With less than two minutes remaning Saturday and the Wizards losing to the Utah Jazz, Verizon Center fans stood and cheered in loud, excited voices. But they weren’t cheering a comeback effort by the home team or even an outstanding play.
They were cheering for free Chick-fil-A sandwiches that ticket holders receive if an opposing player misses two free throws in the fourth quarter, which Jazz forward Marvin Williams did.
“They didn’t get the win, but at least they got sandwiches,” Jazz forward Paul Millsap joked after the game, an 83-76 Jazz win.
It’s just one more indignity Wizards fans are dealing with, becoming the butt of jokes by opposing teams and having to cheer for free food. Utah coach Tyrone Corbin at least appreciated the effort of the team that held the Jazz to their lowest point total of the season.
“These guys play hard,” Corbin said. “Trust me, they are not up to full speed right now. But they are playing hard and giving themselves a chance to win.”
Washington is the only team in the NBA still without a win, and at 0-8 have tied the mark for the worst start in franchise history, which they set last season. Coach Randy Wittman’s team is also the second in NBA history to start consecutive seasons with eight straight losses.
Along with the boos during Saturday night’s loss came chants of “Fire Wittman!” One disgruntled fan stood and shouted as the game ended, “Ted, we deserve better!”
The lone ray of hope is anticipating the return of John Wall and Nene, both of whom don’t have a timetable for return. Nene participated in his first practice Friday, but he is still likely to be weeks away from returning. As fans point out, not too many teams would be off to a good start with their two best players sidelined with injuries, but Wittman isn’t buying it.
“That’s an excuse,” he said. “We’ve got enough here to win games, and we’ve got to believe that. I’ve got to help them believe in themselves. We’re low on confidence right now.”
The Wizards will face the Indiana Pacers for the second time this season on Monday at Verizon Center, and Wittman says he’ll try just about anything to get that first win. He’s expected to change his lineups, giving struggling players fewer minutes, while relegating a few guys to a seat at the end of the bench with a DNP [Did Not Play] next to their names in the box score.
“I’m going to continue to look for different combinations and try to find who is playing well together,” Wittman said.
The problem is that no one is playing with any consistency on the offensive end, turning in a sparkling performance one night and a stinker the next. It doesn’t give Wittman a lot of options, and the road does not get any easier.
In the next two weeks, the Wizards have games against the conference-leading New York Knicks (7-1), the defending champion Miami Heat (8-3) and the perennial powerhouse San Antonio Spurs (8-2). They can expect to get every team’s best effort, since no team will want to be the first to lose to Washington.
It took the fresh perspective of the newest Wizard, guard Shaun Livingston, to inject some hope in a season that already seems to be slipping away.
“We’re still in it, in the East especially,” Livingston said. “We’re not totally out of it.”