The Wizards are on their third one-game win streak of the season after defeating the Pistons and coach Monty Williams was not happy that Kyle Kuzma & Co. got the best of his team.
Williams used just three words—”very,” “very,” and “poor”—to answer his first two questions from media members after the contest. Those three words are exactly how you would expect someone to feel if they lost to the 2023-24 Washington Wizards.
“That wasn’t fight on the floor,” Williams told the media after the loss (h/t to Jeff Skversky’s YouTube channel). “That wasn’t Pistons basketball by any stretch of the imagination. That’s what this is — we have to have people that honor the organization and the jersey by competing at a high level every night.”
It’s one thing to lose a regular season contest to a professional basketball team in the NBA. Lose to Nikola Jokic‘s Nuggets or the rising Timberwolves and you lick your wounds and try to rebound the next night. Going from coaching Kevin Durant last year on a true championship contender in Phoenix to leading a group of adults who were outmanned by this Wizards team? That’s maddening.
The 2023-24 Washington Wizards have oscillated between delusion and self-awareness since the season began. Jordan Poole discussed his insights into “what it takes to build a championship culture” at Media Day and less than 24 hours later, Kuzma closed out the team’s first practice by explaining to the media how it’s “alright to lose,” emphasizing that the Wizards just needed to “lose the right way.”
Poole followed up with the media on the second day of practice, explaining how he’s in Washington to “build something special” while also comparing himself to James Harden and being sure to insinuate that he ranked higher in the offensive pecking order than Klay Thompson did during his time in Golden State. Later that night, the whole team would participate in a fashion show, an event that by all accounts at training camp the following day, was a positive team bonding experience.
Fast forward to last Saturday, the Wizards entered their matchup with the Hawks on an eight-game losing streak (2-13 on the season) and Poole arrived at the Capital One Arena strutting his University of Michigan gear after Michigan demoralized Ohio State on the gridiron. Hours later, Poole would be declared a late scratch because of left ankle soreness and Washington suffered their ninth-straight loss in blowout fashion, leading to 19-year-old rookie Bilal Coulibaly speaking candidly about how the Wizards were simply “not serious” and how the team needed to be “more serious” leading up to their next game.
“The behavior…we’re not serious to be honest. We’ll just be more serious the next time.”
19-year-old Bilal Coulibaly explaining what Wizards coach Wes Unseld wants his team to change.
The Wizards took their next game more seriously at the expense of the Pistons and it resulted in Williams joining an exclusive group of coaches that have suffered demoralizing losses at the hands of the professional basketball team from Washington D.C.
“It’s not pretty right now,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins told the media following Memphis’ seven-point loss to the Wizards in which Poole recorded his only positive plus-minus of the season (+13) to date.
Charlotte coach Steve Clifford stated that the Hornets had to “figure out some things” after an early November, 16-point loss to Washington in which the Wizards’ reserves outscored the Hornets’ bench by 49 points. Clifford wasted no time figuring things out as he proceeded to tighten his rotation in each of his ensuing November matchups with the Wizards (both wins with one coming just two days after that first loss and the other arriving on Thanksgiving Eve).
Opposing teams may not respect the 2023-24 Washington Wizards but their coaches would much rather have their players involved in joyous postgame interviews after wins—like when LaMelo Ball was asked about how he made the game look like “YMCA basketball” and spoke about how his Thanksgiving spread would “smack”—than have to answer any serious questions about how they lost to this basketball team.
Having the rare ability to make an opposing NBA coach truly feel a regular-season loss is one of the more intriguing and organic subplots of Washington’s tankingrebuilding developmentally-tailored season.
While wins for the Wizards are not likely to be routine, when upsets occur, they are likely to include some real disdain from opposing coaches. Even the most decorated franchises, such as the Lakers and Celtics, can not claim that their standard regular-season victories have the power to invoke emotion from opposing coaches in the way that Wes Unseld Jr.’s not-so-serious club does. The 2023-24 Washington Wizards: breaking spirits, the Wizards way.