D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Celtics, Game 41
Seven years ago today, Dwane Casey’s 2006-07 Minnesota Timberwolves were 20-20. After losing to the Jazz in Utah to drop to .500, Casey was fired (after the second game of a five-game road trip), and Randy Wittman took over. With a chance to go over .500, Wittman and the Wolves lost their next two games, and the coach finished out the season with a 12-30 record.
In his first season as an NBA head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1999-2000, Wittman achieved .500 seven times early in the year. For the seventh time, Cleveland fell to 11-11 after being 11-9 and then proceeded to lose five more games in a row (seven total). They finished that season with a 32-50 record.
Wittman’s Cavaliers started 15-7 in his second season, 2001-02. They then lost 10 out of their next 12 games to fall to 17-17. Cleveland sniffed .500 twice more, at 18-18 and 20-20, and then never looked up again, finishing with a 30-52 record.
Tonight, Wittman hopes to smell the sweet smell of percentage .512 … And more importantly, John Wall hopes to be over .500 for the first time in his NBA career. On the scene at the Verizon Center, let’s go through some pre-game statements from each coach.
Teams: Wizards vs Celtics
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 9.5 points
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Q #1: Celtics coach Brad Stevens on … The Wizards:
B. Stevens: “I think they’re one of the — obviously you’ve got the Indiana and Miami, top of the line teams in the East — but I think they’re probably in that next group vying for that next spot. Obviously Brooklyn’s playing outstanding right now, you’ve got the Hawks that have really played well despite the fact that they lose Horford, and there are others…
But, I think that this team, when you combine their length, their athleticism, with Wall’s progress, I think that they’re really, really good. We also, as a staff, we were taking about it this morning, we think they’re as smooth an offense as we’ve played in a while. They really, really have things going in a good spot. Coach Wittman’s doing a great job with this group, and I’m happy for him. Obviously they’ve gone through some tough times the last few years — one of my former players was here (Shelvin Mack), and they had a lot of tough losses. For them to be doing as well as they are, I’m really happy for them. They’re hard to play against.”
Q #2: Randy Wittman on … Managing Nene’s minutes when he makes so much of an impact:
R. Wittman: “It’s tough. There are days I do it pretty good and obviously days I don’t … just flat-out honest with you. I just got to make sure I maintain an idea of where both he and Bradley — you know, Bradley is still in a situation where you got to make sure and know where his minutes are at.
It’s hard sometimes, because I was a player, and a player gets hot the first quarter, you ride a guy like that. And that was my belief as a player and now as a coach… But I can’t do that, because then you’re losing minutes at the end of the game. So, that’s how I kind of think … make sure we’re dispersing them on an even level, and when it comes down to the end of the game, you have the ability to have your best players on the floor.”
Q #3: Randy Wittman on … The development of John Wall, point guard:
R. Wittman: It’s a process. Playing point guard in the NBA is so different than any other level. There are responsibilities that you have at this level, if you want to be in the league as a point guard, that are enormous. John has grown, since I’ve been here and taking over, immensely in that field … knowing when I can be aggressive, knowing when I’ve got to get a Bradley Beal off, knowing when Nene needs a touch inside. How do we get that touch? What play do we run? Those are all factors that’s going in only his mind, and it’s not on anybody else’s mind.
And it takes time when you’ve never done it before. They played at Kentucky kind of up-and-down, carefree… So coming here and taking those responsibilities, you’re just not going to do it from day one. And it’s something that he’s worked hard at, and that we’ve worked together with, and there’s no question this year he’s taken another step in that direction. Now, as we always talk about, it’s about continuing to take another step at the defensive end, which we’re trying to get him now to concentrate on that aspect of it. So it’s a full-fledged responsibility when you play the point guard at this level, but I think he’s doing an outstanding job of learning as a young kid coming into this league.”