Before Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves there was a very real sense that Randy Wittman may be coaching his final game with the Washington Wizards. The Wizards were already on a 4-game losing streak which included 3 losses to potential play off teams in the East. There was a large section of Wizards fans on Twitter and our comment boards that were ready for Ted Leonsis to pull the trigger. A quick search for #FireWittman would show hundreds of tweets calling for his head:
Gortat was having a good game why the hell didn't Wittman play him in the fourth quarter? #FireWittman
— Patrick Ibarra (@PatrickIbarra21) February 25, 2015
Well a 20-point loss to one of the worst teams in the league turned the #FireWittman movement into a firestorm. Morale was at an all-time low preceding Friday's game against the 76ers.
With Wall and Beal healthy, Wizards can beat anyone in the East. IF they had a real coach. They do not. Potential squandered. #firewittman
— Sean O'Leary (@stholeary) February 26, 2015
Of course, we somehow blew that game as well. The vitriol flowed freely from all angles of Wizards twitter.
I'm starting it now... #FIREWITTMAN !!!! He HAS to go. Those are two of the most embarrassing losses back to back for any team this year!!
— tonymancuso317 (@tonymancuso317) February 28, 2015
Somewhat remarkably, after the incredibly embarrassing loss to the ever-tanking Sixers. Wittman still kept his job.
Unfortunately for many Wizards fans, it's becoming clear that Wittman will not end up being fired this season. If Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis had any plans or inclinations to do so, they would have done so during our visit to rock-bottom. If the Wizards go back to playing .500 basketball and sitting in the 5 to 6 seed range, this will likely be satisfactory for the Wizards front office. However, if the Wizards bow out in the first round of the playoffs unceremoniously Ted Leonsis will surely have to reconsider Wittman's employment. Firing a coach in the off-season is a much easier move than trying to adapt on the fly mid-season.
It is sad that it has come to this, losing can be an ugly thing. All we can ask as fans of the team is that Ted Leonsis does his due diligence as the team's owner this off-season. If there are better options for this team, Ted should make the right call rather than prefer the comfort of standing pat. If he truly believes Randy is the best man for the job, then I can respect his decision. He just better be prepared for the #TwitterHate.
Photo credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Marcin silenced a lot of haters this week. Many commenters on our boards and in the Twittersphere had been knocking Gortat's contract and his recent play. He even found his way into Wittman's doghouse as of late, evidenced by not getting any run in the 4th quarter. Gortat responded in a big way, and was one of the few bright spots in a week filled with disappointing losses. His rebounding numbers have been off the charts, averaging 13.4 rebounds per game with 3.2 of those boards coming off of the offensive glass. He filled the rest of his stat line nicely this week as well: 14.6 points, 1 block, and 1.2 assists per game. Marcin even notched 3 steals in last nights match-up against the Pistons. The plus/minus stat can be a tricky one, but I think it is telling that Gortat managed to post a -2 total this week despite 3 of 5 games being an embarrassing loss. Randy Wittman rewarded Gortat by finally keeping him in the rotation for the 4th quarter over Seraphin/Humphries. Although it is worth mentioning that Humphries has been hurt and Seraphin has been unable to get much going the past two games, so it will be interesting to see if Gortat keeps these minutes. Either way, the Polish Machine deserves a break from his critics for awhile.
Photo credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Originally, this was going to be a "trending down" section for John. But last night Wall completely changed the narrative by having a monster night. So while I'm not absolving him of his struggles earlier this week, it's tough to give him the "trending down" when he received M-V-P chants last night.
A lions share of the Wizards struggles recently can be blamed on Randy Wittman and Ernie Grunfeld, but they are not the only ones to blame. It's a shame to say but our #gamechanger had a mostly miserable week of basketball. If you take away the Detroit game, John shot 22-70 from the field (31%) and averaged 13 points per game. His assist numbers actually remained impressive at 11 per game but the offense had been completely stagnant before Saturday night, averaging only 88.5 points a game. When the offense is that putrid, Wall is clearly not doing something right. All of this would be excusable if he was just in a funk, but John looked downright disengaged those nights. It was especially evident in his lazy defense against Minnesota and Philadelphia.
While these are just small 7-second clips, most people who watched the games would agree that this is indicative of how he was playing throughout. It's bad enough that the Wizards can't win when John is having an off night, but when he's just not putting in the effort we don't stand a chance. Luckily, John Wall bounced back on Saturday.
John earned his "M-V-P" chants with increased energy on defense and a very efficient night offensively. He ended up being Washington's highest scorer with 22 points on 8-14 shooting and making 6 of 7 free throws. Most importantly, he played energetic defense and at no point in the game looked checked out. Wall's ability to draw the foul with 7.3 seconds left and nail both free throws also put the game out of reach. Of course it's much easier to find Vines of John Wall playing well than him playing poorly, so here are some of his highlights from last night.
Glad to see John finish the week strong, hopefully he'll keep this up. I never want to have to put him in the "trending down" section.
Coming into this week, the Wizards had just been blown out by 38 to the Cavaliers during their first game back from the All-Star break. The loss was obviously concerning, since the result gave the Cavaliers the 4th seed over the Wizards. Little did we know how bad it was about to get.
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Sunday afternoon started off with promise. Detroit had recently acquired guard Reggie Jackson in a trade with the Thunder, and Jackson's first half as a Piston was something of a nightmare for him. He missed his first 8 shots and failed to run the offense fluidly. The Wizards took advantage and jumped out to a respectable 52-47 lead at halftime. After the break, Jackson found his footing and went 7-10 for 17 points while leading the Pistons to a 35 point 3rd quarter. Meanwhile, the Wizards completely stagnated offensively and put up a paltry 37 points in the second half. Despite Gortat having one of his best games of the season (24 pts. and 10 rebounds), no one else on the Washington roster stepped up to stop the bleeding on both sides of the court. The storm clouds were rolling in over the District... Read the recap here.
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Morale was low around D.C., three straight Eastern teams had demoralized the Wizards and now they were en route to face the top team in the West (and the NBA) the Golden State Warriors. Many fans had already written this game off as another sure-thing blow out. The news of Stephen Curry's return from injury only further affirmed that belief. Much to everyone's surprise, Washington played an extremely competitive game. The Wizards were within 3 with 4 minutes remaining in regulation. An Iguodala 3-pointer combined with a John Wall offensive foul sealed the game for the Warriors, but if there was ever a moral victory for the Wiz this was it. The effort shown was encouraging, but the loss was still the 4th in a row. There was a sense of calm before the storm. Read the recap here.
Photo credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
The schedule seemed to be daring us to go lower. Wednesday night pitted us against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a dark horse candidate for worst team in the league. Kevin Garnett's triumphant return to Minnesota was going to add some energy to the match-up, but the league's worst defense and a sub-par offense should have been feasted upon by John Wall and company. In the early going, that seemed to be the case. It took almost 7 minutes of game time for the T-Wolves to score their first field goal. You can give some credit to strong early defense by the Wizards, but the reality was that the Wolves couldn't hit the broad side of the Target Center in the first quarter. It was all downhill after that. The Wizards were outscored by 29 points for the remainder of the contest. Led by the hot hand of Kevin Martin (28 points, 10-15 shooting), Minnesota gained the lead 3 minutes into the second half and never looked back. The hurricane of desperation had hit Washington, and it was ugly to watch. Read the recap here.
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If Minnesota was the actual hurricane, Friday's game against the Sixers was the day after the storm. Wizards fans were essentially milling around, viewing the wreckage of what once was something to be proud of. The loss on Friday seemed inevitable, since everything of value such as faith in the team and its coach had been demolished by the whirlwinds of incompetence that had swept through Washington's February. The game was close throughout, but no one was particularly surprised when the Wizards never led in the 4th quarter despite coming within 2 points three times. John Wall and Rasual Butler had particularly horrific games, both shooting about 25% from the field despite a high volume of shots. However, no one else aside from perhaps Otto Porter and Ramon Sessions (kind of) contributed in a meaningful way. Much like the wreckage after a major storm, everyone affected is left with the daunting question of "how can we ever clean this up?" Read the recap here.
Photo credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Saturday night gave Wizards fans hope. Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce were back in the lineup, John Wall was back from his mental vacation to Mars, and the starting unit once again looked like one of the best in the league. All of the starters had great games aside from Bradley Beal who was understandably a little rusty. The bench was an issue in this game, but even they couldn't completely squander a 21-point second half lead. Although Wall had a phenomenal game, Marcin Gortat has to be the game MVP. Gortat ended up with 16 points and 17 rebounds and seems to be finally settling back into the rotation in the 4th quarter. Read the recap here.
Fortunately, the upcoming week allows for some time to regroup for the directionless Wizards. With only one game in the first part of the week, hopefully the Wizards can heal their mental wounds before a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday. They will travel to middle America twice this week with a home game sandwiched in-between just to keep them on their toes. All three squads are likely Eastern Conference playoff teams who are dealing with negative changes to their roster, which may present the Wizards with an opportunity to regain some ground in the standings.
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On Tuesday, Washington travels to Chicago to face the 3-seed Bulls. Though the Bulls have been playing well as of late, they received devastating news this past week. Derrick Rose will once again miss significant time due to a serious knee injury. While it now appears as though Rose will be able to suit up before the playoffs, the injury still throws a wrench into the Bulls title chances. Luckily for Chicago, this is not a new scenario for them by any means. If anything they are more prepared for this round of "life without Rose" than they were the first two times. Jimmy Butler has become a star in his own right, Pau Gasol has been tremendous, and the numbers indicate that there isn't much of a drop off when Aaron Brooks runs the point. So it will be an adjustment, but certainly nothing the Bulls can't handle. The Wizards will face the Bulls for their fourth game without Rose. Chances are, the Bulls will be already back to full speed. However, Rose was still the second-highest scorer for Chicago so some drop off on the offensive end wouldn't be surprising. This would be a great time for the Wizards to get back to playing at the level we saw earlier in the season, but until they show us that switch still exists it's tough to see them beating a top Eastern Conference opponent.
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After a two-day hiatus, Washington makes the the second stop of their "tough break" Eastern Conference teams tour back home at the phone booth against the Miami Heat. After acquiring Goran Dragic at the trade deadline, talks of a new big-3 team in Miami began to take shape. Sadly, this talk was cut short after news of Chris Bosh's season being ended early by a blood clot in his lungs. Hopefully Bosh can make a speedy recovery but for the remainder of the season the Heat will have to hold onto their 7-seed for dear life. Since the announcement the Heat have gone 2-3 and both wins came against cupcake teams (Philadelphia & Orlando). With Indiana, Charlotte, Boston, Brooklyn, & Detroit all breathing down their necks in the standings I don't foresee them making the playoffs. This should be a game the Wizards can steal, right??
Photo credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
On Saturday, the Wizards will play the second game of the back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks. While Milwaukee has not faced the hardships that Chicago and Miami have had to deal with, they are not without their own version of adversity. A week ago the Bucks had to request waivers on center Larry Sanders, who had to step away from the NBA due to anxiety and depression. Also on Milwaukee's plate is trying to form Michael Carter-Williams into a serviceable offensive point guard. MCW already has the defensive chops to hang with an NBA squad. The problem is that offensively he is a liability, especially relative to Brandon Knight whom the Bucks traded for MCW, Miles Plumlee, and Tyler Ennis. This trade certainly wouldn't be considered a "win now" move but it gives them some peace of mind with their salary cap moving forward. We may very well be locked into a two-team race with Milwaukee for the 5 or 6 seed the rest of the season, so this is a big game for both teams. By the time we reach this game the Wizards should be back to some semblance of competency, and I see them winning comfortably.
In Case You Missed It:
Garrett Temple had a strong game defensively against the Warriors on Tuesday. This block was an exclamation mark on the evening.
John Wall came in for this final play in the 1st quarter against the Warriors. He drove the length of the court in 4.4 seconds to score.
The Wizards will be wearing "Los Wizards" jerseys for two games in March. Click here for more.
Garrett Temple inexplicably got called for a foul on this play.
So, a foul on Garrett Temple vs Jason Richardson? https://t.co/woWHjlmhdN
— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) February 28, 2015
You could change this caption to "February Summary".
The status of the Wizards:
Nene punished Andre Drummond here, turn up your speakers for the appropriate reaction:
Comment of the Week:
This comment was posted by elliotlevy2 promptly following the loss to Philadelphia on Friday night. The image accurately sums up what many of us are feeling right now. This slump sucks.
Keep your heads up everyone, hopefully next week can be a more positive summation.