The Washington Post

Wizards have players-only meeting before hosting Timberwolves

Let’s get it together, okay? (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Veterans Trevor Ariza and Al Harrington are both sidelined with injuries and will miss the Washington Wizards’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night at Verizon Center. But they don’t want their teammates to lose focus of the task at hand as they seek to rebound from their underachieving 2-7 start. Before the team’s morning shootaround, Ariza and Harrington organized a players-only meeting to discuss what needed to be done to turn around the season.

“We try to put everything together. All the leaders came together and now we try to find a way to win,” Wizards forward Kevin Seraphin said. “Everybody speak up, John [Wall]. That was a good thing for us. My first year, we never had this. We was losing all the time, by 30, 20, and nobody tried to fix it. But this year, we can see, we have some leaders on the team.”

Ariza, an eight-year veteran, has already won an NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers and Harrington is a 15-year-veteran who has played for both contending teams and lottery teams in the past. Neither want to see the Wizards continue to slide.

Despite their slow start, the Wizards haven’t lost much ground in the Eastern Conference. Indiana, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta are the only teams with winning records, and the Wizards are only two games behind Charlotte (5-6) for the fifth-best record in the conference.

“The team is still in high spirits,” Bradley Beal said after Monday’s practice. “I would say on paper and by the way we’re playing, we’re definitely a better team than we were last year, it’s just a few mishaps that we have at the end of games. Of course we had the same problems last year. You can kind of expect it in certain situations but we can’t have it every single game and it’s something we’re going to be able to turn around in due time and hopefully we’ll do that” against Minnesota.

The Wizards have lost three games in which they held double-digit leads this season and Wall said on Monday that the problem has been on the defensive end. Wall doesn’t believe that the Wizards are that far from getting wins. Seraphin mentioned that they have yet to lose a game by 15 or more points.

“Look at how close we are in all of these games, without playing no defense at all and executing down the stretch,” Wall said. “Hopefully we can all get on the same page and it’s key to get it started while you got a chance at home, because we’ve had a lot of road games so far.”

Harrington did not participate in the shootaround as he is still recovering from a sore right knee, but he mentioned last week that the Wizards are in a different position from past seasons, when they were expected to struggle. Owner Ted Leonsis has already expressed his desire to reach the postseason.

“I just think this team is under pressure and we want to win,” Harrington said. “Guys said playoffs and when you’re 2-6, that’s not playoffs. Instead of being negative, we have to be more positive with each other and be more of a brotherhood and that’s the only way we can get through this.”

Nene aired his frustration with the team’s poor start after the Wizards lost in San Antonio last week, saying the “young guys” needed to get their “heads out their butts” and play more team basketball. The next day, Nene spoke with Wall and Beal to hash out their differences, but the Wizards still lost their next game against Cleveland.

Seraphin is hopeful that the larger team discussion will get the Wizards’ season on track.

“The coach try to fix it, get some meetings for us, we watch video, he talk to us, he’s being positive. He do his job,” he said. “Now we have to do the same thing. But it starts here. We have to be positive.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.



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Michael Lee · November 19, 2013