Wittman still looking for right combination

Wittman still looking for right combination
November 21, 2012, 8:30 am
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His team may have the worst record in the NBA, but at least Wizards coach Randy Wittman still has a sense of humor. It might be the only thing keeping him together while his team tries to stop the bleeding from an 0-9 start.

“This isn’t fun,” Wittman said before boarding a flight to Atlanta, where the Wizards will face the Hawks tonight [7 p.m., CSN].

“You don’t sleep very good. You don’t eat very good. The bowl of pasta doesn’t taste worth a crap right now.”

Nothing like having a basketball team spoiling a Thanksgiving appetite. But if Wittman is going to be an unfortunate part of Wizards history, he’s not going to take it sitting down.

“Hey, if I don't stay upbeat, how am I going to keep them upbeat?” he said. “I’ve got to be the leader of being upbeat, if that makes any sense to you.

“I can't go in there and be down. ‘Lost again.’ I've got to be: ‘Hey, we did lose again. We lost for these reasons. But look what we did.’

“That's what I’m trying to continue to do with these guys. The belief. I believe. I really do. This group should be winning games without John [Wall] and Nene. We've got to get them to believe that themselves. That's my job.”

To be fair, the Wizards haven’t made that job very easy. In fact, heading into tonight’s game at Philips Arena, Wittman still isn’t sure who is starting five will be 10 games into the season

Here’s why: In five of the Wizards’ first nine games the starters have been outscored by the bench.

With Wall and Nene sidelined by injuries Wittman began the season with a starting five of A.J. Price, Bradley Beal, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker. But when the Wizards’ reserves outscored the starters in four of the first seven games, Wittman yanked Beal and Booker out of the starting five and replaced them with Jordan Crawford and Jan Vesely.

The new starting group responded with a solid 57-point effort Saturday night against the Jazz, but the bench managed a season-low 19 point in an 83-76 loss. Wittman put out the same lineup Monday night against the Pacers and this time the bench outscored the starters 58-31.

Wittman said his players want some consistency, but no more than he does.

“They want that. I want that,” he said. “But nobody has come out and said, ‘This is mine.’ They haven’t, and that’s what we’re trying to get to.”

At Tuesday’s practice Wittman said he tried four different combinations and still wasn’t sure which one to use tonight against the 5-4 Hawks. He said he will continue to review tapes of the last few games to see who worked best together.

What does he see when he reviews those tapes?

“The 13th guy all of a sudden looks good, the second guy looks awful,” Wittman said. “It’s just that fluctuation in play.”

Wittman said he’s not looking for one player to drop 40 points on the Hawks tonight – no one on the Wiz has scored more than 22 in a game – he’s just looking for a balanced performance from his starters and his bench.

“You guys are going think I’m crazy, but we don’t need a Herculean effort by both groups,” he said. “We just need solid efforts, solid play by both groups. We haven’t had that, and we’re still in games.”

And that, more than anything, is what has Wittman more encouraged than discouraged“I think it would one thing if we’re sitting here going into the fourth quarter and we’re down 30,” he said. “It’s a credit that they fight and they’re resilient and they don’t quit. That’s a trait that we want to keep.”