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Morning tip: Wittman's sad ending doesn't define entire tenure


Morning tip: Wittman's sad ending doesn't define entire tenure

Many will celebrate the fall of Randy Wittman, who was ousted after four-plus years with the Wizards. He didn't always endear himself to many because of his surliness, stubbornness and downright combative demeanor at times with those inside and outside his circle. 

But that's who he was, of course, an old school Bobby Knight disciple who was going to do it his way or else. It led to team president Ernie Grunfeld firing him immediately after Wednesday's season finale with the Atlanta Hawks that put the Wizards at 41-41 and out of the playoffs for the first time in three years.

How soon everyone forgets that it also was that uncompromising nature that helped drag the Wizards out of their long-standing ineptitude. They had 19 wins in the 2008-09 season to 26, 23, 20 and 29. They allowed 103.5 points per game (24th NBA) as a defense to 101 (16th) and 104.7 (24th) before Wittman.

Then lo and behold, a roster with Morris Almond, Brian Cook, Chris Singleton, Cartier Martin, Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely, the Wizards held opponents to 98.4 (20th) in 2011-12 when then-assistant Wittman took over for Flip Saunders just 17 games into the season amid heavy roster turnover, too. His teams followed that up with 95.8 allowed (8th), 99.4 (9th) to 97.8 (10th).

What the Wizards lacked in imagination offensively, however, they weren't able to make up for defensively when they allowed 104.6 points this season -- the most a Wittman-coach team has ever relented in Washington -- which inevitably led to his downfall.

John Wall became a three-time All-Star and a more defensively responsible player, with Wittman not afraid to hammer on his best player to show more effort. And he did that before he was given a three-year, $9 million deal in 2014 because Wittman wouldn't compromise his principles to tell his star what he probably didn't want to hear but needed to hear.

When Wall led the Wizards to their first playoff appearance in six years, he was struggling in a second-round series with the Indiana Pacers and later admitted he was emotionally unsure of himself. It was Wittman who encouraged him in a text, "Believe in yourself, John Wall" that inspired him to a memorable performance in Game 5 with 27 points. 

As the Wizards' personnel changed since then, bringing in more veterans with the hopes of elevating them to the next level which would've been 50 wins and the conference finals, Wittman's motivational methods didn't work quite as well.

Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley clearly weren't fond of his abrasiveness. Gortat questioned his role in the offensive multiple times. Dudley questioned everything from rotations to in-game strategy adjustments that were lacking.

This roster didn't play hard for him. That's why "effort" was the most common word used to describe the Wizards' success and failures during a season when they had a penchant for blowing fourth-quarter leads and games at home. It led to Bradley Beal calling out teammates. Gortat sub-tweeting his objection. Wall supporting Beal. Embellished tales of practice blowups. 

There's enough blame to go around in this soap opera, but as professionals who'll readily go to the ATMs to collect their salaries from majority owner Ted Leonsis, players owed him -- and above all the game -- more than that regardless of their disdain for the head coach.


Don't cry for Wittman. He earned $6 million in the first two fully guaranteed years of his deal. He received a $500,000 severance to walk away and instead of throwing shade at his players he pointed to the successes he achieved. Their 46 wins last season were the most since 1978-79.

His shortcomings are many. He'd tell half-truths about the injury status of players because he thought in today's information age that he could get a competitive edge by keeping everything under wraps. He'd berate even reporters who'll ask softball questions. He ignited fires when there was none just because, or so it seemed. But as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about his beard he sported this season, "That's all shtick."

Maybe not all of it. But at 56 years old, this is who Wittman is and that's not going to change. He'll let his guard down when the cameras aren't around which is when he's much more personable. He'll go out of his way to wish you a Merry Christmas. He'll well up with tears when reminiscing about his mentor and friend Saunders, who died suddenly this season from lymphoma. He also endured the sudden death of his older brother in the midst of this trying season and now finds himself unemployed and underappreciated.

"This was a sideshow," Wittman said in his last press conference at Verizon Center. "And we slowly changed the culture of this team."

How successful was George Karl at cleaning up the muck with the Sacramento Kings (fired, no playoff appearances)? How about Lionel Hollins with the Brooklyn Nets (fired, no playoff appearances)?

Though this season was an unmitigated failure, Wittman still succeeded in more ways than most will ever give him credit. It's just that the Wizards hit their ceiling under his leadership and the only place they had to go from here was down. It happens. 

To crack it, the Wizards had to make changes to get to the next level. The same can be true for Wittman, who'll need to make changes to stay viable. It's in his nature to go down swinging because he wouldn't have it any other way. 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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