The stark tone of Trevor Ariza after Thursday's practice said it all for the Wizards. With the Indiana Pacers on tap Friday and the Charlotte Bobcats on their heels for the No. 6 seed in the East, there isn't room for error. Of course, his speech was figurative.
"You already know what's going on. That's something you can't hide. That's something you can't run from. You know that they're right there," Ariza said of the Bobcats, one of the NBA's hottest teams that entered the day just 1.5 games back of the No. 7 spot. "They have no problem stepping on our throats so we have to do the same thing to all these other teams because at this time that's what you got to do. You got to be cutthroat. You've got to try to take everybody's head off."
Similar to what happened when LeBron James drove into the lane and knocked out Pacers center Roy Hibbert with an elbow to the chin Wednesday night?
The Wizards (36-35), who will not practice Friday morning before playing the Pacers, have lost six of their last nine games and have a back-to-back set with the Atlanta Hawks coming to Verizon Center on Saturday. Then it's a pivotal meeting at the Bobcats on Monday.
"We were all pretty much locked in today. There wasn’t a lot of goofing around," Ariza said about practice. "I don’t feel pressure. I look at pressure as a state of mind. If you allow yourself to get out of a positive state of mind, that’s when you’re liable to mess up or whatever but I just try to stay locked in to what we’re doing. … That’s what we’re all doing."
Ariza, who won an NBA championship with the L.A. Lakers, called a players-only meeting when the Wizards began the season by losing seven of nine games. He still won't admit he was the catalyst for that, but he was. He doesn't believe that's needed now which is a small sign of progress.
"Individually, we all know where we lack or what we're not getting. We all have to give more to our team, to each other. We're not doing it to the fullest. Some things don't need to be said when it's already understood," he said. "That was understood. That's a good thing about our team. Even though a lot of our players are young they understand when we're not giving our full effort."