I've tried very hard in the past five years to not be one of those bloggers who offers wild, mostly unsubstantiated, emotional opinions about whatever happens to be the subject of the blog post in question. I am still trying to do that but let me say this post may be an exception. I'm furious, frustrated and humiliated tonight and after another no-way-should-we-have-lost-that-game loss and a couple (OK, three) of beers at Capital One Arena, I'm annoyed enough to offer up one of those emotional posts that bloggers are famous for. Let me just say one thing: so far, the 2017-2018 Washington Wizards are SOFT!
This season started out with so much hope. And admittedly, we are only ten games in (and for perspective the Wizards last season started out 2-8) but so far this does not look like a team on a mission to secure the top spot in the East and then power their way to the Eastern Conference Finals or (dare I say it?) the NBA Finals. I loved the 2-0 start. I was disappointed in a 2-2 early season road trip but I can really forgive most any loss on the road, even one against a rebuilding Los Angeles Lakers team, especially after a dominant end of road trip closer against the hapless Sacramento Kings. Taking care of that team by 30 or so was the way things should have gone.
So last week the Wizards returned home to take on the Phoenix Suns, a team which had already fired their head coach and sent their best player home for the season (today traded to the Milwaukee Bucks). They gave up 122 points to a team (as of this writing) averaging just 104.8 per game. They followed that up tonight by losing to the one-win Dallas Mavericks 113-99. The Mavericks give up an average (including tonight) of over 107 points per game and manage fewer than 100 per game. Yet against the Wizards in Washington they flipped the script against a Wizards team with a full complement of players available. This performance is not good enough.
There's been much made of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers being disinterested in October and November games this year because the games at this point in the year don't count. The Wizards don't have that right. Teams that have not made it out of the second round of the playoffs do not get to take it easy with the confidence they will turn it on when it counts. Last year the Wizards lost exactly zero games at home in the postseason. If they had won five more regular season games, it's not unreasonable to assume they would have beaten the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs and made it at least as far as the Conference Finals. So far, they have lost two (and arguably) three easy games at home.
This past summer Kobe Bryant offered up a Twitter challenge to John Wall to make the All-NBA Defensive First Team, a challenge that Wall seemed eager to take on during the summer. As much as I love John Wall and appreciate his commitment to the Washington area, I have to say he's not meeting that challenge this season. He seems to be asking for defensive assignments which are beyond his reach. LeBron James made him look ineffective last Friday night; Harrison Barnes did the same tonight. Harrison Barnes for crying out loud!!!! I thought the challenge would make Wall more vocal and more attentive on defense. I still see the opponent blow-bys with the poke away from behind move that John loves but which frequently results in an easy basket by the other team.
Tonight John turned the ball over at one point in the game but recovered to block a breakaway layup attempt. Let me say that blocking shots on apparent breakaway dunks alone does not make you a premiere defender. Real excellence comes from defending the ball on an individual and team level on every possession. On a team level, is it just me or do the Wizards allow defensive switches to occur way too easily? Where's the fighting over screens? Where's the commitment to stop the other team no matter what?
Before last Friday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, ESPN posted an article where Bradley Beal offered the opinion that the Wizards are the best team in the Eastern Conference. Then they lost to the Cavs by giving up 130 to a team that had lost back to back to back to back games to the Nets, Pelicans, Knicks and Pacers. This is not the first time that Bradley Beal has offered an opinion like this, although he usually sticks to best backcourt in the league proclamations. I have just one thing to say here: PROVE IT! Stop talking and start acting. And start winning some games when you are supposed to. Stop losing to Phoenix and Dallas at home. Start caring. I honestly believe this conference is there for the Wizards to take. But as long as they assume that, they won't win anything.
As a fan, I offer one more thing. All the Wizards have done is show me that they are SOFT! Let's start manning up and playing opponents the way we need to play. Show us fans that you care about every game. If you don't, I think we will end up with another second round playoff ousting or worse.
I'll stop ranting now and get back in my swim lane. Expect an innocuous post about basketball cards or food at Capital One Arena or something like that. Lakers up Thursday. Let's not lose four in a row!!!