Washington has been competitive in its first five games, yet the Wizards are 0-5. Coach Randy Wittman is ready to see a win.
“We’re ready. We’ve been ready. Now we gotta do it,” Wittman said. “We put ourselves in position [to win] in every game. Even with some lapses that we talked about … slow starts, slow periods. Even through all that we’ve put ourselves [in a position to win] for five games. So yeah, are we ready? I think we are.”
The Wizards’ losses have come by an average of 6.6 points. Staying in games is the first step; the second is being able to close them out. Improving their fourth-quarter execution is key.
“When you look at the overall picture from Indiana, [we had] 12 turnovers,” Wittman said. “I’ll live with that all day long. But I won’t live with six of those 12 in the fourth quarter. Those are six opportunities to score a basket when the game is decided by one basket. That’s big.”
In addition to losing the handle on the ball in the closing stretches, the Wizards’ lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end has kept them from going to the free throw line. In four of their five games, the Wizards have been to the line 20 times or fewer. They aren’t getting the calls, but they’re also not forcing the issue.
Wittman’s concern is that his players will develop the attitude that going to the basket and getting “hammered” and getting no fouls called isn’t worth the risk, and that they’ll settle for jump shots instead. He wants to prevent that mindset.
“Our guys have just got to continue to play hard and respect will come,” Wittman said. “I think we can’t get frustrated with it and become a jump shooting team, and sometime that’s hard. We’ve got to get to the free throw line more and be more aggressive there.”
The Wizards face the Bobcats (2-3) in Charlotte on Tuesday. But Emeka Okafor cautions that no team can be overlooked, including the historically dreadful Bobcats, whose eight-year franchise was 229-411 heading into this season.
“You can’t ever go into a game thinking that, ever, because every team is good and every team plays differently every night,” said Okafor, who scored a season-high 17 points in Saturday’s 89-85 loss at Indiana. “You can’t take anybody lightly.”
Okafor was drafted second overall by the Bobcats in 2004 and averaged a career-best 15.1 points in being named NBA Rookie of the Year. The nine-year veteran has experience with young and struggling teams. The Bobcats have had one winning season, in 2009-10, the year after Okafor was traded to New Orleans.
“Whenever you’re with a new team and have new plays, it’s a completely different system,” Okafor said, when asked to compare his early days in Charlotte to his time in Washington.
“Even if you have the same players in a new system, it’s just like having new players again because everybody is going to be in different places. In this situation where it’s early and everybody is trying to figure everything out, it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Neither Wittman not Okafor would venture a guess as to how much time, but Wittman is doing his best to stay patient with the lineups he has and the progress the team is making. Eventually, he believes, a win is bound to follow.
“I want to be patient with the groups to let them learn,” Wittman said. “But then it comes a point to where we’ve got to see that growth.”