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Though the Wizards' 2020-21 season has been an unmitigated disaster so far, there are two ways to look at it right now. One way is that they are 3-12 and falling way short of their preseason expectations. The other is they have dealt with objectively difficult circumstances due to the coronavirus.
Certainly their recent outbreak can be attached to their last four losses, which followed a 13-day layoff and six postponed games. They first returned missing most of their regular rotation. And on Friday night against the Hawks, though they technically had Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans, they were clearly not themselves.
The Wizards missed two weeks of games and that has left them two weeks behind their opponents. In the case of Hachimura and Bertans, it's three weeks. And those effects are showing.
The Wizards' last four games have featured their four lowest-scoring outputs of the season. On Friday, Bertans shot 0-for-7, certainly not what you would expect from one of the best shooters in the NBA.
Washington is a mess and much of it isn't their fault, yet they are contiuing to play while teams take advantage.
"Nobody cares. Nobody feels sorry for us," Russell Westbrook said.
"I’m not going to keep harping on Covid and this s--- and that. I’m not going to answer any more questions about that anymore, just a heads up to [the media] here."
The frustrating is showing, and as the losses pile up the attention is naturally turning to head coach Scott Brooks, who is in the final year of his contract. He has to lead the Wizards out of this and it would be understandable if he is starting to feel some pressure.
Brooks is confident in his team, if not defiant, and believes wholeheartedly they will make something of what is trending towards a lost season.
"We have a lot of moving parts and, fairly, it’s going to take some time. We don’t want to and we hope that it doesn’t take a couple of weeks, but there’s a chance that it might," Brooks said.
"We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting and we will turn it around. And when we do turn it around, it’s going to be a great feeling to say that we turned around a very unique, a first-time [situation] that hopefully never happens again."
Brooks rightfully pointed out that the Wizards haven't just missed players due to the coronavirus, they have missed some of their best players. Hachimura and Bertans are part of the team's core. They are also without talented rookie Deni Avdija and Ish Smith, who is the leader of the bench.
"It’s unusual. I don’t have the blueprint. I don’t want to ever learn how to coach this way. I’m not a good Covid coach and I’m the first to admit that," Brooks said.
Brooks said he has been encouraged by the play of Westbrook, who has dealt with injuries to his finger and quad so far this season, but on Friday had a season-high 26 points. He looked faster and more aggressive attacking the rim, more closely resembling the guy who made nine All-Star teams with the Thunder and Rockets.
If Westbrook can get healthy, that's a start. They then need Hachimura, Bertans, Avdija and others to get up to speed. Then, Brooks feels the Wizards will hit their stride.
He's not alone in his confidence.
"I feel the same way as coach," Bradley Beal said.
"We understand that nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. We don’t want that. We’ve gotta dig ourselves out of this hole."