It can be very sad to see a team with hope for resurgence start a new season by falling flat on it face. Such has been the case for this season’s Washington Wizards. After suffering through a disappointing 2015-16, the Wizards were supposed to return to contention for a playoff spot (at the very least) and see new head coach Scott Brooks help lift backcourt duo John Wall and Bradley Beal to new heights. Instead, they entered Tuesday night’s home game against the Orlando Magic with a 7-12 record and plenty of uninspired performances. It’s enough to make fans pine for the Randy Wittmann era.
Even the best moments for the Wizards are turning out poorly. The matchup with the Magic was instructive in this respect. Point guard John Wall set a new career high with 52 points (18-of-31 FG, 5-of-8 3FG, 11-of-14 FT) and added eight assists and three steals in what was far and away the best individual performance of the night.
Wall was so good, in fact, that Washington narrowly avoided losing by double digits at home to a sub-.500 opponent. Orlando scored 40 points in the second quarter to go up 65-52 at the half, led by 15 entering the fourth, and stayed in firm control on their way to a 124-116 win.
While the Magic had trouble stopping Wall, the Wizards couldn’t keep anyone from filling the basket. All nine Magic players to see action scored at least eight points, and all but two finished in double figures. The bench combined for 73 points and 16 of Orlando’s 24 assists, with point guard Elfrid Payton standing out as particularly effective with a career-high 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Worse yet, the Magic came into the night with the league’s second-worst offense by points per 100 possessions.
Brooks was understandably unimpressed by his team’s effort. He called out several fundamental problems in his post-game press conference:
— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) December 7, 2016
In other words, the Wizards look just as unsettled and unsure of themselves as they did under Wittmann last season. Brooks clearly has not been the answer for this group, but it’s also apparent that Washington’s issues go beyond the head coach. The roster either does not fit together or lacks the talent necessary to make the Wizards a contender. Wall is still an All-Star talent and Beal can score with anyone on his best days, but the Wizards do not have the versatile forwards and athletic big men that animate many of the NBA’s best teams. Then again, even the worst NBA teams should be able to block out and exert themselves with some consistency.
It’s safe to say that nothing is going according to plan. Brooks was supposed to turn this team into one of the East’s top-four teams, but the Wizards more closely resemble a franchise in need of a rebuild. You know things are bad when a career high from the best player on the team isn’t enough to grab a home win against an opponent with plenty problems of its own.
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