It’s no secret the 5-11 Washington Wizards are a dumpster fire. A train wreck. The “Sherlock Gnomes” of 2018 movies. It’s so bad that GM Ernie Grunfeld is finally, belatedly, looking into breaking up the core.
It came to a head at a practice last week, one where everyone yelled at everyone, Bradley Beal told Grunfeld he’d been dealing with “this s*** for seven years” and John Wall dropped an F-bomb on coach Scott Brooks. Tuesday, before taking on a hot Clippers’ team, the Wizards tried to downplay everything and say they have moved on, as noted in the video above from NBC Sports Washington.
“I said some things that I regret,” Brooks said. “Our players said some things that they regret. And right after the practice, I had a conversation to hash things out, and everything was good. And then some of our players had some conversations, and they hashed things out, and everything was good.”
Everything was good… until the Wizards stepped on the court and lost a couple more games in a row. Things are clearly not good, but the team is trying to move on as best as it can.
“You see that we’re not winning. Everyone is frustrated. At the end of the day, we have to be able to communicate with each other so we can learn from it and try to build on things together,” Porter said. “That’s the only way we can start winning games, to rally with each other instead of against each other.”
That sounds good, we’ll see if they can execute it.
Three Things to Know: Kemba Walker, Hornets latest team to expose problems in Boston
Each night in the NBA there is a lot of action, a lot to unpack. Which is why every weekday morning during the NBA season we bring you three things you need to know out of the night before, to keep you up on all the big happenings around the NBA.
1) Kemba Walker is destroying everyone, including the Celtics Monday night. But Boston has issues. The Boston Celtics, the team that was the favorite in the East going into the season, the team everyone thought they had to beat, is getting beat. A lot more than we expected at 9-8 to start the season. What started as “don’t freak out they just need to get Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward meshed into what they do” has become legitimate reason for concern because the Celtics can’t get key boards, and that elite defense is not slowing their opponent’s best scorer often enough.
Monday night that opponent was maybe the hottest player in the NBA: Kemba Walker. He certainly is the most entertaining player in the league right now he and dropped 43 on the Celtics and yelling “this is my s***” after a big bucket.
Walker is a fringe MVP candidate right now (the way Damian Lillard jumped into the conversation a year ago) and he should thank new coach James Borego. His new Spursian offense has spaced the floor for the Hornets (not having Dwight Howard in the post and clogging the lane helps, too) and Walker is driving into that space and making plays. And if you play back on him, he will destroy you with off-the-dribble threes.
All of that does not change the fact Boston has issues compared to where we thought they would be right now. We went into the season knowing rebounding would be a concern but it has been worse than expected (like at the end of the Hornets’ game, when Charlotte was getting key offensive boards to keep plays alive). The Celtics have the 27th ranked offense in the NBA this season because the ball stops too much — Terry Rozier has been a problem here — plus the team is just not knocking down jumpers (Boston is third in number of three pointers taken a game but 21st in percentage at 34.5 percent). Brad Stevens can’t find a rotation he likes — Aron Baynes started in place of Gordon Hayward Monday — and Stevens just can’t find the toughness we expected from this team on a nightly basis.
Maybe we will get to March and April and shake our heads thinking “why did we worry about Boston?” They can still put this thing together and get up to be a top two or three seed (they are currently four games back of the Raptors, ground not easy to make up because Toronto is good).
But we are now 17 games in, approaching a quarter of the season, and these issues have not gone away in Boston. It’s time to admit this team is flawed right now and it might not be able to put it all together like we expected.
2) The Wizards are a disaster, they are open to trades… and it’s not going to be that easy. The dumpster fire in our nation’s capital… wait, let me be more specific, there are a lot of dumpster fires in our nation’s capital right now.
Being open to breaking up its core is something Washington should have been doing last summer (if not earlier) — the chemistry issues around this team are not new. They’re worse right now, but they are not new. Grunfeld and owner Ted Leonsis kept doubling down on the core guys and thought they could fix the chemistry issues by changing coaches or role players (Marcin Gortat was the guy shipped out last summer and was seen as the chemistry problem… the Clippers look really good with him on the roster, by the way, great chemistry there). But the real problem was the core itself.
Grunfeld has come around to that, but now the trade value is down for all of those guys because of the team’s struggles. Talking to sources around the league there is by far the most interest in Beal, who is just 25 and an All-Star player at a position of need around the league. He’s also the one of the three the Wizards least want to trade, so that will take a massive offer (the kind more often seen in July than mid-season).
Last in interest from teams is Wall. We can talk about how Wall’s contract will make him very difficult to trade — his designated veteran max contract kicks in next season, he has four years at an average of more than $42 million a season left on his deal after this one — but that may not even be the worst part right now. Wall is coasting on the court too much right now, not playing like an elite player at all, and the bigger problem is the best player on the team sets the culture. Stephen Curry set the “fun but work hard” tone in Golden State. LeBron James sets the tone for the Lakers and that tone won titles in Cleveland and Miami. Tim Duncan set the tone for the Spurs for two winning decades and five rings. What culture is Wall setting right now as he jogs through plays and has his hands on his hips? Forget the money, nobody wants to trade for that player, period. (Well, don’t forget the money, but the combo of the money and his attitude make him almost impossible to move right now.)
3) Joel Embiid backs up his trash talk and puts up 33 on Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns. This summer, Joel Embiid said No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton would get his a** kicked this year once the games got real. Embiid lived up to that on Monday night, almost doubling Ayton in points (33-17) and rebounds (17-9). Embiid was making plays on both ends of the floor.
But it was not all perfect for Embiid — this missed dunk is not something Ben Simmons is going to let Embiid forget.
The Boston Celtics have issues, rebounding and otherwise, but for now let’s celebrate Walker.
New Hornets coach James Borego has brought Spurs-like spacing to the Charlotte offense, there’s no Dwight Howard clogging the lane either, and Walker is eating up that space and destroying teams. And if you lay back on him to take away the drives it will rain threes down on you.
Walker might be the most entertaining player in the NBA this season.
Report: John Wall fined by Wizards after telling coach “f*** you” at practice
After teammate Jeff Green and Brooks pushed Wall and Wizards teammates to raise the level of intensity in a practice last week, Wall fired back with “F— you,” toward Brooks, league sources said.
Wall did apologize to Brooks shortly afterward, and to his teammates the following day, league sources said.
The disconnect between Wall and his teammates has increased throughout the Wizards’ struggles, league sources said. Washington is 5-11, and underachieving this season.
That crossed a line and Wall deserved a fine. Wall seems to understand that.
But it wasn’t just Wall.
Along with John Wall fine, recent practice included All-Star Bradley Beal taking aim at Wizards officials, including president Ernie Grunfeld: “I’ve been dealing with this s— for 7 years — it starts top-down.” Jeff Green and Wall, Beal and Austin Rivers had heated altercations.
The Wizards are a mess, and the team chemistry and body language is just ugly in person. The Wizards knew things weren’t ideal for years but kept doubling down on John Wall and Bradley Beal as the core, with Otto Porter as a third player on a max deal, thinking that if they changed coaches or role players — this year it was Marcin Gortat that was sent out as a scapegoat — things would change. But the problem was with the core, how they got along off the court and worked together on it. And that never changed.
Now the Wizards are open to big moves and shaking everything up, but at this point the trade values for those stars have dropped and the Wizards are going to be looking at lowball offers. Maybe they can get something done at the February deadline, but this feels more like a July kind of trade.
Which would mean somehow this Wizards roster needs to get through this season.
Report: Bradley Beal tells Wizards officials of volatile practice: ‘I’ve been dealing with this for seven years’
Sources on @TheAthleticNBA@WatchStadium: The Washington Wizards had a volatile practice within recent days, with verbal altercations among players and an exasperated Bradley Beal saying toward team officials: "I've been dealing with this for seven years."
Teams have these kinds of practices, and tension always reveals itself amid underperformance. Wizards are 5-11 so far this year. Several players had verbal back and forth in this practice, league sources said. https://t.co/U79FqusKLL
Charania is correct: These types of heated practices sometimes occur. My general rule: When it’s so bad, details reach the public, the situation is worse than normal.
Beal isn’t wrong that these issues have been too common during his time in Washington. Really, it’s remarkable the Wizards have been so successful — no losing seasons, four playoff appearances, three series victories in the last five years — despite so much in-fighting.
But it also gets exhausting, and losing only lessens the tolerance. Beal sounds fed up.
Maybe that leads to Washington trading one of its stars. More likely, Wall and Beal continue to work through the tension and eventually perform at a reasonable level. Just like always.