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'This isn't fun': NBA's Wizards off to 0-9 start

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'This isn't fun': NBA's Wizards off to 0-9 start

WASHINGTON (AP) As the coach of the only NBA team without a victory this season, Randy Wittman is struggling to pick a starting lineup for the Washington Wizards. Can't even zero in on a nine-man rotation, actually.

All the while, he needs to buoy his own flagging spirits and try to prevent his players from getting too down on themselves after a franchise-worst 0-9 start.

``This isn't fun. You don't sleep very good. You don't eat very good. The bowl of pasta doesn't taste (good) right now,'' Wittman said after practice Tuesday, before the Wizards' flight to Atlanta for a game against the Hawks on Wednesday night.

```Hey, if I don't stay upbeat, how am I going to keep them upbeat?' is the way I've always looked at it,'' 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.'''

A loss against the Hawks (5-4) would make the Wizards the 13th team in NBA history to begin a season with a 10-game losing streak, according to STATS LLC.

The worst start was 0-18, by the New Jersey Nets in 2009-10.

``We really need this win,'' forward Chris Singleton said.

With the notable exception of a 16-point loss at the Charlotte Bobcats last week - which made Washington's record 0-6 - the Wizards generally have managed to stay close to opponents, with an average margin of defeat of 7.7 points.

In Monday's 96-89 setback against the visiting Indiana Pacers, the Wizards trailed by as many as 20 points. But they pulled within one at 86-85 with 3 1/2 minutes left as Singleton headed to the line with a chance to complete a three-point play to tie the score. He missed the free throw, and Indiana pulled away.

``Again,'' Singleton said Tuesday, ``we couldn't get over the hump.''

It hasn't helped matters that Washington's two best players, point guard John Wall and center Nene, have yet to appear in a game this season because of injuries. While Wittman has been satisfied with the team's play at the defensive end of the court, the offense is where there have been significant problems.

Jordan Crawford leads the Wizards with a 12.2-point scoring average, followed by No. 3 overall draft pick Bradley Beal at 11.7.

In Monday's loss to Indiana, the five starters - Crawford, A.J. Price, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and Jan Vesely - combined to shoot 8 for 37 on field-goal attempts (22 percent).

A day later, Wittman said he had yet to settle on a lineup to put on the floor against Atlanta and was considering four combinations.

``Got to do a little bit more thinking, take another look at the tape again, see the things I liked and didn't like,'' said Wittman, who replaced the fired Flip Saunders as Washington's coach when the team was 2-15 last season.

Part of the difficulty Wittman is having now is that players haven't distinguished themselves by playing well for four quarters on any given night - or even playing well from game to game.

``I can't figure out the nine (most-used players), it's so up and down,'' Wittman explained. ``The 13th guy all of a sudden looks good, the second guy looks awful.''

It doesn't figure to get much easier any time soon for the Wizards, whose next eight games come against teams that all are currently .500 or better. That includes the defending champion Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.

``This group should be winning games. We should be - (even) without John and Nene,'' Wittman said. ``We've got to get them to believe that themselves. That's my job.''

Notes: Wizards F Trevor Booker missed practice and had an MRI exam on his strained right knee Tuesday; the team did not immediately have any word on his availability against Atlanta. Booker left Monday's loss late in the fourth quarter. ... Washington began last season 0-8. Before then, the team never started with more than five losses in a row.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—OTA report, fans excited about young D-line

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NBC Sports Washington

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—OTA report, fans excited about young D-line

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 25, 62 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Trades, misses and mistakes explain Redskins' dead cap—This post does a good job of outlining where the Redskins’ dead cap came from. It should be noted that dead cap is a part of the cost of doing business in the NFL and the Redskins have done fairly well managing it this year. Only about a dozen teams have less dead cap on the books than the Redskins $5.2 million. 

Tandler's Take—The best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2018 Redskins—I received some comments saying that my worst-case scenario, a 6-10 finish, is not low enough. Since we’re talking about events that won’t begin to happen for about three and a half months, I can’t really argue with them. But it’s just hard for me to see them dropping more than a game from last year when they were hit harder with injuries than any other team in the NFL. 

Pre-OTAs Redskins player one-liners, defense—An extension for Matt Ioannidis seemed preposterous a year ago, now it seems like a good idea. How many sacks for Lanier? When will Ryan Anderson get his first sack? Plus offensive player one-liners here

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp—You can’t tell everything from OTAs, but you can tell some things. Taking another look at this post, I gave a good, detailed look at the session, but I didn’t really mention the overall feel, which was fun and energetic. 

Tweet of the week

Certainly, Derrius Guice is the fan favorite of the rookie class. But the great reaction to this tweet shows that there is plenty of love for Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, last year’s top pick. 

In 2016, the starting defensive line consisted of Ricky Jean Francois, Chris Baker, and  Ziggy Hood. The top reserve was Cullen Jenkins. They all had their good qualities and made some plays. But Baker was the youngster of the group and he turned 30 during the season. It clearly was a group on the decline. 

Two years later, the picture is quite different. Payne and Allen lead a younger group that will get better over the next few years. Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Tim Settle, and Stacy McGee should round out the group. McGee is by far the senior member of the group at age 28. None of the others have celebrated his 25thbirthday yet. 

Fans should perhaps temper their optimism with the knowledge that potential doesn’t always develop into performance. But unlike years past there is something to look forward to. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 18
—Training camp starts (7/26) 62
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 76

The Redskins last played a game 145 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 107 days. 

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