More rebuilding awaits for the Wizards

|
Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Wittman is uncertain about future as coach

Randy Wittman is taking the approach that he's the Wizards coach unless the team tells him otherwise. One day after the Wizards wrapped up a 20-46 season, he had exit interviews with each of his players, setting forth the plan for a normal offseason after last year's lockout.

"I'm going to wrap up my files and do the things I normally do at the end of the season, and I'll continue to plan until they tell me to go home," Wittman said.

With six straight victories to end the season and the endorsement of a host of players, Wittman has a far stronger argument that the Wizards should consider keeping him in charge than he did when he took over for fired coach Flip Saunders in January. But the real change that took place for the Wizards during the 2011-12 season came at the trade deadline, and it is from this point that the team will move forward into the third year of a three-year rebuilding process.

Washington became a different team when it simultaneously acquired Nene and parted ways with Nick Young and JaVale McGee on March 15. Three days later, the team shut down Andray Blatche to spend the rest of the season conditioning.

Without Blatche, McGee and Young, the Wizards were 10-12 in their final 22 games. Before that, they were 10-34. The addition of Nene also transformed the Washington defense, which allowed only 92.0 points per game after giving up 102.3 points prior to the trade.

The Wizards were 7-4 in games in which the Brazilian center played.

"We've got to stay the course," Wittman said. "I think they have an understanding, to be successful for this team, the way it's currently made up, we've got to be as good defensively as we were at the end of this year. The defense turned this team around."

With a solid interior core built around Nene, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker and Nene, the Wizards' key offseason priority in the draft and free agency turns to adding scoring help on the wing. Washington finished the year 28th in 3-point shooting (32.0 percent).

"I think a veteran two [shooting guard] or three [small forward]," guard John Wall said. "Somebody that can be a knock-down shooter and play defense. Somebody to help guys out and give us another role to talk to those guys like Jordan [Crawford] and Chris [Singleton], those type of guys and maybe even a veteran point guard. Somebody to help me and talk to me the way Kirk Hinrich did at certain times."

Wall is excited to go into the offseason with memories of how the year ended for the Wizards, not how it began. He said he won't play in any charity games this summer, that his focus is on working to get better for next year, when his expectations and those of others will be heightened.

"Every time somebody sees me out, they say, 'It's coming. Just don't leave us,'?" Wall said. "I like it here. I know it's a tough time. You can tell we making the progress and making the steps, like we did this year. All it is, is adding other pieces and that's what you want to be, you want to be in the playoffs. ... As long as it's by your third year or fourth year, you at least got to be in the playoffs."

Highs & Lows of the 2011-12 season

Although the Wizards' season ended on a high with six consecutive wins, it had more than its fair share of low moments. Here are the top four highs and lows from the 2011-12 season:

Highs

4. Jan. 18 » With Saunders on the hot seat, the Wizards stun Oklahoma City 105-102 at Verizon Center behind 25 points and eight assists from John Wall.

3. Feb. 14 » Behind a combined 31-for-47 shooting from Nick Young (35 points), John Wall (29 points) and Jordan Crawford (21 points), the Wizards roll past Portland on the road 124-109. Young goes 7-for-8 from 3-point range.

2. March 7 » Washington upsets the Los Angeles Lakers 106-101 as six different players score in double figures. The Wizards later finish the year with wins home and away over Miami and a victory at Chicago.

1. March 30-April 26 » Kevin Seraphin starts at center and scores in double figures in 15 straight starts, the longest franchise streak since Gheorghe Muresan during the 1995-96 season.

Lows

4. Dec. 26 » The Wizards squander a 21-point lead in a season-opening loss to New Jersey. Andray Blatche, who said he was "ready to die for this" at media day, complains about his role in the offense.

3. Jan. 11 » The Wizards set a franchise record for fewest points in a 78-64 loss at Chicago, which played without injured Derrick Rose and got 25 points from John Lucas III.

2. April 13 » Washington loses 103-65 to New York at Madison Square Garden, where fans taunt the Wizards with chants of how many points they have after three quarters: "47!"

1. JaVale McGee » The center throws an alley-oop to himself off the backboard with the Wizards down by six vs. Houston (Jan. 16), runs back on defense while Wizards still have possession vs. Toronto (Feb. 6) and volleyball goaltends a shot by Sacramento's Francisco Garcia (Feb. 22). Benched for the second half vs. Milwaukee (Feb. 28), McGee is asked if he understands why. "I can't say I do," he says. "But I'm sure I'll figure it out sooner or later."

- Craig Stouffer

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment