Perhaps it’s to be expected when you’re 0-8, but the Washington Wizards are not only the only NBA team without a win, they are turning into a modern day soap opera.
Following their 21-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, a dreadful performance in which the team shot 34.5 percent, the rumor mill began to swirl around the notion that coach Flip Saunders, and possibly team President Ernie Grunfeld, might need to begin updating their resumes.
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis had a courtside seat for Sunday’s debacle, and despite the positive attitude he always portrays on his blog, “Ted’s Take”, it would be hard to spin what he saw on Sunday as anything but the Wizards worst outing of the season against a team that entered the game with a 2-5 record.
But according to sources with knowledge of the situation, Saunders job appears safe for the moment. Saunders is in the third year of a four-year deal that plays him around $4.25 million a season, money which Leonsis would prefer not to eat.
In addition, sources around the league also conform, to no one’s surprise, that the Wizards aren’t exactly considered an attractive destination for most coaches. There is a dearth of talent on this team, other than John Wall, who is off to a rather mediocre start in his second season.
Wall is shooting 35.1 percent for far this year, and is averaging 6.8 assists and 3.9 turnovers per game. But in fairness to Wall, the entire team is shooting poorly (39.7) percent, and Wall can’t get assists if no one can make a shot.
Adding to the controversy to the Sunday afternoon massacre at Verizon Center was the status of veteran forward Rashard Lewis. Lewis’ name was on the pre-game notes as a starter, but by the time that lineups were passed out, less than an hour before game time, Lewis was listed as out due to a sore right knee.
In a report published by CSN Washington, Lewis sat out the game because of a pre-game fight with assistant coach Sam Cassell, but Lewis and Saunders both deny the CSN story.
“It was just a sore knee,” Lewis said after Wizards practice on Monday.
“My knee has been bothering me, actually both knees have been bothering me. I just took it down to try and get them back healthy. I actually feel a lot better today just because of not playing yesterday.”
“There was no argument at all [between he and Cassell]. I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe because we haven’t won a game yet, somebody’s trying to make up stories or point the finger at somebody, I don’t know.”
“I guess today’s article was that me and Sam got into an argument and I didn’t play because of that. The only reason why I didn’t play is because my knee was sore. Even if I did get into an argument with Sam, I still would have played, regardless of what the argument was about, if we were fighting over a football game, what it was, I still would have played. My job is to come out here and play.”
Lewis was sidelined near the end of last season with tendinitis in his knee, and said he didn’t sit on the Wizard bench during the game because he didn’t bring a sport coat with him to Verizon Center.
“Everybody knows Sam. Sam’s a loud talker, regardless of what he’s talking about, Lewis said.
“If he’s talking to you in a friendly manner, he’s just a loud talker. I don’t know. Somebody must have took it and thought that me and Sam were arguing. Maybe we was just talking. I know at one point, he was talking about how he was playing with the Clippers and I played in Seattle and he busted up [Minnesota Timberwolves guard] Luke Ridnour and was bragging and talking noise.”
“Maybe somebody took it out of [context] that we was arguing, when he was talking about how he killed us when he was playing for the Clippers and I played for the Sonics. I have no idea what’s going on.”
Saunders also denied that a fight took place between the two.
“That’s not true,” Saunders said about the reported fight between Cassell and Lewis.
“Rashard has a sore knee, couldn’t play because of his knee, so I guess there’s a lot of stuff that comes out when things are going bad. I think a lot of times people read too much into situations.”
The drama continues Tuesday night at Verizon Center when the Wizards host the Toronto Raptors.