Will big money change John Wall?
Clearly, the Wizards have confidence in John Wall and Martell Webster. Those two received significant multi-year contracts this offseason. Free agent Garrett Temple also returns on a one-year deal. Actually, most of last season's team remains.
That would apparently show the organization also has confidence in the man who directed traffic from the sideline last season, Randy Wittman.
"Randy and the system," Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said following Wall's contract extension press conference last week when asked about his belief in the coach.
The Wizards currently have 14 players on their 2013-14 roster. Looking past rookies Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr., point guard Eric Maynor is the only new veteran piece on the roster. It's possible the Wizards have another move or two to make considering the logjam of energy frontcourt reserves (you know their names) and significant small forward depth. However, for the most part the roster is set and essentially looking as it did a season ago.
Even though the Wizards tied for last in scoring last season, chalk up that bottom of the barrel status to Wall's absence, not to mention chunks of time missed by Bradley Beal and Nene. Yet despite those absences, Washington ranked among the top-10 defenses throughout the season, a sign of Wittman's coaching and motivational capabilities.
"The one thing I've learned is defense is really, really important come playoff time," Leonsis said. "The whole game is different in the playoffs than the regular season. We've developed a culture, when you hear John talking about defense. When they're practicing team defense and sets. To me that's another strong indication that they understand what it takes to become a playoff team, then an elite team."
That's not to say Wittman is a one-trick coach, at least when he has the proper options at his disposal. With Wall on the court, dishing to Beal and Webster on the wings or Nene in the post, the Wizards scoring ticked up, rather significantly.
"We want to be able to score points," Leonsis continued. "We want to be able to run. I think that what we saw with Martell and Bradley on the court last year...the spacing of the floor really changed. When Nene was healthy and John was healthy, just to be able to watch how our offense played. We can score a lot of points. We have guys that can really stretch the floor."
Wittman signed a two-year contract before last season, meaning the 13-14 campaign is the final one under the current deal. Now that Wall's maximum contract situation is complete and the roster largely set, the major questions remaining involve contracts for the organization's main decision-makers. Leonsis offered no insight or hints as to his plans for Wittman, though at this point he's seen - and heard - enough to appear positive with the situation.
"When you add that a team that plays committed team defense and has individual, very, very good defenders, I think those are good, good signs that make you kind of put some distance between you and the rest of the teams," Leonsis said. "So yeah, I would say Randy's emphasis on defense and his ability to make the players accountable - I sit on the floor. Randy's not shy. He's ecumenical in his wrath to all of the players. it's mostly about, ' you didn't box out, how did you let that guy get to the loose ball, why didn't you get that rebound'. It's not about 'you missed the shot.'
"Culturally, that's such a change for us, that accountability to each other and the coach to play good defense I think is another very positive step for us."