Growing pains for Wizards

Growing pains for Wizards
February 6, 2012, 1:45 pm
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It was another Super Bowl Sunday complete with the traditional Washington Capitals home game. While the Capitals skated on the ice at Verizon Center, the Wizards were nestled in their own part of the arena reviewing game tape and preparing to practice.

The tape was of the previous nights loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, 107-81. It was the second consecutive game where the Wizards seemed to take a step back after a string of competitive games under new head coach Randy Wittman. On Friday the Wizards inexplicably fell flat in Toronto and lost to the Raptors minus their leading scorer, Andrea Bargnani.

The Raptors will again be without Bargnani, who is sidelined with strained left calf, when they continue their road trip tonight against the Wizards. On Sunday in Miami, the Raptors cut a 15-point deficit to three with 3:23 remaining, but missed six of their final eight shots in a 95-89 loss to the Heat.

The Wizards' greater concern is not the opposition, but their situation. Players like Nick Young have called Wittman a great motivator. As they returned to the practice floor on Sunday, the challenge was for the Wizards to take the lessons learned from the game tape and then put them to use on the floor.

Weve got to find a way on Monday to regroup, Wittman said. We have to find something. Maybe I have to play another veteran guy other than Rashard Lewis. Its one thing to put the young guys out there, but they also have to learn to compete at this level of competition.

It has been well-documented that the Wizards have eight players in either their first or second seasons in the NBA. The youth of the Wizards is the foundation of a rebuilding plan, but with the younger players there needs to be development. Part of that development is coaching, but Wittman might need veteran coaches" on the floor in the form of players. Wittmans veteran options other than Lewis include Roger Mason and Maurice Evans.

Regardless of whether Mason and Evans get more playing time or of the opponent, the Wizards have to get back to work on crafting their identity. Wittman said with the limited practice time, he was not surprised that his team fell back into some bad habits. Now the challenge is to find the defensive intensity that was a part of the Wizards in Wittmans first five games as head coach.

We know how to play hard, we have done it before, guard John Wall said. The last two games we didnt do it, and that hurt us. Its not just one person; its everybody not doing it as a team. When we arent able to do it as a team, it hurts.

Against the Raptors, the Wizards will need to do a better job defending point guard Jose Calderon than they did on Friday in Toronto. This is not about a match-up with Wall, but about team defense. Calderon picked apart the Wizards on pick-and-roll. In addition, the Wizards cannot allow the Raptors 61 rebounds and 28 second-chance points as they did on Friday.

We have to get ourselves back to playing with a purpose, Wittman said. We are going out there just running around, and we are not paying attention to what the opposing team is doing to us. You call a play and they take something away, we have to call something else. We are not doing that."