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Bertans says Wizards’ chemistry undone by fights over minutes, roles

Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 25: Daniel Gafford #21, Davis Bertans #42, Bradley Beal #3, Ish Smith #14, and Garrison Mathews #24 of the Washington Wizards look on after a play against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at Capital One Arena on April 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

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The Washington Wizards started 10-3 and were one of the hot stories to start the season. Then the wheels came off. The Wizards are 15-27 since then and have fallen out of even the play-in games, which led to a shake-things-up trade at the deadline, where Washington acquired Kristaps Porzingis for Davis Bertans and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Bertans, now in Dallas, was asked about the locker room chemistry issues in Washington — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope talked about “egos” and “agendas” recently — and gave an honest answer.

“It’s tough to have team chemistry when every single day, the team is basically fighting with each other about ‘I want to get more minutes’ and ‘I want a bigger role.’ That was probably the biggest part of struggles for most guys during the season. That kinda early on that doesn’t show up because everybody’s trying to figure out what’s going on. Once it starts going downhill, it’s really hard to turn around and start going up again.”

For many, the instinct is to blame the coach, in this case rookie coach Wes Unseld Jr. He certainly has earned some blame for not setting a firm pecking order of shots within the offense. Adding to that challenge has been Bradley Beal and other players being in and out of the lineup due to injuries and COVID.

However, some of the blame needs to fall on Beal and locker room leadership — a coach can only do so much from the top down. True team leadership needs to come from the players in the locker room. It hasn’t in Washington, and the trades at the deadline may be too little, too late to salvage what was a promising start to this season, especially with Beal sidelined until next season due to wrist surgery.