It’s one of those few times when Randy Wittman can look down the sideline and repeat the mantra from his friend and former leader, Flip Saunders: It can always get worse.
Because as frustrating and bad as this season has been for the Wizards, they’re riding as high as they have all year while Monday’s opponent, the Charlotte Bobcats, under first interim, then full time coach Paul Silas, are struggling to fight off history and still need one victory in their last three games to avoid finishing the season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history. They haven’t won since St. Patrick’s day, having lost their last 20 games.
The Bobcats are so bad that they get confused for tanking to get the No. 1 pick. Similar to the Wizards, however, they’re actually not good enough to do that on purpose. A reminder: they’re owned by Michael Jordan.
"It's been very, very hard for me because I've never been through this before,” Silas said prior to the game. “The losing part kind of eats you up. I can't sleep at night, wondering what we can do to change this thing around. I have to understand who we have, a lot of young people. This team was put together very quickly, didn't have a summer, no training camp, no practice time. We have done about as best as we could do. If we had those things, the practices and the training camps, we'd be a lot better, but starting two rookies and guys who haven't played in this league very much; this league is built on guys who understand this game and the experienced players, and we don't really have that many. Corey Maggette, one of our best players, and he hasn't been there for quite some time. But, it's been a struggle. You always figure out how to get it done, but we haven't been able to."
The Wizards have beaten the Bobcats in all three of the teams’ meetings this season. They’ve also been guilty of taking their foot off the gas in games they’ve come into as favorites. Washington’s most recent loss was the best example, a very winnable game against Cleveland on April 14 in which the Wizards never gave themselves a chance.
“I think this is going to be our toughest game, believe it or not, of the stretch of games that we’ve had,” Wittman said. “This is a Charlotte team that’s coming on a long losing streak, that wants to end it, and they’re going to do everything with two or three games left in the season to try to get that one win. We’ve got to have that focus tonight, or we’re going to be in for a tough contest.”
But ask Silas, and the pressure lies squarely on the visitors.
"If we don't play a perfect game, we have a hard time winning,” Silas said. “We played really good against Memphis, Detroit, Milwaukee, those kind of teams and didn't get the win. It's been hard."
Meanwhile, now having won three in a row and five of the last seven, all of a sudden the Wizards appear to be within legitimate reach of the 20-win threshold that Jordan Crawford suggested after his team was run over in a 112-98 loss to Milwaukee on April 2.
Would that be enough to save Wittman’s job?
“I’m proud of the fact that we’re competing,” Wittman said. “We’ve won games against quality opponents coming down the stretch here, that are fighting for their lives in the playoffs. That means a lot. We’ve gone through a lot of injuries and a lot of roster changes and trades. It’s been a difficult year, no question, but one that I think that our guys have done the best through the circumstances.”
Trevor Booker (plantar fasciitis) will miss his 13th straight game for the Wizards.