Washington dis­plays dys­func­tion early

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By Can­dace Buck­ner The Washington Post

Wizards start melt­down early, as play­ers en­gage in mal­adap­tive agen­das

SACRA­MENTO, Calif. — It only took five games. Just five games into the 2018-19 sea­son, and the Washington Wizards have al­ready pulled the fig­u­ra­tive fire alarm in­side the locker room.

It hap­pened fol­low­ing the Wizards’ 116-112 loss to the Sacra­mento Kings, an or­ga­ni­za­tion with a long his­tory of be­ing the league’s dump­ster fire but now ap­pear­ing like a por­trait of func­tion­al­ity com­pared to Washington.

First, Bradley Beal pep­pered his postgame com­ments with coded lan­guage about a “com­fort zone” be­fore set­tling on strong and col­or­ful lan­guage. Then, John Wall joined the fray from his stall and threw ver­bal hay­mak­ers at the team’s over­all de­fen­sive ef­fort.

Pub­lic ac­counts of dis­unity have plagued the Wizards in pre­vi­ous sea­sons, but this year the drama came early. Af­ter only the fifth game of the young sea­son.

“We got to get out of our com­fort zone, that’s all it is,” Beal said, stand­ing at the mid­dle of a me­dia scrum.

Af­ter Beal fin­ished, Wall called over re­porters. He was shirt­less, still get­ting dressed, and could not have heard Beal’s com­ments to re­porters. But he re­peated the same mes­sage as if the pair had al­ready shared their thoughts to one an­other.

When asked for his opin­ion on Beal’s re­marks on “agen­das,” Wall sounded off.

“That’s the proof in the pud­ding. Ev­ery­body on their own agenda,” Wall said. “We showed glimpses when we do stuff as a team. We show how good we can be and then we go back to try­ing to do it in­di­vid­u­ally, and that’s mostly on the de­fen­sive end. Not help­ing each other out, not team re­bound­ing, and that’s what’s killing us.”

Wall wasn’t done.

“It’s just com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Just putting ef­fort. We got guys who’s wor­ried about who’s get­ting shots, where the ball is go­ing on the of­fen­sive end. We should never worry about that,” Wall said. “No mat­ter if we’re miss­ing or mak­ing shots, we got to be able to com­pete on the other end and if you can’t do it on both ends of the floor, you don’t need to be play­ing.”

Five games.

At this rate, the Wizards have the po­ten­tial to set an NBA record for the ear­li­est play­ers-only meet­ing ever held in a sea­son. All five of their games have pro­vided talk­ing points.

In the sea­son opener against the Mi­ami Heat, the Wizards couldn’t close out de­fen­sive pos­ses­sions and ul­ti­mately were done in by a Kelly Olynynk of­fen­sive re­bound and put­back be­fore the buzzer. Against the Toronto Rap­tors, an­other late of­fen­sive re­bound led to the dif­fer­ence­mak­ing bucket by Fred VanFleet.

Though the start of the cur­rent road trip pro­duced an over­time win in Port­land, the Wizards still al­lowed 124 points.

Then, on Wed­nes­day, Golden State War­riors guard Stephen Curry turned Washington’s de­fense into his per­sonal play­ground for 51 points and 11 made 3-point­ers.

By Fri­day night, the Wizards al­lowed Kings for­ward Ne­manja Bjel­ica to try his best Curry im­pres­sion by drain­ing 6 of 10 threes.

“The big fella was wide open on too many of them,” coach Scott Brooks ob­served.

“It’s the sim­ple things we talk about all the time,” Wall said. “We know some guys are go­ing to score. That’s the NBA. Guys are tal­ented, but you have to have some type of pride.”

Now, the guess­ing game be­gins as to which Wizards player or play­ers Beal and Wall are re­fer­ring to. As a back­court duo, they played the ma­jor­ity of the min­utes and com­bined to at­tempt 39 of the team’s 86 shots. Marki­eff Mor­ris logged a hefty 36:42, while cen­ter Ian Mahinmi, a de­fen­sive­minded player who views his of­fense as sec­ondary, ap­peared on the court for un­der 19 min­utes. Start­ing small for­ward Otto Porter Jr. played just 21 min­utes and at­tempted six shots.

In the sec­ond unit, Brooks trimmed the ro­ta­tion so that a starter re­mained on the floor through­out the game. Fourth-year player Kelly Oubre Jr. led the group and per­formed as the over­all best shooter of the night with 22 points on 8-of-13 shoot­ing for five threes, in­clud­ing a half­court launch to beat the buzzer in the third quar­ter. Oubre re­ceived 28 min­utes of ac­tion.

When asked to ex­plain why he went with Oubre, as op­posed to Porter, for so long, Brooks of­fered a strong hint about the sub­ject of Wall’s and Beal’s crit­i­cisms.

“Kelly is hav­ing his best three-game stretch in three years since I’ve been with him,” he said.

The Oubre sil­ver lin­ing aside, the Wizards are reel­ing. And it only took five games.

HECTOR AMEZCUA/SACRA­MENTO BEE

Sacra­mento for­ward Wil­lie Cauley-Stein dunks against the Wizards on Fri­day in Sacra­mento, Calif.

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