Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Maybe the Wizards were supposed to be bad, but not THIS bad

Like most Wizards fans, I assume, I thought the Wizards would be somewhat improved this season, but overall still a bad team. Unfortunately, they've skipped the "somewhat improved" part entirely. At 0-8, the Wizards have been competitive at times, but far more often they've been a team that plays selfish, uninspired basketball, and that most recently resulted in a 93-72 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In his latest Washington Post column, Mike Wise notes just how flawed this team is:
Some of the Wizards’ problems are obvious: Second-year point guard John Wall, the team’s main reason for hope, is off to a brutal start; Blatche, McGee and other key players rarely make good decisions in the fourth quarter; and the team’s overall talent pool is very shallow.

Others are utterly unfixable. The players with the most heart — Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton among them — don’t have enough skill. The players with the most skill — Blatche, McGee and Nick Young — don’t have enough heart. And the wizened veterans such as Evans, Roger Mason Jr. and Rashard Lewis are almost caught in a culture war between their scrappy teammates who care and their more talented teammates who remain clueless.
I'm not sure it's quite that simple, but it's a good place to start. Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee are two of this team's biggest scapegoats. And there's no question that John Wall has struggled, particularly when it comes to shooting the ball and trusting his teammates when things start going south.

I've been one of the many advocating more playing time for the rookie Singleton and second-year forward Booker, and they should be receiving heavy minutes every game. But that won't change the fact that Singleton's offensive upside is a guy who can knock down open threes, or that Booker can't really hit any shots outside of the paint (it's really a shame that Booker is 6'8 instead of 6'11 or 7'0). That doesn't mean they don't bring something to the table -- they obviously hustle and play more defense than most of the players on the roster -- but neither will transform into the star player the Wizards desperately need. Hopefully Wall becomes that star, but right now that's not the case.

(Random thought: Would any Wizards fans complain about the following starting lineup?

John Wall
Nick Young
Chris Singleton
Trevor Booker
JaVale McGee

That's obviously not the most efficient offensive group, but it's an extremely fast lineup that can go up and down the floor in a hurry. What's so special about a guy like Blatche where he's guaranteed to start and receive consistent minutes every game? He complained early in the season about not getting the ball in the post, yet every time he gets the ball now, he's nowhere near the basket. He's also content to launch jumpers that the defense has no problem letting him take.

Oh, and the Jordan Crawford experiment at point guard has to end. It's unbearable.)

Anyway, here's Wise's big finish:
Give Leonsis credit for transparency: He told us there would be seasons like these. That’s the sad truth that is starting to sink in with each embarrassing loss: This season’s Wizards were supposed to be almost painful to watch.

So as the losses pile up — and with 14 games in the next 22 days, surely they will — and the sentiment that someone must pay grows, consider: This was part of a plan.

That’s why Saunders and Grunfeld and especially Leonsis must stay and endure the pain with the rest of us: to ostensibly see how awfully bad it can be before there’s any hope of it getting good.
Sorry, but I'm not on board with that. This was the season in which the Wizards were supposed to be the worst team in the league? In Wall's second season, playing with guys that Grunfeld either drafted or acquired to make up the core of this team? Certainly that doesn't include Rashard Lewis, who was brought in just so Gilbert Arenas and his massive contract could be shipped out of town. But Blatche, McGee, Jordan Crawford, Young, and Kevin Seraphin all receive a ton of minutes, and they're the players that fans wouldn't mind seeing depart in the near future. Some fans are already starting to give up on Wall, which is unfortunate. (And many have already given up on Jan Vesely, who's played one game.)

I blame Grunfeld much more than Saunders. Saunders isn't the desired coach to lead a bad, young, rebuilding team. The offense is terrible, though that's mostly because the Wizards don't have many shooters and that they don't share the basketball. But Grunfeld is the architect of this team, and he's failed miserably. I won't go through all of the terrible trades and draft picks, but there are many of them. He's made several solid moves as well, sure. But this Wizards team may end up historically bad, and I don't trust Grunfeld to continue this rebuilding process. Why should anyone?

I'm also tired of Leonsis telling fans to be patient. We've been patient. Look at this team's record the last few years:

'08-'09: 19-63
'09-'10: 26-56
'10-'11: 23-59

Would he rather have no one care, or no one show up at games, or no one argue that changes need to be made? And maybe if stomaching lots of losses was the only awful thing, fans would be somewhat more inclined to go along with whatever plan the team is using. But this team is also routinely embarrassing off the court, and there doesn't seem to be much punishment for certain insubordinate acts.

I don't need Leonsis to hop on to his blog after each of the team's awful performances to tell fans to relax and to think of how wonderful everything will be in the future. A team's progress takes place on the court, and that's something Leonsis can't hide from fans. And right now, things aren't working.