Before Wizards coach Randy Wittman knew he'd be without Nene, he had this to say about his team's uneven play at Verizon Center before playing the Orlando Magic here Tuesday: "We have to stop it. I don’t care what the reason is. We’re doing it for some reason. Whether it’s that we’re so comfortable that we’re at home and everything will be fine because we’re at home. We’ve got to stop that somehow. We need to change our routine. I might put them in a hotel room the night before.”
The Wizards (28-28) have the same record at home that they have away, 14-14. They had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night with a buzzer-beating dunk from Nene.
Nene won't be around for at least six of the last seven weeks of the regular season because of a left knee ligament strain. But it's doubtful that Wittman's message will change. When the Wizards play defense, they can beat most teams. And when they were a top 10 defense last season, they had far more players missing than Nene.
"For whatever reason, when we're here at home, we think it’s automatically going to happen," Wittman said, analyzing his team's performance after Saturday's win. "You take any win any way you can get it. I am proud that they stuck with it and kept fighting, even when it looked bad, and made plays down the stretch."
Maybe the urgency of not having Nene around as a crutch will boost them in the right direction. And if the hotel doesn't work, maybe Wittman should consider stuffing them in the visiting locker room.