Three thoughts from the Wizards’ 108-106 double overtime loss to Charlotte:
The temptation is to feel utterly horrible for the Wizards, who sunk to 0-11 and are just seven losses away from New Jersey’s 0-18 start to the 2009-10 season. Their next seven opponents: San Antonio (10-3), Portland (6-6), New York (8-3), Miami (10-3), Atlanta (8-4), Golden State (8-6) and New Orleans (3-8). But let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter who Washington plays. If nothing else, the Bobcats loss proved that the Wizards can and will find a way to lose, even if they way they’ve played at times shows that they should be capable of winning on any given night. They had multiple chances to put Charlotte away, and botched them all.
Most of them are documented in my game story. Wizards coach Randy Wittman blamed himself in particular for the struggles in the first and third quarter and overall for the Wizards being in the position that they are. The players have backed him, but it’s starting to take its toll. Also, there are certainly some questions about the lineup he used in overtime, opting for Jordan Crawford at the point despite his sticky hands and itchy trigger finger, which had already cost his team at the end of regulation.
It’s amazing that in the same game, one player can endear himself to the fans – we’ll get to that in a sec – while the other can turn them against him.
Wittman had both Shaun Livingston and A.J. Price at his disposal on the bench. Livingston, in particular, hadn’t played half bad, either. Clearly, it’s easy to lean toward scoring options, but Wittman leaned on freelance-happy Crawford and a gassed Nene, and he didn’t have to.
Speaking of Nene, he’s taking on a mythical status. From the moment he got up off the bench at the end of the first quarter, the demeanor of the Wizards and the buzz inside Verizon Center changed. From scoring to passing to steals, blocks, rebounds, jump balls, and even missed free throws for the Bobcats, what didn’t the Brazilian do? Oh yeah, rest. Instead, he played 29 minutes, nine more than he was supposed to. In the 50 minutes he’s played in two games, the Wizards outscored Atlanta and Charlotte by 31 points. Yet, they still lost both games, that’s how atrocious they’ve been without him.
The impact of the Bobcats game on Nene remains to be seen, but he was very sore afterward, and while he has given Washington a substantial boost in the last two games, it’s hard to know whether his work over the last week will help him get into game shape or stunt his recovery from plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Martell Webster and Chris Singleton made big arguments for playing time while Jan Vesely’s time in the starting lineup needs to come to an end. There’s really no excuse for Vesely hitting the front rim and then nothing at all in his first two free throw attempts of the game. What else has been tasked to work on since arriving in the NBA? It leads to the question, what else hasn’t he done since the Wizards decided to use the sixth pick in the 2011 draft on him. He certainly didn’t spend the offseason in the weight room. While he’s energetic on defense and runs the floor well at times – see his alley oop from Crawford moments after his free throw debacle – Wittman isn’t using him often down the stretch, and that speaks volumes. There are some matchups that suit Vesely, but it’s really hard to see how he’s earned a starting job on a team where seemingly no player has established himself.
In fact, with Wittman still searching for rotations anyway, there’s no reason not to thrown Webster and Singleton into the starting rotation, if for no other reason than to reward their performance and hustle against Charlotte. Wittman has spoken repeatedly about the desire to find an 8-9 man rotation. But on a team with no stars – aside from Nene and John Wall – and no wins, what is there to lose by simply playing the guys who are playing the best at any given minute? This is a competition, and Wittman needs to be ruthless.
As a last word, that may be the opposite tone that you might’ve expected after such a heartbreaking loss, but this is the point the Wizards have reached. There’s no telling the frustration level of those above Wittman, but situations like this don’t often last. If the losing continues, that’s where the fingers will point, even if tonight it was very easy to see on the court where the game was lost.