There I was, hands over my face and shaking my head while an interview with Bradley Beal and John Wall aired nationally on ESPN hours before their Friday night matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Normally, anytime Wall and Beal speak, I, along with numerous other Washington Wizards followers I assume, are all ears, waiting on the next words to come out of this exciting backcourt’s mouth. This time around was a lot different, though. When you go on national TV and make claims that teams who have proven to be better than you are in fact scared of you, what else can you do but a classic face palm?

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) passes against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13), of Poland, guard Bradley Beal (3), and guard John Wall (2) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Wall and Beal had already announced last season that the Cleveland Cavaliers had purposely tanked over the last two weeks of the 2016-2017 season to avoid them in last year’s playoffs. Ironically, the team the Wizards lost to in seven games, the Boston Celtics, was eliminated in five games by the same Cavs team. Actually, Cleveland dominated them in five games and then eliminated them. It was funny then when the Wizards said it and it was even funnier a few days ago when Beal and Wall reiterated their beliefs.

LeBron James and Cavs came to D.C. and once again upped the Wizards 130-122 on Nov. 3, dealing Washington a second straight loss after a surprising 122-116 home defeat to the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 1. You can’t lose to the Suns at home then make claims that a team that’s reached the Finals three straight seasons was scared to play you, but that’s been the Wizards so far this season—all talk and no action.

Washington kicked off the week with a dominating 110-83 road win over the struggling Sacramento Kings on Oct. 29 and that perhaps instilled some false confidence into a group that has underachieved badly so far this season. The Wizards stand at 4-4 and haven’t played anywhere close to the premier team of the Eastern Conference as they have advertised themselves to be throughout the summer and opening weeks of this season. The team hasn’t been at full strength as forwards Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and Jason Smith have all missed time with injury, and Wall will likely miss some games after injuring his shoulder against the Cavs.

Injuries aside, Washington needs to respond with more action and less words and could use a good motivational slogan of “shut up and just play.”


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO