The Wizards struggled to score and were pelted for it through the first two months of the season, but lately they have managed to find some success without a definitive go-to guy on offense.
“That’s what we are. That’s what this team is,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “We’ve got guys that are capable of doing things, but we just don’t have one that’s going to go out and carry the team. And that’s not a bad thing.”
Wall leads the Wizards with 14.6 points per game — the second-lowest average for a leading scorer of any NBA team, just ahead of Phoenix’s Goran Dragic (14.2 points). But among those who have played enough games to qualify for the scoring title, Beal is tops at just 13.3 points.
The Wizards (15-35) have six players averaging double figures, including Crawford, who was the team’s leading scorer for most of the season before sliding out of the rotation the past three games. The Wizards have had 10 players lead or tie for the team scoring lead in a game: Crawford (16 times), Beal (10), Webster (seven), Nene (five), Emeka Okafor (four), Kevin Seraphin (three), Wall (twice), and A.J. Price, Trevor Ariza and Cartier Martin (once).
“On this team, we divide the dinner plate evenly. Everybody has been eating lately,” said Webster, who has topped 20 points four times this season.
Beal set a season-best scoring mark for the Wizards on Monday, when he erupted for 28 points, his first 20-point game in nearly a month, in a 102-90 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Crawford held the previous high with 27 points two other times.
“Sometimes, guys have great games and it’s other guys that step up and play well,” said Beal, who scored just three points in his previous game, a blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets. “Sometimes it’s going to be your night and our team does a great job of keep giving him the ball and finding guys open. I think that’s probably the biggest thing that we’ve adjusted to, that we’re starting to learn this whole year. If guys are going, we keep going to them.”
Though the Wizards rely on different players to score, Webster credited Wall with orchestrating an improved offense that is averaging 95.7 points per game since he returned from a stress injury in his left knee. Wall had 10 assists in Milwaukee, where the team had 29 in all. The Wizards are 4-1 when they have at least 29 assists and Wall has played in four of those games.
“I’ll tell you what’s key: It’s John. And it’s going to be John every night. Because he initiates the offense and he’s been playing great basketball and if we continue to ride off him and feed off him, we’ll be great,” Webster said.
Nene, who spent more than eight seasons in Denver playing alongside one of the league’s most prolific scorers in Carmelo Anthony, has embraced sharing the wealth in Washington.
“We don’t have a guy who is going to score 30 points each night. We need to play hard, play together,” he said. “Someone is going to shine at the end of the game. The good thing, we don’t take the glory. We want to share that with our teammates. Who the man? We don’t care about that. That’s the biggest thing with the success of the team.”
The Wizards have won 11 of their last 18 games and have had a different leading scorer in eight of them. They have also had 18 games in which their leading scorer failed to notch at least 20 points, going 3-3 in their past six games when that has occurred.
Ariza chuckled when asked recently about the unusual situation. “I played with Kobe Bryant. Playing with Kobe, he’s liable to get whatever any night. This is a little different,” said Ariza, who played with Bryant for 1½ seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning a championship in 2009. “We have to do it as a group. That’s what we’ve been trying to do.”
Wittman spent the early part of the season trying to convince his players that ball movement and sharing was the only way they would be able to compete on offense, but he credited the standings more than his words for leading to the turnaround.
“It’s something that they’ve come to realize and understand, I think, that it is an equal opportunity,” Wittman said. “Obviously, we have the ball, at the end of games, in the hands of the people capable of making plays. But they’ve seen, when you’ve got seven guys with 10, 11, 12, 16 points, that we’re a hard team to play against and it’s been evidenced through our win-loss record and how we’re playing here during this stretch.”