The Struggles of the Washington Wizards

By Dennis Berry

The 2011-12 season has been hard for Washington Wizards fans to take in so far. The Wizards are off to a 1-12 start. Washington lost for the fourth time in a row on Monday afternoon to the Houston Rockets.

The rest of the season does not figre to get much better. The Wizards are a young team and are still learning to play and win in the NBA. The front office is also in the process of rebuilding the team.

With their poor start, a lot of attention has been focus has been put on bad they are. Who or what caused them to become so bad. To do that, first you have to remember how they got here.

You have to go back a few seasons to see things turn bad. When Ted Leonsis took over the Wizards in 2010 the downward spiral had already begun. Washington was coming off a 26-56 2009-10 season. It was the second year in a row they missed the playoffs after four straight years in the playoffs.

That season in Washington will always be remembered for Gilbert Arenas. That was the season when Gilbert Arenas was suspended for bringing firearms into the locker room. That was beginning of the end of Arenas in Washington.

After Arenas suspension, the Wizards slowly began to tear the team apart. First they traded Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas. Then they traded Antawn Jamison to Cleveland.

Arenas would return for the 2010-11 season, but he would be traded before the end of 2010 to Orlando for Rashard Lewis. The whole sale of the team was complete. This is what the Wizards wanted.

Jan Vesely
Washington Wizards forward Jan Vesely (24) plays in his first NBA game in action against Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Anthony Tolliver (44) where the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Washington Wizards, 93-72 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

They wanted to wipe the slate clean and start a new era in Washington. They were ready to build the team around 2010 number one overall draft pick John Wall. His first year in the NBA Wall averaged 16.4 points and 8.4 assists a game as the Wizards went 23-59.

So far this season, Wall has not put up the numbers that he was expected to. His scoring is down to 13.3 points and 7.1 assists a game. The media has talked about this and his terrible shooting percentage (35%). Wall has yet to even make a three point shot (0-7) this season.

Wall burst onto the national landscape when he arrived at Kentucky. He was the number one player in the 2009 class and was part of John Calipari's first recruiting class at UK. He was the SEC Player of the Year for the 2009-2010 season. Wall was known more as a driving point guard, who need to improve his jump shot and the still appears to be the case.

Wall even caught heat from Head Coach Flip Saunders for playing in too many summer league exhibition games during the lockout. The head coach feels his point guard picked up bad habits while playing in those games. Saunders even called out some other Wizards for doing the same thing.

The truth is the roster and the youth of this team just does not allow it be competitive right now in the NBA. The Wizards want to rebuild this team through the draft and that is what they are doing. There are six players who are first round picks from the last two drafts: John Wall, Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin and Jordan Crawford.

Of the 15 man roster, 11 of the players are 25 or younger. Wall, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, and Jordan Crawford are all in their second season. Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, and Shelvin Mack are rookies.

Right now they are the third youngest team in the NBA at an average age of 25. Only the Timberwolves (24) and Kings (24) are younger. All three teams are in last place in their divisions.

Then you have to look at the veterans on the roster. The elder statesman is Rashard Lewis who has been in the NBA now 13 years. Lewis' best days were in Seattle from from 2000-2007. Then after being traded to Orlando in 2007, his numbers have gone down every season.

Right now he is averaging only 9.1 points a game. There were reports that Lewis refused to play against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 8. Washington said it was sore knee and Lewis was back against Toronto.

Then there was the statement by Andray Blatche following loss to Minnesota:

"Everybody wants to be that guy to get that nine points back. You've got to take your time, run the play and trust in the system," Blatche said. "Guys want to do it their way, and it's not working. The record shows that. Guys need to go home and really focus and think and take into consideration what Flip is saying."

That brings into question if Flip Saunders is the right coach for Washington right now. He is 50-126 in 2-plus years as head coach. There have has been poor basketball and off the court problems with the team. If Saunders has not truly gotten this team to buy in, then it is time for Washington to look in another direction.

When things are going bad people look for a place to put blame. Usually it goes to the star player, because he is the star. In the case of the Washington Wizards, there is plenty of blame to go around.

What do you think?

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