What owner Ted Leonsis said in his interview with NBC Sports Washington over the weekend might as well have been printed on a banner and hung at the entrance of the Wizards' practice facility at Monday's media day. His mantra of "no excuses" solidified itself as a theme of the 2018-19 season.
The players brought up that mindset and Leonsis' thoughts over and over on Monday, some completely unprompted. They don't need to be told what the situation is.
They know the payroll of their team -- it's fourth-highest in the NBA -- the luxury of having a new practice facility and all the resources that have been provided to them. They know that this era of success, since John Wall and Bradley Beal were drafted, has not fully lived up to its potential. They know the expectations are higher this time around, and there is more urgency to reach their goals than ever before.
"Ted said it best: 'No excuses.' There's no excuse for nothing. We want to win a championship," Beal said. "Ted and [team president] Ernie [Grunfeld] and coach [Scott Brooks], they made it happen. We have a team now. I feel like we have the most depth we've had since I've been here and maybe even before I've been here."
"Obviously, the time is now," forward Markieff Morris said. "We've had the same core for a couple years and even for a couple years before I got here. The message is win right now. Not only get into the playoffs, but it's after that. We've gotta set our goals high."
"The time is now, and we've gotta do some big things," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. echoed.
For the players, much of their understanding of the team's urgency has to do with the upgrades made to the roster this offseason. They collectively feel this is the best Wizards team they have ever played on. Some of the veterans, like Jason Smith, who have played for other teams before coming to Washington, also feel this is the deepest team they have been a part of, Wizards or not.
This offseason the Wizards added more talent than they let go. They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. There are depth and skill at every position.
The team the Wizards front office has put together has players like Wall thinking bigger.
“We’ve had talent for the past couple years, but this is the most talent that we’ve had in the whole bunch together," Wall said. "I never want to be one of those guys who can’t get past the second round. So, my next step is making it to the Eastern Conference finals and hopefully to the finals. That’s my ultimate goal. I think for me to have a heck of a career, if I don’t win a championship, I feel like my career was a failure. So that’s my ultimate goal.”
What the Wizards will have to reconcile with this season is their goal of taking care of business in a serious way contrasted with their tendency to talk too big of a game. The examples are numerous of Wall, Beal and others making proclamations about themselves and the team that they then couldn't back up.
Media day featured players sending conflicting messages on that subject. There were many who said they are done talking.
"There is nothing more to talk about it," Beal said. "There's nothing more to continue to sit here and harp on and say that we're better than such and such or the best backcourt. I'm done talking about all of that. It's old."
"We just got to go out there and play," Wall said. "On paper, we look great, but that doesn’t mean anything until you go out there and prove it on the court."
"Quite honestly, I'm tired of talking about our roster," Morris said. "I know we've got Dwight and all of those guys, they're just names right now until we actually go out there and perform."
Then, there was this quote, also from Morris:
"I think we're the No. 1 team [in the East]. The Raptors have been going through a little bit of change with DeMar DeRozan. Other than that, Boston has never been better than us. The record shows it, but internally, we don't think they were better than us last year. We've just gotta play up to our ability, and we're better than anybody in the East."
The Wizards are confident in what they are capable of accomplishing this season, and there is nothing wrong with that. What they need to prove this year is that their confidence is legitimate and that the things they believe about themselves are true.
As Leonsis said, the groundwork has been laid. It's time to put up or shut up.
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