On this week’s Bleav in Wizards podcast, Larry Hughes explained why it looks to him like the Wizards are going into each game like they expect to lose. Obviously, he’s not in the locker room to know their exact mindset but he’s basing that off of his own experiences, their body language, and hearing their comments to the media.
After discussing that for a while, I wanted to know how you can tell if a team has tuned out its head coach. Hughes believes that going into games with an expectation that you’re going to lose would be a sign that has already happened. Hughes had a similar experience playing for the New York Knicks under Mike D’Antoni, specifically during the 2009-2010 season.
He described that team as a bad mix because the players were not sure if they would be around and the organization was not sure what direction they wanted to go. Sounds pretty relatable to this year’s Wizards to me.
Larry Hughes: “What we’re seeing, waiting to lose, I think that’s where you understand and know that the players are not connected with the coach and they don’t feel that the game plan is strong enough to actually win or to actually execute on what is being said. When I was with New York, for that short time, like 10 out of the 13 guys, I think, were on one-year deals.
And D’Antoni was there, he was the coach. It had already been talked about how great of an offensive coach he is and how defense is kind of just a throw-in. I mean, we would go in and we would have shoot-around and they would be like six minutes. It would be like eight minutes. And this is to prepare for the team that we’re going to play.
And all that you’re talking about really is the offensive side of the ball, on what we’re going to do. Not how we’re going to stop them. Or not how we’re going to game plan. Or not how we’re going to strategize on the defensive end to stop an opposing professional player that gets to the money just like we do.
So right there, there’s a disconnect because now were going in and to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do great on offense,’ but when we get on defense then we would have no idea. We don’t know what our adjustment is. We don’t know exactly what our standard coverage is going to be. So we have zero room to grow. We don’t have room to change direction.
If our show (on defense) isn’t working, then we’re going to switch. Well, we’d never talk about our show, and they would start getting buckets. Do we switch? Do we show? Do we drop? I mean, what do we do? There wasn’t a game plan. So quickly the players understand that we’re not in the best position to win.”
Sound familiar at all? What Hughes described with regard to defensive game plans reminds me an awful lot of what we hear during every post-game press conference this season.
The 2009-2010 Knicks never turned things around and finished 29-53. We did discuss some things the Wizards might be able to do to help their situation. We both agreed that starting with a players-only meeting might actually be a good first step given the circumstances.
Having veterans like Ish Smith and Robin Lopez, who have been on both good and bad teams, speaking up might help the younger players grasp the reality of the team’s current situation. It could also help everyone understand what they need to do differently in order for the team to improve. Sometimes things like that are more meaningful when you hear it from a peer who is trying to be honest and coming from a good place.
I’ve included some of that audio below or you can check out the episode for the full conversation.
Expecting to lose - 1:00
Postgame comments, frustration, and team chemistry - 3:00
Holding players accountable if they’re not watching enough film - 14:00
How do you know if a coach has lost his team? - 18:00
Hughes time with the Knicks - 20:00
Other guys need to step up and lead other than Beal - 25:00
The desire to see Scott Brooks lose his cool to make a point - 30:00
How much is fair to attribute to COVID-19? - 34:00
The next stretch of games looks tough - 36:00
Players eating fast good before games is more common than you might think - 45:00
Funny rookie duties - 48:00