Oubre, reserves still looking for consistency.
The Washington Wizards seemed in good spirits ahead of Friday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, despite a slow start that has them at the bottom of the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
At Thursday’s practice, the team and Coach Scott Brooks spoke with excitement about the season debut of Dwight Howard. Howard reiterated the team’s preseason goal of reaching the Eastern Conference finals, making it clear that he believed it was too early to count out the Wizards.
Friday’s result, a listless 134-111 loss, made it obvious how far the Wizards are from sniffing the playoffs, let alone winning a postseason series.
Much of the early-season frustration has centered on the highly paid trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. But the Wizards’ performance in the second quarter Friday — when they were outscored 44-20 and went into intermission down by 29 — also highlighted the inconsistent play of Kelly Oubre Jr., a key part of Washington’s second unit.
Oubre’s development and the additions of Austin Rivers and Jeff Green were big reasons the Wizards expected their bench to take a step forward. But Rivers and Green haven’t played particularly well, and while Oubre has been one of the team’s few bright spots in a rough start to the season, his inconsistency continues to plague the team.
In the first five games of the season, Oubre averaged 15.6 points and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc while posting a blistering effective field goal percentage of 61.2 percent. Brooks called it the best stretch the fourthyear forward has put together in his time with the Wizards and credited Oubre’s shot selection, decisiveness and sustained effort on both offense and defense.
“He had two or three games where he was really playing solid basketball on both ends,” Brooks said, “and he just has to keep doing that”
In the decisive second quarter against the Thunder, Oubre had his coach again shaking his head in frustration. As the Wizards’ reserves managed just two field goals in the first four-plus minutes of the quarter, Oubre flashed some of the maddening inconsistencies that are holding him back.
A sloppy turnover as he brought the ball up the court following a rebound led to a quick three on the other end. On the next possession, Oubre turned it over again on a traveling violation. A five-point deficit to start the second quarter ballooned. Oubre played 32 minutes off the bench but missed all six of his three-point attempts, shot 6 for 17 from the field and finished with a staggering plus/minus of minus30.
On the defensive end, Oubre lamented his and his teammates’ inability to grab defensive rebounds and get back in transition.
“A lot of teams run out [in transition] on us. That’s kind of the word around town: We don’t get back,” he said. “We’re letting teams stay comfortable. We have to disrupt. It’s what we do . . . . We’re not this bad. I don’t believe that in my heart.”
Oubre, who is the only reserve player averaging double figures in scoring and is set to become a restricted free agent after the season, likely will have to continue to be the go-to guy for a bench that is one of the worst in the league. The unit is 29th among NBA benches in field goal percentage and in the bottom 10 in three-point percentage, despite being in the top 10 in scoring, a statistic that is more a result of the extended minutes the Wizards’ reserves have been getting in blowout losses. More games from Oubre like his previous three, in which he shot 30.8 percent from the field and 11.1 percent from three, won’t be enough to help his 1-7 team to achieve its lofty goals.
As with many of his teammates, he believes it’s just a matter of time.
“I look forward to all the pieces being put together in the puzzle,” he said.
Fourth-year forward Kelly Oubre Jr. has been the Wizards’ best scorer off the bench, but he must deliver with more consistency.