "good all night long" and that he was the sole Wizard "in the first half that was out flying around."
"We showed it at half time and I told them, ‘I’ve got one guy out here that’s playing with any effort. It’s Book,’" Wittman added.
But when asked about his backcourt -- anointed franchise saviors John Wall and Bradley Beal -- Wittman was less enthused.
"When you don't put effort in, you're not going to have good showings. It just filters down. You can't play without energy or effort on one end of the floor and expect to turn it on at the other end. It doesn't work that way, and it's been proven with these guys."
"It was almost like we were spinning our wheels in mud," he continued. "We just didn't have the enthusiasm. I didn't feel like we had a sweat broken at the jump ball."
Conversely, Wall felt "like we competed" and that the team wasn't going through the motions in the first half. In fact, where his coach saw lack of energy and discipline, Wall saw execution issues and missed shots.
"With those guys I got on my team that have been missing shots these past couple games, I'll feed them every game I've got the opportunity to. Sometimes you're going to have nights when you're not making shots," Wall said. "And that's when you got to step on the defensive end. Tonight we didn't do that. And that's why you lose."
Marcin Gortat, whose 27 points and 14 rebounds were all for naught against the sixth-best defense in the league, was noticeably disappointed.
"Everybody's got to perform; everybody's got to play better," he said. "The way we play right now, we're not going to beat anybody."
As the makeup of the team has changed, the Wizards have begun to shed their youthful image. So when a playoff-tested veteran like Gortat believes the team to be "immature and just not experienced enough," as he referred to them on Wednesday, it underscores the sentiments shared by the coach and perhaps contradicted by Wall. If the vets are holding down the frontcourt energy, then is it the young backcourt that's failing to bring the urgency?
"I guess everything starts in practice," Gortat said. "The first few minutes when you walk in and you're fooling around, this is how you start games, I guess. It's frustrating."
Frustration sounds like the least of the team's worries right now. If they'd listen closely, they'd realize they're not on the same page at all. That's not where you want to be four games before the playoffs.