Despite an 8-13 record, the Washington Wizards are 1.5 games out of the playoffs.
The team could conceivably sneak into the postseason and get bounced out of the first round, just like last year.
But if Ted Leonsis’ preseason words give any indication as to the team’s expectations, ownership wanted to achieve much more than another first-round butt whooping.
After paying luxury tax, building a multi-million dollar practice facility and investing in a G-League franchise, Leonsis said the Wizards have no more excuses. And he’s right.
Washington, on paper, has a talented roster, complete with three maxed out players. Scott Brooks is one of the highest paid coaches in the league. In fact, the team thought so highly of Brooks that they neglected to even speak to another candidate.
Yet somehow, the Wizards are out of the playoffs picture, losing to bad teams and have a myriad of locker room issues.
To make matters worse, the team’s prized off-season signing, Dwight Howard, is out for the foreseeable future as he contemplates surgery to alleviate the gluteal injury he’s dealt with all season long. Howard has already missed 12 games this season - more than Marcin Gortat missed in five seasons with the Wizards.
Oh, and he has a player option.
What’s the excuse now?
Injuries — as it’s always been. The problem with that excuse is, the Wizards have $26 million tied up in centers who aren’t playing. Remember Ian Mahinmi — the guy Ernie Grunfeld was comfortable using as the team’s center at the start of the season? He’s collecting DNP-CD after DNP-CD, becoming the first casualty of Brooks’ often-delayed lineup changes. Jason Smith, who picked up his player option this summer, is effectively out of the lineup, too, leaving the Wizards with just one available center: Thomas Bryant, an unproven second year big man who’s played a total of 180 minutes in his NBA career.
Leonsis is right. His team has no excuses. What transpires of this remains to be seen — but the first step will be Leonsis actually embracing what he said before the season began.
Washington is at a crossroads. Leonsis can either accept what he sees — a crumbling, dysfunctional franchise being led by a sorely incompetent front office — and refrain from doing anything about it or he can act as any reasonable billionaire who’s investing millions of dollars into a sinking ship would.