Where the Washington Wizards Went Wrong

Shaun AhmadSenior Analyst IJanuary 9, 2009

Sitting in the cellar of the Eastern Conference with a 7-27 record, I tried to come up with reasons (or excuses) as to why the Washington Wizards could be so dismal just a year removed from a playoff appearance.

“Well, they’re missing their superstar guard, Gilbert Arenas.”

Wrong.  They were without him for the vast majority of the season last year and did just fine.

“They’ve been hit by injuries to key role players.”

Wrong.  Brendan Haywood’s absence is significant, but Etan Thomas plays the same position and is back this year after having a heart ailment last year.  DeShawn Stevenson is out now with a back issue, but he started 25 of the 30 games he played through this season.  And let’s be honest, neither is a game changer.  

“They simply don’t have enough talent.”

Really?  Two All Star forwards in the starting lineup means there is no way you can use the excuse of missing talent.  

Okay, so if it’s not the absence of Arenas, it’s not injuries, it’s not a lack of talent, then what is it?  What has caused the Wizards to be so awful?  What has caused them to become the laughing stock of the conference, and arguably the league, after having consecutive years of success?  

The answer is a lack of direction.  

With former head coach Eddie Jordan, the Wizards had an identity.  They had an understanding of what was to be accomplished by each individual on the court.  They had a formula for winning—maybe not championships, but a hell of a lot more than seven games in their first 34.

“What are you talking about?  Eddie Jordan got fired because of the Wizards' record of 1-10.”

Spare me.  

The guy was off to a rough start; there is no secret about it.  But realize that Jordan had led the Wizards to four playoff appearances in five seasons.  That doesn’t mean much in, say, Los Angeles (Lakers that is) or in San Antonio, but it sure does in Washington—or so I thought.  The roster that was in place was assembled to continue in Jordan’s style of play.  

Current head coach Ed Tapscott preaches defense.  I respect that.  The Wizards had been lacking in that department but you can’t play defense if you don’t have guys who are skilled in that area.  Would you ask a plumber to make do with kitchen utensils?  Would you ask an airplane pilot to steer a boat?  

Remember the theory that Phoenix Suns General Manager thought would work by bringing Shaquille O’Neal into a fast paced offense and how all would continue without a glitch?  How’d that work out?  This is the same deal.  The Wizards are emphasizing defense with a team full of scorers.  Won’t work.

I’m not going to sit here and bash Tapscott, or even the players.  I hope this team can somehow get it together and make the rest of the season at least a bit more entertaining.  But when anyone wonders how the Wizards could become this bad this fast, think back to Nov. 24, 2008, when the Wizards pushed the architect of the current team out the door.

Maybe 1-10 is really bad, but would you rather have that with 71 games remaining and a proven head coach in the lead—or a 7-27 experiment with a team that is, and will remain, in disarray for the foreseeable future?

Looking back, 1-10 wasn’t so bad after all, now was it? 

Shaun Ahmad covers the Washington Wizards for Examiner.com.