By John Powell
Every NBA team moves some of their parts during a season, but the Wizards seem to be doing a lot of that right now, whether it was intentional or not.
Early Friday morning, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche were involved in a scuffle outside a D.C. club. The team said it was a “disagreement between teammates,” but bystanders said there was some heated words and a few punches.
Either way, they were not getting along, so they were suspended for a game each.
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Then at 4:23 Wednesday, only a few hours before the Pacers game, a press release said that Wizards’ Head Coach Flip Saunders would be out due to a family emergency involving his mother.
John Wall was riding the bench, too.
All this amounts to a make-or-break stretch for the 8-23 Wizards. Even though they came away with a win against Indiana on Wednesday, it was not pretty. The win could easily be attributed to the Pacers’ 17 turnovers and the shooting marks of 41.2 percent for Indiana and 39.8 percent for Washington. McGee was the only starter that shot better than 50 percent.
The season was not supposed to be this way, so now a few guys on the team should be worrying about their jobs.
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First was Gilbert Arenas for his issues last season and his numbers this season, which have gone down everywhere but on his jersey, but he’s already gone.
Second is Saunders. The organization had high expectations from a coach who owns a career record of 587-396. In Washington, though, he is now 33-78. His first season with the team marked his worst record in more than a decade with 26 wins.
Saunders is on pace for a 20-win season this year, which would be the worst of his NBA coaching career.
While he is out of the area, the team may be trying out Assistant Coach Randy Wittman. It appears that he will fill the head-coaching job while Saunders is out tending to family matters.
The problem is Wittman doesn’t want to stay in that position.
“I don’t want to be here tomorrow,” Wittman said. “I’m being honest with you. I know what my job is. And we’re hoping that things can go, obviously, as well back there. And he’s got to obviously take care of what he needs to take care of. But no, I’m ready to move back over to that seat to the right as quickly as I can.”
And if there are not enough scapegoats, they can just pick between Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee because of the off-court trouble.
Blatche is having a good year in most categories, however his lackadaisical effort on the court, culminating in a missed layup with nobody around him early in a game against the Bulls. In March, he was suspended due to a dispute with Saunders.
The altercation with McGee gave both men a suspension, but he’s a team player, right?
“We’re starting to become team-oriented,” Blatche said after Wednesday’s win. “We all believe in one another. We all trust one another. And we’re all just having fun out there.”
McGee has been in a quiet mood in the locker room, even after wins. The 22-year-old is having the best year of his career in his third season, but it seems he is not as devoted to his development as he could be. And putting his name in the news like he did Friday night does not help his cause.
Team officials say he is “not yet” on the trading block, but that may change depending on the reaction they get with Blatche on the block.
“Communication is a key factor, especially with me being a centerpiece of the defense and definitely [Andray Blatche] and the other four or the five that come in,” McGee said Wednesday. “We all have to communicate, and we definitely have to call our screens and things.”
But it’s hard to talk about them when they seem to work well together on the court. Wednesday night, both of them, along with John Wall, had a double-double.
Wall sees Kirk Hinrich, who left the game Wednesday with a left thigh contusion, as a main factor when the team does well as a sum of its parts.
“I think we’re doing great,” Wall told the media. “Like I said, when Kirk [Hinrich] became the point guard, he did a great job of really leading.”
Who else can be blamed? Team President Ernie Grunfeld has repeatedly remarked that the team is rebuilding, and they will do it with youth. There is no quick fix, but it is no excuse for a record this bad in the Flip Saunders era.
Of course, the die hard D.C. fans could always write it up to the December 2010 curse, when the Wizards, Capitals and Redskins combined for an 9-23 record so far, without any team going .500.
Fans are upset with the lack of success, but maybe with the Wizards finishing off the season with a “W” in Indiana to close out the year it can set a tone for the future.