Pregame warmup: Wizards can't 'cheat' to victory

Pregame warmup: Wizards can't 'cheat' to victory
February 12, 2014, 4:00 pm
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Washington Wizards head coach Randy Whittman stands on the sidelines against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. The Grizzlies won 92-89.

(Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)

It's time for a walk down memory lane, Jan. 28 to be precise, when I came to this conclusion about the Wizards heading into All-Star break, which starts after Wednesday's game at the Houston Rockets (CSN, 8 p.m. ET).

They were 21-22 at the time and had a murderer's row of games ahead on the schedule vs. the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs.

And true to form, they played up to the opposition in beating two of those three teams and then played down to a losing team in disarray in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Either Bradley Beal's shot is off, John Wall is having issues with turnovers, the bench can't score or the overall defense has bigger holes than the Titanic and allows good players to morph into great players.

Given their consistent inconsistency, the Wizards are right where they belong. A victory puts them 26-26, which in the context of the East is solid yet still unfulfilling to many, especially if you ask anyone in the front office, or coach Randy Wittman. They're 2-6 in overtime games. 

Not too long ago, things were looking up. Remember when the Wizards won those two games vs. the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat in between last month, when they amassed a three-game winning streak from Jan. 13-17? 

Never mind the victories they should've had against winning teams such as the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night, since that time the Wizards have been 2-4 against teams they should've run off the court. They've lost vs. Detroit Pistons, vs. Boston Celtics, at Utah Jazz and vs. Cavaliers. They lost twice overall to the Pistons and Cavaliers this season. And this doesn't include the Dec. 6 debacle when the Wizards fell at home to the Milwaukee Bucks, by far the NBA's worst team then and now. 

"You can't cheat the game. We cheated the game," Wittman said after they lost 92-89 in Memphis, which was missing its starting backcourt of Mike Conley and Tony Allen because of injuries. "We've talked about this over and over again. Until our guys decided not tot take nights off, quarters off -- we took a half off. We continually do it. A team is short-handed, we don't respect the game. That's the bottom line."

Martell Webster and Al Harrington have said it. Marcin Gortat is fed up with being embarrassed. So is Nene, but after he misstepped earlier this season by blaming younger players on the roster for their problems he has been mum. But his non-verbal communication makes it impossible to hide.  

They've never won more than three games in a row. They're basically a .500 team home and away. Winning or losing tonight vs. Houston won't make or break the season. The Wizards will get back to .500. 

Getting several games over .500 and staying there is the trick. That requires a consistency, and heart, that they've yet to show.