After blowing a fourth-quarter 17-point lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers and losing 119-115, then dropping a home game to the lowly Atlanta Hawks 103-97, the Washington Wizards’ regular season is ending with a thud.
When the new year began, the Wizards seemed destined to host a first-round playoff series in the Eastern Conference. They now are most likely headed to an eighth seed and a matchup against the Toronto Raptors – the team with the conference’s best record.
After reviewing film of the disastrous losses that left the team at 42-38, St. Louisan Bradley Beal said, “The team we were watching on film wasn’t us.”
“Looking at the things we were doing over the course of the year, over the course of the last couple games. Just seeing our demeanor and our approach and seeing two different teams,” said Beal, an all-star guard in the midst of his best NBA season.
“Just our intensity, our focus, our grit and grind, attention for detail for everything was a lot better (last year.) So, that’s who we need to be.”
The Wizards faced visiting Boston, who has lost Kyrie Irving for the season, on Tuesday and traveled to Orlando on Wednesday. There is still a chance the Wizards can finish as a seventh seed and face the depleted Celtics in the first round.
Beal told the Washington Post the team still backs coach Scott Brooks and has not tuned him out.
“If coach has to get us ready for a game, then there’s something wrong,” Beal said.
“As a man and as a player, this is something that we do. This is our career. This is something that – we should be ready for a game.”
Tatum to New Orleans?
Some trade rumors surfaced last week, one that included Chaminade product and Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum.
According to Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated, the Celtics are willing to part with their outstanding rookie in a deal that would bring Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans to Boston.
Sharp writes that the San Antonio Spurs will seek suitors for disgruntled forward Kawhi Leonard this summer and a deal with Boston would have to include Tatum. He said the Celtics would not make that trade but would be willing to include Tatum in a deal for Davis, one of the NBA’s best players.
Celtics’ free-agent acquisition Gordon Hayward was lost for the season on opening night and now Irving’s knee surgery has ended his year.
Tatum has been forced to play more minutes and become more of an offensive factor.
The former Duke Blue Devil is averaging 18.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.6 steals. This includes him hitting a solid 47.4 percent of his shots from three-point range and 47.2 percent of his attempts from the floor.
While he scored just eight points in last Wednesday’s 96-78 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Tatum passed Hall of Famer Bob Cousy to reach No. 8 on the Celtics’ all-time rookie scoring list with 1,081 points.
In a 106-102 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers the previous night, Tatum hit his 102nd three-point shot of the season, which broke the franchise's previous rookie record.
Tatum had played in every Celtics game this season but coach Brad Sevens decided to sit him last Friday against Chicago after the Celtics had secured the second seed in the East.
"(Coach Stevens) called me Thursday and he told me he was thinking about not playing me on Friday,” Tatum told MassLive.com.
“He saw somewhere that I had mentioned something about wanting to play every game. He just wanted to talk to me first to see if I was okay with it. I see the bigger picture.”
When asked if he was disappointed to not play in all 81 games, Tatum responded “Yeah and no.”
“Maybe next year. I mean you don’t get an award or anything. An extra check? It's fine.”
If Tatum continues his stellar play in the postseason, the Celtics could make a surprise run without Hayward and Irving.
It would also increase his value in a trade – but let’s pray he does not end up in New Orleans.
Of course, if an NBA franchise ended up in St. Louis, it would most likely be New Orleans – and Tatum could have a roundabout homecoming.
Brandeis saw no evil?
Brandeis University fired men’s basketball coach Brian Meehan last week after allegations of “preferential and discriminatory treatment, unprofessional behavior and racially biased harassment.”
Complaints about Meehan’s racist behavior have followed the school’s all-time winningest coach for more than a year. It makes you wonder if his 7-18 record last season was the real reason he was let go.
The racist acts Meehan allegedly perpetrated on team members include making three black players pose as the monkeys in the “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil,” depiction and telling black players if they didn’t cooperate with him fully he would “send them back to Africa.”
The Division III school made the announcement last Thursday but was somehow compelled to not to mention the coach’s name in the release announcing his termination.
The statement says complaints began last year. After an investigation “unspecified disciplinary action was taken.” Brandeis said a new complaint surfaced, and a review of previous incidents led to Meehan’s firing. In other words, he was allowed to keep his job for at least one season after the university knew of his racist antics.
“I am deeply disturbed by these complaints,” University president Ron Leibowitz said in the statement.
“I want to be absolutely clear: At Brandeis, there is zero tolerance for discriminating against any student, staff member, faculty member, or visitor because of their race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender or any other aspect of their identity.”
Leibowitz and Brandeis might have “zero tolerance” now, but he and the school tolerated Meehan far longer than they should have.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, is a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and can also be heard on Frank Cusumano’s “The Press Box.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.