Washington Wizards fire their coach, but team’s players may be a bigger problem


Washington Wizards Coach Flip Saunders, left, was fired this week after the team started the season with only two wins in 17 games. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

The Washington Wizards fired their head coach, Flip Saunders, on Tuesday. I suppose the Wizards had to do something. The team’s record (2 wins and 15 losses) is the worst in the National Basketball Association (NBA). They looked awful losing to the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-83, on Monday night.

But, it seems to me, Saunders was not the biggest problem with the Wizards.

Earlier this season the Washington Capitals fired their coach, Bruce Boudreau, because he was not getting results from a talented Capitals hockey team. The problem with the Wizards is that they have very little talent.

I can almost hear kids who like the Wizards asking, “What about John Wall?” The Wizards point guard is their best player. Wall is fast and fun to watch. But Wall is among the league leaders in turnovers. That’s not good. He also hits only about 38 percent of his shots. That’s terrible.

After Wall, things get worse. Starters JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Nick Young have all shown flashes of talent. But basketball is a team game in which the players have to learn to pass and share the ball. And, as they say on school report cards, McGee, Blatche and Young do not play well with others.


Washington Wizards guards Nick Young, left, and John Wall are still with the team, but their head coach, Flip Saunders, was fired this week after the team managed to win only twice in the first 17 games of the season. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)

Take a look at their statistics. McGee, Blatche and Young combine to play about 90 minutes every game. They combine for only three assists a game — that’s when you pass the ball to a teammate and he scores. In other words, McGee, Blatche and Young are ball hogs. They don’t pass the ball.

The players on the Wizards bench are not much help. They are a collection of washed-up veterans and newcomers who are trying to learn how to play in the NBA.

But it seems to me the biggest problem with the Wizards is that Wall, McGee, Blatche and Young all think they are better players than they are. Because they are big and can run fast and jump high, they think they are already good NBA players.

By firing Saunders, the Wizards may be sending the wrong message to these young players: that Saunders was the problem, rather than the players. And like a kid who blames his bad grades on the teacher, the Wizards players may be happy to agree with that message.

There’s an old saying in sports: You can’t fire all the players. That’s why teams fire their coaches so often.

Maybe it’s time for the Wizards to start firing their players.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 17 sports books for kids, including six on basketball, that combine fiction and history.

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