WASHINGTON -- Two buzzwords dominated the Washington Wizards' locker room following yet another loss, this time to the Utah Jazz: "confidence," and "consistency."
They are just buzzwords, of course, used as shorthand to define a problem that takes many more words to accurately portray. From the outside looking in, it'd be foolish to suggest that the 0-8 Wizards would be cured with a little more confidence and a little more consistency. That conveniently ignores important things like "lack of talent" and "lack of offensive threats."
But inside a locker room, those buzzwords are fundamental concepts. If you don't believe you can fix a problem, you're never going to figure out what elements actually need to be fixed. If you're not always mentally prepared to make the contribution you are expected to make, you're never going to actually make that contribution. And so, here the Wizards are, a battered team that cannot lose the very reason to keep fighting.
"You got to play relaxed, you got to play confident. We've got to keep at it," Randy Wittman said, seemingly out of easy answers.
For Wittman in particular, the issue of consistency is especially vexing. He can't point to a single player that gives him the same contributions every night. Sometimes, Kevin Seraphin looks like the league's next dominant post scorer, and sometimes, like last night, he looks completely lost. Sometimes, Bradley Beal is making shots; sometimes, he's not and nothing else happens. Sometimes, Trevor Ariza is the open-court dynamo that Ernie Grunfeld thought he was getting when he traded for him last June; sometimes, he's a shot-clanker that stops giving a good enough defensive effort and doesn't help a team anywhere. Sometimes, Chris Singleton is aggressive; sometimes, he stands back and lets himself get pushed around.
"In a perfect world, I'd have eight or nine guys and I'd play them every night. They know when they're coming in, who's starting, who's coming off the bench," Wittman said. "I'm sometimes right now not knowing who's going to play tonight. Who's up, who's down. We just don't have the consistency of, really, anybody."
This, of course, begs several questions. Are the players not taking enough steps to be mentally ready to play? Are they letting outside forces dictate their effort? Does Wittman need to do more to promote consistency by setting a rotation instead of waiting for players to really earn their spots?
A.J. Price thinks the issue may be the players' ability to accept criticism. The Wizards' starting point guard has certainly been around the block in this area, having to deal with head coaches that yo-yoed his minutes and threatened his confidence. Last night, he took an interesting stand on the mental state of some of his teammates.
"We've got young guys on the team who kind of get caught up in what's said or how the coach says it. You can't do that," he said. "You just have to be confident in yourself and what's gotten you here. It's gotten you here for a reason. Just do what you know how to do."