After the Wizards dropped their home opener to the Boston Celtics on Saturday, coach Randy Wittman joked that he wasn’t sure if the sun was coming up the next morning. Washington went 81/2 minutes before scoring its first field goal and still managed a comeback before falling 89-86.
“We should have won the game,” Wittman said. “I showed them a lot of positives from a defensive standpoint. Now offensively, not a lot of positives, and we’ve got to get better at that and that’s what we concentrated on today.”
The Wizards will have a short wait to find out if what they worked on in practice Monday was effective. They will face the Celtics again in Boston on Wednesday. Despite the dreadfully slow starts by his starting five, Wittman says it’s far too early to panic.
“You’ve got to give certain things time,” Wittman said. “I’m not going to be a guy that’s going to change the lineup every other game. Now you’ve got guys that don’t maybe understand, ‘Am I going to start tonight or am I coming off the bench?’ You want guys to understand their roles, what’s expected of them.”
Knowing their roles, Wittman believes, is the key to gaining confidence, something the team needs to maintain, slow starts or not. It’s confidence that will help his players compensate in other areas when shots aren’t falling, offensive execution is floundering, and rhythm just isn’t there.
“As I told them, I’ve got a belief in them, and they’ve got to believe in themselves and we can’t be tentative,” Wittman said. “You can do other things. You get three, four rebounds, all of a sudden you’re feeling good about yourself. You get a layup, you get a couple free throws — that’s how you get good rhythm back.”
One of the players desperately in need of improving his rhythm is Ariza, who went 0 for 4 from the floor, never got to the free throw line, and had no assists or rebounds Saturday. Sporting a black eye from an elbow in practice, Ariza says his teammates and coaches are helping him fight through the adjustment period.
“This is a new team for me, a new system for Emeka [Okafor] and I together, as well as Martell [Webster],” Ariza said. “Just trying to get used to everybody, it takes a little time.”
Ariza’s luck was so bad Saturday that even an layup wouldn’t fall.
“That was unbelievable, but it is what it is,” Ariza said. “I was laughing at the end of the game, but you have to forget about it and move forward. I’m just trying to pick my spots — when to shoot the ball, when to drive the ball, when to pass the ball, when to do a little bit of everything. I’m just trying to get comfortable with what we’re doing here.”
With their offense struggling, Jordan Crawford’s sprained left ankle comes at a bad time. Crawford, who led the Wizards with 21 points against Boston, sustained the injury in the fourth quarter. Wittman says Crawford’s status is in question, but Crawford expects to play.