“The first part of the year, it wasn’t fun at all, for nobody,” Ariza said. “It was frustrating for everybody, but that’s the hand we was dealt, so we just have to do what we had to until everybody got healthy.”
The Wizards went through five point guards before Wall made his debut. They cut Jannero Pargo, replaced him with Shaun Livingston, replaced him with Jordan Crawford, a converted shooting guard, and then grabbed Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple from the NBA Developmental League, before moving Temple over to shooting guard when Beal was injured. Crawford played a prominent role before he became marginalized with the return of Wall and emergence of Beal and eventually got dealt to Boston.
But even through the mishaps, struggles and occasional roster turnover, the Wizards still remained competitive because of a stout defense. For the first time since 1986-87, the Wizards ranked in the top 10 in points allowed, opponent field goal percentage defense and opponent three-point field goal percentage.
“This group just doesn’t quit,” Okafor said. “We enjoy being around each other, we enjoy playing, there is a sense of pride that we have when we step on the court.”
The Wizards will also need to find a way to stay motivated against teams, regardless of their location and opponents’ records. They finished 7-34 on the road, which matches the third-worst record in franchise history. And, with or without Wall, they consistently struggled against fellow bottom-feeders, as they posted a 6-19 record against the other Eastern Conference non-playoff teams — Philadelphia, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, Charlotte and Orlando.
“I still have a lot of confidence,” Wall said. “We’ve just got to do whatever we need to do to stay healthy. You see what our team is like when we’re healthy and you see what we’re like when we’re not healthy.”