An undercurrent roiled through the locker room after the Wizards lost to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, but it didn't manifest itself publicly until Bradley Beal decided he'd had enough after Wednesday's lifeless loss at the Sacramento Kings. If John Wall had uttered these words, they'd have gone viral but given the source this is every bit as telling.
"We didn’t have any sense of urgency. To me it felt like we just gave up," Beal said after a 120-111 loss in Sacramento, the Wizards' fourth defeat in five games in which they allowed 56% shooting to a 29-win team. "We’re just not hungry enough.
"I guess we kind of figure we’re already in the playoffs for some reason. It’s either that or we just want to get to the offseason. As far as why I have no idea. If guys don’t want to play they need to sit down."
Wall is 8-for-30 shooting in the last two games though he has distributed a total of 24 assists. He hasn't had a lot of help. Beal went for 24 points to lead Washington, but 20 Wizards turnovers undid them with Sacramento, too.
The effort the Wizards (36-39) put forth in losing 102-94 loss to Golden State was solid for most of three quarters Tuesday, but ultimately breakdowns allowed a chance at victory to get away. The defensive communication shut off, coverages were busted, layups allowed and fingers were pointed. What could've been a signature win for a team desperate to play itself into the postseason turned into another what-could've-been for a team that had been a top 10 scoring defense the previous three seasons.
The usually low-key Beal, who always tries to find the glass-is-half-full perspective after a difficult loss, is no more. And while most will point to coach Randy Wittman as being at fault for his schemes, rotations or philosophies, Beal made clear where the blame rests for what has taken place.
"We bark too much. We say what we need to do. We scream at one another. We can even try to blame Witt if we want to but at the end of the day we still the ones playing," said Beal, who has had heated exchanges with Nene on the bench. "We still beat ourselves. We do dumb stuff on the floor like just not having a man in transition or not knowing where a guy is at half court or not knowing personnel. We just do dumb mental lapses that just mess up the game and end up hurting us in the long run. Everybody is a grown ass man, you either want to play or you don’t."
Go back to losing sight of Will Barton in transition coverage in the fourth quarter of a 116-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets, when Garrett Temple recognized they'd fallen asleep, left his man and tried to stop him from getting to the rim unchecked. Or the uncontested layups given to Shaun Livingston (Beal lost him), Leandro Barbosa and Mo Speights in the fourth quarter at Golden State. There are countless other examples of despondent behavior that borderline on recklessness.
Good offense usually trumps good defense, so if the opponent makes a tough shot so be it. But the Wizards have had a tendency all season to roll out the red carpet and not put up any resistance during crucial stretches of close games such as against Denver when bench players scored 41 in the fourth.
Wall has had 47 double-doubles but has been run into the ground, and his chemistry with Beal has been absent since the second week of the season. In the long-term, the acquisition of Markieff Morris will be a very good thing but the forward has walked into a dysfunctional situation, trying to help salvage a team that had a fragile psyche long before his arrival. As pointed out numerous times here, these lapses pre-dated Paul Pierce's arrival last year so his absence now isn't the reason, either.
The Wizards need a cleansing of not just personnel but of spirit and mind. Since they're built around this star backcourt, the time is long overdue for Wall and Beal to sit down with each other (preferably voluntarily) for an all-topics-on-the-table discussion.
What are their issues with each other, if any? Who do they want to be? And when it's all said and done, stick to those principles, be firm in adhering to them and harbor no ill feelings over each other's honesty. And then it's time to sit with management as a unified front since this actually is their team (assuming Beal is retained in free agency) to make certain that the defeatist mentality that has polluted the locker room never returns and assume the blame if it does. That's how to streamline the process.
That's what leadership is. That's what shepherds of the franchise do. Beal is correct in that there is too much barking (something Marcin Gortat has said repeatedly before). His own words won't amount to much, however, if there's no follow-up and the backcourt waits (and hopes) someone else fixes what ails them. That requires more initiative from those players. That requires guts this team lacks. And some actual bite to make it happen.
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