There is a clear and distinct difference between being optimistic and being naive. Believing our economy will recover is being optimistic. Believing Lindsay Lohan's career will make a comeback as she sheds a life of partying and drugs...that's being naive (or high on whatever Lohan is smoking).
Through the first six games of the Washington Wizards' season, I was optimistic. I was hopeful. Picture me as the guy on Wall Street in 2006 nodding his head and convincing investors that the market will be fine, despite having 24,593 clear warning signs in front of me.
"So what if Arenas had more failed surgeries than successful ones over the past couple of years?
Who cares if the team is banking its success on three players who have spent more time injured together than healthy together?
Don't worry about how the Wizards didn't bring in any talent to improve on defense during the off-season.
They'll be fine! Relax!"
That was me about a month ago. How quickly times have changed.
Now I'm spending more time second-guessing my rationale than Bill Belichick did after his loss to Indianapolis. How did I overlook and miss the warning signs? What on God's green earth convinced me that this team would stay healthy?
Why did I believe that a Gilbert Arenas- and Antawn Jamison-led team would finally give a rat's ass on defense? WHY DID I...?
(Okay. Deep breaths, Shaun. Deep breaths.)
Here's the bottom line: Losing games by a couple of points due to your biggest offensive threat being rusty is one thing.
Getting run up and down the floor, out-hustled, out-rebounded, and thoroughly beaten by sub-.500 teams is a whole different story.
The game of basketball isn't complicated. Score more than the other team. That's it.
Unfortunately for Wizards fans, the team has done that just three times out of 12. They have given up over 100 points in eight games and (shocker), lost seven of them. They have scored over 100 points in five games and won three.
There is no need for me to go into a deep analysis or shower you with more statistics like I have in the past. Here's what you need to know at this point in the season:
The Washington Wizards stink. They are a bad team. Nothing more, nothing less.
Through 12 games, they have shown little life on offense, and not a thing to look forward to on defense. Not a single iota for a fan to grab onto and say, "Hey, at least they're leading the league in steals!"
At least if the team shows some grittiness on the defensive end of the ball, you know that they are trying and are playing with heart. Offensive woes can be overcome by strong defensive play, but when it comes to poor defensive outings due to lack of effort, it becomes impossible to surmount.
What's more troubling than the lack of enthusiasm on both sides of the ball is the finger pointing that is already beginning. You don't play the blame game after 15 percent of the season unless you are the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, or Terrell Owens.
Following the embarrassing loss to the San Antonio Spurs, guard Gilbert Arenas had the following remarks:
"Everyone's got their own individual goals, I guess. Hidden agendas. I guess when you start losing, everyone wants to start pointing fingers everywhere else.
I converted my game to try and get people involved. I think the only person who actually had to sacrifice [to win] was me."
Earth to Arenas: You hold the distinct honor of being the first Wizard to point any fingers in the media this season. Congratulations!
I'll address the post-game comments with the following two points:
Point No. 1: If you have ever read any of my articles relating to the Wizards, it doesn't take the I.Q. of a neurosurgeon to conclude that I am a Gilbert Arenas apologist. I like the guy.
I love what he did for the Washington organization and for the city when he arrived from Golden State. I love his passion, his work ethic, and how he is a completely different character than the cookie cut-outs that you see all across the league.
That being said, his postgame comments shouldn't have even crossed his mind, let alone come out of his mouth in the media. He is supposed to be one of the leaders on this team, but he came off like a whiny sixth man that is upset about not getting enough minutes.
The tone that he had would have made me think the Wizards were 3-19 instead of 3-9. Lead by example, especially when you know that the entire team watches how you carry yourself and feeds off your demeanor.
Quick example. Imagine that in his State of the Union Address, President Obama seemed completely dejected after his first year as Commander in Chief.
What if he sat at his desk in front of the camera, shrugged his shoulders and said, "This sucks. Things aren't going as I planned and...(sigh )...I don't know. I guess things will get better...(pause )...but probably not. Whatever."
Would that inspire anyone? Would that make any of the institutions that are pillars to this country get up and say, "We need to rise to the occasion and get our acts together"? No! The only ones who would benefit are liquor store owners.
Point No. 2: Yes, Arenas has taken a different approach to his game where he is trying to involve others more. But let's not pretend that his sacrifice is what's ailing this team. Look no further than Arenas' shooting as one of the reasons for the Wizards' woes.
His 39% field goal percentage and 38.6% three point percentage, coupled with over four turnovers a game, are doing Washington no good. While Arenas may believe he's sacrificing a ton, his field goal attempts per game (19.4) are the third highest in his career. So what exactly is being sacrificed?
I'm not trying to pile on Arenas and make him the scapegoat for Washington's problems. However, if you are going to make passive-aggressive comments about your teammates not getting the job done to the media, you open the door to having your performances openly questioned and critiqued.
While Brendan Haywood, Andray Blatche, and Mike Miller have excelled, Arenas, Caron Butler, and DeShawn Stevenson have hindered Washington's attack.
Antawn Jamison's return will help, but it will take more than his contributions to steer the team back in the right direction.
The Wizards' problems are both on and off the court right now. As I pointed out previously , they are fortunate that the season is still young.
After all, they are only six games out of .500. That being said, time to waste is no longer in abundance.
In a long 82-game season, it is difficult to decide when to really worry. My theory is, you should only fret when the season is near the point of being lost and some immediate, significant changes are needed.
While I don't think Washington is at that stage yet, each mounting loss carries more weight than the previous one.
As my optimism fades and reality begins to set in, I am inching closer towards pressing the panic button on the Washington Wizards' 2009-10 season.