- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

When the door to the Washington Wizards‘ locker room opened later than usual Monday night, the players were warned outsiders were about to enter. There were pockets of discussion going on along each side of the team’s season-long home. At 1-5, nothing good was being talked about. There was no banter, only irritation.

The Wizards had again lost a game which they controlled at various points. They had two good quarters and two bad quarters. The result was allowing another 114 points, which pushed them down to 20th in the league in points allowed. The point total is not an issue of increased possession totals because of a ramped up pace. It’s because of defense devoid of consistency and, at time, ambition.

The piling on to these woes comes from the rest of the schedule this week. The Boston Celtics arrive Wednesday. The NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are in the District on Friday. Saturday, the Wizards play their second set of back-to-back games this season, this time with the back half in Chicago. At 1-5, Washington is ahead of one team in the Eastern Conference: the winless Philadelphia 76ers.The immediate future is not set up for mercy.

“Nobody is happy,” Bradley Beal said after Monday’s game. “Everyone’s emotions are a little high. Everybody is mad. We are 1-5. We did not expect it to be like this. We just have to figure it out.”

The errors on defense are multiple and derived from offensive swoons plus mental mistakes. Miss a shot, lackadaisical defense can follow. Step up to Houston guard James Harden, one of the game’s best scorers driving to his left, and use a defensive stance that invites him to go left instead of cutting off that angle. Sag too far inside when the shooter in the corner is Houston’s Trevor Ariza, known for making corner 3-pointers his entire career, including during his stint as a Wizard.

Tuesday, the Wizards eschewed physical practice in favor of brain sharpening. The team watched film to expose and discuss the mistakes. Several members of the team shot around on the practice floor afterward. Brooks chose film Tuesday for two reasons: He feels the errors can be corrected by better decisions and understanding. He also is playing a long game with practice time, using it to manage the physical well-being of his players during the course of the season. Brooks is not only aware of time on the floor during games. He’s in-tune with off-day needs, as well.

In addition, he pressed another message.

“Urgency,” Brooks said. “We need to play with urgency. We have moving parts. A lot of new pieces.. But we still have to play better. We have to figure out how to play better.

“Going back and watching our film, it’s all correctable. But we can’t keep saying that and not have it transfer on the floor. I’ve been on teams where we were 1-5 and we had no hope and we were getting blown out. That’s not the case here. Every game we’re competitive. We’re in fourth-quarter games and we just have to figure out ways to turn it around and do it collectively as a group.”

Two negatives for Boston (3-3) could help the wobbling Wizards. Center Al Horford, whom Washington pursued with force in the offseason when he was a free agent, will not play Wednesday. Neither will Jae Crowder, a roughneck small forward. Still, the Celtics, unlike the Wizards, are known for depth, making them more capable of absorbing the absence of two starters.

Later in the week, Washington will have its own personnel detriment to deal with. All-Star point guard John Wall is expected to sit out one of the two back-to-back games that close a stretch of three games in four days. Wall sat out the first back-to-back set of games this season when Washington played at home against Atlanta then traveled to Orlando. It won the game Wall played, then lost a tight game in Orlando.

If there is solace for Brooks up to this point, it is the team’s work ethic.

“You have to do your work every day, and our guys are still doing that,” Brooks said. “They were here early. We had a great film session. They came and got some extra shots after. When you have a group of guys that are not together, you won’t have that. I’ve been in a situation where we did not have a good start. But we worked together every day and we turned things around. We’re going to turn it around.”

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