Maurice Evans had seen enough. Evans hasn’t played a game yet for the Wizards this season, due to a sore right knee. But perhaps being able to see every game from the bench gave Evans the perfect vantage point to what was happening on the court. After watching the team get of to a franchise-worst 0-6 start, Evans felt it was time to try and stop the bleeding.
Evans, the Wizards’ player representative, called a players-only meeting Thursday before the team held practice.
“It was just enough of dancing around the issues, enough of going through the motions,” he said. “It’s just time for us to make a change. We’re going to hold each other accountable, and you’re going to see a different team out there [against the Knicks on Friday].
“It’s one thing to go through a rough stretch, it’s another thing to truly lack an identity,” Evans said. “Everyone has to earn playing time here. We have to be real with ourselves. The sense of entitlement here, I’ve never seen before, and we have to come to these guys and [say] ‘start earning things’. Earn your way into the rotation, earn your way onto the floor. You earn your minutes by being productive.”
Evans believes it’s time to take the focus and the speculation away from the coaching staff and management and put it back where it belongs — on the players.
“We have to look internally as well and find out, who are our leaders? Who are we trying to go to when we need a bucket? Is it Dray [Andray Blatche], is it Nick [Young], is it John [Wall], Jordan [Crawford]? So those are the questions I posed to them and things that we have to know going forward if we’re going to win games, and more importantly, if we’re ever going to compete for anything real.”
Evans, who signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2001 as an undrafted free agent, has played for seven NBA franchises during his 10-year career. The 33-year-old swingman has been on playoff teams his entire career until being traded to the Wizards last season, and he understands how winning franchises operate.
“You can tell just in our actions the guys are competing, and they want to get better, and they want to win, as you can see when we were up by 21 against New Jersey, or when we fight down from 20 to get back in a ball game,” Evans said.
“But one thing goes wrong and we’re so fragile because we’re not on the same page. A lot of people look to me for leadership, but I’m not in the rotation right now. We need leaders that going to be on the floor, that are going to be making decisions.
“When it’s those five guys that are out there for the last few possessions of the game, we need someone to step up and take control, not only vocally, but to lead those guys and give them some confidence.”
Evans said that matchups need to dictate the play calls, not random circumstances, which is one of the things a young team has to learn.
“We’re just battling ourselves, and it’s so frustrating to watch,” Evans said. “There’s so much potential and talent here. We’re trying to establish core values and get back to the basics here.”
Blatche was listening.
“We all pretty much talked it out and basically gave each other roles,” Blatche said. “We’re just trying to hold ourselves accountable. Mo [Evans] brought together to say that the reason [for the 0-6 start] is us. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. We all had a good talk, we all said our peace, and hopefully, all the guys took it in.”