The Washington Wizards just touched down in London town, but Head Coach Scott Brooks will be wishing his team had a better record at this stage of the season. Instead, at 18-26, the Wizards are sitting at 11th in the Eastern Conference, far away from the top four seed they were hoping to achieve when their 2018-2019 campaign began.
But this is not entirely unusual. During the 2016-2017 season, the new year rolled around and Washington still had a losing record, things didn’t look positive until the All-Star break.
This incarnation of the Wizards has always been slow out of the gate. Last year, All-Star point guard John Wall went out for a stretch of games and the team started playing better. A few rumblings of “shaky chemistry” and “bad locker room” started being leaked to the media, and since Wall opted for surgery, the team has been turning things around.
Wall’s back-court teammate Bradley Beal has stepped up, averaging 30 points since the offense shifted to be more focused around the shooting guard. But it is more than just that: the spot has opened up more playing time for players like Tomas Satoransky, who has proven himself a quality player, securing a triple double against since Wall went down.
Satoransky said: “It’s a huge loss for us, not only John but we also lost Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard at the beginning of the season. We have to find a way or learn how to play without them. But we’ve been in that position last year, for me I gained confidence from last year starting 30 games, there’s a lot of things that’s changed, a lot of players have stepped up their games and we’re actually trying to move in the offense a little bit more because obviously John is a very dominant player on the ball. I think we’re trying to play a little faster with movements on offense.”
In the nine games since Wall went down, pace is up slightly but it’s not dramatically quicker. However, Satoransky is correct in terms of the movement on offense. For the season, the only Washington Wizards player who features in the top 10 in terms of movement on the offensive end of the floor is Bradley Beal at fifth. Since the Wall injury, Beal leaps to the top of the list, and Satoransky joins him in the top 20. There is more movement and more creativity in the offense, and the Wizards have been one of the most exciting teams in the past few weeks.
Bradley Beal is on fire, Trevor Ariza has really helped the team since he arrived via trade from the Phoenix Suns, Markieff Morris is playing reliable basketball and Satoransky is flourishing in the bigger role. Hell, even Jeff Green is playing well. In London, the team might just continue to turn things around again and make a push towards the playoffs after another slow start to the year.
Satoransky said: “I think it’s going to be totally different in London, everyone’s going to be very excited to play somewhere where they’ve never played, in front of the different crowd and I think there’s no favourite in that game. Obviously we know what we have to do to win the game but we’ll see how each team reacts to that crowd and the different environment but we will obviously do everything in our possibilities to win the game.”
Featured photo – via USA Today / NBAE / Double Clutch illustration