Wittman Turns His Back on the Future — Wizards vs Trail Blazers, DC Council 40 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wittman Turns His Back on the Future — Wizards vs Trail Blazers, DC Council 40

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Updated: January 19, 2016

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Celtics, Game 40, Jan. 18, 2016 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., via Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur).

Is this the beginning of the end for the current leadership structure in Washington? After what can only be described as one of the most sheepish losses in this disappointing half-season of basketball, Wizards players may have reached a point where messages from the coaching staff are no longer endearing or inspiring and only fall on deaf ears. Randy Wittman began the Wizards’ M.L.K. Day festivities with a little tomfoolery concerning his alleged actions at the end of the Boston game (see above), the very first sign that things would be getting weird in the “Phone Booth.”

Randy Wittman let his team know that the Trail Blazers would be treating this contest like a playoff Game 7 because of the way they were embarrassed Saturday night in Philadelphia. The fact that Wittman was unable to get his squad ready reflects poorly on the head coach: The Wizards started the contest extremely lethargic and trailed 32-17 after first quarter. And given that Portland’s dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum appeared as if they were the ones who belong in the “best back-court” conversation, it’s only right that one of those two players kick off the awards for the day that was.

M.V.P.

C.J. McCollum was the undeniable best player who took the floor in this M.L.K. Day matinee. McCollum finished the game with 25 points on a blistering 6-for-10 effort from 3-point range (9-16 from the field overall). It wasn’t just the fact that he was able knock down open shots, C.J. was also able to get the Blazers’ offense rolling by constantly splitting Washington traps 25 feet away from the basket, get into the teeth of the defense, and rotate the ball to an open shooter. That this type of action was repeated all game long, without any obvious change in defense strategy, means the blame must be laid directly at the feet of Randy Wittman.

The Wizards over-played the Blazers guards too far from the basket and every blown trap parted a red sea that only exposed the Wizards’ lazy close-outs. McCollum was masterful with his ball-handling ability. Talking to McCollum after the game, he said he wasn’t surprised that the Wizards were trapping so hard, adding that he was happy to have great outside shooting help from Meyers Leonard (4-7 3P), who helped open up the floor for the Blazers offense.

If there had to be a Wizards M.V.P., it would go to Jared Dudley, who was a contributing factor in the Wizards (ultimately futile) second-quarter comeback. Dudley hit a few 3s and displayed some of the playmaking ability he’s honed in recent years: he’s now recorded four assists in six of his last eight games. Playmaker Dudley complements the only other dribble threats on the roster (Wall and Beal) and helps punish defenses which dedicate so much attention to closing out out on him as a shooting threat (he’s making 46.5% of his 3s this season).Dudley’s plus/minus of minus-2 was best among Wizards starters—one of the only bright spots for a team that was devoid of positivity.

L.V.P.

The Least Valuable Player for the day goes to Nene for not being able to provide the physicality and spark off the bench that he’d been giving this team since his return from extended absence. Part of the problem may have been Nene having to log his first minutes as a 4 next to Marcin Gortat.

Wittman was defensive when asked about why he decided to break out the Wizards “big” lineup:

“Who else do I have? I don’t have any other options right now. And it’s hard to get a lot of minutes there, I mean he’s on a restriction, Brad’s on a restriction, and then you have Hump [Humphries] and Otto [Porter] out, those are your other options at the forward, so we got to make due. That’s not an excuse, I’m not making an excuse, we’ve played like this before.”

Pretty much sounds like an excuse, despite coach’s disclaimer to the contrary. The Wizards actually had more players available to them Saturday night then they did on Monday, so the premise that he didn’t have any other options is simply untrue. Wittman made a conscious decision to play Nene and Gortat together because he genuinely thought that it would help the team.

He was very wrong.

While Meyers Leonard is not Dirk Nowitzki—hell, he isn’t even on the same level as Kelly Olynyk—he still forced the big Brazilian to chase him around the perimeter and it should be of no surprise to anyone that the mere sight of that is bad news for the Wizards.

X-Factor

Garrett Temple continues to be the overall X-factor in this losing Wizards season. Temple finished the game with 18 points and hit three of his five 3-point attempts. He was also able to play some key defense in that second-quarter comeback that allowed the Wizards to temporarily climb back into the game and even hit a 3-pointer at the beginning of the third quarter to give the Wizards a one-point lead. As long as Bradley Beal is on a minutes restriction, it will be very important for Temple to stay engaged in the Wizards offense.

The Blazers’ X-factor has to be the aforementioned Leonard, who really did impact the game by spreading the floor with his 3-point shooting, scoring 18 critical points—twice his season average.

That Game Was … A Sign It’s Time For Change?

The current Wizards leadership group could be beginning their farewell tour, not unlike Kobe Bean Bryant. Night after night, Wizards fans and NBA pundits watch the Wizards get outcoached, and it becomes harder to envision a scenario in which Wittman is offered a contract extension this summer. Wittman appears to have lost the ability to get his #EffortMetrics speeches across to his players. Combine that with the fact that the clock had been ticking down to when Wittman would revert to the lineups of old that had held the Wizards back a decade, the Wizards are now at the most critical juncture of their season—with three more home games to complete a five-game home stand. There is no time to lean on bad habits and questionable lineups if this team wants to hold on to their dwindling hopes of returning to the playoffs. (As of this writing, numberFire gives the Wiz a 25.5% chance to make the postseason.)

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.