What is the biggest concern you have about the Wizards after their first 3 games?
Charles: Let me start off by stressing that it has only been three games but my biggest concern has been the mental lapses of the team. As Randy Wittman has stressed over and over again, the game is 48 minutes long. I’m sure he’s tired of saying it because I’m tired of seeing it. The Wizards go through these stretches where the intensity level and effort inexplicably drops off. They can look like a completely different team in a matter of minutes. They go from looking like a team that can play with anybody in the league into a team that shouldn’t even be on the floor.
Saam: Even though its only a small sample size, I really have two main concerns. My first is that for whatever reason, Nene just CAN’T stay healthy. It’s really unfortunate to have to rely on this guy night in and night out if he can’t play more than 40 games in a season. His contract becomes an issue, the team’s overall performance becomes an issue and it means we have to rely on an array of guys to try and make up for his production. My second concern is that we’re seeing a lot of the same things in this team that we saw last season. We get two, maybe three quarters of good basketball and then for either one quarter or a half, the team goes into a shell. They say losing is contagious and I’m starting to think that it’s a mentality that surrounds the guys in the locker room.
Jamal: My biggest concern is the lack of interior presence, both defensively and offensively.
Through three games, the Wizards have allowed Greg Monroe, Thad Young, and Chris Bosh to all post 20+ point games while shooting a very good field goal percentage. Defensive rotations have been poor and Wizards’ bench players have not given a strong indication that they’re able to provide adequate support.
Offensively, we’re once again in a position where Nene is not contributing due to injury. This has thrust Marcin Gortat into playing an increased role early, while not being fully acclimated to the offense. Gortat has improved steadily since the season start, but we’d prefer to see both starters on the floor. Trevor Booker, in relief of Nene, has been solid
Aside from his 16 point 3rd quarter last night, Bradley Beal has looked really shaky and dubious so far. What does he need to change or improve to break out of his early season funk?
Charles: I was really high on Beal coming into this season. He shot the lights out in the preseason and looked ready to take the next step to stardom. He has struggled with his shot in the first three games and if Jordan Crawford and Nick Young have taught Wizards fans anything, it is that you have to keep on shooting. I still think Beal breaks out in a major way this year as long as he doesn’t lose his confidence and stop shooting.
Saam: I think we can relate this much like RGIIII’s injury for the local football team. While the two injuries are MUCH different, I think the mental aspect of coming off an injury is what’s affecting Beal right now. While being a great outside shooter like he was and still is, Beal is also a guy that is not afraid to make a play in the paint. Driving to the hoop, taking hits, and getting rebounds is a part of his game that he’s great at. I think coming off an injury like he did, it’s just going to take him a couple games to get in the flow like Griffin. Maybe that 3rd quarter in Miami was the spark for him and he can carry it over throughout the rest of the season. He’s too good of a shooter to go through an extended drought. I’m not worried about him or John Wall at all. Bradley needs to just keep shooting when he gets the open looks and eventually, the shots will fall.
Jamal: I think he just needs some time. The Wizards opened the season on the road against a historically difficult opponent in the Pistons, and were simply outplayed against a Sixers team riding an emotional high after knocking off the Heat. Beal had a slow start last season, but eventually hit his stride. I think he’ll settle in more as the season progresses.
I do think, however, that the coaching staff needs to find an adequate back up for Beal. Garrett Temple has been getting spot minutes and Glen Rice, Jr. obviously is not yet in the rotation, leaving a lot of pressure on Beal (much like last season) to contribute with scoring.
I worry a little, too, that Beal started believing the hype surrounding him (and the team) this past summer. With several critics placing the Wizards in the playoffs before the season began, there is a lot more attention being paid to how our backcourt performs.
Considering the Wizards’ daunting schedule over the next 12 days (seen below), at what point do they hit the panic button?
Charles: There is no panic button to hit. The Wizards have gone all in on this season: ‘Playoffs or Bust.’ The Wiz haven’t looked horrible, they just had some bad stretches. Trevor Ariza’s expiring contract is the only trade chip they have and right now, he’s one of the lone bright spots this season. They’ve already traded a 1st round pick and I don’t think firing Randy Witman is the answer. It might be time for Grunfeld to go but making that move this early in the season accomplishes nothing. The Sixers are 3-0 and I’m not ready to hang any championship banners for them, so let’s just take a deep breath. THERE ARE 79 GAMES LEFT IN THE SEASON.
Saam: Press it NOW. Should’ve started pressing it after this team gave away that game to the Sixers on Friday night when you knew the Heat were looming. I hate using sports cliche’s, but I feel like this upcoming game against the Sixers is a must win game. Yes, I said it. Game 3 of this season is a MUST win. Not only is this game a must win, but I think their NEXT game against Brooklyn is a must win. You’ve spent your entire off season selling to this fan base that you’re a playoff team and if you can’t beat the Sixers, Cavs or Timberwolves, you have some serious explaining to do. You traded a first round pick for Gortat to improve your roster, Nene is hurt, Beal is struggling, Otto Porter has yet to make his NBA debut…This is almost as bad as it can be right now early on this season. The Wizards have a realistic chance of starting off this season at a woeful 0-7…if that’s the case, someone is losing their job because quite frankly, it’s unacceptable.
Jamal: I’d give it another week, realistically. Yes, the schedule is rough, but teams that are destined to become playoff contenders have to start playing that way.
And while detrimentally loyal to his staff, Ted Leonsis will be hard-pressed to keep everything intact if the team is still winless through this weekend. He has already publicly shared his displeasure on his blog, and, again, there is a lot of media attention on this team.
A team continuing to perform poorly may be due for an overhaul.