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Are playoffs still a realistic goal for Wizards?


Are playoffs still a realistic goal for Wizards?

Remember that hilariously famous clip of Jim Mora’s post-game press conference back in 2001? The one in which the outspoken former head coach was asked if his 4-6 Indianapolis Colts had a chance of making the NFL playoffs?

Playoffs?” Mora shrieked. Don’t talk about — playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!”

No one has been bold enough to bring up the word playoffs to Wizards coach Randy Wittman lately. Not with his team holding the NBA’s worst record [0-8] heading into tonight’s home game against the Indiana Pacers.

But it was less than a month ago that Wittman and general manager Ernie Grunfeld were fielding questions about whether this year’s Wizards were capable of getting into the post-season.

Now they’re facing an uphill climb that seems like Mount Everest.

“It’s tough,” said point guard A.J. Price. “But this is the NBA. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy by any stretch. We just need to keep on fighting, keep on playing. Never say die attitude. Never quit, never give in.”

At 0-8 the Wizards are already four games behind the eighth-place Charlotte Bobcats for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Last season the Philadelphia 76ers were the last team in the East to get into the post-season with a record of 35-31, four games over .500.

To finish with a record four games over .500 the Wizards would need to play 12 games over .500 the remainder of the season. That means they’d have to go 43-31 in their final 74 games.

Is that possible? The Wizards believe it is, especially if they get John Wall and Nene back from injuries within the next few weeks.

“We’re still playing for something,” Shaun Livingston said. “In the East, especially, we’re not totally out of it. We just gotta get a win on the board so we can relax and play basketball.”

The Wizards have been competitive in each of their eight losses, but have been outscored 179-153 in fourth quarters and 12-6 in overtime. In their last five losses the disparity has been even greater, with opponents outscoring the Wizards 119-82 in the fourth quarter. That’s an average margin of 7.4 points.

“I think we could have won more than half our games,” rookie guard Bradley Beal said. “That’s just my opinion. Our intensity is there, our competitiveness is there. Everything we need to do is there all the way up to the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter is what really kills us.”

Point guard A.J. Price said the Wizards can no longer afford moral victories. They need to get in the win column to start building confidence.

“It’s too long of a season to feel like that,” he said when asked about taking positives from losses. “If we ever get to that point it’s really over. We’re 0-8 now. We can’t have that type of attitude. We need to continue to try to get better, try to stick with it and have confidence and belief that next game will be the game we win.”

Jordan Crawford, who leads the team with 12.4 points a game, agreed.

“We can’t be down on ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of games to go. Teams aren’t going to come here and make it easy for us.”



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Frustration reportedly boils over in recent incidents at Wizards practice

Frustration reportedly boils over in recent incidents at Wizards practice

Following a report by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday morning about the possibility that every member of the Wizards' roster, including stars John Wall and Bradley Beal, could be available in a potential trade with the right suitor, more followed Monday -- this time about frustration boiling over in practice.

Prior to the publication of Monday afternoon's reports, Bradley Beal addressed the day's earlier reports when speaking with the media.

“I mean, I’m not going to be naïve to it, you know,” Beal said. “I have a phone just like everybody else does. There were rumors weeks ago. Then, I didn’t buy into them. Now, I’m still not going to buy into them because if that’s my main priority and focus then I’m going to be messed up on the floor.”

As reports continued to swirl Monday, forward Kelly Oubre appeared to allude to the situation on Twitter.

A spokesperson for the Wizards declined to comment on the reports.

The Wizards return to the court to face the Clippers on Tuesday at Capital One Arena.

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John Wall and Bradley Beal trade rumors show Wizards are exploring all options

John Wall and Bradley Beal trade rumors show Wizards are exploring all options

The mounting losses and the hapless nature of those defeats has the 5-11 Washington Wizards entering new territory, a place the franchise has not been in years. The team's steadfast plan of building around John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. may be nearing its end. 

The time has come to at least consider something drastic.

That means, at least according to ESPN, essentially everyone on the Wizards’ roster is available in trades. That includes both Wall and Beal, two All-Stars who are just 28 and 25, respectively.

This would be a departure from their recent stance of withholding Beal, in particular, in talks for available stars like Jimmy Butler. But sensing the current roster may have run its course, the Wizards are exploring their options.

There is added urgency in the money they have committed. The Wizards have the sixth-highest payroll in the NBA and are due to pay about $12.4 million in luxury tax, according to Spotrac.com.

The Wizards’ thoughts of trading either Wall or Beal are very preliminary, according to a person familiar with the situation. This being out there simply lets other teams know they will listen.

Despite the whirlwind of reports, any major deal would likely take a long time to orchestrate. The Wizards would likely take months to lay the groundwork, even if matters get worse on the court. 

When you have two players as good as Wall or Beal, a good return needs to be guaranteed in a trade. Plus, both players have demonstrated over the years they can put on a good face through times of turmoil.

It’s also worth pointing out that this does not mean a rebuild is imminent. They aren’t close to being there yet. 

With two All-Stars in their 20s, the Wizards would first try to retool around them. And if they do trade one, that doesn’t mean they are also trading the other. Reactionary moves are not in the Wizards' nature.

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski notes, the Wizards would prefer to first trade others on the roster, but so far have not received enticing offers for Porter, Kelly Oubre Jr., Markieff Morris and the like. The ideal option would be to trade one of them and give the new-look roster time to adjust before next steps are taken. They have forward depth and could replace any of those three in the short-term.

Porter, though, has a sizable contract. He’s owed about $81 million over the next three seasons. Though he’s only 25 and one of the game’s best three-point shooters, that is a lot of money to take on for a player who has yet to make an All-Star team.

Morris, meanwhile, is struggling this season. Oubre is having a solid year, but is due to hit free agency after this season and won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Beal is by far the Wizards’ most attractive trade asset, given he’s a young All-Star and due $81 million the next three seasons, a relatively modest price given his ability and today’s market.

Wall, on the other hand, has a supermax extension worth $169 million that doesn’t kick in until next year. He is set to become one of the highest-paid players in the NBA and will be owed $40 million-plus per season into his 30s.

That doesn’t mean Wall couldn’t be traded, if the Wizards choose that route. Several teams in particular stand out as logical fits. There are the Lakers, who will need to give LeBron James some better teammates at some point to compete for his fourth championship ring.

Wall has the same agent as James and would add a second All-Star to the Lakers’ rebuild. If they pulled in a third star, like Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis, they would be in business.

Two other teams that make sense, if the Wizards decide to trade Wall, would be the Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic. Both have stacked top draft picks in recent years, but are in desperate need of a point guard.

Beal could conceivably field offers from half the league. An All-Star at his age and at his price is something most teams could use. He has zero character concerns and his game is compatible with anyone. He hits threes, is effective off-the-ball and plays defense.

The biggest question through all of this is how the Wizards’ front office would factor in. If they want to make wholesale changes, owner Ted Leonsis has to first determine who will be making those decisions. If shuffling the front office is at all an option he’s considering, that has to be weighed in the timing of any major moves.

The Wizards are a ways away from pulling the trigger on a major trade, but the seeds are being planted in case their situation gets even worse.