Coach Wittman searching for a rotation for winless Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Lineup ripe for changes after starting year 0-9

Ernie Grunfeld has a favorite answer when asked, often during the preseason or after a major trade, about who will play and how much.

"The players will tell us," the Wizards president likes to respond.

But if that's currently the case for his team, there isn't much talking going on.

Up Next
Wizards at Hawks
When » Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
Where » Philips Arena, Atlanta
TV » CSN
Notes
» Wizards center/power forward Nene could be on track for his first minutes of the season against the Hawks. After missing all of training camp with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, the Brazilian returned to limited practice late last week and took part in an hourlong session with the team on Tuesday.
» Third-year forward Trevor Booker did not practice and instead underwent an MRI on Tuesday after suffering a right knee strain against Indiana on Monday.

The winless Wizards (0-9) are ripe for more rotation changes after setting a new franchise record for the most losses in a row to start a season. Unable to find a dependable group of starters or reserves, coach Randy Wittman said he experimented with four different potential lineups in Tuesday's practice ahead of Washington's next chance to get its first win against Atlanta (5-4). What's more remarkable is that he's only used two different starting groups in the first nine games.

"Nobody has come out and said, 'This is mine,'?" said Wittman, who has uncomfortably gone 12 or 13 players deep on his bench in every game. "They haven't, and that's what we're trying to get to. I've been in situations where you maybe don't know who exactly your core starting five is, but I know what the nine guys I'm going to be playing are. I can't figure out the nine right now. It fluctuates."

The ups and downs of rookie Bradley Beal might be expected. But one game after veteran center Emeka Okafor pulled down 14 rebounds against Utah, he had just one against Indiana on Monday and barely played in the fourth quarter.

"You guys are going think I'm crazy, but we don't need a Herculean effort by both [starters and reserves]," Wittman said. "We just need solid efforts, solid play by both groups. We haven't had that, and we're still in games."

Chris Singleton, who has been used sparingly all season, helped the second unit pull the Wizards to within one against the Pacers after being down by 20 points on Monday. Beal, having been demoted two games before, also played well, as did Shaun Livingston, who was signed only last week. Afraid of losing trust with players in search of understanding their roles, the situation has left Wittman shaking his head.

"I see him struggling because no one has been consistent all year," Singleton said. "Everybody has had flashes of greatness, but no one has been there every single game."

Former Wizards coach Flip Saunders, during his frequent low times in Washington, kept a low profile, going only between his apartment and the nearest Subway to get a sandwich. Wittman is hardly eating at all, but he's still convinced the first victory is near.

"This isn't fun," Wittman said. "You don't sleep very good. You don't eat very good. The bowl of pasta doesn't taste worth a crap right now. Hey, if I don't stay upbeat, how am I going to keep them upbeat, is the way I've always looked at it. I've got to be the leader of being upbeat."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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