ATLANTA — Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman normally begins his postgame news conferences by making a brief statement before taking questions. After the past couple of games, Wittman has been at a loss for words.
Following the Wizards' 96-89 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday at Verizon Center, Wittman paused, took a sip of water, then pointed to one of the mini recorders on the table in front of him.
"You guys ought to just put this in reverse and replay what I said," Wittman said as he struggled to find words to explain the Wizards' franchise-worst 0-9 start. "I don't know who to start, who to play, who not to play. It's a confusion of different guys every game. We have no consistency in our group of play."
Their next chance to find some answers will come Wednesday when they face the Hawks in Atlanta. The Hawks, much like the Wizards, rebuilt their roster in the offseason, adding nine players to complement their stars — forward Josh Smith, center Al Horford and point guard Jeff Teague. With a record of 5-4, Atlanta's upgrades are yielding better results than Washington's.
Meanwhile, Wittman not only is trying to find the right words, he's still trying to find the right players. Ideally, he'd like to settle on a starting lineup and have a core group of bench players he can rely on. Three of his starters have remained in the lineup from Day 1 — A.J. Price (point guard), Trevor Ariza (small forward) and Emeka Okafor (center).
He has made two changes in the past two games, replacing Bradley Beal with Jordan Crawford at shooting guard and Trevor Booker with Jan Vesely at power forward. As for who comes off the bench, it's anybody's guess. Wittman isn't exactly enjoying this game of musical chairs, but the players aren't giving him much choice.
"I'd love to have an eight- or nine-man rotation, that's my dream, and I'm playing 12 and 13 every night," Wittman said. "You can't do that in an NBA game. You want to develop a group, and then a group that comes in. I'm having a hard time doing that with the play that we're having."
The Wizards have taken some solace in the fact that most of their losses have been close. The hope is that once the shots start falling, and the execution improves, wins will come.
But on the downside, the Wizards' schedule is about to get much harder. Of the seven teams they have played, only Boston and Milwaukee have winning records. Two others — Dallas and Utah — are at .500.
Over their next nine games, the Wizards will play Atlanta (twice), Charlotte, San Antonio, Portland, New York, Miami, Golden State and New Orleans. All have winning records except Portland, which is at .500, and New Orleans (3-5).
The Wizards need to win one of those games or they'll tie the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets for the worst start in NBA history at 0-18.
"I'll look at it, sleep on it," Wittman said. "I'll come up with something."
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