At least the foundation for a playoff team for 2013-14 is in place for the Wizards.
The question that remains is whether they can add enough offense this off-season to qualify for the first time since 2007-08.
The Wizards tied the Miami Heat for the fifth-lowest field-goal percentage allowed during the regular season (44%). They were 18th a season ago.
Every team that was better this season –- the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors –- is in the playoffs.
The Wizards were 15 spots better than the New York Knicks. Their 95.8 points per game allowed were eighth best in the NBA.
Point guard John Wall attributes it to new additions to the roster. While center Emeka Okafor and small forward Trevor Ariza were instrumental in that improvement, so were assistant coaches Don Newman and Jerry Sichting.
Both have been part of NBA championship teams. Newman had spent the previous seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and was there for their title runs in 2005 and ‘07. Newman is the top assistant to Wizards coach Randy Wittman.
Wittman took over as interim coach for the last 49 games of the 2011-12 season after Flip Saunders was fired. This was his first full season as head coach in Washington.
“I wanted him to be my coach,” Wall said of being partly responsible Wittman staying on board. “I felt the way he did with us the last part of that season, he installed defense into us. That’s what we needed to become, a better defensive team. Offense can come easy for us if you just play together and move the ball. Let defense create your offense.”
Sichting coached for 11 years, with and under Wittman, for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was with the Golden State Warriors for 2010-11 and won an NBA championship as a guard with the Boston Celtics in 1986.
“They really know what it takes to win. They really were big into us practicing, going through walk-throughs and all those type of things. They were the ones working guys out before and after practice,” Wall said. “They’re trying to get us to get better.”
This is the first time Newman hasn't been in the postseason in quite a while. The Gregg Popovich-coached Spurs haven’t missed the playoffs since he took over in 1997.
“He was just saying this is probably like the first time he hasn't seen the playoffs in like 14 years,” Wall said of a conversation he had with Newman before the regular season ended. “This is nothing you want to get used to. You want to get used to winning and how much stuff he learned from Pop.”