Washington Wizards' Survival Guide for Not Becoming the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats
As the Washington Wizards spiral ever onward toward becoming the league's worst team, garnering comparisons to last season's Charlotte Bobcats, it seems only necessary to figure out a way for them to avoid such a harsh fate.
After finally squeaking out a win against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, the Wizards sit at 1-12. Before the stopping the bleeding, they came within just six games of tying the 2010 New Jersey Nets for the longest winless start by a team in NBA history.
In the situation the Wizards are in, losing as a general goal is not a bad thing. They've got the opportunity to be the worst team in the league, and eventually, the best shot at grabbing the No. 1 overall pick. For a team this bad, the better the draft pick, the better.
I'm not so sure how much the likes of Cody Zeller, Nerlens Noel or Shabazz Mhammad would help this team, but it would definitely be a positive for them.
However, being bad for the sake of a draft pick has a line, and the rate they're playing at has them hurtling at that line like an asteroid bound for Earth as Bruce Willis has to find out a way to stop it. If they're not careful, the asteroid is going to hit, and they're knocking on the door of being considered one of the worst basketball teams ever.
So I want to help. I don't want to see this happen to another team. It seems only pertinent to set down a list of rules and guidelines to get them out of this gutter and into a more shallow, less grime-filled gutter.
7. Fire Randy Wittman
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His rotations are ridiculous, he's started all but four players, he's letting Jordan Crawford continue to shoot three-pointers and he's doing what we've always known Randy Wittman to do, and that's lose basketball games.
At a certain point, there's an evaluation of a team's development that needs to be done as to whether or not firing a coach would hurt the team in the long run. It seems to me when your team sits at 0-12 and your most consistently efficient wing player is a toss-up between Martell Webster and Trevor Booker that there's not much the current coach can do anymore.
It would make more sense to hand the reins of this team over to Crawford rather than to have Wittman continue on the path he's got the team on.
Washington has two very intriguing assistants on the sidelines in Sam Cassell and Don Newman.
Cassell is a recent retiree from the NBA, so it's easy to assume that he would be good with the players, while Newman is another of the many assistants to learn under Greg Popovich in San Antonio.
Either of those guys would do at least as good as Wittman. If not, they'd do a hell of a lot better.
6. Grasp at Continuity
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OK, we've gotten rid of Wittman. The next thing to do is put some clarity in the lineup, something that Wittman threw out of the window in the past few weeks.
Just one of Wittman's lineups has logged over 100 minutes (which also happens to be one of their worst lineups); the rest of them have been on the floor for fewer than 35 minutes each.
Set five guys to start until Nene can get back into the starting lineup, at which point, swap him in and keep going from there.
For the time being, it seems the Wizards have aired their disapproval of Wittman's handling of the lineups, and if he takes it to heart and stops grasping at straws, then perhaps this team can find something together.
The fact is that Wittman's fiddling has been desperate. Nobody on the team has played well besides Nene, and with him in and out of the lineup on any given night, it's hard to build the roster around him.
In the meantime, they're going to have to trot out a lineup that equates more to being "not terrible" rather than looking for something that could potentially be good.
Once the players know their role, some form of togetherness will form and the first win will come, then the second and then they'll be on their way to having a regular old bad season, not a historic one.
5. Play to Win, Not to Avoid Losing
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The Wizards' recent loss to the Charlotte Bobcats might be the most poorly coached close game I've seen since Kurt Rambis was at the head of the Minnesota Timberwolves a few years back.
Washington got ahead by two in the first overtime period with over two minutes left, but Wittman decided wasting time was more important than getting off a good play. He and his team were more interested in hearing the final buzzer than trying to win the game outright.
They led 97-95, took the shot clock down to about four seconds, panicked and forced it down to Nene, who then missed a rushed jumper.
Charlotte went to the other end and missed its shot, but Washington again dribbled down the shot clock. Eighteen seconds later, and no movement leads to a forced jumper from Chris Singleton.
The Bobcats eventually did tie things up, the game went into a second overtime period and the Bobcats executed enough to win. It was ugly.
The mentality they had was to get the game over with as quickly as possible, which inevitably leads to bad shots and a worsened chance of winning.
4. Pound Down Low, Avoid the Chucking
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OK, we've cleared up the coaching situation, who should be on the floor and the mentality to take when they're actually playing. Now let's examine what Washington does best offensively (spoiler alert: It's not a whole lot).
Let's get this out there right off the bat. Washington needs to stop settling for threes. If you're a fan of the Wizards, then the most frightening statistic should be that they're shooting the 14th most three-pointers in the league, but hitting just 29.8 percent of them, third-worst in the entire NBA.
That's not good.
Washington has Martell Webster, who is taking wise three-pointers, Cartier Martin, who isn't atrocious, Bradley Beal can get a small pass as a rookie at just under 33 percent and then everybody else who has taken a three is terrible.
Jordan Crawford is shooting just a smidgen over 30 percent, A.J. Price is chucking, and there's no other name for it, while Trevor Ariza is shooting a ghastly 24 percent.
A big part of that is that they haven't been able to establish a solid inside game, or even that their jump shots have been equally bad.
At some point, they've got to establish a post presence, whether it's letting Kevin Seraphin attack while turning the ball over too often or getting Nene involved more earlier than expected. It's just something they need to open up the floor.
3. Take Control Away from Jordan Crawford
We're slowly whittling the Wizards down to the smallest, yet most prevalent problem on the team, and at this point, the on-floor struggles are centered around Jordan Crawford.
Like I said before, Crawford is shooting an amazingly bad 30.4 percent for three, but he's not exceptionally terrible from the rest of the field. In fact, he's probably Washington's best mid-range shooter at this point.
The real problem is that they don't have a point guard to tell him no. A.J. Price is controlling the point most of the time; otherwise, it's Crawford with the ball in his hands, deciding whether or not to take a contested three-pointer.
If we strictly take away the above-the-break three-pointer from Crawford, he's shooting an impressive 45 percent from the floor. Now that's a player who can contribute to a winning basketball team.
What needs to be done to fix that, however, is he needs to become a part of the play rather than the initiator or final decision maker of a play. Get a smart decision-maker to run the point for them and he'll be alright.
Of course, the biggest problem right now is, their smart decision-maker is out with a strained left knee and the free-agent market is bone dry.
2. Be Patient
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At some point, it's going to be necessary for this team to sit back and stop worrying. That definitely coincides with running out the correct lineups and playing to win rather than avoiding losses, but the most important yet simple thing for them to do is relax.
Yes, this team is 1-12. And yes, there have been some ugly times out on the floor for it, but it has to acknowledge that it is playing without its best player in John Wall, and it's had its second-best player, Nene, for just two games so far this season.
Hell, if you take the two best players from any team in the league, it's, at the very least, a .500 team. Take the two best players away from a developing team, and this is what you get.
It's not that I'm telling it to accept its fate, but rather to deal with it reasonably, don't get too angry about what's happening and accept that some factors are out of its control
Panicking is not the answer (unless that panic involves firing Randy Wittman), and escalated anger only leads to tension, which leads to more losses.
1. Keep Playing Defense
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I've spent most of the time focusing on this team's negatives, but it's not like it's the most hapless team in the league in every way, shape and form.
In fact, there have been some impressive flashes from this Wizards team on the defensive end.
Sure, they play at a slower pace than most of the league and they're scoring just 90 points per game, but they're also giving up only 98 points on average. That's good enough for 14th in the league.
This Wizards team forces turnovers at a top 10 rate, and they rebound as well as most of the teams in the league.
Teams may shoot a moderately high percentage against them, but they counter that by poking the ball free and rebounding well, something that nearly every player on this team is capable of doing, either with their size and strength or their youth and athleticism.
The fact is that the Charlotte Bobcats were so historically bad last season because they were bad at everything. That Bobcats team was dead last in offensive and defensive rating, scoring the fewest points and allowing the third-most points per game.
Washington is not that kind of bad. It's not a good basketball team, but as long as it sticks to playing defense and waits out John Wall's injury, it should be able to win around 17 or so games at the very least.