When the Wizards took on the Orlando Magic at Amway Center last Wednesday, Earl Barron was the starting power forward and Shaun Livingston was the starting point guard. By early Sunday morning, both players were former Wizards.
Shortly after losing to the Detroit Pistons, 96-87, on Saturday at Verizon Center – their seventh straight defeat to drop to a franchise-worst 3-22 – the Wizards released Barron and Livingston to open up two roster spots that the team plans to fill with backcourt help, according to league sources.
The Wizards have been without point guard John Wall all season and since point guard A.J. Price broke his right hand on Dec. 8, the team has gone 1-7 and failed to score at least 80 points three times. They had a season-low 68 in a 32-point blowout loss on Friday to the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Jordan Crawford had been asked to assume the duties as point guard after Price went down and his performance has been a mixed bag. He has had some solid individual games, leading the Wizards to a win over New Orleans with a 26-point outburst and becoming the first player in franchise history to record a game with 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and five three-pointers in an overtime loss on Tuesday against Atlanta.
But players often looked disjointed and disorganized on offense, with Crawford unable to find the right balance between going for his own scoring opportunities and setting up his teammates. That experiment appears close to coming to an end, just as the team says farewell to Barron and Livingston.
Barron and Livingston were both on deals that would’ve become fully guaranteed next month and the Wizards cut ties with them in time to shake up a team headed nowhere quickly.
Wall was recently cleared to ramp up his basketball-related activity but could be several weeks away. Meantime, the team needs someone who can get the Wizards into their sets and help a sputtering offense run smoother.
Barron was one of the last players to make the roster in training camp and he averaged 2.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11 games for the Wizards. A six-year veteran who won a championship with Miami in 2006, Barron provided decent production when given extended minutes. He scored eight points with eight rebounds in the opening night loss in Cleveland, and grabbing 14 rebounds to go along with four points – including a shot to force overtime – on Tuesday against Atlanta.
Wittman praised Barron after his game against the Hawks and rewarded him with a starting nod over Chris Singleton the next night in Orlando. He received a DNP-Coach’s Decision on Saturday against Detroit.
Asked recently about the mood of the team, which is mired in season-long funk, Barron maintained the same positive attitude that helped him latch on to the team from the start.
“If I see guys kind of down, I tell them, ‘Keep your head up, you never know what could happen. If you’re playing a lot or playing a little, you’ve got to stay focused, with the task at hand and hopefully we’ll turn it around,’ “ Barron said. “It’s not looking the best, but all of these close games, you take away all the little mistakes and we’ll be a .500 team, if you look at it. So many games with two minutes to go, we’re either up or tied. It’s just a matter of a few plays and a few mistakes that’s keeping us from getting wins.”
Livingston joined the Wizards on Nov. 15 after the team cut veteran point guard Jannero Pargo. His return was hailed, since it served as a reunion with the team that helped revitalize his career three seasons ago.
After two games, Livingston found himself in the starting lineup ahead of Price, but he injured his shoulder in the first quarter of a 108-106 double overtime loss to the Charlotte Bobcats and never looked the same.
Livingston averaged six points and 2.3 assists in his first four games before the injury but posted just 3.1 points and 2.2 assists in his final 12 games with the team. Before leaving the locker room on Saturday, for what is now the final time, Livingston discussed the challenges ahead for the Wizards.
“Guys were handpicked. You’re here for a reason, so it’s on us,” Livingston said. “It’s really individually now, as far as what you’re going to bring to the team. You’ve got to look deep down in yourselves and figure out, are we going to play with pride or be a walkover team? What is it that we’re going to do?”
Barron and Livingston won’t be around to find out.