The Wizards’ 118-92 loss to San Antonio wasn’t always destined to be ugly. Apart from the Bobcats loss on Nov. 13, Washington had been in every game they’d played this season. But there was no doubt facing the Spurs would be awkward. I’ll show you how with these four observations:
Nene’s absence was foreshadowed, and that made for a huge void. Wizards coach Randy Wittman might’ve been reluctant to accept the fact that the big Brazilian wasn’t going to play on Sunday, a day after he’d played in both overtimes Washington’s heartbreaking loss to Charlotte. On Monday he was more accepting before the Spurs game.
“This is really his training camp. He’s only had a handful of practices. The games are really his practice, also,” Wittman said, announcing Nene as a game-time decision. But Nene didn’t warm up and never even made it to the bench.
Wittman then decided not to play Shaun Livingston, even though Livingston was dressed, once the game got out of hand. Livingston has a banged up right shoulder from diving on the floor against the Bobcats, a play in which he took a hard face plant on the court that loosened one of his teeth.
The lineup changed, again. Certainly it needed to, with Jan Vesely moving back to the bench at the very least. But Kevin Seraphin and Emeka Okafor had played just seven minutes together total – all against Charlotte – coming into the game. Losing Livingston tightened the rotation more. Even if the matchups were intentioned correctly, sustaining a high level of play against the Spurs was a lot to ask of a team that had played two emotional overtime games in a row.
“If we want to be a great team, then we’re going to have to push through it,” rookie Bradley Beal said. “I think mentally is what’s killing us. Once we get down, if a team makes a run, we’re like, ‘Aw, man, the game’s over.’ You just have to keep playing, keep battling, and you just have to fight through it. It’s adversity. You go through it every single game.”
The game also started in dubious fashion, and even Andray Blatche is now taking shots at the team that is still paying the bulk of his salary. Wittman joked before the game about having former Spurs assistant coach Don Newman on his staff.
“We’ve got the whole game plan tonight,” Wittman said. “If we don’t win this one, it’s not on me. I ain’t takin’ the rap on this one. It’s Newman’s fault.”
Newman, who came to Washington after seven seasons in San Antonio, greeted his former players just prior to tip. But when he went to hug Danny Green, it came at the expense of Trevor Ariza, who was coming over to Newman and expecting pregame affection. Instead, Ariza got edged out, and he was left with spread arms and a quizzical look as Newman turned back to the Wizards bench.
As for Blatche, he jokingly took a swipe at his former club in Brooklyn prior to the Nets showdown with the New York Knicks. After the game, an overtime win for the Nets in which had two points and one assist in seven minutes on the floor, Blatche said via Twitter: “Feels good to be part of a winning organization.”
“Idc [I don’t care] wat a wiz fan say yes I was outta shape Ill give yal that but no body n that organization tried to help me,” Blatche continued, which isn’t exactly kind to a team that gave him a $35 million extension.
At 0-12, the Wizards don’t have much of a retort for Blatche, and in fact appear to be growing numb. While Martell Webster was embarrassed, Wittman had no discernible reaction to the Spurs loss, using almost all of his postgame press conference to talk about San Antonio, not his own team.
“It’s another loss,” he said. “Learn from it.”
Even if it was expected, it’s hard to imagine that the Wizards brass will remain so accepting for much longer.