You know it’s a bad omen for 2018-2019 Washington Wizards, when Kelly Olynyk – whose name is mud among professional basketball fans around our nation’s capital – rears his ugly head and stabs the team in the heart in a meaningful game, preventing them from winning.
But let’s put that aside for a moment, because the Wizards’ awful start to this season started way before Washington’s shaggy-haired nemesis infamously tipped in a buzzer beater in the Wizards’ season-opening loss to the Miami Heat.
Wizards’ General Manager Ernie Grunfeld, who’s practically made the idea of making a hideous personnel decision, attempting to overcome the hideous personnel decision by devoting even more resources to erase the mistake, and then celebrating the fact that the mistake was overcome (while conveniently overlooking that he was the one who made the mistake in the first place), an art form for the better part of the last decade.
This season, Grunfeld – who’s been on a series of one-year contract renewals, and continues to make short-sighted decisions with the goal of keeping those renewals coming – decided that it would be a great idea to add two of the least-liked players in the NBA into a Wizards’ locker room that was long rumored to have chemistry concerns in the first place.
Grunfeld acquired Austin Rivers in the trade that sent away Marcin Gortat, and then inexplicably signed Dwight Howard, a virtual NBA pariah, to a two-year deal, despite the fact that the last three teams Howard played for were overjoyed to see him leave. Washington also added longtime journeyman Jeff Green, who joined his seventh NBA team in 11 years. In an Eastern conference that’s becoming an arms race in the post-LeBron James era, how anyone – besides Grunfeld – would think those moves would actually help Washington compete is baffling, to say the least.
Unsurprisingly, Washington is off to a 1-4 start to this season, becoming one of only seven NBA teams to have one or less wins through Saturday morning.
They followed up their aforementioned season-opening loss to the Heat with a loss to the Toronto Raptors, who were without Kawhi Leonard. They eked out a one-point victory over Portland in the first game of their early-season west coast swing, but followed that up by getting destroyed by the Golden State Warriors (the game in which the 51-point outburst – in three quarters – by Stephen Curry took place), and an embarrassing lost to the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
There is early word that the pressure is mounting on the clueless Grunfeld and lame duck head coach Scott Brooks. Since the latter would be too expensive to fire for the deceptively cheap Wizards, there is a strong belief among NBA insiders that Washington could strike an early-season deal if their losing ways continue.
If Grunfeld’s history is any indicator, it’ll likely be the Wizards taking on some distressed asset — Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies is a name to watch — in exchange for one of their own terrible contracts, plus some valuable assets (like first round draft picks) to grease the wheels. Or, it could simply be Grunfeld dealing away Otto Porter Jr., who’s failed to live up to the expectations of the max contract he probably didn’t deserve, for the proverbial 30 cents on the dollar.
But with the roster as constructed, there’s little reason to think that the calamitous start to this season won’t continue. John Wall and Bradley Beal are All-Star caliber players, but that’s about where the positives for this team end.