After the Denver Nuggets left Verizon Center the last time, Jared Dudley slammed the door shut in the locker room to hold a players-only meeting for the Wizards.
His message at that time, to paraphrase: We've got to help each other because they aren't going to do it.
By "they," Dudley was referring to the coaching staff led by Randy Wittman, who was fired after a 41-41 season that was contentious early and often as the Wizards struggled just to get to .500.
The Wizards were 20-24 and hemorraghing points. They hadn't acquired Markieff Morris in a trade, and Dudley was the starting stretch power forward logging more minutes than he anticipated and unable to defend starters at his position one-on-one.
Today, the Wizards are 7-13 and coming off a demoralizing loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, 124-116, after John Wall's career-high 52 points. A lot of the personnel has changed and problems are the same, but the attitudes towards the coaching staff appear to have shifted180 degrees.
Scott Brooks has his work cut out for him as he has mixed and matched his lineups repeatedly and has yet to find sustained success with a bench that's limited on both ends of the floor. His stars, Wall and Bradley Beal, are playing heavy minutes. So is his oldest player, Marcin Gortat, at 32. How much more bending can be done until something breaks?
“We have to be able to sustain the sense of urgency, possession by possession, we haven't been able to do that," Brooks said Monday. "Our guys need to come out better with the defensive disposition, of just being solid with understanding the principles of guarding your man, understanding the principles of contesting the shot, and also understanding the principles of blocking out. We've all learned that from the day we started playing, but we have to be able to do that consistently throughout the game to give us the best chance to win."
Offensively challenged teams such as the Magic have hurt them all season. The Philadelphia 76ers scored 109 in a win, minus Joel Embiid and with Jahlil Okafor playing on a minutes restriction. The five-win Brooklyn Nets dropped in 113 in a loss. The Miami Heat scored a season-high 114 in a victory. The New York Knicks scored 112, and 47 of those points were allowed in the fourth quarter alone. The Magic had 40 in the second quarter to blow Monday's game open.
“The 40 points in the second quarter, it's unacceptable," Brooks said. "Offensively, 116 points on your home court, you should not lose that game, and we've done that a few times now.”
After a stretch of games vs. the likes ot the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs twice, games like tonight's with the Nuggets should end up in the win colum if the Wizards hope to be in contention for a playoff seed.
That was everyone's feeling coming into the season, including Brooks. The quarter pole will be here with 21 games played following Thursday's game.
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