Flip Saunders doesn't fear for his job, and both he and the Wizards seem determined to stick to the painful process of trying to rebuild with him as coach. But outside of Verizon Center, there is a growing sense that the only way for the NBA's most woeful franchise to break free of the losing culture that has engulfed it is through change.
"Those guys need a new voice," one NBA agent told The Washington Examiner via text during the Wizards' 92-73 loss to Minnesota on Sunday, which extended a franchise-worst start to the season to 0-8.
"Looks bad. Time for Flip to go," another agent said.
|Raptors at Wizards|
|When » Tuesday, 7 p.m.|
|Where » Verizon Center|
|TV » CSN|
Certainly, firing the coach would seem like a hasty decision for a team that has yet to play 10 games, even if the Sacramento Kings parted ways with Paul Westphal after just seven.
But the Wizards' winless start is measured more than simply in the standings. To those who have observed how they have played, there is little indication of progress.
"They seem a little bit lost on the court," a third agent said. "John Wall doesn't seem to be showing improvement and signs of reaching his potential, and that's in part on the coach."
Meanwhile, Andray Blatche is in his seventh season, Nick Young is in his fifth and JaVale McGee is in his fourth. None has performed to expectations, and Saunders admitted that the Wizards can no longer use the excuse that they're young.
"These guys should know how to play by now," ESPN.com analyst John Hollinger wrote Monday. "The fact that they don't has to be seen as a massive player-development failure on the part of Washington."
A source with knowledge of the team's thinking reiterated last week that majority owner Ted Leonsis remained committed to the long term and that the team was not going to make a reactionary move in the face of early-season struggles, even if there was disappointment in the players' performances.
The reality is that one of the biggest obstacles to parting ways with Saunders is the Wizards' financial obligation to a coach who is in the third season of a four-year, $18 million contract. Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld's contract expires at the end of this year.
"If they had their way," the third agent said, "they would go the whole season without a change because any way you look it, they're duplicating another half a million or more in salary. They may not have that choice."
Saunders said he talked with Wall on Monday and told his star player it wasn't about where the Wizards have been but where they are going. Rashard Lewis said Saunders then yelled at the players after a lackluster start to practice.
"What I can do is I can't be any easier on them," Saunders said. "I mean right now it's a situation where they shouldn't be real happy with me and I shouldn't be real happy with them. No one should be happy."