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Too early to judge the Wizards?


I wouldn't say we stink just yet. (Christian Petersen/NBAE via Getty Images)


Former NFL Coach Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are." And that isn't good for the Washington Wizards, who have won just eight of their first 25 games and still have the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference. It's even worse that Coach Flip Saunders said during the preseason that it would take 20 games to know where this team is -- and the team has lost four of five since reaching that benchmark.

They have lost seven of eight overall, have had two six-game losing streaks, and are celebrating the fact that they haven't been blown out in most of their recent losses. The Wizards planned on making this season about redemption following a miserable 19-win season but they are only four games better than their pace from a year ago. And, even with Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood back, the Wizards are just 5-10 in games that they have started with Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.

So, what does Saunders have to say now? He extends the time needed to make a fair assessment of the team. Although the Wizards have completed nearly a third of the season, Saunders said that is not enough of a sample size -- wait until the halfway mark.

"It's difficult but I think coming in, I thought we had the ability but I didn't think you would see where we really were until we were some 40-some games in because of all the dynamics: guys coming back from injury and that wasn't even taking into consideration guys getting hurt once the year was started. But knowing that Gil was coming back and not having played two years and there were guys we had picked up. And, the East got better."

Um, the East only has five teams with winning records. It's so bad that despite the Wizards' horrible start, they are still just two games out of the eighth spot -- and 3 ½ games out of the ninth spot. So, with Mike Miller set to come back some time in the next week or two, and Arenas and Butler moving closer to finding comfort out West, Saunders still believes the Wizards are capable of turning things around.

"There are some things we have to get figured out, but I think we're in a situation where we're going to win five or six games in a row and we're going to put ourselves in a good situation," Saunders said. "I would say we're probably four or five games different from where I thought we'd be. I thought we'd be probably two games above .500 at this point."

As the team prepares to play the 76ers tonight, Saunders said the Wizards still have some banged up big pieces with Arenas and Jamison both forced to sit out of practice on Monday. Arenas was sore after hurting his right hip on the West Coast trip and Jamison was nursing a stinger on the left side of his neck after a collision in Golden State and a sore left shoulder after a collision in Sacramento. "Now his bad shoulder's his good shoulder," Saunders joked.

Saunders isn't giving up. "You go back to principles and it's like pounding on a rock. You keep pounding and pounding and eventually you break it down," he said. "But you can't vary away from the process of where you want to go. Sometimes what happens, you say I'll go for short-term results and you get short-term results that are going to be short term. It's a long-term project that's what you have to understand."


By Michael Lee  |  December 22, 2009; 1:59 PM ET
 
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Next: The Other Side: Philadelphia 76ers

Comments

Fuh-ged-uh-bout-it!!

Posted by: artiesliver | December 22, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I've lost faith but I haven't lost hope.

For those of you saying play Stevenson in select Defensive situations, I say play Dom instead. I know I defended DS for his past play, but its obvious he aint got it no more. I think Dom is better, but even if they were equal. Play the guy you may want to keep or who has potential trade value.

Trade haywood to a contender who needs a backup center and take a future pick and some young guy or a strong hard working PF that is past his prime but can teach our guys how to play strong every night. let Blatche and McGee work it out with Oberto until we can find a new center.

Posted by: Blurred | December 22, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I expect Flip to have that outlook with him being the leader and just coming here and all, but I have been around here long enough to know that it is exactly what it looks like. Every year I see both this towns major franchises lose to bad teams early or start slow and I hear the "it's still early" excuses.

When have they done a 180% turn ?

The best they will do is improve to have a respectable season. I suppose they are looking at the standings to see when all realistic hopes of contending are gone then start to gel as a team.

Good teams don't play around with teams that are not good and occasionally blow them out.

Posted by: millineumman | December 22, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Coach Flip Saunders said during the preseason that it would take 20 games to know where this team is...

"It's difficult but I think coming in, I thought we had the ability but I didn't think you would see where we really were until we were some 40-some games in...

how long till we read...

Considering the injuries and the new system it will take 60-games before you really see the real wizards...

and then...

By the end of the season we will know what we really have with this team...

wait there's more...

Just wait till next year, once the players have had a full year to play together and we trade our first round pick we will be ready...

Next year again?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | December 22, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Could they improve? Sure (it's not like things can get much worse). But no matter how much better they get, they have basically no chance of coming close to meeting the overinflated expectations that were being hyped up before the season started. Unless they have one of the most miraculous turnarounds in not just in NBA but sports history, this season is pretty much guaranteed to end up as a massive disappointment, given all the prognostication about their so-called potential.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 22, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The Wizzies are a BAD team.
The individual talent is there but there is no "teamwork".
I partly blame Flip but the responsibility falls to every player on the roster.
If half are hustling and the other half are going through the motions then this is the result.
A big part of the blame also has to be on the "big 3". It's their team. If they mail it in then the rest of the team can't carry them. But if they bring it every night then that rubs off on the rest of the players and what you end up with is "Teamwork".
I don't expect anything to change until the "big 3" play like they are hungry and not like they are fat, dumb & happy.

Posted by: VBFan | December 22, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

The Wizards are a bad team, as others have said. Individual talent is there?
Not one player on the team that's in the top 10 in the NBA at their position. Not one.

Reality 101
TODAY, not 4 years ago, there are at least 12 point guards better than Arenas. At least. There are at least 20 "power" forwards better than Jamison despite his stats. And Caron is good, but not one of the best 10 small forwards. Brendon isn't in the top 10 of NBA men over 6'10. And their 2-guard is probably #32 in the NBA. At best.

Posted by: kedavis | December 22, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

VBfan - So what you are saying is you don't expect anything to change, right?

Posted by: Blurred | December 22, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Davis...I doubt Haywood is on the top centers in the eastern conference. Most teams have two centers better than him.

Posted by: Blurred | December 22, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

In what looks a lot like the NBA version of the NIT, the Wizards will play five more games this month, all against sub-500 teams (with the exception of Oklahoma City, at 13-13). Win three out of five and I'll change my vote. Who thinks Washington can win three out of five? Flip?

Posted by: clocker58 | December 22, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I was just going to ask...will the Wizards win tonight?

Posted by: Blurred | December 22, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Arenas and Butler, our best 2 players, both appear to be finally returning to their prime forms after atrocious starts. If these two men can recapture their past magic and Jamison and Haywood continue to play well, this team should at the very least make the playoffs and be competitive in the 1st round.

Posted by: Dellis2 | December 22, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

If the Wiz go 37-20 the rest of the way they'll end up with 45 wins and probably get a 4/5 matchup with Atlanta.

The Heat are a DWade injury away from being lottery again so I don't see them winning 45+.

I honestly think it will almost be impossible for the Wiz not to qualify for postseason play.

The East is just that horrible...

Posted by: elfreako | December 22, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I'd lay a bet on the wiz taking 3 of the final 5 of '09. But only at even money, although the team should be laying at least 3-2 to go 3-2.

Posted by: Blurred | December 22, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Blow this version of the Wizards up already - stop pretending to be mediocre. Build a team up that can win, not just by overworking three guys who then get hurt once you finally make the playoffs.

Don't trade away draft picks - sound famililar!

Posted by: BrokenClipboard | December 22, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

They will win 20 games total this season.

Posted by: freeflyr61 | December 22, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully the Wizards will make the playoffs. However, they probably won't, and if they did, they would not make it to the second round. Unless a change is made, history will repeat itself. After this season's experimental debacle is over, hopefully the Wizards will move in another direction. It would be nice for the Wizards to try the superstar with a complementary star and a bunch of role players that know their place in the hierachy of the players. A big problem with the Wizards is that this team is full of mediocre players with relatively equal talent. As a result, all theses players think they deserve playing time. If they don't get the time, they pout. Unfortunately, after a few more loses, players are going to start publicly complaining about Saunders.

Posted by: Theone9 | December 22, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I already gave them a chance to turn it around in their last west coast trip.They came short.I think i have to give them another chance.They need to win all five or 4 of the december games.Any thing less than this is still a failure,an indication to give up with our core if their is a taker.There is no player in this roster who should be immune to the trade ,for sure no one will take arenas heavy contract.BH is trying his best to increase his value but i would agree to trade him by a young power forward that can fit in flip's offense.If any body ask for AJ, that is a fast rebulding process.trading Cb,BH and AJ,sign MM, and use the right of foye for a better player would keep washington in a better position.They can stay way down in the salary cup and they could remain as a playoff team for 2010 and would have a potential to pick a superstar level player that could take them to the next level in 2011.

Posted by: gtefferra | December 22, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

No way, Blurred.

The Wiz will win exactly one game out of the next five. If they blow it tonight, they get a doughnut for the rest of the year.
U Hurd it Hur Fust!!

Posted by: artiesliver | December 22, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

After witnessing in person the debacle at FedEx last night, dare I submit myself to the possibility of another eye-witness to egg laying tonight? Soo common of my hometown favs

UGH

we'll probably win tonight, but it wont matter one iota so long as we always have performances like @Suns hiding up our sleeves. This team knew full well they were supposed to lose that game (last night of west coast trip, a b2b, against superior team)...so they simply chalked up the "L" before tip and didnt show.

that is absolutely pathetic and unacceptable for a team needing to dig out of a hole and still pretending like they may salvage the season.

Also, Flip you're doo-doo until further notice, thanks

Posted by: divi3 | December 22, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

This may sound crazy but this is how I feel. I feel that you cant judge them until they start winning. Does that sound crazy? No matter how bad you think they are, I think we all agree that at some point they will get a win streak going wether it be 10-15 games or wether its something modest like 3-4. Once that happeneds then you can really judge because you can tell that they havent got started yet and no matter how bad you think they are, they are not this bad.

Now after that win streak, if we go back to being garbage then you can say this is who we are but if we just start to click then things will truly change for the better. People hate excuses but sometimes there are some legit excuses. The fact is that we do have a brand new coach, a new system, alot of new players, alot of guys who have never played together before or played much together, we started the season with AJ missing a ton of games, now MM has missed a ton, the guys have looked lost in the system early, and most of all our Franchise guy looked like a shell of his former self and is just now starting to come around.

The win streak is coming and thats when you judge. Even in the games weve won this year, most of them have been crap wins. We barely win even against bad teams. When we have a 2 or 3 game stretch where we blow some teams out and win like 5 of 7 games or more then thats is when you start to judge us but as of now we just havent gotten over the hump so I dont think its really fair.

Posted by: dlts20 | December 22, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Quite the optimist, elfreako.

I think there are plenty of ways for the Wiz to miss the playoffs, chief among them that they continue to play terrible basketball. And even if they do limp into the 7th or 8th spot . . . so what? Another one and out. Big deal.

As for them getting the #5 spot, I don't see that happening. Forty Five wins is a pipe dream for this team as currently constructed. There are several teams ahead of them now that project to stay there because they're simply better.

Wade carried basically the same team to the playoffs on his back last season, when the conference appeared more competitive. The Bobcats can't score points to save their lives, but they play defense well enough to win some games. The Pistons have been playing without 2 or 3 of their best players for almost the whole season but have still found ways to compete while developing some young players. (And the vets they're missing are more important to Detroit than Miller is to Washington.) There's no reason to think Milwaukee will take a dive.

And even if the Wiz did get the 5 seed, the Hawks would crush them in a seven game series.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 22, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

"this season is pretty much guaranteed to end up as a massive disappointment, given all the prognostication about their so-called potential. Posted by: kalo_rama"

Well, we could do the mature thing and adjust our expectations, realizing they were based on a dimly remembered past and wild hopefulness about the future.

Nahhhh....

Posted by: Samson151 | December 22, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

My patience has grown thin and you can't blame it on the fact that MM has been out. The Wizards have been relatively healthy since Jamison returned to the lineup and they have lost 5 games that should be in the W column (Toronto, Indiana, Clippers, Sacramento, and Boston).

The current roster will be lucky to win 40-42 games and get the 7th or 8th spot which is unaccepable IMO. It's time to break up the Big 3 and begin the painful rebuilding process. Jamison, Butler, and Miller all have signficant trade value for a contender and should be moved for young talent, draft picks, or both. It's also time to play the young players like AB, NY, and McGee to see if they can be part of the core.

Posted by: wizfan89 | December 22, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"No matter how bad you think they are, I think we all agree that at some point they will get a win streak going wether it be 10-15 games or wether its something modest like 3-4."

I don't agree with that, at all. I can't see this team winning 10 games in a row. Hell, when was the last time they had a winning streak that long? And a 3-4 game winning streak doesn't mean much if it's then followed by 5-7 losses in a row. Is it possible? Almost anything is possible. But they've done nothing to make me believe it's at all likely.

More generally, I don't see any validity in the idea that we can't judge them until they start winning. Their inability to win is a perfectly valid criterion on which to judge them, esp. since it's the only one they've given us.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 22, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Philly (W)
@ Mil (L)
@ Min (L - yeah, of course it could happen)
@ Mem (L)

9 and 20 ladies and gentlemen. Les Boulez then, now and forever!

Posted by: Kev29 | December 22, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

If we do not go at least 3-2 over the next 5 games, the season is offically over.

Posted by: dominic10464 | December 22, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

9-20 night is almost here!

Posted by: DocHolliday1906 | December 22, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

"Well, we could do the mature thing and adjust our expectations, realizing they were based on a dimly remembered past and wild hopefulness about the future."

I don't need to adjust my expectations, because I really didn't have any. I was very clear before the season started that I thought the 50-win, top 4 seed, deep playoff run, better than Orlando and Cleveland predictions were wild flights of fancy. I'm talking about the bigger picture/broader perception of the team.

Management went all in on a chance to make a jump to elite status this season. They were picked by multiple pro writers/commentators/observers as a team with the potential to make a big move in the playoffs. The new coach threw the word "championship" around during his intro presser. The respected veteran team captain used it in preseason interviews. By the time they tipped it up on the first game, that became the standard line for the tam's place in the pecking order: elite potential, a team ready to bust out.

If, almost a third of the way through the season, we're already talking about whether they can just make the playoffs, then that's a pretty massive shortfall against expectations. There's nothing else to call that but a disappointment.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 22, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I must say, my outlook isn't quite as positive as it was a month ago. But I still think we get it together by the all start break. If we can manage to stay in the hunt and get into the playoffs, I still think we could make some noise.

Gil is getting better all the time. We're starting to see him finish at the rim now, which he wasn't doing early. His jumper is still spotty, and he's still turning the ball over too much, but I'd like to think I've seen some improvement in both of those areas as well.

That's the straw that stirs the drink. If he gets going, we'll be fine.

Posted by: Matte | December 22, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I don't need to adjust my expectations, because I really didn't have any. I was very clear before the season started that I thought the 50-win, top 4 seed, deep playoff run, better than Orlando and Cleveland predictions were wild flights of fancy. I'm talking about the bigger picture/broader perception of the team.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 22, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

That's funny; I remember you writing you didn’t make predictions!

It sure does make it a lot easier now to profess you were right?

But then again that’s all you ever do. If I can recall from my psychology 101 class (years ago) my professor said people do that because they feel inferior.


Posted by: bulletsfan78 | December 22, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

where are my 50 win flip fans?

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | December 22, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

"That's funny; I remember you writing you didn’t make predictions! "

I didn't make a specific prediction regarding the number of wins and losses and never do. However, if your memory were as good as you claimed, then you'd also remember that I said, repeatedly, that the people predicting that this team would win 50 games, be a top 4 seed, and bypass Orlando and/or Cleveland were dreaming way too big and that there was no logical basis to that expectation based on past results. Which is, of course, not an actual prediction, but a response/criticism/reaction. I won't expect you to know the difference of course.

But then, your memory is notoriously selective, isn't it? Like how you selectively remember ever bad deal Grunfeld or Pollin made while conveniently forgetting the good ones, remembering all the things a player doesn't do while conveniently forgetting all the things they do. And by "conveniently forgetting" I do, of course mean, "selectively ignoring."

"But then again that’s all you ever do. If I can recall from my psychology 101 class (years ago) my professor said people do that because they feel inferior."

Was that professor at the same school as the one who did such a lousy job teaching you the principles of business and finance that form the foundation of your massive ignorance and manifest lack of comprehension of the way sports team's operate financially?

If so, that's as strong an argument against tenure as I've ever hear.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 22, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

And the fact that the guy who couldn't wait to run around screaming "TOLDJA SO! TOLDJA SO! LOOKIT ME! TOLDJA SO!" when the team started losing has the nerve to criticize someone else for noting when they made a right call is the height of ludicrous hypocrisy.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 22, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

If this team goes MORE than 10 games under .500 in the next 6 games then Ernie should blow it up.

There's no way this squad can bounce back from that big a hole.

Posted by: elfreako | December 22, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

where are my 50 win flip fans?

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | December 22, 2009 5:23 PM |

I'll admit it. I said preseason that Flip would be COY.
Now I won't be surprised if he's gone next year.
This thing needs to turn around quickly. Playoffs????
Pipe dream with this modus operandi.

Posted by: VBFan | December 22, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Ernie shouldn't blow it up, he should be the first casualty. He got this team into this mess by guaranteeing too much to risky, injured and/or aging, non-team, shoot first, no pass, leadership-shirking, zero D, perimeter-only, no pure position 'tweener players. He traded a high number one draft pick/potential franchise-changing player for a couple humdrum veterans and to dump his mistakes, and sold an early second in a bottom-deep draft for cash. None, not a single one of his many draft picks have shown anything more than glimpses of a legitimate, consistent NBA game. He fired Eddie Jordan then hired a former losing college coach, who overplayed our vets and sat our young players, hastening the wear and tear on the former while leaving the latter woefully unprepared. He overpaid for Etan Thomas, and Deshawn, despite the latter having no other suitors. He has overemphasized skill at every position at the expense of speed, strength and athleticism, leaving us physically over-matched against the better half of the league. He has consistently brought in soft and/or apathetic players, rather than proven, hardcore, fire-in-the-belly professionals. He let Gilbert intimidate him into making unwise signings, and probably let the late owner make signing decisions he didn't agree with. What is to like about his tenure, and why does anyone believe he is capable of blowing this team up and getting it right the second time around?

When the team won 19 games last year, all the talk was about how we could turn it around when we had our players back this year. Well, they're back, and we're still lottery bound. At some point, the man responsible for assembling the roster must take responsibility for it. Bring on King Leonsitus and a new General!

Posted by: SammyT1 | December 22, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Sorry pal, you don't get 40 games, you don't even get 10 games. You are what your record says you are: LOUSY. The players and coaches make way too much $ to get a 40 game honeymoon.

Posted by: randysbailin | December 22, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Someone ought to give SammyT1 some regular blog space. Well said.

Posted by: DCUnited2 | December 22, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

the wiz are maybe a half-dozen made shots from a player who's been out for two years from being 14-11. if you believe that gilbert isn't getting any better and the rest of the season will continue as it has so far, then write this year off. i believe he's almost to the tipping point and those shots are going to start falling and the l's will turn to w's. not 50 w's, but enough to get into the playoffs at which point anything can happen.

Posted by: rm0659 | December 22, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Sure it's fair to judge the Wizards at this point.

The first 20 or so games of the season they played below average basketball.

They are who their record says that are.

They weren't able to overcome injuries; they weren't able to fully grasp and implement Flip's system; and they too often played uninspired basketball.

Having said that, past isn't always prelude. Maybe they can transition into becoming an average basketball team again before the season is finished.

Posted by: JPRS | December 23, 2009 2:26 AM | Report abuse

@Mil (L)
@Min (W)
@Mem (W)
OKC (L)

Posted by: kevenjones | December 23, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

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