Saturday, February 28, 2015

Just Another Brick in the Wall (Wizards Need an Education)

Never in my life have I been so frustrated by a team I cheer for.

And I'm a St. Louis Rams fan.

The Washington Wizards, after starting the season 31-15, ranking as high as 2nd in the Eastern conference for significant periods of time, have now lost 6 straight, 11 of their last 13, and 2 straight games to the worst and 2nd-worst teams in their conferences, respectively.

Let me say that last part again.  The Wizards just lost two straight games to the 13-44 Minnesota Timberwolves and the 13-45 Philadelphia 76ers.  Their 26 COMBINED wins would rank 17th in the league.

The 76ers lost the first 19 games of the season and have since traded away their best player (Michael Carter-Williams), had a 5-game losing streak of their own going in, were led at PG by a player who signed as a free agent 5 days ago (Ish Smith - sick name btw), and even got 11 minutes from Javale McGee.  JAVALE MCGEE (feel free to peruse YouTube for more gems).  We remember him.  Well, even he managed a +3 against us on Friday night.  What's perhaps worst, is it looked like an evenly matched game between two equally terrible teams.

Now, we can make excuses.  Bradley Beal, our second leading scorer, has missed 8 straight games.  Paul Pierce, the starting small forward and veteran leader, has missed the last 2.  Kris Humphries has been in-and-out with back soreness for the last few weeks.  The Wizards are 1-7 since losing Beal, but then again, they had lost 5 straight before he went out.

The Wizards offense is in shambles, and sadly, it all starts with our supposed leader, John Wall.  What the fuck has happened.  In the first 4 games since the All-Star break, Wall attempted a grand total of 3 free throws.  This is supposed to be a slasher that can get into the lane, create for himself and draw fouls.  In the game against Minnesota he never attempted a single drive into the lane, NOT ONE, in spite of having a good pick set for him on 99.9% of possessions.  He looked straight up timid with the ball, and was afraid to even take larger defenders off the dribble.  His entire game has lacked intensity.  Gone is the fiery leader that roared to the crowd after offensive and defensive plays alike.  During the Wizards 2-11 stretch, he has amassed only 10 steals, down a full steal from his season average of 1.8 per/game.  The last two games have seen him go 9/36 from the field (25%) against decidedly inferior opponents.  Brick city.

Speaking of bricks, the Wizards "3-point shooters" sure like to put up a lot of them.  Rasual Butler got off to a hot start shooting 3s this season, shooting 55% in November and 47% in December, but has since regressed to a paltry 33% in January and an awful 25% in February - right as we needed him to step up.  Martell Webster, one of our more reliable 3-point shooters the last two seasons at around 40%, has struggled to get playing time since returning from injury, and has struggled even more at converting 3-pointers, making only 23% of his attempts.  Perhaps he should stick to his rap career.  Paul Pierce, Garrett Temple, and Otto Porter represent the most consistent 3-point shooting options right now, which is probably why we're getting outscored behind the 3-point line at a 3:1 clip of late.

The troubles don't stop there.  Marcin Gortat has come out of his slump of late but both he and Nene have failed to create on their own and have both struggled off the pick-and-roll to boot.  Nene has brief flurries of activity and then disappears for the rest of the game, and is somehow ineffective on the glass in spite of his size.  This team really misses the spark that Kris Humphries brings off the bench, and I never thought I'd say that.  In fact, "Hump," as he was so lovingly called by the Kardashian clan, has shocked me in overcoming his Kardashian-related handicap to become one of my favorite Wizards.

But more than any specific part of their team offense or defense, this team has lacked the fire that it had earlier in the season.  They look lost, looking for leadership that Wall has failed to provide, along with Coach Randy Wittman.

A sad, sad team.

There are pieces of inspiration at hand.  Drew Gooden always brings tenacity off the bench.  Garrett Temple and Otto Porter have done an honorable job attempting to fill the shoes of Bradley Beal, bringing intensity on both ends of the court.  Ramon Sessions looks re-invigorated since being freed from his restraints in Sacramento.  There are guys who want to play, and they all seem to have one thing in common - they're coming off the bench.

So I think its time for a change and it starts with this: bench John Wall.  Not for an extended period of time, just one game should do.  Shake him up.  Let him know he has to be the leader of this team, they look to him for energy and inspiration, and this current shit just ain't cutting it.  It is blatantly obvious to me where Wall has been lacking on the offensive end of late, so it should be super-blatantly obvious to Randy Wittman.  If he can't figure out how to coach Wall to steadily attack the lane or is somehow unaware of his current shortcomings, he needs to be fired.

I said late in the 4th quarter of the embarrassing loss to Minnesota that I would love to see a starting lineup of Sessions, Temple, Porter, Humphries, and Gortat out there on Friday night against the 76ers.  Humphries is hurt, so give the start to Gooden.  Wake this team up.

The Wizards were a popular pick to win the East as recently as a month ago.  That fire isn't out yet, but if someone doesn't stoke it, these Wizards just might perish with winter.

For you, master bricklayer, John Wall:

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