Wake-up call: Wizards clear leadership hurdle

Wake-up call: Wizards clear leadership hurdle
December 27, 2013, 6:00 am
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Randy Wittman wins first game in Boston as Wiz coach

Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman talks with Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal against the Brooklyn Nets in the second quarter at Verizon Center.

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

With the Wizards on the cusp of their longest winning streak of the season, coming after coach Randy Wittman questioning his team's leadership, what has changed in the last three weeks? It gets back to something Wittman stressed during training camp about teammates being able to "police" and "coach" each other in the moment.

Wittman had cited errors on plays in a surprising 109-105 overtime home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 6, and though he didn't mention his star John Wall by name it was evident what he was implying. That began a four-game losing streak that the Wizards (12-13) only ended last week. A win at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday would give the Wizards a four-game win streak with all coming away from Verizon Center (CSN+, 8 p.m. ET). 

Wittman went into more detail about what he was trying to get across to his team at the time: "Leadership isn't a person. We don't have that persona, one guy that's going to lead this team. We've got guys capable of being leaders. So much happens on the floor that they can't come to me. You've got to do it. I can't call a timeout every time, 'Aww, they changed something.' The thing I meant during the leadership part, whoever the five guys are out there somebody has got to grab that group and say, 'OK, you didn't step up that high enough that time.' It can't be all those adjustments at timeouts because at the end of the game I'm not going to be able to call timeout. That's what I meant. We've got to be able to do that. Three losses, in particular, could've easily been wins. We didn't have that coming down the stretch. It still has to get better. I saw more the gathering of the five guys whether its at the free throw line."

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Wall said he never had a problem with what Wittman said, though he came across as lackadaisical about it at the time. He admits it lit a fire under him, and in last weekend's win at the Boston Celtics, that showed with Wall's sustained effort on defense. It was a performance that Wittman wants to see Wall replicate

"Don't get rattled. In the past, we'd get down and in the end you'd see everybody take bad shots and not playing the right way. Now when we get down we try to chip away, execute, like you're supposed to, step up defensively, try to get turnovers and get out into the open court and get easy baskets and get to the free throw line instead of settling for jump shots and not moving the ball," Wall said, alluding to the Wizards erasing that 18-point deficit in Boston. "When we do that, we get a couple of stops in a row you can definitely change the aspect of the game."

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