By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 24, 2011; D04
PHILADELPHIA - They were distracted by a trade that was consummated at halftime and shipped out a team captain in Kirk Hinrich and one of the most well-liked players in the locker room in Hilton Armstrong to the Atlanta Hawks. They were banged up, as Andray Blatche was forced to leave momentarily with a right hip injury and Al Thornton later exited with a sprained left ankle.
But more than anything, the Washington Wizards have grown increasingly frustrated with a trying season that has been lost in the name of the rebuilding, but that doesn't make the losing - especially on the road - any more tolerable for the players and coaches involved. Coach Flip Saunders turned 56 on Wednesday, but he was hardly in a celabratory mood after the Wizards suffered their second embarrassing defeat in two games since the all-star break - the latest being a 117-94 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center.
During the game, center JaVale McGee got into a heated and emotional shouting match with Wizards assistant Randy Wittman, which required Blatche to step in to calm down McGee. And after the game, No. 1 overall pick John Wall openly questioned the competitiveness of his teammates, who dropped to 1-27 away from Verizon Center.
"Nobody has heart," Wall said after matching fellow rookie Trevor Booker with a game-high 21 points and adding 12 assists. "I ain't lost this many games and it ain't just about the losing. I'm listening to my coaches and they're developing me. They don't want want to get a losing mind-set. It's frustrating to see that certain guys don't have the effort to want to be out there, like they don't care. That's the toughest thing for me. No matter if I'm having a bad game or good game, I may show my frustration on my face, but I'm going to compete. That's one thing I did my whole life, and that's compete."
The Wizards (15-41) led 31-24 after the first quarter, but they were outscored, 64-33, in the second and third periods, breaking down completely in the last half of the third quarter. Midway in the third, McGee received a technical foul for standing in the lane for three seconds and Saunders immediately sat him in favor of Yi Jianlian.
An upset McGee cursed as he went to the sideline. He complained as he sat down, and Wittman and Saunders shouted back at him. After 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday scored to give his team a 71-57 lead with 6 minutes 6 seconds remaining, Saunders called timeout and McGee shouted toward the coaches who huddled on the court. Blatche walked up to McGee and put his hand on his chest to get him to relax.
"We're tired of losing. Tensions build up when you're tired of losing. Coaches and players, we're tired of losing. That's it," McGee explained. "It's very embarrassing. We've just to figure it out. We've really got to figure it out."
Saunders explained, "One of those things that happen in the heat in the battle, and as we told him afterward, 'We're there to help you, to try and understand things.' "
Saunders added that he is hopeful that the players the Wizards acquired from the Hawks - Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans and Jordan Crawford - can provide energy to a team that has lost 12 of his past 14 games.
"We've been beat up a little bit, and we've got some guys frustrated, frustrated with themselves, frustrated with how we're playing, so as coaching staff and players we have to regroup," Saunders said, adding that the trade disrupted the team, which found out about the move at halftime. "We lost some of our concentration and some of our flow. It's a crazy situation, everything that kind of goes down. It discombobulates everything, from the standpoint of your team. "
Wall was upset that the Wizards continue to accept humiliating defeats without pushing back. After trailing 64-55 on a Blatche jumper in the third period, the Wizards were outscored, 48-21, over the next 16 minutes and trailed, 112-76, when 76ers rookie Evan Turner made a layup with 4:59 left in the fourth quarter.
"It comes down to having toughness," Wall said. "We was right in the game, down 12 in the third quarter, but we was walking around with our heads down like the game was over. Still enough time to fight. Until we find five guys that really want to fight, compete and don't care the whole time, it's really going to be tough and the rest of the season could end like the last couple of games."
In addition to the loss, the Wizards also had another awkward uniform situation. After 10-day contract player Mustafa Shakur had a terrible uniform for his debut and rookie Kevin Seraphin wore his shorts backward, Blatche played with a uniform that had his name spelled, "Baltche."
"I seen that. How they going to do that to me? B-A-L? I'm like, C'mon man. That's so messed up," said Blatche, the longest tenured player on the Wizards' roster. But Blatche, who scored 16 points, was more disappointed by how the Wizards played. "A lot of guys are starting to get frustrated with the losing streak. We're too good to be getting blown out by any team. I don't know what happened to our competitive nature and our heart, but we need to find it and get it back."