- - Monday, November 5, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Does that also apply to watching the same thing over and over and anticipating a dissimilar outcome? Have the Wizards made us insane?

We’re about to find out.

The team with three max players, a revamped bench, and a recovering-from-injury center with Hall-of-Fame numbers, is off to a slow start. The defense has been porous, leading to concern about effort and commitment. Fingers have been pointed and frustrations have surfaced. Questions about the core’s ability to get over the hump have lingered.

In other words, more of the same ol’ same ol’.

Washington broke into the win column for just the second time this season with a 108-95 victory Sunday against New York. The Wizards had lost five consecutive games and seven of their first eight in typical, head-scratching fashion.

Thank goodness the Knicks didn’t play the previous night; teams visiting D.C. on the end of back-to-backs are 3-0 this season.

At 2-7, the Wizards officially qualify as underachievers. But we’ve seen that before, too, especially in last season’s record against non-winning teams (19-19). The early schedule this season has been challenging, including a five-game road trip and just two opponents below .500.

Theoretically, the Wizards should be able to fatten up over the next 14 days, with six consecutive games against squads with losing records. Then again, the competition will have heightened expectations, too. Seeing “Washington” on the schedule isn’t like seeing Toronto or Boston or other teams atop the Eastern Conference standings.

Through Sunday, only the Cavaliers and Bulls had records worse than the Wizards.

Beating the Knicks gave Washington a much-needed boost. You know the season is going poorly when observers suggest dismantling your team with more than 70 games left. New York (3-7) allowed everyone to talk about something else for a change, especially the defense. The Wizards entered yielding a league-high 13.3 three-pointers but limited the Knicks to 5-of-27 shooting behind the arc.

“We challenged,” coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “We treated everybody as a hot player, no matter who he was. … Don’t take this like we haven’t been talking about that the first seven or eight games. We’ve been talking about it, but we did it tonight.

“It’s a start,” he said. “It was a good win. When you have a losing streak, the games become heavier and heavier. It was nice to get a win.”

A quick road trip to face Dallas, Orlando and Miami is next, followed by a five-game homestand that features Orlando, Cleveland and Brooklyn. If Washington performs to reasonable expectations against minimal teams, more celebrations should be in store like Sunday, when New York became the first opponent this season held under 100 points.

“No disrespect to the Knicks, but they’re a young team trying to find themselves,” forward Markieff Morris told reporters. “I think we’re supposed to do that. When you do that to the better offensive teams, I think that’s when it will count.”

Brooks said Washington’s defensive performance was most pleasing to him. But he also noted the distribution of field goal attempts among the starters (Kelly Oubre replaced injured Otto Porter in the lineup). From the top of the box score, Oubre took eight shots, Morris had 14, Dwight Howard had nine, Bradley Beal had 14 and John Wall had 16.

“We need the shot chart just like it is now,” Brooks said. “That’s when we’re at our best, when everybody is moving and everybody is touching the ball. We still haven’t really made a lot of threes and our assist numbers are down, but we are moving the ball and we just have to keep getting good shots when we have shots like that.”

The problem is the Wizards’ tendency to figure things out in fits and spurts. The thing they do most consistently is identify what’s wrong and describe the remedy:

Play smarter and harder. Stop taking other teams for granted and stop thinking so highly of yourself. Show more heart and passion. Play together.

They know WHAT to do. But actually doing it has proven difficult, at least for long stretches and when needed most.

So the same frustrating habits continue over and over, and we keep waiting — and hoping — for a different result, say, a 50-win season and trip to the conference finals.

Maybe it’s just me. But this is beginning to feel crazy.

Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.


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