Hanrahan: Saunders has lost Wizards

Hanrahan: Saunders has lost Wizards
December 9, 2010, 5:04 pm
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Thursday December 9, 2010 12:06 p.m.

By Frank Hanrahan


The Wizards have been full of excuses lately as to why they are losing games, but there's no excuse for what happened on Wednesday night in Sacramento as the Wizards got drubbed by an equally bad Kings' team, 116-91. Long-suffering Wizards' fans have seen this script before as the final game of a West Coast road trip usually doesn't end well for the visitors. Not only didn't it end well, but it was so embarrassing that it makes me wonder whether coach Flip Saunders has already lost this team just 21 games into the season? Evidenced by the sorry play at Sacramento, I'd say so.

Sure, rookie guard John Wall and forward Andray Blatche didn't play because of injuries and the team used yet another starting lineup, but to go out and just get annihilated by a similarly desperate Sacramento team is inexcusable. Of all the games not to show up to, this one doesn't make any sense. How could they not be up for a game that represented a ripe opportunity to get their first road win of the year? I have no answer but I do know this: This loss is emblematic of the sad state of where this franchise is right now.

So who's to blame for this debacle -- and I'm not just talking about the Kings game but the team's play as a whole this season? Certainly, you can point the finger at the players for their inconsistent play, focus and preparation but in my mind the blame clearly falls on the shoulders of GM Ernie Grunfeld and coach Flip Saunders, the architects of this team. It is their responsibility to have the right players in place who will be focused and prepared and who take pride in being a professional basketball player. It is easy to argue right now that they have failed in putting the right people in a Washington uniform.

These two gentlemen's seats have to be getting warmer after the heartless loss at the Kings.

From the outset of the season Grunfeld and Saunders talked rebuild, which to me is code word for, "We are really going to be brutal." And they haven't disappointed. The Wizards are now 6-15 overall and a staggering 0-12 on the road. Just 21 games into the Wizards' season it is glaringly obvious this is already a lost year.

Saunders has constantly harped about not being able to "coach effort," which has been a constant issue from game to game for the Wizards. Saunders is almost admitting that the team is not responding to his leadership because even though I agree with Saunders that you can't coach effort, what you can do is coach a mentality so that your players are ready to give maximum effort. To me, it's easy for a coach to play the blame game and point to lack of effort by his players and not take the responsibility to have his team prepared. Last time I checked, though, that's part of the coach's job to have his team ready. Saunders has not done that up to this point of the season.

The rebuild led by John Wall is a good start but there needs to be more, a whole lot more to get this team competitive again. They are headed for their third straight sub 30-win season. Rebuild or not, that is atrocious and intolerable. With the continued losing, the team becomes more irrelevant by the day.

The way the Wizards are playing, they are just begging for somebody to get fired... and it usually isn't one of the players.