A 1-4 start wasn’t exactly what Scott Brooks signed up for over the summer when he became the Washington Wizards’ newest coach. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where Brooks and the Wizards find themselves after the first week of the NBA’s 2016-2017 season. Washington finished 41-41 last year despite qualifying for the playoffs in the prior two seasons. The Wizards brass sought out changes over the summer designed to lift Washington back into the postseason. With several teams in the Eastern Conference already off to a good start, is it time for the Washington Wizards to panic? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this important question.
Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13), guard John Wall (2), forward Markieff Morris (5), forward Otto Porter Jr. (22), and guard Bradley Beal (3), stand on the court during a break in play in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Riley: Although Washington center Marcin Gortat called the team’s third game of the season a “must-win,” it’s not nearly that pressing for the team at the moment. The Wizards’ biggest summer free agent, Ian Mahinmi hasn’t even touched the floor yet after offseason knee surgery, and coach Brooks is still tinkering with lineups. A new coach, a new system and new players often result in slow starts, but Washington still has time to make it up. We’re barely out of the first week of the season and we’re already suggesting the season is over.
Green: Yes, the season is long and Washington has plenty of time to make up some ground. But, just looking at the team’s obvious flaws, it’s time to panic. Bradley Beal and his enormous contract was a mistake at the time when Washington typed it up and that’s showing every night when the Wizards hit the court. Beal’s being paid like a megastar yet he continues to play like an inconsistent guard with lackadaisical defense and a so-so jump shot. He’s not the deadeye marksman he’s been hyped up to be. I remember folks like you, Riley, telling me that this kid was going to be the next Ray Allen. Well, that certainly hasn’t turned out to be the case. And as much as I like John Wall, he hasn’t been the franchise savior he was drafted to be. The Wizards’ role players are solid but their big time performers aren’t performing big time. Where’s the panic button?
Riley: Washington’s two best players might ring up some concerns but keep in mind both Wall, 27, and Beal, 22, are still fairly young. Beal’s contract will continue to be a sore spot but, regardless of his salary, he’s vital to Washington’s success. Beal routinely gets criticized for his regular season play but he normally morphs into Washington’s best player come postseason time. I’m not worried about him. Aside from Cleveland, the eastern conference isn’t stable at all. Several teams will peak this year and Washington just has to be patient. They have the talent and the coaching to be a completely different team by the time the second half of the season starts.
Green: If the Wizards don’t make some changes quick then the second half of the season won’t matter. Led by Wall, Beal and third-year forward Otto Porter, Washington has classically underachieved over the last few seasons. Porter should have never been drafted with a lottery pick; he’s no better than a role player. The team has been competent in the playoffs but has not broken the second round barrier that’s trapped them for decades. I don’t want to say that Wall and Beal are the problems, but a third star or even a main star is definitely needed. The team had a chance to land that type of player over the summer, but Kevin Durant opted for Golden State instead of his hometown. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall because it’s certainly time to panic if you’re a basketball fan living in the District.