For a team that entered the season thinking it was ready to win 50 games and reach the Eastern Conference finals, John Wall’s Washington Wizards sure did lose a lot of games against teams that didn’t even make the playoffs.
And everything revealed by those defeats against the likes of the Hawks and Magic, or the Mavericks and Suns, or the Nets and Bulls _ a lack of consistency, for example, or an inability to close out opponents _ were the same sorts of problems that failed the Wizards in their first-round exit as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“We had some great moments. Then we showed bad moments,” Wall said Saturday, the day after a 102-92 loss in Game 6 against the No. 1 seed Toronto Raptors ended Washington’s season. “Just kind of not respecting some of the opponents that we went against.”
Asked why that happened, forward Markieff Morris said: “Sometimes it felt like it was immaturity. … Not coming in and doing our job.”
The issue might have been as much a detriment as missing Wall for 41 regular-season games because of health problems _ they were 23-18 with him, 20-21 without _ or a mediocre reserve unit.
“I guess the one thing about the Wizards (is) you never know who you’re going to expect today,” center Marcin Gortat said. “You might get a team that’s going to lose to the worst team in the league _ or can beat the best team in the league.”
Shooting guard Bradley Beal, who joined Wall as an All-Star for the first time, agreed with others that the Wizards had a problem taking for granted games against foes with losing records.
“There were a lot of times that we would just show up and think we were just going to win the game,” Beal said. “You can’t do that. You have to respect everybody.”
Wall and Beal _ the two leading scorers _ are both playing under long-term, maximum-money contracts, as is third option Otto Porter Jr.
And coach Scott Brooks has three years left on his deal.
So the assumption is that this will be the core moving forward. Wall said it’s clear that Washington needs some new parts, more than once describing what’s lacking are players “that really want to be here.”
Now the question becomes whether that trio of players and their coach can finally take a step forward next year. Wall and Beal have yet to get past the second round of the playoffs.
“Going into the season,” Brooks said, “we definitely had some high expectations.”
They weren’t met.
Here are other things to know about the Wizards as their offseason begins:
There was a lot of speculation about whether there was shaky locker room chemistry, and while reserve Mike Scott and Gortat were eager to dismiss that notion, others weren’t so clear that it was a non-factor.
“I feel like we might not have identified the real issues,” backup center Ian Mahinmi said. “Unless we can honestly and genuinely talk and find solution, we (are) going to continue the trend that’s going right now.”
He mentioned “miscommunication” and added: “I don’t think we had a genuine approach with everything.”
Said Wall: “When things are going well, everybody’s happy, everybody wants to be here. But when things get rough, that’s when you really figure out who’s your brother.”
WALL AND BEAL
Beal carried the club while Wall was out and played in all 82 games for the first time. As for chatter about breaking up the duo, Beal says he’s not interested. “They have trusted us, to build around us,” Beal said. “I’m not really a fan of change and starting over again. Hopefully (owner Ted Leonsis and team president Ernie Grunfeld) won’t give me the boot _ or give either of us the boot.”
With two back-to-the-basket and screen-setting centers in Gortat and Mahinmi, the Wizards could try to figure out a way to make a change to that part of the roster.
“We don’t really have an athletic big. I mean, Ian is older. (Gortat) is older,” Wall said. “They’re not athletic guys, but they do the little things that permit their game to help as much as possible.”
Brooks would love his big men to shoot 3s, but Gortat flatly ruled out trying to work on that aspect of his game.
“I hate small ball,” Gortat said. “Small ball basketball in this league is just trash.”