The atmosphere in the Washington Wizards’ locker room after their 106-94 victory Saturday could best be described as festive. Javaris Crittenton and JaVale McGee playfully exchanged barbs, Nick Young and DeShawn Stevenson shared jokes as they got dressed, and even Coach Ed Tapscott got into the act by canceling practice on Sunday.
There was good reason to be festive because the Wizards were able to win with contributions from players besides Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. Crittenton had quiet numbers (four points, three assists, and two steals) but he did an excellent job of getting the team in the offense and pushing the ball up the court; McGee had a monster game with 18 points and nine rebounds in just 24 minutes; and Nick Young poured in 22 points in just 23 minutes.
But amidst all this festive behavior, the veteran voice of Jamison quietly provided the voice of reason.
“Every once in a while, they [the young players] give us an excellent game, now it’s can you be consistent with it, ” Jamison said while getting dressed at his locker. “It’s good to see McGee and Crittenton out there playing well, and Nick finally got out of his slide. But my thing is, baby, we gotta’ do it for more than just one out of every eight or nine games. We gotta’ be consistent with it night and night out.”
Jamison should have uttered these words just a little bit louder.
Two nights later, against the 12-35 Memphis Grizzlies, the Wizards arguably played their worst game of the season, and they lost 113-97. Jamison had 29 points and 13 rebounds, Butler had 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists, but no other Wizards player stepped up to help them. This was particularly evident late in the third quarter, when the Grizzlies went on a 15-2 run.
After the game, Jamison’s message was the same as it had been after the previous game.
“The effort was there – guys just weren’t playing smart. You have to play 100% night-in and night-out. You can’t do it one game against the Clippers and then next game have an opportunity to win and come out flat and not play with any kind of energy. I don’t care who is in the arena, you still have to make a game out of it and play hard.”
In a stern post game press conference, Coach Ed Tapscott echoed Jamison’s sentiments.
“I feel like our guys did not give a lot of effort tonight,” Tapscott said, looking thoroughly frustrated. “I have seen them demonstrate a lot of effort in previous games, but I do not feel like they gave their highest level of effort tonight. We are going to review the entire game tomorrow and I will try to explain to everyone what a smart play is and what a smart play is not.”
These two games are a microcosm of why the Wizards are 10-38 this season. There are consistently good performances from their older superstars, and the younger role players show up for games every now and then. Rarely are these two groups on the same page.
To add insult to injury, when the Wizards looked across the court at the Memphis Grizzlies, they saw a team who started five players who average 21.4 years of age. 21-year-old rookie O.J. Mayo led the team with 33 points; 22-year-old, third year player, Rudy Gay had 23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and some breathtaking breakaway dunks; and 23-year-old rookie Marc Gasol dominated inside with 22 points and 11 rebounds; 21-year-old second year guard, Mike Conley got in on the act, too, by scoring 14 points and dishing out five assists.
Not only were the young players on the Grizzlies contributing, but they did it in a balanced fashion, something the Wizards could not match during this contest.
Coach Tapscott summed up his frustration perfectly with this quote:
“Most of us as coaches hate unpredictability. We will tell you that a coach would rather have a guy who gives you eight points and six rebounds every night predictably, then the guy who can score 21 points and 12 rebounds one night. And then the next night gives you two [points] and one [rebound] and he’s out of the game in five minutes because he’s fouled out. And then the next night, he gives you half of that, and the next night scores 30. He’s too unpredictable.”
Given the tongue lashing Tapscott gave both the media and his players, the Wizards’ game tomorrow night against the New Jersey Nets, yet another young team, should be an interesting one indeed.
Photo Credit: ICON Sports Media