Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers are ending 2012-13 on a snippy note

Kyrie Irving, for a few quick minutes on Wednesday night, was thought to have just about had it with Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott. Following Cleveland’s 113-95 thumping at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets, Elyria Chronicle-Telegram Cavs scribe Rick Noland sent this out:

kyrie on whether scott has lost players: "I think you should ask him. I'm not going to be the one to answer that."

— Rick Noland MG/CT (@RickNoland) April 4, 2013

And that got around quickly. I even re-tweeted it for Ball Don’t Lie’s Twitter account. Could Irving, stuck in a 22-52 season and headed toward the lottery two years running, be frustrated with his coach? Were the musings of The News-Herald’s Bob Finnan, who wondered on Sunday if Scott would be around in 2013-14, correct? Eh, apparently not. Noland later apologized profusely for mishearing Irving, and confusing the word “him” for “them.” As in, “go ask Kyrie’s lacking teammates if they’ve quit on Scott.”

Still, the rancor rings. Irving came back from a painful shoulder injury on Sunday to join a Cavalier team that is in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, and the team appears to be getting no better. Already one of the league’s worst second half teams, the Cavs started Wednesday night down 30 points after the first two quarters to Brooklyn, with Irving (who flourished in his first game back) struggling with a 5-16 night. Hell, Deron Williams even dunked.

It’s been a frustrating year in Cleveland. We appreciate the way the team is slowly rebuilding, working with several upcoming draft picks and refusing to go all-in with cap space on the sort of veteran free agent that won’t be around in Irving’s prime, but for the team to be in danger of winning under 25 games again seems suspect.

The Cavs got a half of an All-Star season out of Anderson Varejao, potentially 59 All-Star games’ worth of work out of Kyrie Irving, and a major bounce-back year from Tristan Thompson. And yet the group seems out of sorts in ways that even the worst of rebuilding squads don’t always look. Even the players can’t get their complaints on the same page, with anonymous players talking to the Akron Beacon-Journal’s Jason Lloyd a few days back about practices that were either too long, timeouts that weren’t being used properly, or the lack of offensive utilization for Thompson’s burgeoning offensive gifts.

With one anonymous veteran player that probably isn’t Luke Walton (though it is probably, definitely, Luke Walton) calling the practice assertion a rude name and pointing out that lottery teams have six months to sleep off long practices in the offseason.

What a mess. At least the Cavs have several picks in the next few NBA drafts, cap room, and a potential All-NBA First Team point guard to fall back on, while they sleep 2012-13 off.

The Washington Wizards don’t have quite the luxury – John Wall isn’t on Irving’s level (though he’s damn good, and not far off), there’s no cap space to enjoy, and certainly not as many draft picks – but they’re just as snippy, heading into the season’s final fortnight. The Wizards have done incredibly well to get over a terrible start to the season – one that included a 4-28 swoon and the barbs of the always-tactful Andray Blatche – to work up a 24-18 run heading into Wednesday night’s pairing with the lowly Toronto Raptors.

Washington raced out to a 50-39 lead over Toronto to start the game, but things quickly fell apart as soon as the final 24 minutes presented itself.

Or, as center Emeka Okafor put it, “the team that came out in the second half needed to stay in the locker room.”

The Wizards scored just 28 points in the second half on their way to the loss, showing all the hallmarks (poor half-court execution, iffy spacing, taking too long to get into sets) of an offense that is ranked last out of 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency.

The Washington Post’s Michael Lee quoted an exasperated Wizards coach Randy Wittman following, as he broke his team’s play down:

“We did not come out with any focus,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “That is where this group has to, on the road, put a team away. All that work in the 24 minutes that you did is gone in three minutes. We stopped moving the ball. Everything was one pass. There was too much dribbling. I don’t know why. There was no pace to the game. We had no movement, which was disappointing. To be up 11 at halftime and then go through the motions in those first three minutes let them back in it. We need that killer instinct, and we have not shown it.”

Wittman then rolled up his stat sheet and walked away.

It would be understandable for the Wizards to be despondent entering the contest. They had learned earlier in the day that rookie guard Bradley Beal would be out for the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his leg, a frightening injury that may have been a result of his recent high ankle sprain – an injury that Beal absolutely should not have been playing through. Usually those sorts of frustrations show in the opening moments of a game against a crummy team, the Raptors certainly are that, played at that anonymous 7:00 Eastern hour that the Wizards usually start up at.

For the squad to burn Toronto for 50 first half points, and then score just over half that in the second half? That’s where the finger-pointing should come in. And we don’t mean to demean Toronto’s significant (earning fouls along the way, playing sound defense) effort on their way toward the comeback win.

The end of the season can get ugly for teams, for a number of reasons. The Wizards have done well to give their fans hope that, perhaps, this could have been a playoff team had John Wall not missed the first chunk of the regular season. The Wiz have come this far, though, so why wait until now to get into a row?

The Cavs? At the very least, get your complaining on the same page before we figure out what’s gone wrong.

I’m glad we could delineate the situation.

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