We all remember the classic Bill Parcells quote.
“You are what your record says you are.”
According to Mike Wise of the Washington Post, that may not always be true.
“I’d cut to the chase: This team should be better than 38-36. It probably should be at least 44-30 with eight games left to play. The Wizards have the talent but they don’t act like they have the talent.”
Sorry Mike, but you really are what your record is.
[Sidenote]: If you would like to read the Mike Wise piece, there is obviously more to the story than this quote. I’d hate to put him out of context. He does make a lot of valid points that I agree with. I’m taking this statement aforementioned for what it is and explaining my view on the idea of talent and how much a record truly speaks to the greatness of a team.
The evaluation of whether a team is good is not totally predicated on the amount of talent. Talent is an individual trait. When we say the team is talented we are discussing the individuals collectively. If we are talking semantics here, that doesn’t mean the Wizards are a good team. That also means that the level of talent they have, although present, shouldn’t go into any discussion of what their record should truly be.
What is talent anyways? It’s a slippery term. It lacks substance. It’s a word we throw around. I know some guys around the way who annoy the shit out of everyone they come into contact with. They’re argumentative. They’re controversial. They harvest bad friendships. But they’re talented.
“Oh that Walter White guy, he’s killed a bunch of people and ruined the fabric of his family. He’s really talented though.”
Okay, okay. Perhaps I’m exaggerating. However, sometimes you have to use extreme examples to get a point across about an age-old saying. This is no indictment of any current Wizards players. John Wall is a joy to watch. He’s young and famous, but he talks in the post-game like a seasoned veteran. The magnitude of his basketball IQ is underrated, if not deceptive. Bradley Beal is a good kid. Martell Webster is the life of the locker room. Frankly, all of the players on the team are positive guys. Nene and Andre Miller are strong veteran presences. Gortat never shies away from taking accountability. That would leave coaching as a strong part of the equation. We won’t get into that though. That’s an offseason piece waiting to be written.
What I can discuss for a brief moment is the effect that strong coaching and motivational tactics have on any team, especially a young one like the Wizards with guys who seem to want to get better. That’s another age-old discussion that usually divides those discussing it. How important is coaching? More important than you think.
Phil Jackson had a chance to win championships on the teams he coached because of the great players he had. They won those championships at a staggering rate because he motivated players to play the full 48 minutes. He motivated players to play for the guy next to him. He motivated players to motivate the guy next to him to play for the guy next to him. Players respect Jackson and in turn they played hard for him. Jackson respected the players and treated them equally and in turn they played for each other. “Hit the open man” Jackson said. “This is a journey and each game is a step towards an ultimate goal,” Jackson would say.
It’s not always about talent. Granted, you need some to get to the next level in relativity to where you are. It’s the fear that players have in not letting each other down. When the guy next to you works very hard at its craft, it motivates you to do the same. The Wizards play hard for their teammates, just not for a full 48 minutes. Frankly, not even close.
There is a gap in communication to the young Wizards players that is preventing them from keeping leads. It’s preventing them from coming out strong against a lowly Milwaukee team at the Verizon Center. We look at a name like the “Bobcats” and think we should easily beat them. Something in their lines of communication told them not to give up when they were down by 16. They’ve been a running punchline as a bottom-dweller in the NBA but they find themselves only a few two games back of the Wizards in the standings.
There is something that isn’t translating to this Wizards team, and even Ted Leonsis knows it. Hey, maybe if Walter communicated better with Jesse and Skyler we wouldn’t have had all of the chaos that we had in Season 4 and 5. I guess that’s what makes great television though. Perhaps that comparison is also extreme. However, so is saying that the Wizards are better than their record is. They are who we think they are. If they bounce out of the playoffs in a first round sweep at the hands of a less “talented” team, then they are who we thought they were. We just can’t let em’ off the hook.