The obsession over the Wizards' new offense has led to a defense that has the staying power of a wet paper bag. So Thursday, coach Randy Wittman took responsibility for that as he refocused his team on the side of the ball where they've been top 10 in the NBA three years in a row.
"It’s been proven three years with this group of guys that we can play that way. It’s just a matter of now making that a focus of each of us. Me as well," said Wittman, two days after his team was shredded 125-101 by the Oklahoma City Thunder for their third consecutive loss. "There probably was some slippage in terms of what we were doing early in October with offense and not the defense. I’ve got to change that.
"We just got to get back to being simplistic in what we’re doing. Get back to basics. That’s what we did today a lot. Everybody is on the same page and then build from there. We took a couple steps backwards to make things more simple and then we’ll go from there."
His quarterback on the floor, John Wall, concurred but wouldn't let his coach take full responsibility for this terrible start. The Wizards (3-4) only had a season-low eight turnovers against the Thunder and still got torched. That's not because they were sloppy on offense but the absence of defense.
“We focused on offense, getting into shape. But there are no excuses. As professionals you got to be ready and be prepared," Wall said. "It’s something we were adjusting to and we focused so much on offense every day in training camp that now we’re back to focusing on defense. Offense is going to come. When you don't do anything on the other end, no matter what the hell you do on offense we're not a team that's trying to outscore people by 30, 40 points."
The Wizards are near the bottom in most defensive statistical categories. They allow 46.2% overall shooting (24th), 38.4% three-point shooting (28th) and 110.4 points per game (29th). Opponents shoot 50% from the field from 5-9 feet from the rim against them.
"The most important thing is you got to get better protecting the paint. We’re giving up too many paint points," Wall said. "We got to take away the paint like we did the last couple years and contest jump shots and make guys beat us from there."
All of this had to be music to the ears of Jared Dudley, who suggested they needed to minimize their options on coverage and make everything back and white after a film session Wednesday.
"We're putting more emphasis on point guards getting into the ball, getting on the bigs to call the coverage early of how we want to play," Dudley said. "Maybe we go over, revisit, Instruction 101 where, 'This is how we're going to do our rotations.' Clear everything up where there are no variables where a guy has the option where he can either go up or go down. We're going to force this guy to go this way every time and eliminate the thinking process. You could do that."
That means Wall, the leader as the point guard, the extension of Wittman on the floor and the team's highest-paid player, has follow through. He can't have lapses with the talented backcourt of the Orlando Magic when they come here Saturday.
"It all starts with me as the point guard getting into the ball. Guys just follow my lead," Wall said. "Now (the defensive coverages are) so simple. You know on side pick-and rolls, we’re going to do this and high pick-and-roll we’re going to do that. We had a couple coverages where guys were in-between trying to decide what to call and we were getting in bad situations."