- The Washington Times
Thursday, January 18, 2018

Earlier this week, with the Wizards leaving for a five-game, 12-day road trip, coach Scott Brooks said he thought the extended travel would be good for his team.

For the first game of the two-week odyssey, the Wizards responded to Brooks‘ prediction with their worst effort of the season.

After a 133-109 blowout loss Wednesday to the Charlotte Hornets, Brooks was fuming — vowing there will be changes moving forward. The 133 points allowed were a season-high for the Wizards, and Charlotte set a franchise record for most points in a half with 77.

“We have to find guys who are going to compete,” Brooks said. “You can’t win a game in this league and not compete. … We have to change some things and make sure we all compete. If not, we’re going to have to find guys who are going to compete.”

The Wizards are now 25-20 on the season, but are in the middle of a slump in January with a 4-4 record. Washington’s problems, too, vary from game to game. Some days, like against the Hornets, the defense is a porous mess. Other days, like Monday’s loss to Milwaukee, it’s the offense that can’t get going.

As Brooks continues to search for a solution, he has heavily relied upon stars John Wall and Bradley Beal.

In January, Wall is averaging 37 minutes per game , while Beal has played almost 38. The increase happened, in part, because Brooks shortened his rotation to nine players, with shooting guard Jodie Meeks being the odd man out.

Wall and Beal have elevated their games, but they’ve struggled to put teams away in the fourth.

It’s not unusual for coaches to roll with a nine-man rotation, but the Wizards have been challenged by their lack of depth. Backup guard Tomas Satoransky, who started the season out of the rotation, has seen more and more of his minutes paired with Wall or Beal.

With Wall, Satoransky, a natural point guard, has been forced to adapt to playing without the ball.

“When defenses are slowed, there’s a lot of attention to [Wall or Beal’s] side,” Satoransky said. “I’m trying to cut to get easy buckets or just be ready open for the 3. It took me a while, for example, to be able to play alongside of them.”

The Wall-Satoransky pairing so far hasn’t been very successful. This season, Wall and Satoransky have a net rating of -.3.1, meaning they’re outscored by 3.1 points per 100 possessions when on the floor together.

Brooks said Tuesday he knows Wall’s minutes aren’t an ideal situation. Every coach, and Brooks is no exception, has to find the balance of trying to win and manage the workload for players over a long season.

When Wall plays over 40 minutes, the Wizards are just 1-5 this season. Two of those games were the result of overtime, but Wall has played 40 minutes in four of his last nine games.

“You’ve got to put yourself in the best position to win,” Brooks said Tuesday. “His minutes are a little higher than I would have liked, especially the overtime game (against the Nets). These last six games basically have been down to the last couple of minutes of the game.

“So you have to keep your best players on the floor, but I have to do a better job of trying to get them some rest early.”

After Monday’s loss to Milwaukee, Wall said he hasn’t been surprised by his recent surge in minutes.

“Coach is just trying to do what he feels like is best for us,” Wall said.

Wall and Beal both played less than 30 minutes on Wednesday because the Wizards were blown out in Charlotte. They should be well-rested for Friday’s matchup against the Detroit Pistons. The question will be what type of effort will the Wizards bring.

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