The experience factor among players unavoidable when sizing up the Wizards' first-round matchup with the Chicago Bulls that begins Sunday, but what about the coaches? This is Randy Wittman's first appearance in eight seasons at the helm. And he'll have to match wits with Tom Thibodeau, an Xs and Os czar who has been there four years in a row, including the conference finals.
"You can ask me that after the Game 1," Wittman said when asked if he believes experience will be a factor, looking into more lights and cameras than he has seen after a practice at Verizon Center all season. "Being in it as an assistant it's obviously different. I know kind of what to expect in terms of the magnitude. Three-quarters of you guys are never here. All of a sudden you're here. That's kind of the magnitude of the situation."
He's correct. The scrutiny will be much sharper, and any perceived mistake in his substitution patterns or in-game adjustments will be amplified.
His roster has been constructed with experience in mind from Day 1, which is why the front office brought in Al Harrington, Andre Miller, Drew Gooden and re-signed Martell Webster. All have been in the playoffs. So has Nene. So has Marcin Gortat.
Wittman, who has a career record of 191-329, or 37%, isn't approaching this any different than he has regular season games just because it's his first go-round and the first playoff appearance for the franchise since 2008. Wittman won a career-high 44 games this season. Thibodeau's fewest wins in four years as a head coach is 45. He has won 66% of his games, 205-107.
"Just as we always do, our preparation won’t change," Wittman said. "You do something for 82 games, we want to try and keep things as normal as possible in those situations."
No added emphasis is being put on April 5, when the Bulls came into Verizon Center for a 96-78 rout. The Wizards won the first two games, including 102-88 in Chicago.
"There are things you can learn form both your wins and losses," Wittman said. "There’s different things you can take from playing them three times, the good and the bad. … You can use that to your advantage."