This is part of the reason why the Wizards were quick to snap up Al Harrington when he was a free agent last summer. He could see they weren't in the right frame of mind at practice Tuesday, after blowing a 16-point lead to the Charlotte Bobcats that would've clinched their first playoff berth since 2008. So the 16-year veteran took it upon himself to send a message in a post-practice huddle.
"One game away from our goal," Harrington said he told the group. "We've got eight games. We just need one win. I just pretty much want the guys to take the pressure off themselves. Last night was a tough loss. The biggest thing is I didn't want is to come in here and let this to spiral down the wrong direction, for guys to forget about it and let's go on and take care of business tomorrow night (vs. Boston Celtics).
"You lose a game like that it really can affect your team. I saw it in the guys. Everybody was kind of zapped today. No energy. It wasn't there."
Harrington, Andre Miller and Drew Gooden, all of whom have vast playoff experience, have been a large part of why the Wizards (38-36) have pulled out some wins recently as they keep a shaky hold on the No. 6 seed. This trio was responsible for the early lead in when they helped score 40 points in the second quarter Monday. They're still two games ahead of Charlotte, but they trail in the season series 2-1 which is a crucial tiebreaker.
"When we came together for Media Day, what we said was playoffs," said Harrington, the only one of the trio that was with the team in preseason. "We didn't say two seed, three seed, none of that. We just wanted to be one of the eight. We've got that opportunity. We've got to cherish the moment. Try to have fun with it. This is going to be John (Wall) and those guys' first time in the playoffs. It's about getting it and once you get there you can grow from there. We've put ourselves in position. To me, that's a huge accomplishment for this team. For anybody to downplay that, it's not being fair to us."
Fall to the No. 7 seed, and the Wizards will be faced with the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat in the first round instead.
"If you look at the history of the league, young teams are inconsistent. That's just the way it is. You're asking guys in their second and third years, fourth years, to lead the team. That's hard. That's a lot to ask," Harrington said. "It's a process to go from a bad team to a mediocre team. It's a lot of work. To go from a mediocre team to a good team, where we don't just sit and talk about playoffs but we talk about winning championships and beating Miami that's another step. ... People need to start giving this team a little bit of props."