The Wizards’ first victory of the 2012-13 season was significant for a variety of reasons.
Most notably, it took an incredible amount of pressure off coach Randy Wittman, who was beginning to run out of ways to motivate his players after opening the season with 12 straight losses.
But it is worth noting that it took a 26-point loss to the seasoned San Antonio Spurs for the Wizards to understand what they were missing and what they needed to change.
“After we lost to San Antonio, we just basically came together and said, ‘We need turn this around for ourselves. Not for anybody else, but for ourselves,’” forward Chris Singleton said Wednesday night after the Wizards’ 84-82 win over Portland.
“We don’t want to go down in history as one of the worst teams ever and so we’re just going to work our butt off.”
Following that blowout loss to the Spurs, Wittman let his players speak their minds. He wanted their opinions on things they thought they could do better and things the coaching staff could do differently.
“I just feel like he let us be basketball players,” Singleton said. “At the beginning of the season we were all hesitant to say anything. Now, he’s trying to tell us since we’re out there on the court that we should be the ones talking, not him or the other coaches coming back into the huddle and correcting everything. We have to correct ourselves if we’re going to get better.”
Wittman said he took the same approach at halftime Wednesday night. The Wizards and Blazers entered the intermission in a 43-43 tie and Wittman wanted to know what his players had to say about adjustments that needed to be made.
“I let them talk,” he said. “What is positive on the floor? What’s giving us trouble? Tell me. That’s the process we’re trying to get. I want our young guys to understand, yeah, this cross screen is giving us trouble; what can I do?
“Sometimes you hear it [from a coach], but you’re not listening. … I can draw it up on that chalk board and it looks good on the dang on chalk board. But you’ve got to be able to do it on the floor. And if we’ve got guys that have a way to tweak it and make it better for them, they are the ones that can do it and I’m always for that interaction from my players.”
Often lost in the evaluation of the Wizards’ early troubles is the fact that six of their 13 players were not on the roster last season and five of their six starters are playing for the first time under Wittman. Add the fact the Wizards have not had star point guard John Wall and have had Nene for just three games and you have a team still trying to find an identity.
Nene emphasized after Wednesday night’s win that the Wizards are still “very young and immature” and that it may take time for them to play to their potential.
With a Friday night visit to New York to face the 10-4 Knicks followed by a Tuesday night showdown at home against the 10-3 Miami Heat, the 1-12 Wizards will need to be quick studies if they hope to avoid falling deeper in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I don’t think that we can relax,” Trevor Ariza said. “We’re only 1-12. We just gotta keep working hard every day and keep trying to get better.”