Shit's rough for the Wizards these days, man. After a few months of hanging steady near the top of the East and raking in national praise for their fun young backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal, they've dumped five in a row, seven of nine, and have been overtaken by the refurbished and newly wakeful Cavs. Marcin Gortat shaved off his mohawk. It's bad times in D.C.
So many things are going wrong all at once! Wall and Beal are banged up. Paul Pierce and Andre Miller, the two cagey old farts who've occasionally kept the low-wattage Wizards afloat with their sly Old Man Games, appear at last to have completed their mummifications; Miller's out of the rotation for the punishingly inept Garrett Temple, and Pierce couldn't drive past a mailbox these days if you spotted him a goddamn racecar. Rasual Butler, the 35-year-old NBA transient whose out-of-nowhere dead-eye marksmanship was one of the fun stories of the early season, has hit seven of his last 30 three-point attempts and can't stay on the court anymore; without him, the Wizards can't space the floor at all, and the offense grinds to a miserable halt.
(And: it's a weird, bad offense to begin with! Coach Randy Wittman's got them running hilariously Byzantine sets to produce an endless array of passive 18-footers, like he believes the formula for basketball success is ensuring his team wins the [average shot distance / average shot value] battle. Here's a fun cross-section of stats for Washington fans to recite while punching themselves in the face: the Wizards are the NBA's third most accurate three-shooting team, at 37.9 percent; 27 teams attempt more threes per game than they do, even though Washington is middle-of-the-pack in pace.)
The plunge reached new depths last night in Charlotte, when the desperate and pissed-off Wizards farted away a game they'd mostly controlled during the middle quarters and lost to the mediocre Hornets for the second time in three days. The game changed pretty much as soon as Temple shambled in for Wall with just over two minutes left in the third and the Wizards leading 70-61. By the time Wall checked back in with 8:42 to go in the fourth, the game was tied, the Hornets were playing like the goddamn Globetrotters, and his teammates were doing this:
That's little-used forward DeJuan Blair, whose game looks like someone abandoned a wheelbarrow full of wet sand on the court, losing his mind at teammate Kris Humphries, after the two of them paired up to doink an easy defensive rebound out of bounds. On one level, this is a competitive dude losing his grip for a moment at an inattentive teammate who failed to notice his rebounding services weren't needed on the play. On another level, it's the collective frustration and anxiety leaking out of a group of players who can sense that shit's gone badly awry, and have no real idea how to put it back in order.
And, on a third, more profound level, it is DeJuan fucking Blair—DeJuan Blair and not, say, Marcin Gortat, or, oh, a small lineup with Paul Pierce at the four, or a circus clown, or a Juggs machine with a photo of Wes Unseld taped to it—on the court during a crucial moment of an NBA game for a team whose promising season is stagnating before its eyes, which perhaps tells you a great deal about why the Wizards, friends, are in big trouble. DeJuan Blair lost his shit, sure—but he was only on the court in the first place because Randy Wittman did, too.
They've got home games against the terrible Nets and even more terrible Magic coming up next. That might look like a reprieve, a chance for the Wizards to halt the slide and regain their footing—but, so did two games against the Hornets in three days, a week ago. The stairs can hurt when you're falling down them.
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