NBA PM: Changes Coming for 0-12 Wizards?
Several weeks ago, the Washington Wizards were expecting to be a playoff team. After four consecutive losing seasons, the Wizards believed that they were finally ready to turn the corner entering this season. Not only did they get rid of supposed knuckleheads such as Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young, they added veteran contributors such as Nene, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor.
This was supposed to be the year that things changed for the Wizards. The team finished last season on a six-game winning streak and seemed headed in the right direction. Over the offseason, John Wall told anyone who would listen that Washington had playoff aspirations and that he was tired of seeing the team in the lottery. Prior to the start of the season, some analysts picked the Wizards as a team poised to break out. After years of being up-and-comers, the Wizards seemed ready to make some noise.
Now, the thought of the Wizards contending in the Eastern Conference is laughable. Washington, the league’s only winless team, has lost all 12 of their games and has by far the worst point differential in the league at -8.2. The Wizards rank dead last in important statistical categories such as points per game (90), field-goal percentage (.397) and offensive efficiency (92.5). It’s hard to imagine them putting together a single winning streak, much less compete in a seven-game series. Oh, and Blatche, McGee and Young all find themselves on playoff teams to add insult to injury.
Wall has been sidelined with a knee injury and while the original diagnosis had him missing eight weeks and returning in late-November, the Wizards are now saying that there’s no timetable for the point guard’s return. But even if Wall returns in the near future, will the Wizards be that much better?
Nene, who had been sidelined for several months with a left foot injury, returned quicker than expected so that he could try to help the team end their losing streak. However, the team dropped two more games and Nene returned to the bench, missing Monday night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.
No matter who Washington puts on the court, the team can’t seem to compete. Wizards head coach Randy Wittman has changed his starting lineup on four different occasions and eight different players have started multiple games for Washington. Wittman takes full responsibility for the losing streak.
“I’m not pointing a finger at my players,” Wittman said. “Obviously, it lies with me. I know it lies with me and I’ve got to figure a way out to get this right. That’s what my job is and I’ll take full responsibility for that. I’ll continue to work and try to find a starting combination, people to play. That’s my job. Obviously, I’m not pushing the right buttons or pulling the right strings right now. I’ll continue to try to figure that out.”
However, it may be time for someone else to push the buttons and pull the strings. Wittman took over as head coach after Flip Saunders was fired last year and then his interim tag was removed last summer. When the Wizards decided to retain Wittman as head coach, many around the league felt that this was a mistake and that he wasn’t the right person to lead Washington going forward. After all, Wittman had never had a winning season as a head coaching and his all-time record was 118-238 entering this year.
While Wittman’s players have yet to quit on him and throw him under the bus, his days in Washington may be numbered. Wittman saw his last job as a head coach come to a similar end, when the Minnesota Timberwolves fired him after the team opened the season with a dreadful 4-19 record.
If the Wizards decide to stand by Wittman, personnel changes may be coming. Washington’s current roster clearly isn’t getting the job done. Don’t be surprised if the Wizards try to make a move at the trade deadline on February 21, either to bring in new talent or dump contracts. The fans, who have been booing the team more and more during recent games, want to see something done.
Players in the Wizards’ locker room have said all of the right things, but they’re clearly frustrated.
“It comes down to us,” Martell Webster said. “We are all embarrassed, plain and simple. There are no excuses.”
“It’s definitely a tough situation,” Jordan Crawford said. “Right now, this position just really shows who’s a man and who is not, who can hold their head up high and keep going.”
“That need to win – feeling that we have to win – I think that’s what is really killing us,” Bradley Beal said. “I think we need to relax and just play ball.”
In the past, the Wizards could chalk up their struggles to their young and inexperienced roster. However, after bringing in veterans, Washington isn’t developing or growing; they’re failing to live up to expectations. When the team’s age was mentioned after a recent loss, Nene didn’t want to hear the excuse.
“It’s not just about age, sometimes it’s about attitude,” Nene said. “There are a lot of young guys in this league. This league is a pro league. No matter your age, you need to be ready.”
One month into the season, the Wizards have been the league’s biggest disappointment and have likely dug themselves into too deep of a hole to achieve their postseason goal. This is yet another losing, rebuilding year for the Wizards, only this time it wasn’t expected.
Machado Discusses Short D-League Stint
It didn’t take long for the Houston Rockets to recall Scott Machado from the NBA Development League.
After just two games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in which Machado averaged 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds, the rookie point guard returned to Houston.
Machado, who led the NCAA in assists per game last season, enjoyed the experience. He has yet to log any minutes with the Rockets during the regular season, which is why the team decided to send him and Donatas Motiejunas down to the D-League.
However, Machado has many fans within the Rockets organization because of his unselfishness and playmaking abilities, and the team chose to keep him over veteran Shaun Livingston after the preseason.
HOOPSWORLD caught up with Machado in Rio Grande Valley to discuss his stint with the Vipers:
Daryl Morey Gives Royce White Update
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was recently a guest on a Slate podcast and he gave an update on rookie forward Royce White.
White has an anxiety disorder and has been away from the team for several weeks because he feels that the Rockets haven’t lived up to the proactive agreement that the two sides reached prior to the season. White doesn’t believe the Rockets brass are supporting him and he has made it very clear, through interviews and social media, that he won’t put professional sports ahead of his health.
Morey, who has been tightlipped about this situation until now, explained why Houston selected White with the 16th overall pick in this year’s draft and what he expects to happen next:
Basketball is sort of an interesting sport that, you know, the top player on your team makes so much more of an impact than the top player in any other sport, any of the other major team sports, I should say. There’s no other sport where LeBron James can have a team winning three out of four games or 60 games out of 80, and then when he leaves, basically the same team wins 20 games out of 80. That kind of a swing just shows you the impact. You need these elite talents to win in this league. We think Royce is an elite talent, a top-five talent in this last draft, which was very deep. Obviously if we’re getting him at 16 in the draft, there’s going to be something wrong, or something that’s a gamble with the player, and really you’re just choosing the gamble. Maybe they’ve got an injury history. Maybe they’ve got a particular part of their game that could be an Achilles’ heel that would make them fail. Maybe they’ve never gone against that level of competition. So there’s going to be something wrong, so you’re really just picking among things that are potentially going to derail that player and which ones you’re most comfortable with. Royce was someone who played every game at Iowa State, played it well. So even with his issues, he showed that he is very functional. We knew going in that potentially there could be issues and right now obviously things are bumpy at this point, I’d say, but you know it takes a little time for him to get going at the various stops he’s had in his career to this point. We’re trying to work things through with Royce, and hopeful that we can. That’s sort of the current state.
Grizzlies Assign Wroten to D-League
The Memphis Grizzlies assigned guard Tony Wroten to the Reno Bighorns, the team’s NBA Development League affiliate, Grizzlies General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations Chris Wallace announced today.
Wroten has totaled just one rebound and one steal in eight minutes through three appearances in his rookie season with Memphis.
The 19-year-old was the 25th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft after spending one season at the University of Washington. In his lone season with the Huskies, Wroten became the first freshman in school history to earn First Team All-Conference honors, ranking fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring (16.0 points), eighth in assists (3.7) and second in steals (1.9).
Wroten will likely play his first game with Reno on Friday against Santa Cruz.