An advocate of the fast-pace style of the Wizards, center Marcin Gortat already is having second thoughts as they're on a two-game losing streak in which they've totaled 50 turnovers.
"We ain't going to win games like that," Gortat said Monday, before Tuesday's game vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder at Verizon Center. "What I would say from my perspective is we have to slow down. We have to slightly slow down. ... There's the saying be quick, don't rush. We have to start playing a bit slower."
In the Wizards three losses this season, they've given up 117, 118 and 114 points. The common denominator in all of them is turnovers, which leads to easy, uncontested buckets for the opponent.
"In the half court, we are not a bad team (defensively). In transition, we got to get back. Transition defense for us is awful," said Gortat, who has seen a reduced role even though the Wizards have gone to one big in the paint which in theory is supposed to create more room for him to operate. "They're running. They're scoring easy points. When we get back we're actually a pretty good defense team. There's no need to raise panic."
Coach Randy Wittman echoed something similar. It's not that he wants his team to slow down but play with a better IQ.
"We try too many risky plays. He had 26 turnovers and 13 were unequivocally, even you guys would say, the defense had nothing to do with it. Thirteen of your 26 had nothing to do with what the defense did," Wittman said of Saturday's loss at the Atlanta Hawks. "We got to eliminate those. We got too many of those. Catching the ball standing out of bounds, running on the fast break with nobody around us. I don't think that's good defense that causes that turnover.
"It's pretty simple. We averaging 23 turnovers in the three losses and we're averaging (16) turnovers in the three wins. Our defense was pretty good in Atlanta, when we made them play 5-on-5. It was too much 4-on-1, 3-on-2, 4-on-2 and good teams will take advantage of that."
One of their most egregious errors came on an inbound play when John Wall, the Wizards' primary ball-handler, tried to get the ball in play but all four teammates ran away from him. He had to throw it up for grabs and the Hawks turned that into two quick points. It's a gaffe that's more fitting of the 29-win Wizards from three seasons ago and not an actual respectable playoff team.
"No. 1, John shouldn't be inbounding the ball. No. 2, our bigs were standing right there and they just turned around and ran so I don't want our point guard throwing the ball inbound to our five and four guy who aren't going to expect it anyway," Wittman said. "So John throws it to them, and (the Hawks) get a layup and then you say, 'Boy, your defense wasn't good.' Those are the plays I'm talking about. That makes your defense look bad."
It goes back to something that Wittman has complained about in previous years, when they used two bigs in the post with Gortat and Nene in the starting lineup.
"We sometimes (think), 'What I'm going to do, I'm going to come off, usually this defender is going to suck in so I'm going to throw the ball to that spot.' That defender doesn't (suck) in and we still throw the ball and that's intercepted. I felt some of the passes we threw against Boston, a couple of their defenders needed helmets," said Wittman of their 24 turnovers on Friday. "We were hitting them in the head. That to me is predetermining what you're going to do. ... We could've seriously hurt some of the Celtics players with our passes.
"In this it's read and react and play. That's what basketball is. I'm not inventing anything in basketball here. Come on, it's basketball. This isn't an invention here of anything. If I came down and made every call you still have to read what the defense is going to do in that set play. ... I could make this the No. 1 defensive team in the league points allowed per game if I said, 'John, you're going to walk the ball up every time, we're going to use 24 seconds and we're going to try to win 80-78.'"
For his part, Wall isn't using the new offense as an excuse. It's basic lack of discipline. He had at least two of his seven giveaways from driving the baseline, expecting Bradley Beal to spot up in the corner and he stopped at a different spot on the arc. That took away Wall's passing angle. The result was a bad pass turnover that's not all his fault.
"I'm not blaming it on the new offense at all. We just got to get to our spaces," Wall said. "Even if we had the same offense we had in the past, it's just about knowing when to cut at the right time, knowing when to be in the right situation at the right time. It's not all on the offense. If it's simple basketball, when a guy drives baseline you supposed to be in the corner (to catch and shoot). A guy leaves the corner, that's not the offense."
For Gortat, it's up to himself, Wall and Beal as the three cornerstones of the franchise.
"If we play better," he said, "the whole team is going to play better."