WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Some things changed for the better in Randy Wittman's debut as head coach of the Washington Wizards, and some things did not.
Let's delay all the whiny stuff for the gloomy 3-15 Wizards. Who cares if this game was the equivalent to the Kansas City Royals against the
Pittsburgh Pirates, or the Washington Redskins against the Cleveland
Browns. They'll be plenty of time for ridiculing later.
"There's nothing to critique tonight. Let's enjoy the victory," reiterated Wittman during his remarks following the Wizards 92-75 victory Wednesday night over the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Wizards stormed out of the gates for 31 first quarter points, never trailing once in the game. It's almost as if the team filled up a fresh tank of gas. Washington seemed alive and full of purpose.
There are three disclaimers I have to announce before I dive into the blatant similarities and differences we saw in front of another decent sized Wizards crowd (15,286).
1) The Bobcats played without their three best players
Gerald Henderson, Corey Maggette and D.J. Augustine all were sidelined with injuries against the Wizards, meaning Charlotte trotted out the most disgusting roster I have ever seen in person. An alumni team from DeMatha High School could've competed with the Bobcats tonight. An NBA stepchild, (a franchise I call that has never won a playoff series) Charlotte saw its most talented player Kemba Walker shoot 4-of-19 from the field with just eight points. He wasn't all terrible with a couple of smooth midrange jumpers. John Wall agreed.
"He's cool, we're friends. It was tough [for Kemba] because he had to log a lot of minutes and do a lot of things with a lot of there guys out."
Even if Walker notoriously caught fire it wouldn't have mattered. Charlotte's spacing was terrible, their effort was lacking. Wednesday's lineup would be a below average team overseas, at best. And I'm honestly being courteous here.
2) Randy Wittman can talk your ear off, and that's not a bad thing.
Wittman's detailed answers in his post game press conference lasted so long, that certain players were already gone from the locker room. Hate as much as you want on general manager Ernie Grunfeld but he was right about one thing: Randy Wittman is a new voice.
He openly admitted to calling only three or four set plays against the Bobcats, simplifying Flip's large playbook; he almost demanded the players go out and celebrate the victory and most importantly he's being real.
"I'm doing what I know to do. The thing most people tell you when you take over a job is to be yourself," stated Wittman. "That's kind of what I did. We didn't invent a new offense." He added a slight joke that he didn't try and bring out John Wooden offense. The coaching change has visibly relieved some of the tension around the Verizon Center.
Some additional quotes from Wittman's chatty presser:
On why the defense was so great: "I thought Chris came back tonight...The Chris Singleton we saw a month ago."
On fatigue: "We do have to get into shape. We had 31 in the first quarter and I thought we ran out of gas a little bit in the second quarter."
On his players: "I'm happy for the guys. To see smiles on their faces. And to feel good."
On Wizards bad habits compared to smoking cigarettes: "We fell back a couple times. Not making the right pass, getting the ball stolen, turnovers. It's like any bad habit [people] have. If you are a smoker you ain't going to drop those cigarettes the first day. I've got to help them kick some of these bad habits. That's all it is."
3) The Wizards were blowing out the Bobcats for a good majority of the game ...
Which spread around playing time the stomach bug in a third grade class. The final minute count: Young-29, Wall-26, Blatche-24, Lewis-24, Singleton-24, Seraphin-22, Mack-22, McGee-21, Vesely-19, Crawford-19, Booker-9.
And now quotes from the Wizards
Andray Blatche on the win: "There was no difference (about tonight). We're the same team that we've been. We just came out with a lot more effort."
John Wall on the win: "That's what we got to do...Learning to close out games and trusting each other."
JaVale McGee: "I'm just looking to play basketball. I let my agent handle all the money."
Andray Blatche on the distractions: "It's been very tough. Hopefully we can grow from this. And realize what it took tonight. And do it against Houston."
John Wall on what was different about Wittman: "We just played hard. We just played freely and got up and down the court."
John Wall on his emotions: "It's always tough losing a coach -- and your first coach -- but you just got to stay strong and move forward."
What was different about the Wizards
*Pressure defense. Nearly all of Charlotte's shots were challenged, forcing the team to toss up a heightened amount of rushed jumpers or poorly selected shots. John Wall was pressing Kemba Walker deep in the backcourt, clearly tiring and frustrating the rookie. Washington forced 19 Bobcat turnovers and received five steals from rookie Chris Singleton. Charlotte had a pathetic 33 first half points but the aggressive defense played a larger part in that number rather than the feeble Bobcat lineup.
*Ball movement. Like the pressure defense, it started early and often for Washington. The first quarter ended with 31 Wizard points chiefly because of the teams nine assists. Blatche played a big role as a distributor, shockingly dishing out a four assists in the first quarter. Jordan Crawford finished with a team-high five assists too. The basketball was like a hot-potato Wednesday night.
*Hustling. Again, this game was against the lowly Bobcats, but even the players themselves admitted to being exhausted after the win. Wittman commented Tuesday in his introductory press conference that he wants the team to "run more."
Maybe he wasn't necessarily talking about fast breaking, but more-so cutting back on the lallygagging seen in the first 17 games. NBA teams that play up-tempo the right way -- like the Wizards against the Bobcats and Thunder -- prey on their opponents mistakes. Hustling is another word for making
What was the same about the Wizards
*A third Wizards win and a third superb outing from Jan Vesely. Although it was against a wretched frontcourt, Vesely tortured the Bobcats with his length and timed shot block attempts on defense. The awkward European added six points and six boards in 19 minutes. Wittman needs to plug Vesely in the lineup as often as possible, even if it means sitting Trevor Booker.
*John Wall was sloppy and careless for most of the night, committing seven turnovers in only 26 minutes of play. But the wow factor he produces even had a documented skeptic, like me, gushing. Wall poked a rebound out of thin air, sprinted down the court Usain Bolt style -- twisting Boris Diawlike a pretzel -- en route to a swooping layup. It was glamorous.
*The fans relentlessly booed Andray Blatche in the first half when the Wizard missed a dunk and struggled inside. Blatche's reputation with the Wizards faithful appears to be irreconcilable, even though he had his best game of the season -- 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals. Blatche seemed extremely happy after the game, but how long will that last? I can see Randy Wittman trying to harness Blatche's energy ala Kevin Nealon in Happy Gilmore (1:15 mark) and it ending horribly in a few weeks.
*JaVale McGee seemed discouraged again, on and off the court. If McGee doesn't get into a good offensive rhythm in the first quarter, he tends to mentally check out. If you get this guy multiple dunks early in a game, he's almost a guarantee to cause problems for the opponent. I blame this on coaching.
*Jordan Crawford continues to shine. His nine points don't look special in the box score, but Crawford energized the Wizards when they needed it in the third. Three of Crawford's four field goals were high-flying dunks. The second-year reserve is averaging just over 14 points off the bench in his last nine games.