Wizards vs. Magic: Washington drops to first 0-6 start in franchise history
By Michael Lee,
ORLANDO — Andray Blatche pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head, placed a pair of oversize headphones on his ears, and scrolled to a Sam Cooke song on his iPod. As he grabbed his belongings to leave the visitor’s locker room at Amway Center after the Washington Wizards’ 103-85 loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, Blatche started singing off-key: “A change gon’ come . . . oh, yes it will.”
The Wizards will have to do something different, because their first six games have produced some miserable performances that have left the players zapped of enthusiasm. And there are still 60 games remaining. At 0-6, the team is off to the worst start in the history of a franchise that has had far too many dreadful campaigns since it last reached the NBA Finals nearly 33 years ago.
“It’s kind of dead around here as you can see, feels like we been playing for two or three months already,” reserve guard Jordan Crawford said. “It’s sad right now. It’s bad.”
Coming off a seemingly encouraging loss two nights before in Boston — where they shared the ball, helped on defense and were competitive from start to finish — the Wizards appeared disorganized, dysfunctional and discombobulated on both ends of the floor.
“One step forward, two steps back,” Coach Flip Saunders said after the Wizards suffered their third loss by at least 18 points this season.
“Looked like we took five steps back,” Rashard Lewis said after the Wizards were thrashed in nearly every category, shot an abysmal 36.6 percent and for the fifth time this season failed to score at least 90 points.
“Seemed like we took nine steps back, go all the way back to the beginning of training camp, with everybody just playing for themselves,” John Wall said after the Wizards missed their first 12 shots from the field, allowed Orlando to score the first nine points and trailed by double digits for the final 39 minutes 59 seconds of the game.
Lewis had been anticipating playing in Orlando for the first time since he was dealt to the Wizards in exchange for Gilbert Arenas 13 months ago. Lewis received a nice ovation from Magic fans, who remembered his contributions to a team that reached the NBA Finals in 2009.
But it probably didn’t take long before Lewis was pining for an opportunity to swap jerseys with his opponent and wear pinstripes once again, at least for one night. The collection of players in Wizards uniforms looked nothing like a team. While the Magic (5-2) had 27 assists on 39 field goals, the Wizards had 12 assists, with Wall and Crawford combining for nine of them.
“I thought nobody came to compete. Makes it even tough for me to come out there and play hard,” Lewis said after scoring a season-low six points. “A lot of guys had attitude. I’m not saying no names, but they had bad body language. And when you’re trying to motivate the guys on the bench, telling them to keep playing, just play hard, and it seemed like nobody was listening. They was in their own little world.”
Saunders was able to inspire his team in Boston by getting ejected after coming to the defense of Lewis. But there was nothing he could do Wednesday night to get his team fired up during a game that was basically over the moment Magic all-star center Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee jumped the opening tip.
Howard continued to single-handedly dominate the Wizards, finishing with a game-high 28 points, 20 rebounds and three blocked shots. Howard and Magic forward Ryan Anderson combined for 35 rebounds, while the Wizards’ front line of Lewis, McGee and Blatche totaled just 14.
McGee was coming off two impressive performances against the Celtics, as he combined for 33 points, 28 rebounds and eight blocked shots in the two games. But going up against an aging Jermaine O’Neal and Greg Steimsma is much different than trying to contend with Howard. McGee scored on two solid low-post moves against Howard but was limited to six points, four rebounds and five blocked shots.
Saunders pulled McGee early since he was dealing with a cold that bothered him during the morning shootaround. When asked afterward how he was feeling, McGee replied: “We lost. I’m sick about that.”
Nick Young led the Wizards with 17 points and Wall had 14, but the starting back court combined to shoot 11 for 31 from the field. Blatche had 10 points and spent the final seconds of the game covering his face with his hands and shaking his head from the bench.
“We got to go back to the drawing board and get some things right,” Young said. “I’m tired of losing. Been losing for four seasons straight. I’ve been a part of mostly every losing record we had. It’s tough. I never want to get used to losing. I know we all frustrated. It’s time for a change.”