A few of the players have changed since the two consecutive postseason runs to the conference semifinals, but after three consecutive bad losses the DNA in the Wizards' locker room remains the same. Again, it's Bradley Beal dropping the unflattering between-the-ears diagnosis just seven games into this season.
"We’re not mentally tough. We give in to being tired too much," said Beal, who sat out with a left shoulder contusion as the Oklahoma City Thunder dismantled them at Verizon Center 125-101, after a film session Wednesday. "We give in to all the little excuses and there should be none. There’s no reason we shouldn’t still be a top defensive team. We still have (a lot of) the same guys the last couple of years. Nothing has changed. It’s just our mentality and approach to the game."
Beal said it going into the playoffs last season. That came after then-teammate Al Harrington dropped a similar nugget about them two seasons ago only to be endorsed by Marcin Gortat about a month later.
It was hard for Beal to watch from the bench as his team was shredded and lost at home for the second time. Both losses came in front of their two sellouts.
"We need to get back to taking the individual challenge on defense," said Beal, who concurred with what coach Randy Wittman saw in his critique after a film session. "That’s one thing I saw we need to do as well. We just need to step up and be able to guard guys more. Take pride in our defense. … Get back to being a top-five team in defense in the league. We’re so worried about our offense, not scoring, not getting our shots that we’re just having mental lapses on defense."
Jared Dudley, who played for the offensively-potent-but-defensively-challenged Phoenix Suns, hasn't seen anything this bad in a long time. A top 10 scoring defense the last three years, the Wizards already have given up 125, 118, 117, 114 and 113 points. Dudley was detailed in his analysis after Dion Waiters (25 points), Serge Ibaka (23) and Russell Westbrook (22, 11 assists and 11 rebounds) combined to steamroll the Wizards (3-4).
"It's not just one person. It's really collectively. It's someone new on each possession, from the bigs to the wings to the guards not getting into the ball. Bigs (are) not communicating with the guards on where to send them," Dudley said. "Rebounding. Looking at the ball instead of hitting someone. Communication on pick-and-rolls. Who picks up the roller when they skip it to the other side? Like when Ibaka had open threes, what wing is supposed to X out? ... Transition defense. Having two people on the ball, leaving someone else open to get 2-for-1 on the other side."
Dudley could go on. So he did. They have a few days to get right with the Orlando Magic here on Saturday.
"I know we had injuries," said Dudley, also referring to Nene (back spasms) missing the Oklahoma City game and Drew Gooden missing two in a row before that with the same ailment. "If a team beats you you can understand that. It's how they beat you. ... I know what coach Wittman said about being tough, but a lot of it is being smart, being in the right position. If you're in the right position you don't have to be so-called as 'tough' because you're already in great position. You don't have to fight extra because you're already on the inside of a guy. That's from learning, that's film, that's practice and learning our rotations so instead of thinking out there we're just reacting.
"You saw how OKC played defense. What they tried to do, we're trying to do. They're obviously a step above us right now when it comes to chemistry, playing together. We have two days of practice coming up here, a game and three days of practice so we have time to correct them. Good thing it's early instead of late."