Wizards epitomize quarter-mark dysfunction across NBA

Kawhi Leonard drops a game-high 27 points with 10 rebounds as the Toronto Raptors take care of the Washington Wizards 125-107.

Black Friday is an abomination. Starting the countdown to Christmas on Nov. 23 is in many ways a sign of how awful society has become. So here’s to Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics, who in addition to showing that he is a man for our time when he mic-dropped his “F— Thanksgiving” comment to reporters earlier this week, pretty much summed up the mood in several NBA markets through the first quarter of the season.

Like Washington, D.C.: the capital of dysfunction on several levels, including the NBA. Friday was another lost night and another lost game for the Wizards, who were dispatched by the Toronto Raptors to the tune of 125-107 at Scotiabank Arena. Nothing mysterious about this one: the Wizards hit on just nine of 46 three-point attempts compared to the Raptors’ 17-of-39 in falling to 6-12.

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“Pretty significant difference,” offered guard Bradley Beal, who only attempted three treys, making one. Partner John Wall was 1-for-7 but they’re supposed to fire away. What about Kelly Oubre, shooting .289 for the season from behind the arc yet tossed up six in this one, pitching a shutout? It was suggested to Beal that maybe, um, some of wrong guys were jacking them up.

“I wouldn’t say that. Wouldn’t say that … wouldn’t say that,” Beal repeated. “We all believe in each other and when it’s not going in you have to stick with it. If you’re open, you got to let them fly. You got to think the shots will fall.”

Not long ago, the Wizards were a measuring stick for the Raptors. Now, not so much. The Wizards’ biggest issue remains that that Beal and Wall are in their seventh season of bickering and giving each other the stink eye – which is OK if there’s a title or two sprinkled in there. Last month, they joined forces to accuse some of their other teammates of being too selfish, which at least suggested some kind of unity. A week ago today, Beal and guard Austin Rivers had a verbal altercation in practice, as did Wall and Jeff Green – arguments that expanded when Beal allegedly called out general manager Ernie Grunfeld in the middle of the argument and Wall said ‘F-you’ to his head coach Scott Brooks when Brooks tried to intercede in his argument.

Bizarrely, further fuel was added when the team’s former in-arena emcee embarked on a profane rant against Grunfeld … five days after the same emcee, Rodney Rikai, had been formally honoured by the team for his service. Woof.

There’s been a whole lot of dysfunction in the first quarter of the NBA season. You might have thought it would have been straightened out when the sad Jimmy Butler saga was resolved by the Minnesota Timberwolves. You would be wrong. No sooner had Butler ended up with the Philadelphia 76ers than Markelle Fultz’s lawyer told his client it was time to shut it down because of health concerns. Philadelphia lawyers, eh? Two years after being the first pick overall, Fultz has kind of/sort of/in a manner of speaking asked for a trade, which is a bad look for a team built on youth. But maybe it’s simply growing pains.

That isn’t an excuse the Boston Celtics can use. Earlier this season, head coach Brad Stevens was called a “genius” by Kyrie Irving, who was in turn called “one of the smartest players I’ve been around,” by Stevens. This week, Stevens suggested his team wasn’t as good as it thought it was. Or tough enough. A few days later Irving responded with his ‘F— Thanksgiving,” when he was wished a happy Thanksgiving by reporters. The Celtics are a mess offensively. The Celtics may in fact have too many good players. And what about the Bay Area, where the Golden State Warriors had lost four in a row going into Friday and six of eight in the fallout of Draymond Green telling Kevin Durant that he wasn’t all that?

No dysfunction up here, though. When the Raptors decided that head coach Dwane Casey was the reason they couldn’t beat LeBron James and then traded Mr. ‘I Am Toronto’ DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, you could have drawn up a two-page list of concerns. Will Kyle be happy? Is Kawhi healthy? How will new head coach Nick Nurse nudge the team towards what is essentially position-less basketball and keep everybody happy?

The Raptors have accomplished a great deal in these last few seasons. But they haven’t gone 16-4 in their first 20 regular-season games. Until now. These are faux records, to be sure, but 20 is a nice round number that makes for a reference point. “A well-oiled machine,” is how Wizards coach Brooks described them.

The Raptors beat the Wizards 117-113 in Washington the first time the teams faced each other this season. They didn’t have Kawhi Leonard in that game; they did Friday and somebody asked Beal what he made of it all …

“Not much different, the way their system works I think they just plug and go no matter who is available or who’s not,” he said. “They have guys who can play multiple positions, so they can play position-less basketball. But (Leonard) is very aggressive. That’s different.”

Beal had a bandage beside his right eye. He bowed his head after his post-game interviews, sighed, picked up an ice-pack, held it to his head and groaned ever so slightly. With Irving’s predictable mea culpa for dissing Thanksgiving, Beal’s gesture serves as the standing reminder of a strange first quarter. Some teams go by the quarter-pole; others run into it.

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