Despite losing two in a row, and falling back below .500, the Wizards are in a different place right now -- or so they insist -- than in the beginning of the season when they lost seven of nine games and had a players-only meeting to right the ship. Instead of a rebellion after coach Randy Wittman called them out for playing "selfish" for the umpteenth time this weekend, they've accepted his diagnosis.
How they respond will be determined by Sunday's game vs. the Golden State Warriors at Verizon Center (CSN, 6 p.m. ET).
"You could see our energy just wasn't there. You could see we weren't bought in together as a unit. Like he said last night, we were kind of selfish in our body language," Bradley Beal said Saturday, after film study of Friday's 101-88 home loss to the Toronto Raptors. "We haven't been that team that we were (Friday) night for a long time."
Wittman was certain that the Wizards (14-16) got the message.
"It was very blatantly evident on the film. They walked out of there and we had a hell of a competitive practice," Wittman said. "I didn't see it coming. Sometimes you can sense it. Sluggish shootaround. Locker room is not electric before the game. You can sense sometimes that. This was a total blindside. ... They've got to see it and agree for those corrections to be made."
Trevor Ariza, who was ejected in the third quarter vs. Toronto, acknowledged the letdown. "We saw what we definitely need to improve on because film doesn't lie. We can see where we had a drop-off in the way we play," he said. "It's like night and day. Film doesn't lie. It can't trick you. It can't tell you no lie. It explains itself."
For Beal, in his second season, this represents progress. It was a pretty loose practice session considering how badly the Wizards have played in the last two games, which included a home loss to the Dallas Mavericks, too. They weren't always good at handling criticism, especially from each other.
"You have to voice your opinion. On this team, we've had several meetings about it. We have to be able to accept constructive criticism. If you feel as though your teammate isn't playing hard you should be able to call that teammate out without him retaliating. He should be able to accept that and move on from it. We're not arguing. We're not saying you're playing bad. We need you to be able to play the way you're capable of playing. We have to be accepting of that," Beal said. "In the beginning of the year we didn't (do that). Sometimes we argued back and forth. Like coach said, it seems like we were kind of selfish. ... You should always have that leader on the team to be able to call you out. And you should be able to call that leader out as well."