- 2013: April 3
- 2012: March 31
- 2011: March 21
Those are the dates the Wizards were eliminated from the playoffs the last three years – a span that covers the entire careers of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Now, it’s April 11 and Washington has clinched a playoff berth and is still fighting for crucial postseason position.
But the Wizards starting guards and leading scorers just aren’t used to maintaining focus for such a long season. That showed in Washington’s loss to the Bobcats on Wednesday, when the Wizards fell behind 50-30. Wall shot 6-for-18 with five turnovers, and Beal shot 4-for-15..
Asked about those two, Washington coach Randy Wittman, via Michael Lee of The Washington Post:
“When you don’t put effort in, you’re not going to have good showings. It just filters down,” Wittman said. “You can’t play with no energy or effort at one end of the floor and expect to turn it on at the other end of the floor. It doesn’t work that way. That’s been proven with these guys. It was almost like we were spinning our wheels in mud. We just didn’t come out with any enthusiasm. I don’t even know if they had a sweat broken at the jump ball.”
This is uncharted territory for Wall and Beal. They’ll learn in time. Wall is just 23, and Beal is 20.
But the learning process could be costly. The Wizards and Bobcats are both 40-38, tying the for the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds. The team that finishes higher will play the Raptors, Bulls or Nets in the first round. The team that finishes lower will play the Heat or Pacers in the first round. Although Indiana isn’t as imposing as a month ago, a 50 percent chance of drawing the Heat is still much scarier than facing Toronto, Chicago or Brooklyn.
With games against the Magic tonight and Bucks tomorrow, Wall and Beal won’t have immediate chances to respond to their coach’s criticism. They should beat those teams, even if coasting.
But, soon enough, Wall and Beal must prove their mettle in their longest season – or else it won’t last much longer.