As much as the end of a calendar year lends itself to making New Year’s resolutions, it’s also a time to look back and brag or try to forget what you did right and wrong over the last 12 months.
Over the summer, I predicted the Bucks would become the next appointment-viewing team on NBA League Pass, followed by a prediction that the Wizards would make the 2010 playoffs. “If the core guys stay healthy, a seventh or eighth seed isn’t just a lofty goal, it’s a likely scenario.”
A lot of people got on me for low-balling the Wizards, insisting they’d be a top four or five seed easily. Now a couple of months into the season, Washington is 10-20, last place in the Southeast Division. They’re two and a half games out of the final playoff spot in the East, so while the postseason isn’t totally out of the picture, a 4th-5th seed sounds kind of ridiculous, right?
Anyway, after last night’s loss to the Thunder, in which Kevin Durant dropped 35 and OKC scored 110 points, Washington coach Flip Saunders has seen enough. From the Washington Post:
Saunders tried everything he could to get the Wizards to slow down Oklahoma City — switching from a zone defense to man-to-man — and after his team lost its third consecutive game, 110-98, he came to a conclusion: His players cannot stop anyone.
“This team needs a mind-set change,” Saunders said. “This team, for the last five years has been known as one of the worst defensive teams in the league. We could take five guys in this room out here and we could have a chance. I think I can go out there on the floor and take anybody on the team, one-on-one at  years old, and drive right around them. They can’t guard anybody.”
Saunders unleashed his most scathing evaluation of his team after the Wizards dropped to 10-20, far below the expectations of a team that still boasts three former all-stars in Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. That trio combined to score 60 points against the Thunder, but Saunders has seen enough of his offensive-minded team to realize that names and reputations don’t equate to results, especially on the end of the floor that counts. And, this team is not getting the job done, even with the playoffs within range in the weak Eastern Conference.
“I didn’t come here to make the playoffs,” Saunders said. “I came here to win a championship. We need a total mind-set change about how we’re going to do that. Until we have that — and that’s from everybody, staff and players and everybody is committed to that — we’re going to have games like this where we’re going to hang around, hang around and then when it comes times to make stops and if you don’t have an ability to do it, you’re going to lose games.”
The coach added that nobody’s spot in the rotation is safe (“If guys don’t like it, I’m fine, because that’s the way it’s going to be.”), and center Brendan Haywood referenced a play in the fourth quarter where Durant drove baseline for an uncontested dunk, saying guys should be getting hard fouls in that situation.
Of course Arenas had his say, and he went in on his team as hard as Saunders:
“Right now, we stink—and we’re showing it,” Arenas was quoted by the Associated Press. “You can sit here and talk about it every day, every game, every loss. But until we can turn it around, we stink.”