The Washington Wizards are a team in search of an identity. As J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com and I discussed in the latest PBT Podcast, this was a team that started the season talking small ball (like they did in the playoffs), but the defense has been pedestrian and in recent games they have gone back to more of the big lineup with Nene and Marcin Gortat up front. John Wall has played like a deserving All-Star, but nothing else on the team has worked out as planned, including Bradley Beal staying healthy.
Thursday may have been the season low point, a loss at home to struggling Denver team that was on the second night of a back-to-back. Mike Malone has the Nuggets playing hard, that’s the difference.
After the game, there was a players-only meeting, reports the Washington Post (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
“It’s kind of similar to the past years. We’ve been through the same thing,” Beal said. “It always takes a team meeting or two to figure it out, but we’re at the point now where we know what we need to do. We’re still in a great position to make the playoffs with 40 or however many games we have left. We have a great opportunity to make a run so it’s up to us to be able to put it together and get out here and get some wins.”
Jared Dudley made this assessment.
“For us, let’s be honest … except for this game none of the games have been close. It’s not a positive. But we have to be positive. We’re close to the halfway point but we got to get some wins and we got get some good flow and we got to get back to our style. This team can’t score 80 points. This team is in the 100s. We have to be able to defend the three and stop turning the ball over.”
The Wizards need to figure out who they are. Players-only meetings rarely solve that problem.
The team needs to get back to defending again, it was a top-five defense a season ago that has been middle of the pack this season — and that’s not just because of the small-ball lineups. They tried to streamline and simplify pick-and-roll coverages, but none of it has worked. And without stops, they can’t get out and run to take advantage of Wall’s ridiculous speed.
Maybe this team can get it together and make the postseason (they are only three games out), maybe they can start to play with a sense of urgency every night. In the playoffs, they have pulled upsets in recent seasons.
But teams rarely make that kind of change mid-season. If the Wizards don’t, changes will come this offseason, likely starting with the coaching chair.