NEW YORK — John Wall felt helpless on the bench. Stuck on the inactive list throughout this Washington Wizards‘ woeful road trip, forced to wear a hooded warm-up suit instead of a red-and-white jersey, the guard who has a problem sitting still grew especially restless watching teammates disintegrate in Utah on Dec. 4 to produce the franchise’s worst loss in 46 years.
“That makes it worse when you want to go out there and compete and help the guys as much as possible,” Wall said. “Losing like that, I’m over there like ‘[expletive].’ That’s all I can do.”
Never boring, the team’s five-game road trip swung from the astonishing (Bradley Beal’s career-high 51 points in Portland) to the absurd (the Wizards’ one-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers aided by a clock malfunction at the end of regulation). Still, as the Wizards concluded a 2-3 trip, nothing quite matched the nadir of this professional basketball team losing by 47 points to the Jazz on the trip’s first stop.
Several minutes passed between the end of the humiliating loss and when media members entered the Wizards’ locker room. It was predictably silent, except for Wall’s voice in the corner as he talked with Beal. Across the room, Marcin Gortat, who had experienced a 40-point loss when he played for the Phoenix Suns during the 2012-13 season, dressed in front of his stall and muttered something to no one in particular.
“I didn’t know it would be a funeral,” the center said. “I would’ve dressed in black.”
A day later, he wasn’t feeling much better.
“It was just disgusting awful,” Gortat said. “Again, I know it doesn’t mean nothing, but we apologize to the fans who watched this and hear about us playing so poorly.”
However, in the raw, emotional moments as players trudged into the visitor’s locker room, that shame could not be articulated.
“We couldn’t really look at each other in the face,” swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. said, “because how do you claim that we’re brothers and we’re family and we go out there and we get laid out like this? You’re supposed to be on the court playing for your brothers and we go out there and get blown out by 47 points? You know what I’m saying?”
As guys dodged eye contact, team leaders Beal and Wall spoke up. Oubre said he sensed some restraint from Wall, considering that he didn’t play in the game and likely didn’t want to bash his teammates, but the injured point guard still shared his honest evaluation.
“Yeah, I told them that it was embarrassing. Not even for the individuals, for the organization, for the city of D.C. for ourselves to go out there and act like we didn’t want to play,” Wall said. “I said, ‘Now this is when your pride kicks in.’ We have to have pride and you don’t want to get beat badly.
“We ended up losing by damn near 50 but at least those guys showed some heart [in bouncing back in Portland] but I just wish they would’ve done it more often in the whole game, but they did it in the next game we played. So they made up for it.”
Chris McCullough loves Portland. Markieff Morris — not so much.
During the trip, the Wizards visited cosmopolitan cities such as Los Angeles and Manhattan. But for Chris McCullough’s money, specifically his road per diem, he’ll take Portland.
About eight miles from the team’s downtown Portland hotel, you’ll find the Nike Employee Store in Beaverton, Ore., offering products at highly discounted rates. It’s a favorite of NBA players, making Portland an desirable NBA stop, according to McCullough. Because he spends a lot of his free time on the road hunting for unique size 13 or 14 shoes, he eagerly anticipated the trek to Beaverton on the morning of Dec. 5.
“I didn’t sign up for the list but I’m going to go,” third-year forward McCullough said. “I always go every year . . . You’ll see me there. First one on the bus.”
McCullough loves the store because he can easily find his size and sneakers that are not on the Nike website. Last season during his team’s road stop in Portland, while McCullough was playing for the Brooklyn Nets, he brought “three or four different pairs” of Kobes. Although McCullough usually saves his per diem, which has been reported as $129 a day, he’ll make an exception while in Beaverton.
“I’m using it,” McCullough crowed. “For sure.”
The other Nike aficionado in the Wizards’ locker room, Markieff Morris, chose to sleep in.
“Hell no!” Morris said when asked if he planned on hitting up the store.
“I barely go to the store, honestly. I don’t really go,” Morris continued, before stating his reasons. “First of all, it’s around Christmastime. It’s not low key, there are thousands of [people] in there running around.”
Also, unlike McCullough, Morris said he hadn’t experienced much luck in finding his particular style, Nike Foamposites, in his size.
“It’s super overrated. I’m talking about maxed out,” Morris said. “We can get in there and maybe find one pair of shoes my size, maybe. Everybody’s in there.”
Oubre’s fashion faux pas in Brooklyn
The Wizards love designer labels. Givenchy is a favorite of Beal. Tim Frazier rocks red and black leather Saint Laurent high-tops. Ian Mahinmi often wears his own French Deal couture. However, no one stays on the cutting edge of fashion quite like Oubre.
Oubre’s style reflects his youth — he turned 22 during the trip — as well as his in-your-face personality, and he frequently chooses the Supreme brand for self expression. In early November, Oubre earned a rebuke from the league for wearing a Supreme faux fur coat with the phrase: ‘[Expletive] You’ written all across the back. Then on Tuesday night in Brooklyn, Oubre wore a red Supreme leg sleeve under his short shorts during the first half.
However, by halftime, Oubre found himself in trouble with the fashion police once again.
“They made me change it,” Oubre explained. “It was just when I got informed through one of our trainers. He was like, ‘switch leg sleeves.’ So I switched.”
Oubre, wearing a black Supreme turtleneck as he talked to reporters after the game, felt he did nothing wrong because he said the leg sleeve matched NBA on-court apparel.
“It had an NBA logo on it. It has a Nike sign on it. NBA is sponsored by Nike. It’s just Supreme, you know,” Oubre said. “So, I don’t know really what’s the quarrel.”
Then, the man who calls himself “Wave Papi” further defended his fashion statement in the most Oubre way imaginable.
“They shouldn’t have dropped it if we can’t wear it and it has an NBA logo on it. I play in the NBA, right,” Oubre said. “I should be able to wear the logo of what I represent. So I don’t really understand the move behind it. But it’s just something wavy, honestly. I don’t know if it’s too wavy for them. But I was just having fun.”
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