Ownership told Flip Saunders to play kids in Washington and that they understood losses would follow.
But when the Wizards started 2-15, without discipline, consistent effort or signs of improvement it was too much.
The Wizards have fired Saunders, first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. CSNWashington.com confirmed the move.
Current Wizards assistant and former Minnesota and Cleveland head coach Randy Wittman has been will take over for the rest of the season, the team announced. (Wizards fans, you need to hope that is it, he is not the answer. Remember what he did to a .500 Minnesota team when he took over for Dwane Casey?)
Players were told of the change after their 20-point loss to the Sixers last night — the kind of sad effort that typified why Saunders was let go. There were flashes of potential, like the win over Oklahoma City, but they became covered in a mountain of apathy from the players.
Saunders was a questionable fit in Washington, a good coach of veteran teams he struggled to reach the young players in Washington (he was 51-130 in a little over two seasons). When he was hired the Wizards had made the playoffs the year before and had veterans like Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas on the roster, but that blew up in an ugly way for reasons that were not Saunders fault. It became time to rebuild, and that’s not what Saunders does. There was a real lack of focus and professionalism in the Wizards locker room and Saunders couldn’t seem to instill it. Put Saunders coaching a veteran team and he can still do the job, but not every coach is made for a rebuilding project.
Washington needs a builder. They have talent — John Wall should be an All-Star, guys like Nick Young and JaVale McGee have talent — but right now the team seems to coast through games unsure of themselves or what to do. There needs to be real accountability in the franchise, starting with big men McGee and Andray Blatch, who are mentally inconsistent night to night.
Last season, the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley won the NBA All-Star Saturday skills challenge because of his jump shot. In head-to-head battles with the Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Bucks (now a Sun) Brandon Knight, Beverley fell behind on the passing part of the competition but made up the ground by knocking down his jump shot at the end.
He was set to come to Toronto to defend his skills title but has been forced to back out due to injury, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
After tweaking his ankle Wednesday night in a loss to Portland, Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley will not travel to Toronto to defend his skills competition title at All-Star Weekend, league sources told The Vertical.
Beverley wants to rest the ankle over the All-Star break for the Rockets’ final push to make the Western Conference playoffs.
This has yet to be confirmed by the NBA, nor has a replacement been named, but no doubt Woj is accurate on this. No player would risk further injury for a skills competition.
The Rockets have lost six-of-eight, and with the loss to the Blazers Wednesday night have fallen out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. They will need all their players healthy, including Beverley, but they will also need a lot more than that to climb back in the race — they need to start playing defense, they need to stop becoming disinterested for large stretches of the game, and they need someone in that locker room to step up and be a serious leader of men.
LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.
Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:
Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.
James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.
I don’t buy this.
Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.
Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?
I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.
I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?
LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.
The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.
I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.
The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.
Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.
Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.
As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:
Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7
Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.