The Washington Wizards have a big issue at hand. They can go play-for-play and beat the NBA’s best. However, they have a difficult time matching that same intensity against lesser teams. On Wednesday, a game after beating the Celtics in Boston on Christmas Day, the Wizards got blown out by the 9-25 Atlanta Hawks, 113-99.
The loss drops the Wizards to 9-10 on the season versus teams below .500. They had nine losses against such teams all of last season. This season is just 35 games in.
It’s a lack of focus, intensity, and respect that has cost the Wizards against bad teams all season. What’s astonishing is they are 4-3 against the four teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings — two of those losses coming to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re 4-2 against the top-8 teams in the Western Conference. Yet, they have 16 losses on the season.
The lack of focus, intensity, and respect starts with the team’s leaders — John Wall and Bradley Beal. While, Beal has had generalized statements about the Wizards’ struggles, there has not been much said from Wall — until now.
“We talk about it. We say when we play these teams that are not above .500 or not one of the great teams, we go out there playing for stats,” Wall said, per Candace Buckner of the Washington Post. “It’s simple as that. We can see it. I think we all can see it when we play.”
Beal relayed the same message in his own words about Wednesday’s loss.
“We show glimpses of it,” Beal said, per Buckner. “I wouldn’t say that we’re a selfish team. I just feel like we have selfish moments because Boston we weren’t selfish. We were moving the ball, passing, everybody got touches, everybody got shots. [Wednesday] it was about me, me, me, me because we’re playing an under .500 team, so we think it’s going to be easy and that’s something that’s been killing us. We fall into that trap every single time.”
Actions are louder than words. But, it’s about time the four-time All-Star made a strong statement about the team’s disappointing outings. If Washington wants to be considered a contender they will have to beat the teams it supposed to, not just get up for the big televised games.
Washington won 49 games last season — the most for the franchise since 1979. They were one bad quarter away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. With that unique run has come a sense of entitlement. Wall and Beal have boasted about the Cavaliers ducking them in last season playoffs, and how they felt they are the best team in the East. Through the first three months of the season, those former statements have been laughable. Not because they don’t have the talent or the fact Cleveland didn’t duck them. But, with their inconsistency this season it’s not surprising most are not taking them seriously.
It’s beyond gut-check time for Wall, Beal and the rest of the Wizards. Wall’s comments have put the team on notice. Only time will tell if they heed their leader’s words.