Reading through this Al Harrington article linked to in the Breakfast Bullet-in (my favorite of the proposed names for the new feature) today my eyes were opened a bit and I felt encouraged by several things, especially the quote below:
"If you look at the history of the league, young teams are inconsistent. That's just the way it is. You're asking guys in their second and third years, fourth years, to lead the team. That's hard. That's a lot to ask," Harrington said. "It's a process to go from a bad team to a mediocre team. It's a lot of work. To go from a mediocre team to a good team, where we don't just sit and talk about playoffs but we talk about winning championships and beating Miami that's another step. ... People need to start giving this team a little bit of props."
It's very easy as fans to forget that these players that we thought of as superheroes when we were kids are actually people. Young people. Highly paid and among the best athletes in the world but just as susceptible to moments of doubt, crises in confidence, fatigue, non-basketball issues, stress and pressure, etc... Of course we ultimately expect them to overcome those internal/external obstacles and perform their job, but for young players in new situations they still gotta figure out how to do it.
Perhaps the pressure of almost reaching their pre-season goal was wearing on the guys during the Bobcats collapse. The team kinda looked like a mess whenever John was running the show. Note how OGIII coped much better with the situation than the young guys. They've all been there before and were able to stay calm and just play. Every game for the rest of the season and playoffs is putting Brad, John, Trevor, Kevin and the other young guys in a brand new (to them) situation. That experience is invaluable and will hopefully pay dividends for years to come. That's the value in making a playoff push this year.
The game the other night also illustrated the two-fold value in bringing in guys like Harrington, Miller and Gooden. Of course it's good to have experienced hands around to help guide the young guys, keep them focused and help them adjust is one good thing. But it's also great having experienced guys we can turn to when nerves and head games are getting in the way of our young guys' performance. I expect that incredible run at the end of the first half on Monday was not a one-time blip but something we will see again and again.
It's true that with guys like Harrington, Miller, Gooden, Gortat, Ariza and Nene around we're not exactly a young team any more. But it's also true that our Wizards are not a veteran team either, our young core of Wall and Beal has a lot of growing to do. So rather than roll your eyes and think #SoWizards every time we blow a big lead or Brad has an off night try taking a breath, remember that these guys are humans. Young humans. In a new situation. Mistakes will happen but these are great players with their heads on straight and their gonna learn and come out stronger, better players for it.