Nothing will change for the Wizards until they kick their too-cool-for-school attitude

There was always that one kid in school. You know, the one who rarely completed any assignments, failed nearly every test, gave no input for group projects—but somehow managed to barely pass the class. Even though other students were getting A’s and B’s on their assignments, it was never this kid’s fault that he flunked the test. No. He had every excuse in the book: “I didn’t like the teacher’s teaching style”, “The teacher never provided me with enough information”, on and on. It never stopped. Same curriculum, same information, others were getting good grades, but this student was barely able to move onto the next grade because of course, none of the shortcomings were their fault.

This is what the Washington Wizards have become in a nutshell.

Back during the 2013-2014 season, the Wizards had a chip on their shoulder. They finished with the fifth-best record in the East and were expected to be easy fodder for the experienced Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. That chip on their shoulder morphed into a plank and they played through Chicago for a 4-1 series victory. But after getting knocked out by the Pacers in the second round, a funny thing happened. That chip on their shoulder shrunk down to a splinter as the players’ egos began to inflate.

The Wizards had a little swag to them for the first time in a long time. And who could blame them? But little did Bradley Beal know that during media day prior to the 2014-2015 season, he’d speak the words that would set the tone for this team’s mindset for the next four seasons when he said: “We’re definitely the best backcourt in the league.”

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were catching their stride and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were laying the foundation for the tandem they’d ultimately turn into. But here were the Wizards, self-anointing themselves as the best backcourt in the NBA after winning just one playoff series.

Unfortunately for Washington, nothing has been able to hut that ego. If anything, it’s ballooned even more. Rather than let an otherwise meaningless quote get swept into a random corner of the internet, they doubled down. In 2015, Wall and Beal moved all their chips to the middle of the table and said they were ‘best backcourt because they play both ends.’ And if there was any doubt in anyone’s mind, they tripled down during the summer of 2017.

The faux confidence John Wall and Bradley Beal have exuded has spilled over to other members of the team. Look no further than Markieff Morris who stated: “Sometimes the better teams don’t win” after the Raptors knocked the Wizards out of the playoffs this spring in a series that wasn’t really in doubt.

Rather than riding the momentum of being just one game from the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017, the Wizards stalled out. They don’t own any hardware but unofficially lead the NBA in players-only meetings and the number of times they’ve referred to themselves as the best backcourt in the NBA. Unsurprisingly, that hasn’t translated to results and if the team’s mindset doesn’t change, it never will.

Organizationally, this isn’t Washington’s first rodeo either when it comes to dealing with irrationally confident players who shed the blame elsewhere. The Gilbert Arenas-led Wizards came out of nowhere to increase their win total by 20 and knock off the Chicago Bulls in 2005. But after winning that series, that iteration of the Wizards roster never won another playoff series. Off the court antics, injuries, and excuses started to pile up but the front office didn’t seem to mind as the team was relevant for the first time in a long time.

Since changes likely won’t come from up top to change the culture, it’s up to the team’s leader, John Wall, to set a new tone. Early in the season after a laundry list of losses to sub .500 teams like the SunsMavericksNets, and Lakers, John Wall said the Wizards players were stat-hunting. Unfortunately, his words did little to change what was happening.

There are mixed feelings about John Wall. Locally, fans love him, but he doesn’t seem to garner that attention on a national level. Throughout his career, he has been more of the lead by example type than the type who gets in a teammate’s face. But with the Wizards coming off of a very disappointing season, Washington has a chance to get that chip back on their shoulder—but it starts with Wall. The way he played through pain was inspiring, but it also allowed bad habits to spread as more players took plays off defensively, hunted for stats against bad teams, and got stagnant off the ball.

Things won’t be easier next year either as the Wizards will try to incorporate Dwight Howard into the locker room—a guy playing on his fourth team in four years. They’re also adding Austin Riverswho didn’t always have the best relationships with teammates in Los Angeles, as well as the consistently inconsistent Jeff Green.

The Wizards clearly thrive as hunters rather than being the hunted. So maybe an early exit from the playoffs last year will re-ignite a fire under this team. If not, we might find ourselves in a similar situation to last year listening to excuses that are well past their expiration date from a team falling short of expectations once again. You know, like the kid who flunked his test but at no fault of his own.

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Wizards vs. Hornets final score: Washington run off the floor in 133-109 loss to Charlotte

The Wizards added another embarrassing loss to their collection this season as they fell to the Hornets 133-109 on Wednesday night.

Seven Charlotte players scored in double-figures led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 21 points as the Hornets came out on fire to put the Wizards away early in this one.

Bradley Beal was one of the few bright spots for the Wizards as he scored 26 points (20 in the first half), but also coughed the ball up five times. Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre also played well, scoring 18 and 16 points respectively as they played heavy minutes while Markieff Morris was mired in foul trouble most of the night.

To put it nicely, this was a less than ideal way to start a five-game road trip.

Takeaways

An ugly first half defensively sets the tone for the rest of the game

What if I told you the Wizards would shoot 54 percent from the field, 8-of-10 from three-point range, John Wall would have eight assists, and Bradley Beal would score 20 points all in one half? There’s no way Washington could be losing, right?

Well not only were they losing at halftime, but they borderline getting blown out as the Hornets knocked down 65 percent of their field goals and scorched the nets for a franchise-record 77 points in the first half as they led by 16 at halftime.

Scott Brooks has said it many times that with this team, it all comes down to getting stops defensively. The Wizards did not get the message early on as the Hornets connected on their first 10 field goal attempts and put Washington in an early hole.

A lot has to go right to drop 77 points in a half, but luckily for the Hornets, they were up against a Wizards team who gave up too many easy points in the paint and behind the arc to keep things competitive.

Washington wastes an outstanding three-point shooting night

It’s a shame the Wizards got run off the court because they had one of their best nights shooting the long ball. The Wizards ended the night 13-of-23 from three-point range, and that was after it was skewed by some poor shooting in garbage time. They were 11-of-18 late in the third quarter when Brooks yanked the starters and waved the white flag.

Bradley Beal was stroking it from distance, as he knocked down his first four three-pointers of the game, all from the left wing. John Wall started the second half 2-of-2 from three-point range, his only two of the game while Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre combined to go 4-of-5 (before garbage time) while the game was still in reach.

Game Notes

  • Charlotte scored 77 first-half points, a franchise record.
  • Michael Jordan was not sitting courtside to watch this debacle.
  • Michael Carter-Williams and Jason Smith got tangled up in garbage time of the fourth quarter. Michael Carter-Williams and Tim Frazier were ejected for their extracurricular activities.

After the ejections, the Wizards chose Dwight Howard to shoot the free throws for Charlotte. As you’d probably expect, Howard (who is shooting 52 percent from the line this season) made both.

Next up: The Wizards are off to Detroit to face the Pistons on Friday at 8 p.m. ET.

Wizards at Hawks Game 4: Washington can’t overcome Atlanta’s balanced attack. Lose, 111-101.

Seven Hawks players led by Paul Millsap scored in double figures as Atlanta beats Washington 111-101 to even the series at 2-2. Bradley Beal led the way for Washington with 32 points and John Wall added 22 points and 10 assists but like Game 3, the Wizards didn’t get much help from anyone else.

Unlike Game 3, the Wizards got off to a hot start in the beginning of this one. Beal was knocking down open jumpers and Wall was getting out in transition as the Wizards took an early 25-18 lead. The Wizards shot 58 percent in the period as they led after the first quarter for the first time in the series, 35-28.

But in the second quarter, none of that momentum carried over. The Hawks used a quick 9-0 run to tie the game at 38. Washington, who didn’t commit a turnover in the first quarter, let Atlanta back in this one as they committed eight turnovers in the second period. Washington shot just 25 percent in the period (5-20) and was outscored 31-15 as Atlanta led, 59-50 at halftime.

This time, it was the Hawks turn to go cold. Atlanta scored just two points through the first 4:10 of the third quarter, as the Wizards were able to get back in this one. Washington used an extended run to tie the game at 77 entering the fourth quarter.

Surprisingly, the Wizards looked gassed in the fourth quarter. A quick run by the Hawks had them up 89-81 with Washington playing catch up. Washington answered with a 7-0 run of their own to cut the lead to one but Atlanta had an answer. Two three-pointers down the stretch including one which got a very friendly come court roll put this one out of reach. Washington falls 111-101.

Terrible second quarter dooms Wizards

Washington was terrible in the second quarter as they were outscored 31-15 in the period. It wasn’t just the bench, but the starters too who struggled. Washington had no answer for Dwight Howard who had two alley-oop dunks in the quarter. Washington didn’t take care of the ball as they committed eight turnovers in the period. The Wizards’ lead quickly evaporated as they shot just 25 percent from the field in the period.

Balanced attack crushes Washington

Seven Hawks players scored in double figures tonight led by Millsap with 19. Dwight Howard, who’s been quiet for most of this series came alive with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Howard was able to finish around the rim and gobbled up all of the loose rebounds that came his way. In addition, the Hawks got unexpected contributions from Kent Bazemore and Jose Calderon who combined for 26 points off the bench.

Wall and Beal don’t get a lot of help

Wall and Beal came to play on offense but the same can’t be said for the rest of the guys. Porter and Bogdanovic chipped in with 13 points a piece but didn’t come alive until the second half. Washington isn’t going to win many games if Wall and Beal are the only ones to show up on the offensive end. Additionally, Gortat, who’s been solid for most of this series, was held to just two points tonight.

Wiz overcome late deficit, hang on to beat Rockets 123-122.

In maybe the wildest game so far this season, the Wizards hang on to win, 123-122 over the Houston Rockets snapping a three game losing streak. Eight Wizards players scored in double figures tonight led by John Wall with 19 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. Ramon Sessions scored 17 points off the bench and Jared Dudley was a key factor tonight scoring 16. For the time being, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

The Wizards looked like a refreshed team in their first game after the players only meeting. The team looked focus, was able to run now that Dudley was in the starting lineup, and looked like a team with a chip on it’s shoulder.

Dwight Howard was hot early for the Rockets scoring 12 points on 5-6 shooting in the first quarter.

This game was chippy and it all started in the second quarter when Dudley was called for a flagrant foul on Dwight Howard. Howard looked to hug Dudley and got T’d up himself.

James Harden was his usual self scoring a game-high 40 points and hitting a three pointer with two seconds remaining as the Rockets led 62-59 at halftime.

The lead started seesawing back and forth between the two teams for the entire third quarter. Sessions scored 12 of his 17 points in the quarter as the Wizards used a 9-0 run to take a 90-88 lead into the fourth quarter.

Things heated up early in the fourth quarter. Howard and Nene were jawing all game and things escalated in the fourth quarter when the two big men got tied up and some pushing and shoving ensued. The players were T’d up and both were ejected from the game.

Whenever one team took the lead and looked to run away with it, the other team countered. Harden hit a transition three to give the Rockets a 116-110 lead with 3:30 to play.

The Wizards had an answer. They’d hack Clint Capela and get him to the foul line. Capela, who’s a terrible free throw shooter, hit just 1-8 from the line as the Wizards clawed back.

The Rockets left John Wall wide open as Wall would knock down a three to tie the game at 117 with 2:30 to play. The Wizards would get key stops down the stretch and knock down their free throws.

The Rockets had one last chance down one to take the lead but Harden missed the shot. Wizards win 123-122.

Team Effort: The Wizards are going through a lot of adversity and they responded even if it was just one game. The energy was high, they were making the right plays, and really just looked engaged for the first time in four games. The bench combined for 55 points including Nene who went a perfect 4-4 from the field and Gary Neal who was also a perfect 5-5 from the field. As critical as I am of Nene, he was a stud against Dwight Howard. Nene got under his skin forcing Howard off his game. Wall was a stud with his near triple-double and Gortat notched another double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. It’s only one game but let’s enjoy it for now.