Remember that hilariously famous clip of Jim Mora’s post-game press conference back in 2001? The one in which the outspoken former head coach was asked if his 4-6 Indianapolis Colts had a chance of making the NFL playoffs?
“Playoffs?” Mora shrieked. “Don’t talk about — playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!”
No one has been bold enough to bring up the word playoffs to Wizards coach Randy Wittman lately. Not with his team holding the NBA’s worst record [0-8] heading into tonight’s home game against the Indiana Pacers.
But it was less than a month ago that Wittman and general manager Ernie Grunfeld were fielding questions about whether this year’s Wizards were capable of getting into the post-season.
Now they’re facing an uphill climb that seems like Mount Everest.
“It’s tough,” said point guard A.J. Price. “But this is the NBA. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy by any stretch. We just need to keep on fighting, keep on playing. Never say die attitude. Never quit, never give in.”
At 0-8 the Wizards are already four games behind the eighth-place Charlotte Bobcats for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Last season the Philadelphia 76ers were the last team in the East to get into the post-season with a record of 35-31, four games over .500.
To finish with a record four games over .500 the Wizards would need to play 12 games over .500 the remainder of the season. That means they’d have to go 43-31 in their final 74 games.
Is that possible? The Wizards believe it is, especially if they get John Wall and Nene back from injuries within the next few weeks.
“We’re still playing for something,” Shaun Livingston said. “In the East, especially, we’re not totally out of it. We just gotta get a win on the board so we can relax and play basketball.”
The Wizards have been competitive in each of their eight losses, but have been outscored 179-153 in fourth quarters and 12-6 in overtime. In their last five losses the disparity has been even greater, with opponents outscoring the Wizards 119-82 in the fourth quarter. That’s an average margin of 7.4 points.
“I think we could have won more than half our games,” rookie guard Bradley Beal said. “That’s just my opinion. Our intensity is there, our competitiveness is there. Everything we need to do is there all the way up to the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter is what really kills us.”
Point guard A.J. Price said the Wizards can no longer afford moral victories. They need to get in the win column to start building confidence.
“It’s too long of a season to feel like that,” he said when asked about taking positives from losses. “If we ever get to that point it’s really over. We’re 0-8 now. We can’t have that type of attitude. We need to continue to try to get better, try to stick with it and have confidence and belief that next game will be the game we win.”
Jordan Crawford, who leads the team with 12.4 points a game, agreed.
“We can’t be down on ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of games to go. Teams aren’t going to come here and make it easy for us.”