It was the perfect storm for the Wizards — a new coach and a dreadful opponent. But at this point, the Wizards will take wins any way they can get them. In Randy Wittman’s first game since replacing Flip Saunders, who was fired on Tuesday, the Wizards beat the Charlotte Bobcats, 92-75.
Wittman is expected to provide a new voice for a group of players that had tuned out the old one, and for a couple of Wizards, it was exactly what they needed to hear.
“He’s doing a great job of doing what he’s supposed to do,” John Wall said. “He’s going to get on us, he’s going to coach us, he’s going to tell us what we did wrong. If you’re not playing hard or playing the way he wants you to, he’s going to sub you out. If you don’t accept your roles, he’s going to hold you accountable.”
The win moves the Wizards (3-15) out of the NBA basement; a spot the Bobcats (3-16) now occupy. The Wizards shot 47 percent from the floor, but only 68.8 percent from the free-throw line (11 of 16). They also turned the ball over 22 times. By contrast, the Bobcats shot just 35.9 percent and 72 percent from the line (18 of 25), but also turned the ball over 19 times.
Nick Young led the way for the Wizards with 20 points, and Andray Blatche had a solid game with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
“I can’t honestly say we needed a new voice, we just needed somebody to actually check us like Wittman did,” Blatche said. “That’s what we needed. He put everybody on front street and told them about themselves and told them what it’s going to take to win, and everybody went out and did exactly what he said.”
While one game against a bad team doesn’t provide a lot to go on, the players did seem to respond to Wittman’s in-game coaching style. His message is clear — if they fail to follow instructions, they’ll be sitting on the bench.
The new coach wants to play an up-tempo style and push the ball on both ends of the floor.
“Everybody wants to run,” Wittman said. “Every player that you would ever talk to will say, ‘I want to run.’ We do have to get in shape to run. If you want to run, we’ve got to get in here and do extra work.”
Wittman had to coach his first game before he was able to hold his first practice, which he will do Thursday morning before the team heads to Houston to face the Rockets.
One of the first items on Wittman’s agenda is breaking the players’ tendencies that have made the first 18 games of the season such a disappointment.
“It’s like any bad habit we have. If you’re a smoker, you ain’t going to drop those cigarettes the first day,” Wittman said. “I’ve got to help them kick some of these bad habits that we’re into. That’s all it is. We’ve fallen into playing a way that is not conducive for us to win. So when I see them pull out a cigarette, I’ve got to take it out of their mouth.”
Young shook his head at the thought of taking his conditioning up a notch.
“I thought I was in good enough shape,” Young joked. “But after he [Wittman] was telling us to play full-court defense and all this, it’s kind of tough. So I got to get on that treadmill.”