First, Bradley Beal peppered his postgame comments with coded language about a “comfort zone” before settling on strong and colorful talk. Then John Wall joined the fray from his stall inside the visitors' locker room at Golden 1 Center and threw verbal haymakers at the team’s defensive effort.
Public displays of disunity have plagued the Wizards in previous seasons, but this year the drama came early.
“We got to get out of our comfort zone, that’s all it is,” Beal said, standing at the middle of a media scrum.
Beal uttered every syllable in a low voice, but his message resounded as though it was screamed through a megaphone.
“It’s talking. After the game, you hear it be loud as [expletive] in here, but during the game, it’s church mice.
"So we got to figure out — get out [of] that comfort zone. Sometimes we have our own agendas on the floor whether it’s complaining about shots, complaining about playing time, complaining about whatever it may be. We’re worried about the wrong [expletive], and that’s not where our focus needs to be and it’s just going to continue to hurt us.”
After Beal finished, Wall called over reporters. He was shirtless, still getting dressed, and could not have heard Beal’s comments to reporters. But he repeated the same message as if the pair had already shared their thoughts to one another.
When asked for his opinion on Beal’s remarks on “agendas,” Wall sounded off.
“That’s the proof in the pudding. Everybody on their own agenda,” Wall said. “We showed glimpses when we do stuff as a team. We show how good we can be and then we go back to trying to do it individually, and that’s mostly on the defensive end. Not helping each other out, not team rebounding, and that’s what’s killing us.
Wall wasn’t done.
“It’s just communication. Just putting effort. We got guys who’s worried about who’s getting shots, where the ball is going on the offensive end. We should never worry about that,” Wall said. “No matter if we’re missing or making shots, we got to be able to compete on the other end and if you can’t do it on both ends of the floor, you don’t need to be playing.”
At this rate, the Wizards have the potential to set an NBA record for the earliest players-only meeting held in a season. All five of their games have provided talking points.
In the season opener against the Miami Heat, the Wizards couldn’t close out defensive possessions and ultimately were done in by a Kelly Olynyk offensive rebound and putback before the buzzer. Against the Toronto Raptors, another late offensive rebound led to the difference-making bucket by Fred VanVleet.
Though the start of the current road trip produced an overtime win in Portland, the Wizards still allowed 124 points. Then, on Wednesday, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry turned Washington’s defense into his personal playground for 51 points including 11 three-pointers.
By Friday night, the Wizards allowed Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica to try his best Curry impression by draining 6 of 10 threes.
“The big fella was wide open on too many of them,” Coach Scott Brooks observed.
“It’s the simple things we talk about all the time,” Wall said. “We know some guys are going to score. That’s the NBA. Guys are talented, but you have to have some type of pride.”
Those conversations don’t appear to have the desired effect.
“It’s like, when are you going to put it all together?” Wall said. “We talk about it almost every game so far.”
Now, the guessing game begins as to which Wizards player or players Beal and Wall are referring to. As a backcourt duo, they played the majority of the minutes and attempted 39 of the team’s 86 shots. Markieff Morris logged a hefty 36:42, while center Ian Mahinmi, a defensive-minded player who views his offense as secondary, appeared on the court for less than 19 minutes. Starting small forward Otto Porter Jr. played just 21 minutes and attempted six shots.
In the second unit, Brooks trimmed the rotation so that a starter remained on the floor throughout the game. Fourth-year player Kelly Oubre Jr. led the group and performed as the overall best shooter of the night with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting. in nearly 29 minutes. He made 5 of 8 three-point shots, including a half-court launch to beat the buzzer in the third quarter.
When asked to explain why he went with Oubre, as opposed to Porter, for so long, Brooks offered a strong hint about the subject of Wall’s and Beal’s criticisms.
“Well, Kelly. Kelly was good. I don’t know if you’ve seen Kelly the last three games. He deserved more minutes. He deserves more minutes. He’s going to keep playing more minutes if he keeps playing well,” Brooks said. “ . . . Otto, you know, he has to just keep playing and can’t worry about your shots and worry about your shot-making, but Kelly is playing well. It’s nothing against Otto. Kelly is having his best three-game stretch in three years since I’ve been with him.”
The Oubre silver lining aside, the Wizards are reeling. And it only took five games.
“We suck right now,” Beal said. “That’s all it is, and we’re not doing anything we’re supposed to do on the floor. On offense or defense. So, until we do that we’re going to continue to lose, unfortunately.”
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