The preseason trend of slow starts has remained an unwanted guest, home or away, for the Wizards thru the first two games of the regular season.
In the season opener at Cleveland, Washington trailed by seven in the first quarter, 11 at the half. Hosting Boston on Saturday, the Wizards were on the wrong end of game-starting 17-2 run. In both cases, offensive execution was largely to blame; Washington shot 32.6 percent during the first half against the Cavaliers and missed 13 of its first 14 attempts against the Celtics.
Open looks have been missed, early, and late. After the loss to Boston in which the Wizards were held without a point for the final almost the entire final 3 minutes, a blunt Jordan Crawford said, "We're forgetting plays." Following Tuesday's practice, Randy Wittman was asked for his take on the missing, the talk of forgetting, and the lack of offensive consistency.
"Execution is not there," the Wizards coach said. "Is it forgetting? Is it going to fast? Is it trying to do much and not trusting, whether it's the play or teammates? Our execution has to continue to be better. We have a lot of new faces. We're doing a lot of new things, even with the guys that were here."
Starters Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, Bradley Beal and A.J. Price are collectively shooting a bricklaying 26.5 percent (22 of 83) through two games. Nobody from this currently clanking quintet started for Washington last year, which makes sense since all but Booker were not on last season's roster.
Specifically when the game tips off, Wittman added another component for those off-putting starts or rather a message he's telling his players: throw caution to the wind.
"I've got a belief in them. They have to believe in themselves," Wittman said. "We can't be tentative. We can't come out in the game - no matter who we're playing - and see how they are going to come out and play. Are they going to be high intensity, are they going to be dragging. I think we're doing that a little bit, how Boston is coming out, how Cleveland is coming instead of we're coming out one way or one way only."
Ariza, who missed all four of his shots against Boston, has seemingly been in a funk since training camp. Asked for his take on the scoring challenged starts, he sighed deeply before responding, "I think probably just trying to get used to each other. This is a new team for me, a new system for Emeka and I. Just trying to get used to everybody. It takes a little time."
It took little time for Kevin Seraphin to establish himself in his first game of the season. Out since Oct. 13 due to a right calf strain, Seraphin made 8 of 9 shots and scored 19 points against the Celtics, his 17th straight game with double digit points dating back to last season. Washington's next game comes Wednesday at Boston. We may not find out until then whether the third-year center enters the starting lineup, a spot he occupied during the closing stretch of last season.
Making changes for the sake of changes is not the coach's desire, and Wittman said he is "not pushing the panic button on anything." With all the new pieces, patience is a virtue.
“You want guys to understand their roles, what’s expected of them. You’ve got to give that time,” Wittman said. “If I’m going to sit here on the third day and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to start five new players or three new players,’ I don’t know if I’m sending them the right message. Now, if it doesn’t improve, now that’s a decision I’ve got to go with, but right now I want to have trust in them that they’re going to try to fight through and do the right things.”
Anticipating a follow up question about much time is enough time before delivering other messages, Wittman joshed about not giving up that intelligence. If the shots start falling and the chemistry starts clicking, he might never have to - at least not until John Wall and Nene return.