The holiday cheer and joy found in the month of December has done little to lift the spirits of the lowly Washington Wizards. Through twelve games played thus far in the final month of 2008, Washington has lost ten contests by an average of 12 points. Further to their disappointing season comes a matchup on Christmas night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that has brought more pain and agony to the Wizards than perhaps anyone else over the last several seasons.
As if the Grinch hasn’t already stolen Christmas away from Washington, the Wizards will not be bringing in the New Year with much change as their five of their next six opponents are Cleveland (twice), Houston, New Orleans and Boston.
Though the playoffs are no longer a realistic possibility, the Wizards can still salvage some pride and build for the 2009-10 season if some of the items on their Christmas Wish List come true.
Success hinges on the health of star guard Gilbert Arenas
Washington has been marred by injuries to their star players for years, most notably Gilbert Arenas. When the trio of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler has been on the floor – healthy – Washington has had success in a fast paced style of offense. However, health has not been on their side. Arenas has played in just 13 games over the past two years. Jamison has been relatively injury free, but Butler has missed a surprising 43 games in the past two seasons.
Not having the three All Stars on the court has done its damage and therefore, the Gift of Health is tops on this year’s list.
Understanding the Importance of Defense
The biggest flaw in former head coach Eddie Jordan’s coaching was the lack of emphasis and accountability on defense. Under new head coach, Ed Tapscott, the Wizards have begun to play tougher in spurts. But still, we have not seen complete games on the defensive side of the ball consistently enough to win. As Kobe Bryant learned the hard way last year, a great defense can stop a great offense nine times out of ten.
The Wizards will not win anything of consequence until they learn to play 48 minutes of defense.
Consistent Interior Presence
Etan Thomas suffered from a heart condition last year, Brendan Haywood has missed all of the season thus far, Javal McGee is a rookie and Andray Blatche is still too raw. Translation?
The Wizards still do not have a consistent interior presence. Jamison and Butler have had to spend too much time and effort assisting the interior offense and defense rather than playing to their skill set, which requires them to move around outside of the paint.
Until Washington develops a solid rotation of dependable and healthy interior players, teams will be able to attack the paint at will. This goes hand in hand with the need of defense as well as staying healthy.
Injuries have hampered both Washington Centers
A little surprising that this made the list, considering how this would be the last item in years past. But with no Arenas and the departure of Antonio Daniels, the Wizards have had to rely too much on DeShawn Stevenson and Nick Young to provide scoring from the guard positions. They’re not getting it done and there isn’t any way around the fact that currently, the team lacks backcourt talent. Bench players never make good starters.
Hoping for the Wizards’ Christmas List to be fulfilled this season might be asking for too much, but having at least a couple of the items worked on would be a positive step going into the New Year.
Come on Santa, throw the Wizards a bone.