Spacing the Floor | The first half: Paul George believes he can win with Russell Westbrook
WASHINGTON — It’s time to stop waiting on the Washington Wizards to make the next step.
Although it seems like they’re always on the doorstep in the East, the truth is time and the game have passed this squad by.
It’s not that they lack talent, with John Wall, Bradley Beal and even a still-effective Dwight Howard as the main cogs, but they haven’t put the pieces together and this 2-8 start seems to indicate a shakeup is needed.
Being blown out by a road-weary Oklahoma City Thunder team on national TV Friday night was all the evidence anyone needs to get to this conclusion. And then tack on a 119-100 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.
The team is capped out with very little flexibility, as Wall and Beal are on long, expensive deals, and coach Scott Brooks has three full years left on his contract, which pays him $7 million annually.
Although the writing seems to be on the wall for a team that topped out by reaching the second round three times in the last five years, Beal believes otherwise.
“We’re good on paper. We look great,” Beal told Yahoo Sports. “You look at the team we have, what are we missing? We have shooters, you got a big man. Point guard, two guard. We’re not missing anything.”
Defensively, though, the Wizards look disinterested, and on offense there doesn’t look to be enough structure to make up for the lack of intensity on the other end.
Their minus-9.3 point differential ranks closer to Atlanta and Orlando — rebuilding teams clearly willing to take their lumps in the name of the future — than with Toronto, Boston or Philadelphia, the teams with whom they were supposed to be competing with LeBron James out of the conference.
“Yeah, it is [a bad sign],” Beal said. “It’s been a few years now, we’re gonna keep changing the team? The team has changed every year, in one way or another. We’ve added pieces, didn’t bring guys back. In a way, our team has changed, year to year.”
Austin Rivers has struggled to adjust after being traded from the Los Angeles Clippers, where he had two solid seasons. His 37 percent shooting and 6.3 points per game rank among the lowest marks of his career — and he’s in a contract year.
Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre also are free agents at the end of the year, and with the perceived chemistry problems that have haunted the team the last few seasons, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more sniping or agenda-driven play if the losing continues.
Beal insists everyone is getting along and that this team is just getting “tested” with the early adversity.
“Losing’s not fun. If you have a losing mindset, every game will be a tough one,” Beal told Yahoo Sports. “It’s never fun. Nobody’s in a good mood, nobody’s happy.”
The usually jovial Howard is preaching positivity, hoping it catches on in the locker room after he made his season debut Friday night. And perhaps that can stave off a complete downward spiral, because the Wizards do have a history of rebounding from slow starts.
But even if that happens, it appears the rest of the Wizards’ history will come right along with it — wanting more but once again waiting till next year.
1. I have no problem with Kyrie Irving taking umbrage with Jamal Murray taking a last shot for 50. I have a bigger problem with Irving not stopping him from getting the first 48.
2. As of Nov. 6, there were 11 40-plus point games this season and four games of 50 or more. This time last year, that number was 10 and two. Not much difference, even with the astronomical scoring numbers.
3. Topic to be explored later in this space: The Milwaukee Bucks look like party crashers in the East. Beware, Philly.
4. Dan Gilbert sure looks happy to have his team back after four years of custody by LeBron James, eh?
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Eric Adelson: Florida vote proves a big win for NFL stars
• Ex-Colts star elected. How did other athlete-candidates do?
• David Beckham scores a big election night win
• Jerry Jones called out by former Cowboys star