At no time during the Scott Brooks era have the Washington Wizards ever been a good, let alone great defensive team. That’s one reason why some fans surprisingly find themselves reminiscent of the Randy Wittman days when the Wizards were at least competent at limiting opponents. Never one to put the blame on the coaching staff, Bradley Beal and other Washington players described the team’s inability to win the 1-on-1 challenge of guarding your man as the focal point of their woes.
“We got to have some pride, man. Some dog, we don’t have no dog. Just kind of let teams walk over us and that shit is frustrating,” Bradley Beal summarized after a 119-97 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
The Death Row DC era early in Brooks’ tenure in Washington was the peak of the Wizards dog mentality, but that is now four years ago with that Markieff Morris type player no longer on the roster. That is not to say Morris was or is the answer, but that 2016-17 team had an edge about them that no longer exists. Always wanting to be a team that plays hard with high effort, or at least that is what the Wizards were preaching during training camp, Beal deduces that the want and desire is not translating to the court.
“If we can control making shots, we’d win every game or we’d be 100 percent from the field. That’s kind of out of our control. Guys are gonna miss shots, guys are gonna make shots. As long as we get one up every time that at least allows us to get our defense set. We turn the ball over, we can’t. Teams are killing us in transition,” Beal began a dichotomy. “It’s just a will on defense. It’s just a personal will that you have to want to guard, you have to want to get back in transition, you have to want to box out, you have to want to rebound. Those are all things we can all physically, individually can control.”
Alex Len started for Robin Lopez after the former Terrapin had a strong showing in Sunday’s blowout loss to Miami. That experiment quickly ended with Moe Wagner seeing the second-half start. None of the three centers played all that well, but Lopez at least had 14 points, the second-highest on the team. Despite generally being one of Washington’s better defenders, Deni Avdija was also benched to start the second half as Scott Brooks cited inconsistent play.
“We have to bring a level of consistency, defensively and offensively, every single night, but most important is defense. It sounds like a broken record because we’ve been talking about it since last year, but it is a must. It’s kind of just guarding your yard,” Ish Smith assessed.
At 5-15, the Wizards’ regular season is already more than a quarter complete and unless they can improve their defense drastically immediately, the 7-10 seed play-in tournament will not even be within reach.