Tell it like it is, Stephen A. Smith

The Washington Wizards have accepted losing.  I applaud Stephen A. Smith of ESPN who today said of the Wizards:

“Simply pathetic…it’s because of two players.  Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison… they are supposed to be all-stars.  I understand you being mediocre because you don’t have Gilbert Arenas.  But 11-42?  That’s pretty pathetic…I don’t care if they’re both averaging 20 points a game.  If you have two all-stars in the starting lineup, you are not supposed to be 31 games under .500 at the all-star break.  That is an atrocity.  And you have to look at those two because clearly, they are not the all-stars we thought they were.”

This brings up two points.  You should always try your best.  Second, the media in DC allows an atmosphere of mediocrity to flourish by not criticizing teams enough.

The Wizards also took a cue from their leader, Arenas, who said, early in the season, “If this is one of those years we don’t make the playoffs, we’re one of those teams that’s in last place the whole year — you know that’s what happened to San Antonio and that’s how they got Tim Duncan. If that happens with us, it’s for the better.”

That’s a losing attitude.  Sometimes, playing badly on purpose (and it’s the same thing as not trying 100%) can help, like it did for the Miami Heat, who gave up last year, finishing 15-67 two years after winning the NBA finals.  That netted them Michael Beasley, the 2nd pick in the draft last year, who has helped the Heat to a 28-24 record so far.

Usually, though, when you don’t give 100%, or you try to be bad on purpose to get a high pick in the next draft, it doesn’t work out.  The Bulls tried that after Jordan retired and it took them 5 years to get respectable, and even after 10 years they’re still just an average team.  The L.A. Clippers franchise has had two winning seasons in the past 29 years.

There is something admirable about trying your best.  Some people would say, “What difference does it make if the Wizards win 20 games or 40 games?  If they don’t make the playoffs it will be better if they lose more to get a better draft pick.”  That leads to an attitude that losing is acceptable, though.

Too often, the sports media in DC looks the other way.  When someone criticizes an organization, a lot of people interpret that as being against that organization (take the example of a whistle blower), when it actually may mean that the person is helping the organization by pointing out areas that need to be improved.   The sports media in DC is soft.  That’s why Wes Unseld remained the Bullets coach for 7 years with a .369 winning percentage.  It’s why Norv Turner made one playoff appearance for the Redskins but lasted 7 years.

Sure, Tom Boswell ripped the Nationals for not signing any free agents until the recent acquisition of Adam Dunn.  Boswell also ripped into the Redskins a few years ago for being too cheery after losses.  But for the most part, the poor play of the Nationals and the mediocrity of the Wizards, Redskins, University of Maryland in both basketball and football is tolerated by the media.  (Maryland has been mediocre in basketball the last five years, and don’t tell me that a college football team that finishes two games above .500 each year is good when three of their early games are against teams that are from much smaller programs).  The Redskins finished .500 this year.  The Cardinals were one game better and made it to the Super Bowl.  What if there was an attitude that being average isn’t good enough?

Most people don’t like honesty.  They avoid the truth.  They want to be politically correct and diplomatic.  Thanks, Stephen A. Smith, for your honesty.

Washington Wizards:  Try your best for the rest of the season.


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