"It's tough right now but we're going to stay positive and continue to work hard. We're going to do everything possible to turn this thing around. It's tough when you put yourself in position to win, but you just can't get it done. We're going to get on a plane, learn from our mistakes, and once we touch down in Atlanta, we need to get focused on a pretty good Atlanta team that is playing well at home."
Head coach Eddie Jordan is also starting to show some frustration:
"This team is built for Gilbert Arenas to lead us; this team is built for our all star forwards to do certain offensive things for us and for Brendan Haywood to have a career year manning the middle for us. We don't have those things. You're asking people to do things they are not capable of doing. They are not capable of carrying the load for us like a Dwyane Wade, like a Gilbert Arenas. You've got young guys who aren't going to make veteran plays night in, night out."
There's no questioning the fact that the Wizards would be much better off with Arenas and Haywood in the lineup. While Jordan is right about having several young players, he routinely sends his overmatched veterans out to start the first and third quarters, forcing his team to dig out of deficits at least twice a game. Want proof? Here are the +/- numbers to start the first and third quarters before Jordan makes his first substitution.
Game 1 (95-85 L to Nets): tied in 1st (4:16), +1 in 3rd (4:16)
Game 2 (117-109 L to Pistons): -14 in 1st (2:47), -7 in 3rd (5:05)
Game 3 (112-104 L to Bucks): -10 in 1st (3:46), +4 in 3rd (5:03)
Game 4 (114-108 L to Knicks): -6 in 1st (3:45), -5 in 3rd (6:56)
Game 5 (106-81 L to Magic): -6 in 1st (2:42), -6 in 3rd (4:31)
Game 6 (95-87 W vs. Jazz): -4 in 1st (3:36), -3 in 3rd (7:41)
Game 7 (97-77 L to Heat): -8 in 1st (1:57), +7 in 3rd (6:28)*
Game 8 (94-87 L to Heat): -4 in 1st (4:39), -8 in 3rd (9:41)
* Darius Songaila started the quarter in place of Etan Thomas.
Other info: The starting five for games 1, 2, 4, and 6 was Daniels, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, and Thomas. The starting five for game 3 was Daniels, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, and Blatche, and the starting five for games 5, 7, and 8 was Dixon, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, and Thomas.
The Wizards are a combined -69 (!) before the first substitution is made in the first and third quarters. What that means is the following: The young guys that do come in the game like Young, McGee, and Blatche have their work cut out for them and need to work hard to get their team back in the game. Sure, the starting lineups are also playing against the starting lineups of other teams, which may be tougher, but they're still getting significantly outplayed.
I also don't think it's a concidence that two of the three positive starts to quarters came with Etan Thomas not in the lineup. And that means that either McGee or Blatche should start in his place. Or, at least Blatche would be in a position to start or play more if he didn't have problems with his conditioning. According to Jordan, Blatche's conditioning "hasn't gotten to the point where it's where it should be, where he can sustain a high level of intensity and a high level of concentration." In that case, McGee should be the starting center until Haywood returns.
The case could also be made that Nick Young should be starting in place of DeShawn Stevenson. Not only has Young played better than Stevenson after eight games, but Stevenson also appears to be dealing with a hamstring problem. Stevenson is averaging 8.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists; last year, he averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. He played about 5 more minutes per game last year, but he also shot better from the 3-point line (38.3% in '07, 29.0% in '08). He's obviously struggling a bit, and even though he's been known to play through injuries before, if he's hurting the team in the starting lineup, then he needs to be replaced.
Young, on the other hand, is almost doubling his offensive production from last season. The injury to Gilbert Arenas and the departure of Roger Mason have given Young more minutes (over 28 per game), and he's scoring 14.8 points per game off of the bench. He's also shooting a solid 47.2% from the field despite shooting a miniscule 14.3% from 3-point range. It goes without saying that Young seems to be at his best when he's creating off the dribble or shooting fadeaways. According to 82games, the Wizards are also +7 when Young is on the floor and -91 when Stevenson is playing.
While Young has been solid, McGee has probably been the biggest bright spot on an otherwise ugly start to the season. The McGee selection in last year's draft was ripped by several analysts and colunnists (here, here, and here), but McGee has been one of the best players so far this season. In a little over 21 minutes per game, the rookie is averaging 9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks. McGee seems to have a big future, and he should continue to get plenty of minutes. The Wizards are also +1 with McGee on the court (and -66 when Thomas plays).
Besides two blowout losses to the Magic and Heat, the Wizards have been competitive; a few plays here or there and the team could be .500 right now -- but they're not. Starting Young and McGee wouldn't necessarily guarantee the Wizards any victories, but having Jordan revamp the starting lineup and bench rotations would give the team more of a chance to win some more games.