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Nov 25, 2016
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The NBA has never been as fun as it has been this season. I think we can all agree on that. You have guys like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Anthony Davis all putting up video game stats. You have teams like the Los Angeles Lakers that have not only overachieved, but have become must-watch TV. And you have the usual suspects of high-profile teams churning out one storyline after another. But not everything about the NBA this season has been rosy.

Just ask the Washington Wizards.

Frankly, I don’t think any of us expected much out of the Wizards. They came off a mediocre 41-41 season last year. They hired a new coach. Their best player, John Wall, is still on a games/minutes restriction as he still recovers from offseason knee surgeries. Wall and Bradley Beal also both admitted to not liking each other on the court, among the litany of issues both have had against the other. Clearly, red flags were flying on this team even before the season started.

And yet, not even the the team’s most hardened of critics could’ve expected the team to be this bad. Or maybe the did. Who knows, really. The point is this: if you’re a big fan of isolation basketball that leads to repeated bad shots and teammates routinely throwing shade at another, then you need to sign up for NBA League Pass and watch the Washington Wizards.

See, the Wizards aren’t good, but they’re also not supposed to be as bad as they’ve shown in the first month of the season. But they are, and a big part of that revolves around that all-important “C” word that no amount of analytics can measure: chemistry.

The current state of the Wizards becomes even more egregious when you consider that just two seasons ago, they came within a whisper of making it to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe they overachieved then and regressed back to the mean last season, but still, we expected more out of John Wall and company, in part because watching Wall in full-attack mode is one of the most beautiful things to watch in the game. Say what you will about Westbrook’s ferocious style of play, but Wall isn’t too far off from Russ’s level; he just does it in a more graceful style.

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But Wall isn’t enough to make the Wizards credible, just as Anthony Davis, awesome as he is, can’t carry the New Orleans Pelicans by himself. On paper, Washington actually has a decent roster. It’s top heavy, but decent all the same. At the very least, it has an eight-player rotation that’s more than capable of winning some games. Except that it hasn’t because the chemistry on this team is so palpably bad, Marcin Gortat apparently had no problem publicly calling out his own bench after a loss. He’s since apologised for it, but the lack of accountability towards each other is spilling into the court and manifesting itself at the worst possible times for the team.

Granted, it’s still early in the season a lot can still change. Wall is going to get healthier as the season continues. Beal has shown some flashes of being the star shooter he was drafted to become—76 points in two games is a small sample size, but it’s still the most points any Wizards player has scored in two games since some guy named Gilbert Arenas scored 78 points in December 2009. There’s plenty of time for the Washington Wizards to turn things around. It certainly has the talent to do it; the players just need to start trusting each other because if it can’t get past that fundamental issue of holding one another accountable, then no amount of talent can spare us from watching this team run one discombobulated isolation play after another.

 

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