Just a few seasons ago the Washington Wizards may have been “The Greatest Team That Almost Was“; a club that had lots of talent, good chemistry and a good rapport with their bench boss Eddie Jordan. The club was built around three All-Stars; guards Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas as well as forward Antawn Jamison. Unfortunately for fans of the Wizards, the team was beset by injuries that precluded them from ever being a serious threat in the Playoffs; as they were eliminated each year in the first round.
Washington decided to make some changes and they started by dismissing Jordan and hiring former Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons head coach Flip Saunders to take charge of the squad. The team started off the season healthy and for a while it appeared the club was heading in the right direction. That would radically change in December of that season as Arenas brought a pistol into the Wizards locker room; which led to him being suspended for the rest of the campaign. Soon after the Wizards would trade Caron Butler to the Dallas Mavericks and Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers; sending Washington into rebuild mode.
Although the Wizards have added a lot of young talent to their roster in the past two seasons; so far the results have been less than satisfactory. Washington has started off the season losing their first six straight games; which has led to grumbling from the fans as well as the players themselves.
Thursday Wizards veteran forward Maurice Evans had seen enough and according to the “Associated Press” he assembled his teammates for a players only meeting. The forward who is in his ninth season in the Association told reporters that he was not pleased with the way the younger players on the club have been conducting themselves. Evans said “We have to be real with ourselves. The sense of entitlement that’s here sometimes, I’ve never seen before.”
The veteran who has played with seven different teams during his NBA career told media members that getting things out in the open seemed to be received well by all who were at the meeting. Evans said “I almost got a sense of relief from the players that it was finally said. It was almost like something that was taboo or Pandora’s box and no one’s never really touching or addressing the issue. It was just enough dancing around the issues, enough of going through the motions. You could tell just in our actions that the guys are competing and they want to get better and they want to win … but one thing goes wrong and we’re so fragile at that point that we’re not on the same page.”
If Evans is correct and a “sense of entitlement” is prevalent among the Wizards players; the question then becomes who is to blame for the perception that the players have? Does it stem from a lack of leadership from Saunders? If it does can he turn this team around and instill a mindset in his players that will put them all on the same page?
Although Saunders had success with the T-Wolves and the Pistons; there have been very few bright spots since he took over the reins in Washington. Historically players only meetings do not bode well for the coach in the NBA. Unless the club starts getting on the winning track soon; Saunders could be the second coach this season to get his walking papers. The Sacramento Kings dismissed their bench boss Paul Westphal on Thursday following a 2-5 start. They have elevated assistant coach Keith Smart to interim coach; and the team won their first game under his leadership on Thursday as they beat the Milwaukee Bucks 103-100.