- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2015

Two days off isn’t long to produce a proper salve for having the door slammed in one’s face. The Washington Wizards were ousted from the playoffs on Friday after Paul Pierce’s leaning 3-pointer at the buzzer was determined to be late and waved off. Pierce crinkled his face when the instant replay ruling was announced. That look could summarize feelings on Monday, when the Wizards officially put the season to rest with disconsolate exit interviews.

For the second consecutive season, the Wizards wander into summer convinced they should have advanced further in the playoffs. A tight series with the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks only made the ache greater this year. Last season, Washington was more in pleased-to-meet-you mode with the playoffs; this year it piled expectations onto itself. The suddenness of the end only exasperates the forlorn feeling and wonder.

“It just sucks,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of the two days since the loss. “That’s the one thing I hate about this job. You’re basically from September after Labor Day to when it just stops abruptly. You’re going seven days a week basically for however long that is. Saturday was like a … for me … I was in a fog. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I couldn’t pull myself yet to look at the film. That’s the hard thing. It just stops. It’s like you just ran into a wall. And, it’s over. Makes you upset watching the other teams still play.”

Bradley Beal said he hopes no one wins the Eastern Conference Finals, which begin Wednesday night between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Hawks in Atlanta. Labeling himself a “sore loser,” Beal also added that he thought the Wizards should have defeated the Hawks, 4-1.

“It still hurts,” Beal said. “We had a great year. We were right there again. That’s what’s so frustrating. We were in the same position, lost the exact same game.”

John Wall’s injury tops the grand influences on the series’ outcome. The all-star point guard missed three games because of five fractures in his left wrist and hand. That he played two, well at that, was a feat Wittman called “unbelievable.” Wall’s injury was referenced by several players on Monday after they met with Wittman, autographed a few final posters and prepared to disperse for the summer.

“Just a devastating time for it happen after Game 1 of the playoffs,” Wall said. “We had just won a big game on the road. I think it kind of took a little bit of momentum away from us guys. But, one thing they did do was keep competing, fighting and give themselves a chance each game and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back. I still thought we had a great opportunity to win the series.”

Wall said he will see a hand specialist in Cleveland this week or next and maintain the treatment process he used during the series. Wall also said he will not have surgery on the hand, though he has not seen a specialist since he finished the series. Wall’s trip to Cleveland could coincide with the Cavaliers participating in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Going to go get my stuff and get out,” Wall said. “I don’t care about watching them games.”

The Wizards know their core will return. Beal is entering the final season of his contract and is eligible for an extension over the summer. The 21-year-old said he has not thought about it much because he has been busy “mourning” the Game 6 loss.

“When the time comes, I’ll sit down with my agent and discuss it,” Beal said.
Paul Pierce was at Verizon Center on Monday, but did not speak with reporters. He holds a player option to return to the Wizards. Wittman said he isn’t seeking a swift decision from the 37-year-old, who could become a free agent, retire or again join Washington for a final season.

Wall, Marcin Gortat, Nene, Kris Humphries, Garrett Temple and Ramon Sessions remain under contract. Backup big man Kevin Seraphin is an unrestricted free agent who could receive an offer on the open market that will surpass what the Wizards are willing to spend despite an expected large bump in next season’s salary cap. Seraphin also did not speak to reporters on Monday.

Drew Gooden, who made himself valuable by becoming a “stretch four” and enabling the Wizards to play a small-ball lineup during the playoffs, is also an unrestricted free agent. He said he would like to return, but understands how the business side of the NBA works. Gooden has played for 10 teams.

The Wizards also have the 19th overall pick in the draft on June 25.

No matter who returns, the Wizards think this parting moment will not to come so soon next season. Beal was asked if he expects Washington to at least make the conference finals and answered, “Definitely.” Wittman lamented regular-season games the Wizards let slip away which cost them homecourt advantage in the playoffs and possibly a higher seed, saying they were taken advantage of around the all-star break instead of the other way around.

“They’ve proven that they can play in the playoffs,” Wittman said. “Now, we have to put ourselves in a position that takes advantage of that.”
That attempt has to wait until next season to begin.

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