The Wizards’ inauspicious start has given credence to a question that probably would’ve seemed silly at the start of training camp. Will they finish with more wins than the Redskins?
The Redskins went 5-11 in their just-completed season. At 1-10, the Wizards are on pace to win six games.
The Wizards have a winning percentage of .090, which of course, would be the all-time worst. The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers had the worst 82-game season in NBA history, winning just 9 games and posting an overall winning percentage of .123. If the Wizards play that pace, they would finish with eight wins.
Only six teams have started 1-10: the 2000-01 Chicago Bulls, 1996-97 Vancouver Grizzlies, 1993-94 and 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks, the 1982-83 Houston Rockets, and yes, the 2008-09 Wizards. The 1992-93 Mavericks were the worst of that 1-10 lot, winning seven of their first 66 games — and matching that record-setting 76ers team for the worst record after 66 games. They finished with 11 wins and a winning percentage of .134.
When the Wizards had their horrific start four seasons ago, President Ernie Grunfeld fired Eddie Jordan and released a statement that read, “Our 1-10 record is not acceptable and, more importantly, the way we have lost those games is not acceptable.”
Is 1-10 acceptable now? The expecations for a rebuilding team are considerably lower than a squad coming off four consecutive playoff appearances and featuring two all-stars in Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison (Gilbert Arenas missed all but six games). But this team is having a difficult time – because of talent, effort or both – of simply competing.
Their 120-89 defeat in Philadelphia on Friday gave the Wizards five losses by at least 18 points. They have been outscored by an average of 12.1 points. Only one of their losses has been decided by five points or less.
Yes, it’s penny-with-a-hole-in-it hopeless.
Coach Flip Saunders appears to be secure, but the Wizards will continue to struggle if they continue to play basketball as they have for most of this season – and especially on Friday in Philadelphia. The common refrain game after game has been that the Wizards play selfishly. Yet they go out and continue to play selfishly.
“When things go bad, everyone thinks they have to do it by themselves,” Saunders said. It’s something he has said about, oh, 10 times this season.
But what the Wizards have to start worrying about is John Wall, who has replaced those angry, flustered glares with looks of indifference. He appears to be going through the motions, no longer looking to be aggressive and accepting that the first team mate he passes the ball to on offense will shoot it without considering the other four players on the floor. Nick Young and JaVale McGee were the primary culprits on Friday, when they put blinders on the moment they got the ball and took many questionable shots.
Wall didn’t help, as he took just eight shots – including two rare three-pointers, which he missed – and made just one strong move to the basket that resulted in a three-point play. An obvious sign that Wall wasn’t assertive: he attempted one free throw in 28 minutes played. One.
“My role is still the same trying to get everybody involved, take the open shots I have and just try to find people and that’s what I’ve been trying to do,” said Wall, who had seven points and five turnovers and continues to underwhelm in his sophomore season.
The Wizards need him to do more, and would surely play off his energy if he were willing to provide some. At halftime, Roger Mason Jr. and Maurice Evans both huddled with Wall to discuss his responsibilities to get the ball to players in the right spots and be more vocal when the offense sputters. The first nine minutes of the third quarter, the Wizards were outscored 24-8 before Saunders pulled the plug on Wall.
“We really put them away,” 76ers forward Elton Brand. “But the Wizards have talent. Their record may not show it, but they are talented, well-coached team.”
If so, it wasn’t evident on Friday night - or many other evenings this season.
Saunders started the fourth quarter with a lineup that included Lewis, Jordan Crawford, Kevin Seraphin, Shelvin Mack and Rashard Lewis. For the only time all night, the ball was moving. Seraphin made a nice pass to Lewis for a dunk, then found Crawford for a reverse layup. Crawford then fed Lewis for a three-pointer and later found Seraphin for a hook inside. The Wizards opened the period on a 28-10 run and assisted on seven of their 12 field goals. They had 18 assists all night.
“We got easy baskets. Set screens. Got a lot of pick and rolls,” Lewis said. “We moved the ball and coach kind of mixed it up, with me and Roger Mason, young guys with the veteran guys. I think that’s the way we’re going to have to play. You can’t have a bunch of young guys on the court at one time, because at sometimes, they tend to get selfish. Including myself. When one guy gets selfish and you haven’t had a shot in a long time, then you try to force a shot and forcing a shot is not a good shot.”
The 76ers didn’t have that problem, as they moved the ball around, and didn’t seem to be caught up in which player scored. They played as a team, which the Wizards have only done for brief intervals throughout the season.
As the putrid play continues, the frustration mounts. The Wizards are 1-10 again. Four seasons ago, they were 15-51 after 66 games. How would that result be viewed this season? And what if it’s considerably worse?
“I don’t think this team has the worst talent in the NBA,” Mason said. “We have the worst [record] but I don’t think it’s a reflection of the talent that we have here. So, it’s disappointing, but it’s not just going to happen overnight. We’ve got to do something about it.”