On Nov. 15, the Wizards rallied for a five-point win at home over the Pelicans and boosted their record to 10-3. It was the franchise’s best start in 47 years, all the way back when Wes Unseld Sr. captivated the city for the then-Bullets and Gerald Ford sat in the White House.
The win that night emphasized the characteristics that made the Wizards what they were through the first month of the season: They played good defense when they needed to, they had timely scoring, and most importantly, they won. In fact, they played like one of the league’s best teams at times.
Fast forward a month later to Thursday’s game in Phoenix and the Wizards showed no resemblance to the team that played so well to open the season. In a 118-98 loss to the Suns, the Wizards continued their losing streak and struggled to defend while they were simultaneously unable to turn the game around on the offensive end of the floor.
There are a handful of problems that have led to the team’s last month of play, but the refrain from everyone was the same: They’ve got to figure out how they can get back to what they were. And quickly.
“We want to get back to that, that’s our priority,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “We want to get back to how we started the season when we went 10-3. I feel like the more conversations we have, the more we’re going to figure out what it really is. I think right now, we’re lacking that communication with each other.”
The Wizards have now lost four-in-a-row, their longest losing streak of the season. They’ve also won just twice in December and are 2-8 in their last 10 games. Since the team’s 10-3 start, they’ve plummeted down the standings and currently have a 15-15 record with two of the league’s best teams, the Jazz and Nets, on deck.
“This is not the normal amount (of play slipping), in my opinion,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “It’s been gradual, but we’ve got to get the care factor up and we’ve got to get back to playing for each other. It’s easy at times when shots are going in and things are going our way, but when they aren’t, how do we respond? I think that’s the challenge.”
As for where the team could improve, there are a bevy of answers and none appear to be wrong.
Since that win over the Pelicans 17 games ago, the team has scored fewer than 100 points in six games. They’ve allowed more than 110 points in 11 of them, including in six straight games.
But no matter how much they talk about what the issues are, they’ll need to be cleaned up on the floor at the end of the day.
The team’s communication, and lack thereof, has also been discussed — which for a team that’s got so many new faces on it, makes sense. Where the Wizards get frustrated is how it wasn’t an issue to open the season.
“Talkin’ ain’t going to do nothing, brother,” center Montrezl Harrell said. “You can talk, that ain’t gonna do (expletive). We can talk about a lot, man. It’s not going to matter until you go out there and actually put forth the effort and actually carry it over to the floor.”
Unseld Jr. mentioned there wasn’t one issue specifically plaguing them, but that he’d like to see the team work better as a unit. On both ends of the floor, there are issues that can be pointed out and the Wizards know that.
The issue now is fixing what ails them. And that will always be more difficult than simply identifying a problem.
“We gotta figure it out,” Harrell said. “Nobody is going to feel bad for us. Teams are going to continue to beat our (expletive) until we figure it out."