You could hear the optimism in the voice of the Wizards players when they began training camp less than a month ago. The mantra was the same from nearly every player: "If healthy, we have a shot at the playoffs."
Nene's ongoing problems with plantar fasciitis, and his unavailability to start the season didn't come as a surprise, but John Wall's injury, a left patella strain, did. Despite that blow, the players believed they could find a way to stay competitive until Wall's return.
What none of them expected was a start so bad it's rivaling last season's 0-8 beginning — the worst start in franchise history. Before taking an 0-6 record to Dallas to face the Mavericks on Wednesday, the Wizards hit their low point with a 92-76 drubbing at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats the night before.
"That display offensively, in terms of trying to do everything on your own, we don't have a player on the team we can do that with," Wittman told reporters after Tuesday's game.
Without a go-to player, the Wizards can't rely on a one-on-one style of play to generate offense. The return of Wall and Nene will help, but ultimately won't change the makeup of of the team, something Wittman is well aware of.
"Until we realize that, until we play with a little more sense of urgency and draw and kick and help each other get a shot, we're going to have lapses like this," Wittman said. "We've had lapses like this every game."
The Wizards have averaged a league-worst 86 points. Their inconsistent style of offense also leads to long scoring droughts and what Wittman called "awful" shot selection.
Although this year's Wizards team, which includes seven new players, has been credited with playing with more effort and hustle than last year's, it's also been called a group of second-tier players without a star, one that ultimately is having the same problems, especially at the end of games.
Veteran swingman Martell Webster, one of the team's most vocal players, signed with Washington in the offseason after searching for a team that he said "really wanted him." His observation of the Wizards last season was that of a team with a some positives to build on, especially after finishing the season on a six-game winning streak.
"The way I viewed the team in the games I saw, in a lot of games they had a great chance, but that's where that youngness comes in, not being able to finish games," Webster said. "You guys were fun to watch, but in the fourth quarter what happened? That comes with experience."
With so many new players this season, Webster expected some growing pains, but he wasn't expecting a start like this. Known for his sense of humor, and keeping a smile on his face despite adversity, Webster's hardly ready to throw in the towel so soon, but he's ready to see some changes.
"When you get enough of losing," Webster said, "you see attitudes start to change."
Webster's not the only one.
"Something's got to change," Wittman said. "I've got to find the right guys that will do the right thing out on the floor."
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