Wall’s body language last season told the story that he’s now also choosing to express with his words. Any gifted player could become frustrated working with this bunch, and the Wizards need Wall’s outlook to brighten substantially, and soon.
It’s really that simple. The status quo cannot continue. The development of Wall is the Wizards’ best (only?) hope to at least become competitive again. It may not happen if Wall’s psyche is damaged beyond repair so early in his career.
Coach Flip Saunders understands the situation. He has seen this coming since early in Wall’s rookie season. With everything out in the open now, Saunders also recently sent a message to Wall, telling him, “If he doesn’t play hard and he doesn’t have a smile on his face, I’m going to take him out.”
Wall thought Washington would be significantly better than last season, when it had the NBA’s fourth-worst record and a league-low three road victories.
Then the Wizards squandered a 21-point lead in an opening night loss to the lowly New Jersey Nets, who have lost to every other opponent. At this rate, the Wizards will have to morph into the Miami Heat to make good on team president Ernie Grunfeld’s comment that the team is “gonna win more games than we did last year.”
Losing is hard on the competitive Wall, people who know him well say. At times during his rookie season, Wall displayed anguish after losses in which he shined.
He wants to become a great player and reach the league’s highest heights, which won’t happen unless the Wizards become an elite team. They currently don’t have anyone who can help Wall get them there – and too many people who may not even be interested in trying.
Wall intimated as much when we spoke at Verizon Center before the season. As always, he said the right things about his teammates and the process of building a winner, but “we just have to keep focused on winning . . . because nothing else matters. I think we’ll do a better job [this season], going out and doing things the right way, just as long as we keep understanding what’s really important.”
Andray Blatche didn’t get the memo. After his weak showing in the embarrassing loss to the Nets, Blatche criticized Saunders for failing to utilize him correctly. Prior to the game, Blatche took a microphone and announced he was the team captain that night, providing the cherry atop the absurdity.