Over a dozen games into the 2021 season, people are now getting a sense of what this Washington Wizards team really is: a force to be reckoned with. At 10-5 and near the top of the Eastern Conference, Washington has raised everyone’s eyebrows thus far.
One of those pleasantly surprised is David Aldridge, editor in chief of The Athletic D.C. Aldridge says Unseld Jr. has been at the core of the Wizards’ turnaround, likening him to one championship-winning coach.
“I think Wes may be more in the, kind of, Erik Spoelstra line of coaching,” Aldridge said on And One with Chris Miller this week. “You never see Spo sweat, at least outwardly. You know that he’s coaching his team because they play smart and they’re intelligent and all those things, but it never comes out that way when you see him on the court. He seems like he’s in control of his emotions and he’s very, very cerebral about how to approach the game, and I think Wes has some of those qualities.”
Spoelstra has been the head coach of the Miami Heat since 2008, winning two consecutive NBA titles from 2012-13. He had to manage some big personalities on that team, including the ‘Big Three’ of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Unseld Jr. and Spoelstra met on Thursday night in Miami, when the latter would get the better of the former via a 112-97 Heat victory. Washington, though, still remains in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. Unseld Jr. will be critical in determining if they can stay there long-term.
“Time will tell obviously, but I think it’s very encouraging to see how this team responds to him and has responded to him so far,” Aldridge said.
When Unseld Jr. was brought in to coach the Wizards over the summer, he was handed a hodgepodge roster that hardly had any experience playing together as a unit.
New faces like Spencer Dinwiddie, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma paired with a known force in the nation’s capital in Bradley Beal. Nobody really knew what to expect.
The Wizards have gelled extremely well over the first dozen-plus games of the season, ranking near the top of the NBA in most metrics both offensively and defensively. Unseld Jr. has made stops around the league where he has learned to build a roster that can perform on both ends of the floor.
“If you just look at the résumé, right, he’s done everything: coached in a bunch of different places, had different responsibilities and handled all of them well,” Aldridge said of the Wizards’ head man. “This guy knows what he’s doing and can communicate, I think that’s the important thing…He has the respect of this team, and that is, to me, very encouraging going forward because players do tend to come and go in this league.”