This probably won’t come as a shock to you, but the Wizards are disappointing their fans this season. The team entered 2013-14 with legitimate playoff hopes; as the squad was able to parlay Emeka Okafor’s expiring contract and what could end up being a nice lottery pick in next season’s draft for stopgap center Marcin Gortat. The continued development of guards John Wall and Bradley Beal alongside the all-around doings of veteran big man Nene added to those postseason hopes. Yes, the Wizards were going all-in just for 40-some wins, but at least a first round cameo could be in the offing.
Things haven’t gone well in November. The team is stuck at 2-6, its offense has dwindled after a white hot start, and its defense (surprisingly amongst the league’s very best last season) has sunk like a stone to 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency. The Wizards were trampled by the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday in a 92-79 game that really didn’t feel as close as that score, a contest that led Gortat to compare the 8-1 Spurs’ style of play to “listening to Mozart.”
Nene? He focused his postgame quotes on his own team. And though he started by referencing the Spurs’ class, things went south from there. From Michael Lee at the Washington Post:
“They kicked our butts in the most classy way — playing the right way,” Nene said, fuming following the clinical destruction of the Wizards by the selfless Spurs. “It’s crazy, that’s what makes me mad. Our young guys think they’re so smart. But if I was young, I would watch video of that game for one week to see if I could learn something, because the way they play is how you’re supposed to play.
“They not talented as us,” Nene continued. “They have great players, a great team, but the way they execute things, the way they cut, the way they exploit weaknesses, swing the ball. They don’t think about stats. We still think about stats. Our young guys must take their heads out their butts and play the right way, because I’m getting tired of this.”
Nene has long been coveted as a defender who moves his feet more than he’s coveted as a scorer or rebounder – his best contributions usually don’t show up in the typical box score, as we saw in the Spurs loss, when Nene held Tim Duncan to a career-worst two points in the contest. So pointing out that he missed four of six shots while only picking up two rebounds in 25 minutes would be missing the point.
(Still, it wasn’t the finest game of the big man’s career. But let’s get to the buttheads.)
John Wall is the obvious target here, as the fourth-year guard missed 14 of 19 shots while managing as many turnovers as assists (three). Beal wasn’t great, needing 19 shots to score 19 points, and Jan Vesely somehow managed a plus/minus of -21 in 21 minutes of play – missing three of four shots and generally looking a little clueless from what I saw.
One has to disagree with Nene’s assertion that the Spurs aren’t as talented as the Wizards, because the 8-1 defending Western Conference champions and near-NBA champions are pretty damn talented. They may not, as Tony Parker ages, have anyone as fast as John Wall. And they may not have anyone as athletic as Vesely, but in terms of talent? Yeah, San Antonio has Washington licked.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman also offered up a curious quote:
“To fight back to get to 60-57 after the start we had was good and we just threw it down the toilet,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “We don’t have a guy who we can say, ‘We’re going to give you the ball, let’s spread the floor, you go get us a shot and get us a basket.’ We’re not made up that way.”
I’m sure John Wall completely disagrees with this statement, and probably considers himself the ultimate “We’re going to give you the ball, let’s spread the floor, you go get us a shot and get us a basket”-player. I kind of consider him to be that way too; because the Wizards shouldn’t always have to rely on the pass-pass-pass-move-pass style of play that the Spurs (who finished the game with 28 assists, nearly doubling Washington’s total) rely on.
That style of play is ideal, but in a perfect world you’d be able to pair that at times with individual or two-man play, two things that Wall is supremely gifted at.
All this is taking place in a season where the Wizards were given a playoff edict from on high by owner Ted Leonsis, and a season that began with the team basically selling out its future in dealing a first rounder for Gortat. It’s very possible that the team could right its ship after a 2-6 start and still win the requisite 41 games (or so) that it takes to grab an eighth seed in the East, this team did end last season by splitting its last 50 games after all, but so, so much has to go right.
And if we’re already sniping about the young punks just two weeks into the season? Wizards be Wizardin’, guys.
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