After covering several Wizards home games following losses one grow to expect a number of things. One expects Flip Saunders to to be rather taciturn and sarcastic at the post-game press conference. One also expect a relatively unhappy locker room, with players taking an extra long time to shower and get ready to answer questions that they don't want to be asked by harried reporters on deadline.
The problem with last night is that none of that happened.
Instead of the normal sturm and drang of a locker room following a loss, the Wizards locker room resembled a team who fully expected to lose. With a few notable exceptions, no one on the Wizards appeared angry at the fact that the team was rolled by a New Orleans team that didn't beat this Wizards team as much as exerted it's will on them. Certain players lit out of the Verizon Center last night immediately following the loss, not wanting to be bothered to answer the same questions over effort and consistency that have plagued the team all season. All in all, the mood of the VC last night, from the players, to the management, to the fans, down to the people covering the team was one of exhaustion. We're tired, we know you're the better team, so beat us already.
And that is a problem.
Kyle from TruthAboutIt asked on Twitter whether there is something is the Wizards culture that needs to be changed immediately and whether the Wizards can afford to surround John Wall with players well versed in a "culture of losing." Now Wall was supposed to be the harbinger of the change that was going to remake the franchise. But we all know that one player cannot transform an organization by himself. Further, it is still year one in the rebuild and nights like tonight are going to be the rule rather than the exception. However, Kyle's point does bear some thought. We have already turned the calendar on the season and the same mistakes are being made that were being made in October. Further, these mistake are not simple basketball X's and O's mistakes but effort mistakes that are made on a consistent basis. No player can be coached to finish his picks better or hedge off his screens more effectively, at some point it ceases being a coaching issue and becomes one of work ethic and desire.
The change that Wall was supposed to usher in this season has been slow to appear. Rome wasn't built in a day and the Wizards are not going to contend in the Eastern Conference in the near future. But the organization is reaching a dangerous tipping point where bad habits are becoming an entrenched pattern. Worse, the team is staring in the face of irrelevancy in the eyes of the fans who come out to support them. I'm not sure what motivational tactics that Flip Saunders and his staff have left in their bag of tricks to motivate this team, but now might be the time they want to pull them out. Because following the brief resurgence following the trade that many teams encounter, I have the sinking feeling that we are about to enter the nosedive period of the season which further discourages fans and followers of the organization.
Now let's talk about the game.
- There has been much ink spilled this season over Andray Blatche's defense and last night could be used as exhibit 1A in a prosecution against his efforts.
- The game got away from the Wizards in the third quarter when they attempted to force the issue rather than run their sets effectively. The result is that you saw a lot of bad shots from the Wizards starters with the ball sticking in the offensive initiators hands.
- Flip noted in his postgame interview that to successfully defend the pick and roll you need to get up into the player initiating the offense. The Wizards failed to do this in the third quarter and that cost them the game. However, the player executing the pick and roll was Chris Paul so a certain amount of leeway can be granted.
- As many have pointed out in the game thread, turnovers are what ultimately cost the Wizards the game. However, the bulk of the blame should not be placed on John Wall, but on the bigs who were not hedging off their screens and remained stationary on offense.
- Words cannot describe how bad defensively the front line of Lewis, Thornton and Blatche were on the night.
- Speaking of Thornton, I'm not sure if we are watching a player whose confidence has completely disappeared or one who still hasn't recovered from injury. But the two things that earned him playing time in the beginning of the season (taking it to the rack and man defense) have completely disappeared.
- Speaking of Lewis, a very good all around game from the newest Wizard. However, I can't help but believe that there is a kink in that very awkward jumper that needs to worked out because he is terribly off target on most of his long range shots. With such a distinctive release, I'm not sure that the Wizards staff wants to mess with it, but they may want to limit his possessions until he gets it worked out.
- JaVale McGee had a great game.
- Your guess is as good as mine as to why Booker did not play.
My apologies for being a Negative Nellie in this recap. I'll be back later with an article later on Blatche and McGee and some other stuff. I hope everyone had a restful holiday and let's hope that last night was a blip in what turns out to be a successful 2011.