The rescue unit could be the well-dressed foursome that marched from the locker room to the bench in unison shortly after the Washington Wizards tipped off against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday. But by the time John Wall, Trevor Booker, Trevor Ariza or A.J. Price returns from injury, the Wizards will likely be too far in the hole for any of them to help the team reach mediocrity.
The Wizards can hold out for being at full strength all they want, but they have settled in a miserable lot. With their latest loss — a 96-87 stinker against the Pistons at Verizon Center — the Wizards have lost seven in a row and don’t have any easy solutions.
“Everybody in here need to be more pro,” Nene said after making his first start of the season. “It doesn’t matter. The young guys, veterans, everybody need to play more hard, more pride, more together. You can’t put in heart, you can’t cheat that. They need to have the thing. . . . It’s embarrassing. The last two games were embarrassing. No word better than that.”
Coming off a humiliating 32-point loss to the Pistons in Auburn Hills, Mich., the night before, the Wizards had all the incentive to come out with an inspired effort. They also had some reinforcement in the form of Nene and Bradley Beal.
Nene returned after sitting the previous game with a sore left foot and Beal played despite a sore left back that cost him the past two games. They helped Washington improve by 23 points from Friday, but they couldn’t lead their team to a victory against a 21-loss team.
“I felt as though I wanted to help the team as best as I can, and seeing what happened last game, I felt there is no way I can let this happen again,” Beal said after scoring 17 points.
The Wizards (3-22) didn’t get mopped off the floor, but that was only because Jordan Crawford awoke from a first-half slumber to score 20 of his team-high 21 points over the final two quarters. He helped his short-handed team rally from a 22-point deficit to get within 88-81 with 5 minutes 15 seconds remaining, but the Pistons (9-21) scored the next six points to claim their second win in a row.
After the 100-68 defeat on Friday, Coach Randy Wittman apologized to owner Ted Leonsis and fans who had to endure that pitiful performance. Wittman wanted to see what his players were made of after getting “embarrassed” but he couldn’t have been encouraged by Saturday’s result.
Wittman made his latest desperate move to help the Wizards avoid another slow start, but Nene and Beal couldn’t assist the NBA’s most inept offense. With their 10th different starting lineup of the season on the floor, the Wizards missed 14 of their first 15 shots and trailed 12-2 early for the second game in a row.
“Right now, we’re in a funk. We got to get ourselves out of it. Everybody is kind of second-guessing themselves,” Crawford said. “We got to get in the gym. Everybody individually got to work on their game. And just keep shooting.”
Fans couldn’t even muster up the energy to boo the home team as the Wizards looked unfit to share the court with one of the worst teams in the NBA. Wittman picked up a technical foul in the first quarter and wouldn’t stop shouting at officials. Instead of tossing him, the referees apparently determined that making him finish the game was punishment enough.
“I been trying to get thrown out for a while,” Wittman said after the game. “These guys won’t even throw me out.”
Five Wizards scored in double figures, with Emeka Okafor having a double-double with 14 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Nene and Cartier Martin and both added 10, but the Wizards had no response for the Pistons’ backup duo of Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey, who combined for 37 points. Former Georgetown star Greg Monroe added 13 points.
The Wizards had just six points through the first 10 minutes while finding ways to help the Pistons score. Okafor made a poor pass that nearly went out of bounds, and Martin saved it with a perfect bounce pass to Pistons point guard Brandon Knight, who made a layup that gave Detroit a 20-6 lead.
Martin made some amends by leading a late rally to help the Wizards avoid their worst scoring quarter of the season. He hit a three-pointer, then a jumper and Jan Vesely made two free throws to bring the Wizards within 22-13 after one quarter. Vesely hadn’t made consecutive free throws in the same game since April.
The Pistons pulled away in the second quarter, scoring 32 points as the Wizards sleepwalked on defense. The Wizards scored just 35 points in the first half, a one-point improvement from their season low the night before.
“Exact repeat,” Beal said. When asked if things would change when the injured players return, Beal replied, “That’ll be great, but you can’t rely on those guys right now, as much as we want to. That point guard that we need and the wings that we need. We’re lacking in a lot of positions, but we have to work with what we have. And start grinding it out.”