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Washington Wizards fire head trainer, according to report

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

We all knew this was going to be a summer of changes for the Wizards, but the most recent change is a rather unexpected one that doesn’t involve the team’s roster.

J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic is reporting the Wizards fired Eric Waters, their head trainer since 2004, even though he still had one year left on his contract.

It’s a curious move on a number of levels, which is only complicated by the fact that most of us are not medical experts, so it’s hard to speak with any real confidence to Waters’ acumen as a trainer.

So rather than try to pretend we have some insight into sports science, let’s try to focus on and discuss what we do know:

  • In recent years, there’s been a recurring trend of Wizards players taking longer to recover from injuries than initially projected. If you’re looking for specific examples, go back and read J. Michael’s tweets (here) or Jorge Castillo’s tweets (here) about Alan Anderson’s ankle this season.
  • Thomas Knox, the Wizards’ Director of Player Performance and Rehabilitation, took a job with the Cardinals last month. No idea if that’s at all connected to this week’s decision, but it’s worth noting.
  • Zach Lowe (a man who has a better feel for the NBA landscape than probably anyone) had this to say about the Wizards training staff back in April: “The Wizards have a well-respected training staff, and they've been quietly ahead of the curve in some areas of analytics and biometrics.”
  • The move to fire Waters comes on the heels of an injury-plagued season for Washington. The only teams who lost more games to injury than were the Grizzlies and Pelicans:
  • As the above chart from Man Games Lost shows, while the Wizards did lose a high quantity of games to injury, they didn’t lose much this season in terms of quality. Other than Bradley Beal, the team’s most-injured players were players who came off the bench, like Nene, Alan Anderson, Gary Neal, and Martell Webster. If the Wizards are firing their head trainer because just because they lost a lot of games to injury, that’s a pretty silly reason.
  • Additionally, if that is the reason, it ignores the fact that the Wizards have consistently taken risks on players with known injury issues. Nene, Martell Webster, Alan Anderson, and Jared Dudley all had known issues that Washington felt were worth the risk when they signed them.

Like we said at the beginning, we’re not medical experts, and we don’t have any particular insights into how things worked inside the locker room. That said, it will be quite interesting to see where the team goes from here and if it has any sort of impact on next year’s performance.