During a conference call held on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for Turner Sports’ coverage of NBA All-Star Weekend, TNT NBA analysts Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Smith and Steve Kerr all weighed in on what ails the Wizards, and what they need to do to improve
“The downside for Washington is that you have a lot of young talent with no veteran leadership,” O’Neal said.
“I think if you had one or two veteran players that could show John Wall the way, they could be better.”
O’Neal has praised JaVale McGee’s talent and athleticism in the past, but admits that McGee’s inconsistent play is frustrating to watch.
“As a big man, I watch JaVale McGee and I see the potential that he has,” O’Neal said.
“And at other times I watch him, and I’m like ‘what is he doing? Who’s teaching this kid what’s going on?’ I think if they had a little bit more veteran leadership, they could start to turn it around. They wouldn’t be as good as Atlanta or Boston or Miami or Chicago, but I think they could start to turn it around.”
Kerr, who was the president and general manager for the Phoenix Suns from 2007 to 2010, agreed with O’Neal; the team needs veteran help.
“They’ve got so many young guys and a lot of talent, but there’s very little leadership on that team,” Kerr said.
“[Wizards President] Ernie Grunfeld tried to address that a couple of years ago when he traded the fifth pick for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, but neither guy is there anymore. Neither guy was effective enough to really change anything, so they’re in one of those ruts that organizations get in.”
“They were hoping that Wall would be the one to lead them out of it, but it’s going to take more than that. They’re going to have another high [lottery] pick this year; they’ll be able to add another young piece, but it sure seems like they’re going to need to at some point package some of those young guys and bring in some veteran players.”
Grunfeld and owner Ted Leonsis have stated that developing the team’s young players is the priority, but all three Turner analysts made the Wizards team sound like a classroom without a teacher.
“Two years ago, when they were acquiring talent, I thought they would be where Memphis and OKC [Oklahoma City] were two or three years ago,” Smith said.
“We thought, ‘hey, this team could get into the playoffs’, and then, you never know, with adding some pieces to the talent they have. But you look at their record this year, and I thought they would at least be at .500.”
“But it doesn’t look like they have a lot of leadership or a lot of direction. That’s what they’re missing.”