Hello cellar, my old friend. I'm back to marking time on the wall. I really thought there was a shot at breaking out this season and I know it isn't over. It isn't even too late to make a statement. But the Wizards were looking ready to blast your door clean off its hinges. Instead, there's another failure to launch and I'm left wondering if management's matches are wet.
I know. This failure isn't like the other failures. As much as the cynic in me aches to rip into such a softball of a sentiment, I know it's true. If I want to go for unbridled optimism, I can point myself to the Wizards playing the fourth quarter games Thunder coach Scott Brooks used to wean Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook off a history of franchise futility. If I get really excited, I could say the Wizards have a willing motivator if not an able in-game tactician a la Brooks in Randy Wittman. But the air leaks out of the balloon before I get that far.
The fact that owner Ted Leonsis backed off from playoffs-or-bust to bottom-three finish in one heck of a hurry underscores that management was aware that a highly unfavorable result could be in the cards. John Wall was already injured and calling his knee injury a backbreaker was all too prophetic. How down can one be on management for such an occurrence?
A nagging counterpoint is that Wall's ability to generate easy points in transition may have been masking management's inability to assemble a balanced roster. Now, that ugly truth is on glorious display while the coaches and players are forced to throw the kitchen sink at opponents every night just to have a shot. How long does the excuse of trying to grow a competent half-court offense from scratch keep traction with ownership?
Ted has reaffirmed his support for the team's youth movement, but I'm curious how he sees it as he gets reacquainted with the cellar. When he becomes upset at the constant losing, does he ask himself how good the pre-playoffs Thunder would have been with Durant injured? I know he's not a reactionary personality. There's a ready rationale to his actions and he must be considering some sort of action. But perhaps this is all we can expect, from that same statement of public support:
So, we will continue to develop our young players. We will bring back our injured players slowly and appropriately. Their long-term health and wellbeing is very important to them, to our fans and to us. We will work free agency to add to the team. We will try to make astute trades to improve, but we also must develop cohesion, chemistry and structure around a system with so many new and young players in the rotation.
Most of that simply reaffirms his resolve not to do anything reactionary. The plan is to "develop cohesion, chemistry and structure." That isn't transparent, that's opaque. The problem is that an effective organizational manager tells the people they picked what they want and get out the way. Maybe that means finding a set rotation, maybe that means player development, maybe that's indicative of systemic failure above the player level, maybe that means group karaoke and campfire bonding. But there's no way Ted can elaborate about how the Wizards plan to pursue those goals outside of broad strokes. (Think "firings")
Fan expectations got pumped up and now we're back here in the dark being fed generalities that can't merit so much as a bullet point. There's light at the end of the tunnel, sure, but who can bear to trust it at this point? It's familiar fare for fans of a floundering franchise and knowing what developing cohesion, chemistry and structure entail would at least be a start.