It’s my blog, I do what I want.
1. Predictably, Marcin Gortat’s assessment of Washington’s bench has now circled the internet and become something much larger than it ever ought to have been. Let’s take a look at exactly what Gortat said, via NBA.com:
“We need energy. We need effort. We’ve got to make shots,” Gortat rattled off in rapid succession when asked what the Wizards can do, at a dismal 2-7, to improve. “I think there’s a lot of things we can do better. I think right now, as far as I know, I think we’ve got one of the worst benches in the league right now.”
OK. So. What he did not say is boy I sure think our bench is garbage, or I am sick of our bench guys letting us down. Here, again, is what he said:
“I think right now, as far as I know, I think we’ve got one of the worst benches in the league right now.”
Maybe I am being a literalist. I don’t know. To me, it takes a pretty big leap of disingenuousness to depict this statement as an opinion. It seems perfectly clear to me that he is talking in terms of production, and is not rendering an opinion on the actual players on the Wizards bench. What the hell else does as far as I know mean, if not a reference to some factual measure of production? Could he be uncertain of his opinion? As far as I, Marcin Gortat, know, Marcin Gortat thinks our bench guys are a bunch of bums. That’s stupid. It takes a lazy, dishonest reading of his comment to interpret it as him trashing his teammates.
2. Beyond that, I am pretty well exhausted of candid statements made by players being treated as starting guns for a dysfunction scavenger hunt. Do the Wizards have one of the very worst benches in the league? Yes. Are the players on the team aware that the Wizards have one of the very worst benches in the league? Of course. Aren’t we all in agreement—all of us, literally every single goddamn one of us—that the Wizards need improved play from the bench? Why, then, do we consider it a sign of internal dysfunction if this topic is broached in the open? The reporter knows bench play is a major problem. The player knows bench play is a major problem. The reporter asks the player where the team needs to improve, and then, if the player gives a complete and truthful answer—literally describing reality as we have all observed it—the reporter turns right around and says Marcin Gortat just trashed his teammates.
This is such a fucking ambush. I hate it. It ripples outward from there, to the point where Tas Melas of The Starters spent a portion of their Tuesday Twitter Show describing the Wizards as a dysfunctional team right on the verge of a meltdown. This ignores completely that the Wizards have played hard and hung tough in two road games without John Wall, and that they’ve had substantial leads in most of their games, and that there are no signs of an impending meltdown that are not the result of half-assed interpretations of otherwise innocuous statements.
3. According to a few different assessments, the Wizards have had one of the hardest schedules to date across the NBA. This site says it’s been the 6th hardest. This site says it’s been the 8th hardest. This site says it’s been the very hardest. A team with a new bench, a new head coach, a new offense, a new defense, key players missing action due to injury, and against one of the hardest schedules in the league—you mean to tell me they’ve struggled??? I LITERALLY CANNOT BELIEVE THIS.
Look. A team that starts a season 2-7 is unlikely to be very good at any point in that season. The odds are strongly in favor of the Wizards continuing to disappoint. But it is way too early for the kind of dire prognostications and foretellings of doom that are currently circling this team. Maybe give them a chance to build some momentum over their upcoming and relatively lighter stretch of games before you start shoveling dirt over them, know what I mean?
4. I need to circle back to Gortat, for a moment. The gentlemen on The Starters briefly considered whether a player of his relative stature—not his team’s star, and not a locker room leader—should be the one making these kinds of public statements about the team, the implication being that, because John Wall is not the one drawing attention for criticizing his teammates, there must be a vacuum of leadership on the team.
Think, for a moment, about the insane, bloodthirsty dishonesty of using the content of a player’s statements as signs of dysfunction, and then pointing to the fact that his teammate didn’t make those statements as further signs of dysfunction. I like The Starters a lot, but listening to them talk about the Wizards makes me grind my teeth away to nothing.
This is another reason why sports fans roll their eyes at basketbloggers. There’s this great clamoring among them to make the game something more than the sum of its constituent parts—some microcosm of repressed American virtue, or a quant insurgency, or a big organic globule from which one extracts what one needs—and not just, you know, a cool and good game played by really large, really talented people.
The Wizards are not losing because they dislike playing together. They dislike playing together because they are losing! It’s right there in front of your face! They are losing because they have Trej Börk and Marcus Thornton and—God help me—Jason Smith playing important roles on a nightly or near-nightly basis. They are losing because John Wall can’t play every night while he recovers from two knee surgeries, and Bradley Beal can’t play every night because he is made of dandelions and balsa wood, and Ian Mahinmi hasn’t touched the floor this season.
The Wizards are losing because they are talent poor. Being talent poor is a fine reason to lose. A side effect of losing is not feeling very happy about competing 82 times in six months before you are allowed to go on vacation. The world will soon be a much worse place if all the losing players on all the losing teams adopt a put-on sunny disposition and dump a blob of platitudes on you whenever you ask them why, like a squid blasting a cloud of ink at a predator and hightailing it out of sight.
5. Oh, right. Marcin Gortat. No, Marcin Gortat is not a steady veteran who knows and accepts his role on the team and just happens to blurt out inconvenient truths every four months. He is a prima donna who requires post touches, else his feelings get hurt. He is also a lousy post player who hasn’t pump-faked twice in a game in the entire time he’s been a member of the Wizards, and keeping him from becoming a whiny baby by feeding him post touches actively undermines the offense, just as surely as feeding Bradley Beal side pick-and-rolls does. Maybe this is the cost of doing business. Maybe, too, this is a cost teams who are talent rich can bear.
But Gortat was right about the bench! The bench has been awful. Soon they will improve. How much they improve will determine whether the Wizards make this season interesting.
OK! Thanks for reading.