For the first time in quite a few seasons, the Washington Wizards are healthy.
If you pardon the pun, the crutch for the team was always its bad luck with injuries. Stars Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, and (mid-level star) Brendan Haywood could not stay healthy and that was why, explained team apologists, the team's performance never lived up to its high payroll. Even so, head coach Eddie Jordan was fired early last year.
Now the Wizards are healthy. You know what their record is?
7-16, third-worst in the East, fifth-worst in the NBA.
They've lost to the Pacers twice, to the Bobcats, to the Pistons, to the Clippers, to the Thunder, and to the Raptors. They lost last night to a Sacramento Kings team (albeit in Sacramento) that was missing star scorer Kevin Martin.
What's the excuse now?
The Wizards are playing competitive basketball.
It's true. Washington has lost six games in a row by the combined deficit of 14 points.
You can also offer the bench as a scapegoat, if you'd like.
Butler hasn't been as good as he was the past few years and Arenas is still getting back his legs, but the Wizards' top four players have been asked to play the majority of minutes in their games because of the ineffectiveness of their bench. Last night, the substitution of Andray Blatche for Haywood allowed the Kings to torch the Wizards' interior defense. Meanwhile, the substitutions of Nick Young/Earl Boykins/Randy Foye for Gilbert Arenas made the Washington offense a one-dimensional jump-shooting outfit that struggled to get to the free throw line or get rebounds. It was ugly.
The divide between the starters and the reserves was at its worst in the Clippers loss on Monday night. Not one of the five starters had a plus/minus of below +4 (Haywood) while Arenas (+11) and Butler (+16) provided significant lead-swings while they were on the court. But the Wizards still lost due to the poor play of Young (-9), Blatche (-11), Boykins (-13), and most damningly Dominic McGuire, who watched the Wizards get outscored by 19 points in the nine minutes he played.
So feel free to point to the competitiveness of the games or the poor play from the bench.
In the end, though, excuses don't hide this: The Wizards are one of the worst teams in the NBA. Period.