There’ll be no more teasing with the standings after the Wizards lost, 96-95, to the Detroit Pistons. I’ll get to that in a sec, but first:
*The John Wall crisis is real. Whatever the reason – the emergence of Bradley Beal, the upcoming contract extension negotiation (or lack thereof), just a simple post All-Star break funk, something – the Wizards third-year point guard is not himself.
Seven turnovers is a lot. At least six turnovers five times in the last nine games is a disturbing trend of a lot. It reached a new low against the Pistons, where he was unrecoverable after four turnovers in the first quarter. His body language revealed his frustration.
When he came back in the game late in the fourth quarter – having split his minutes for the second straight contest with A.J. Price – Wall took off for a layup on his first possession, trying to get himself going rather than the Wizards offense. He missed.
The only thing worse than his timing and tipped, errant, misplaced and poor passes was his demeanor afterward.
“Nope. Just not making shots. That’s all I can say,” Wall said when asked about his recent struggles.
“I don’t know. I think you’re seeing the same thing I’m seeing, so I can’t really call it,” Wall said when asked specifically about the turnovers.
Wall helped turn the Wizards around when he got back on the court in January. But less than two months later, with a number of players around him improving, he’s hit a wall, no pun intended. While it’s not fair to judge him as a player, this is a serious challenge to what he’s going to become in the future.
“He is going through a rough stretch,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “You can’t – whether it’s a game, a stretch, a week, two weeks, 10 days, you gotta fight through it. You can’t succumb to it. You can’t feel sorry for yourself about it.”
*Wittman had quite a bit else to say, and all of it wasn’t directed at Wall. At some level, Nene’s absence with a sore right shoulder might’ve been partly to blame; it had a domino effect on the Wizards’ frontcourt. Trevor Booker, who started in his place, and Kevin Seraphin were both desperate to get their games going. Even Emeka Okafor had more on his plate than usual. But Beal also missed all five of his 3-point attempts, and Martell Webster never got into a rhythm.
In the end, the theme was familiar, as it has been in recent Wizards losses: the current formula for success – which requires particular unselfishness – is a fragile one.
“We got guys that haven’t been in the rotation complaining,” Wittman said. “The older guys trying to help them, they won’t listen. That just tells me I’m just worried about myself, I’m not worried about winning this game. You have a tough game, it’s my job to coach you. It’s my job to coach you. Right now tonight for whatever reason, I don’t know, it’s bizarre to me because it hasn’t been. They didn’t want to be coached. It was more about playing time, shots rather than, ‘What are we doing as a team and how am I playing while I’m out there?’ ‘Do I deserve that?’ It’s my job to decide who is deserving of playing out there, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. That’s the only way I believe, and if you can’t handle that, you don’t agree with it, that’s what you get, a game like tonight. That’s what you get.”
*No more looking at the standings. Promise. The Wizards are back to 10 games out from eighth – Monta Ellis gave the Bucks a crazy game-winner at Houston – with 26 games remaining. The plan is to win as many as possible, play spoiler when the opportunity presents itself, and begin to think about the offseason and next year. That means Wall’s future. That means what happens next with Webster. That means, where do the Wizards go from here? They know what they do well and how they’ve won games of late. But it’s just not that easy to replicate on a nightly basis. Players are up, players are down, players are happy and unhappy. Right now, Wall is at the top of the struggling list, a place neither he nor the team is accustomed to.