A day before the Wizards turned a 35-point lead into a nail-biting two-point victory over the depleted Miami Heat, Bill Simmons, who made his bones blogging about the NBA, sat in on the Tony Kornheiser show. Asked about Wizards coach Randy Wittman, Simmons said, “He should be fired. He’s a terrible coach. He just is. He’s not a good coach. He’s not good at coaching basketball.”
Geez, no wonder Simmons was dumped from ESPN/ABC’s NBA studio coverage. Even the examples of his point were simplistic, such as, “They’re the easiest team to predict what they’re doing down the stretch.” And, “If you talk to any Wizards fan who just watches them, they’d drive [Wittman] to the airport.” And, “There’s nothing more depressing right now than a Wizards home game. The crowd is just sitting there like ehhh.”
Thanks Bill. If I wanted that kind of insight, I could get it from any 5th grade rec league player. I don’t quite understand how ESPN pays you millions, but they seem to be printing money in Bristol.
The good thing for Simmons, if he happens to be asked about Wittman again, is he now has something to point to. The Friday night Miami game at home, which feels more like a loss than a win. And Wittman has to shoulder a large share of the blame.
It wasn’t just that the Wizards nearly blew a 35-point lead against a sub-.500 team, it’s who was playing for that team that made the lead almost disappear altogether.
Forget about the offseason departure of LeBron James and Chris Bosh being out for the year. Dwayne Wade and Luol Deng didn’t even suit up for the Heat. And Goran Dragic, picked up in a trade deadline deal from Phoenix, hurt his back after playing only 29 minutes. While he was in, he kept it from being like a 50-point lead instead of 35 by scoring 18 points with seven assists and five rebounds. Here was the group of comeback kids on the floor as the lead went from 35 to one:
Henry Walker – a D-leaguer on a 10-day contract
Tyler Johnson – a D-leaguer on a 10-day contract
Michael Beasley – a busted former No. 2 pick of the NBA draft, also on a 10-day deal
James Ennis – a free-agent rookie averaging four points a game
Shabazz Napier – a rookie averaging 5.3 points a game and shooting 38% from 3-point range
Here’s what they did Friday night on the Wizards home court:
Walker – 32 minutes, 8 points, 4 rebounds
Johnson – 36 minutes, 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
Beasley – 22 minutes, 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Ennis – 29 minutes, 11 points, 5 rebounds
Napier – 31 minutes, 16 points, 4 assists and he was 4-6 on three pointers
The Wizards had all of their starters healthy with nobody in foul trouble and were outscored 58-32 in the second half. John Wall had 12 assists, but when he needed to be aggressive down the stretch, he was invisible. Wall scored only six points in the game, and even worse, made only one trip to the free throw line. By the way, if you were watching, did you get a look at owner Ted Leonsis’ face when the ball bounced off Nene’s hands and out of bounds with the Wizards up only one with 23 seconds left? Whatever the Greek term for “Oy vey” is, that’s what Ted had to be thinking.
Drew Gooden, playing 17 minutes with Kris Humprhies still injured, was solid with 11 points and four rebounds. He said, “It doesn’t feel like a loss. You lose the game and it feels like three losses because you’re up like 30-plus points. But I call it a learning experience.”
Maybe it is, but for whom, the Wizards or the rest of the NBA? As Gooden said further, “If I’m the opposing team right now and I’m down 20 points to the Washington Wizards, I’m thinking I’m still in the game.”
Yeah, it was a learning experience for the rest of the league. This team likes to coast. Wittman continues to criticize his players for not giving full effort. But that’s been the case for more than two months. Isn’t it the coach’s job to shake things up?
The Wizards, who started the year 31-15, are now 35-27. They’re in the game as far as the playoffs are concerned, but with the kind of heart they’ve been showing lately, it’ll be a short postseason.