Once upon a time nearly one fortnight ago, the Wizards were 30-30, soaking in the momentum of a 4-game winning streak, and seemingly tuning up for a strong playoff run in the highly competitive and close-knitted Eastern Conference. Although the four wins came by way of the Sixers twice, the Timberwolves, and the LeBron-less Cavs, they were still nevertheless wins; wins where John Wall scored 37 points and Marcin Gortat grabbed 20 rebounds; wins where Bradley Beal scored 26 points off the bench; wins that actually made the Wizards worthy of watching, unlike the so many previous times this season when they hadn’t been.
Enter the psychedelic darkness of downward spiraling hope, where your cravings for basketball competence are left tortuously unfulfilled, and the torment of such wrath equates to a thousand painful deaths. In other words the Wizards suck.
Yep, that moment right there from the Denver game is the proper summation of all the sadness that has been the Wizards this season, and particularly the past five *must-win* games that they did not win. It’s the perfect depiction of getting trashed by 25 points in Cleveland because LeBron decided to play. Or scoring less points in the entire second half against the Pacers than they did in the first quarter to lose by 1. Or ripping our hearts out in Portland and watching Damian Lillard roast them with 41 points. The Wizards blew that game after they squandered a 13-point 3rd quarter lead and lost in overtime.
I’ll let my guys at Bullets Forever summarize how the weekend ended:
John was right. Those two games were “the season.” They were the glaring encapsulation of the team the Wizards are and have been all along: pure pretenders. A team vying for relevance in its most fabricated sense. A team playing themselves, and for the longest time, playing their fans. A team who wants to believe they can place themselves at the ranks of a Cleveland or a Toronto, but can’t outlast the Jazz or the Nuggets even when the stakes are so incredibly high. Remember when they shit the bed against Chicago’s second unit? Good times. No. Scratch the sarcasm. It was bad times. Some of the worst times, actually.
Here are a few things that have been most bothersome lately:
- John Wall. For a decent stretch of time, Wall had minimized his turnovers per game. In 12 of 15 games played in February, Wall committed 3 or less turnovers. In 3 of his last 6 games, he’s totaled 5 or more turnovers. He had 6 on Saturday against Denver. He had 7 against Indiana.
- The defense. The Wizards have allowed 115.3 points per game in their last 3 games with their opponents shooting a combined 52% from the field. One of those teams, the Jazz, are the third worst scoring team in the league. The point guard matchups have also been dreadful, with Lillard dropping 41 against Wall in Portland, and of course Shelvin Mack drops 27 in Utah. Of course.
- Marcin Gortat has been getting in foul trouble as of late, totaling 15 fouls in the last 3 games and fouling out against Portland. Still, nothing justifies him playing 8 total minutes in Denver just because of his 4th foul early in the 3rd quarter. It’s really unnerving.
The reasons as to why and how the Wizards have ended up in a curled up fetal position with less than a quarter of the season remaining could pile up to mountainous heights. We know Bradley Beal can’t stay healthy for more than a few weeks at a time, if that. We know Garrett Temple sucks. We know Randy Wittman is a terrible in-game manager of minutes, rotations, adjustments, and just about every other basic element of basketball coaching. We know this team misses free throws as if they are the ones that offer the prize of free chicken sandwiches when they do. We know it all too much.
But what we may not know, or what we may not admit is that, underlying all the mishaps and discrepancies, this team may have simply checked out. I’m not really sure how else to put it. I mean, how do you consider two games to be “must-wins” or to be “the season” but you get blown out in them by a combined 37 points? How can anyone feel good about anything when Jared Dudley says that the team doesn’t play with any urgency, but instead plays with a mentality as if they’re already in the playoffs? That’s outright infuriating. That, to me, cements the idea that the last thing this Wizards team deserves is the recognition of a team in contention for a title. And that, to me, is the very reason why we should all come to this one final acceptance: