When talking about the 2011-12 Washington Wizards, one can take several different angles in analyzing the squad. Most, if not all, would be negative views lamenting the team for being selfish, immature, and having a low basketball I.Q. All would be accurate and have been well documented for the past several days as the team has dropped to a league worst 0-8 record.
With the season over before it even really got started, fans and analysts have already identified the problem areas, so let's take a look to how they can be fixed.
Responsibility and accountability starts at the top. Head coach Flip Saunders has lost the attention and respect of his players. It is time for him to go. Make no mistake about it however, Saunders is an excellent coach with a track record that speaks for itself. But you have to remember that he was hired to coach a veteran team on the cusp of becoming a perennial playoff threat. After arriving, the big three of Gilbert Arenas-Antawn Jamison-Caron Butler was blown up through trades thanks to the infamous gun incident among other things. A rebuild is not what Saunders signed up for, nor is it what he is known for. He is in over his head and the Wizards will need to look elsewhere for a replacement.
To control a team full of young, talented but egotistical players, the best solution is an up and coming assistant coach with prior playing experience. The name that immediately jumps out is Brian Shaw. Not only did he have a successful career in the NBA, including championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he also had the benefit of learning under the guidance of hall of fame head coach Phil Jackson. To take it a step further, he played the same position as Washington's franchise point guard John Wall. Relating to Wall and helping his development is key to the Wizards' turnaround. Other possible candidates would include former champion, Mario Elie. A young and fiery coach is what Washington desperately needs.
Second, the Wizards need to blow up the nucleus of Andray Blatche, Nick Young, and Rashard Lewis. Blatche is a selfish player who does not give 100%, or 50% on some nights. He has the talent to be a 20-10 guy but shows less passion and effort than anyone in a Wizards uniform.
Young likes to score, and that's it. He doesn't contribute on defense. He doesn't make his teammates better.
Lewis is a veteran with an enormous contract that doesn't want to be here.
There are trades in the league that can be made. Sure, Blatche's value isn't as high as it has been before, but a package of Blatche and Young for Paul Millsap, for example, is a place to start. Millsap is looking over his shoulder with Derrick Favors emerging as the power forward of the future for the Jazz. Packaging a good change up young player like Blatche as well as adding depth to their two guard spot would be something Utah would consider - not to mention, Young has an expiring contract.
The point isn't just about this trade, it is that there are trades out there to be made. Washington needs to explore them.
There are only two players that Washington should look to build around - John Wall and JaVale McGee. Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton and Roger Mason Jr. are players with good work ethic though not the greatest talent, but should also be kept around. Washington must rid itself of the malcontent players that are weighing the team down.
Chemistry wins championships - not sheer talent. It is why the tandem of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins (another headcase) did not get past the elite eight in college hoops. The Detroit Pistons were not more talented than the Shaq-Kobe Lakers but won because they had a cohesive unit where roles were defined and accepted. Look at any champion in any sport and you will find team cohesiveness as one of the greatest qualities.
As currently constructed, Washington puts five guys on the floor and all five want to score and be stars. It doesn't work that way - never has, never will.
Washington can make the decision to part ways with the negative minded players now, bring in character guys with maybe less talent but greater work ethic, hire the right coach for this rebuild, and then and only then have a chance at successfully building a franchise to succeed long term. The current model, much to the disappointment of owner Ted Leonsis, will not work.
This is not the Washington Capitals. This is a team with more ego than talent, more brawn than brains, and more bad guys than good.
The clock on Wall's free agency is ticking, and if Washington does not make the necessary moves today instead of tomorrow or next week, they will be left at the altar much the same way Cleveland was - only without the playoff runs and NBA Finals appearance.
New coach, new players, new attitude - NOW.