Randy Wittman questions Wizards’ leadership

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Now that didn’t take long. Just a few days removed from everyone lauding John Wall for his leadership and getting the Wizards to .500 for the first time in four years, coach Randy Wittman said this after Friday’s 109-105 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at Verizon Center:

“Somebody on this team has got to become the leader that doesn’t allow these things to happen. When I went into the locker room to talk to them before the game … the sense in the locker room, it was carefree unlike the last two weeks. I told our guys when we walked out, ‘We could be in trouble tonight.’ We got to wake these guys up.”

The Wizards (9-10) allowed the three-win Bucks to shoot 66.7% in the first quarter and get out to a 34-30 lead, and that was before Martell Webster (left ankle sprain) and Nene (right foot soreness) depart with injuries and not return. 

So while Wall led all scorers with 30 points, sparked the Wizards defensively with three blocked shots and led the charge to erase a 15-point deficit, Wittman deflected a question about Wall’s strong statistical performance. Wall played 48 minutes, had five fouls and was winded by the extra period. The Wizards failed to score a field goal. 

But leading 102-99 with 16 seconds left, Wall inexplicably went underneath a screen from O.J. Mayo, allowing Brandon Knight to have a clean look. Knight tied it with a three-pointer, his only one of the game. Then there was the unforced turnover. Knight hit a jump shot to give the Bucks a 108-105 lead, and coming out of a timeout, Wall failed to execute the play because he ran into Trevor Ariza near the sideline and stepped out of bounds with 12 seconds left. It was a fitting end to a game the Wizards probably didn’t deserve to win. 

“No communication. It was like it was the first quarter. You kind of play and you’re going underneath. We go underneath a screen with 15 seconds to go in the game and we’re up three,” Wittman lamented. “We can’t do that. That sense of, ‘No way he’ll get the three, I’ll give him the layup,’ and that’s what we wanted. We wanted to take away all threes, stay home on all threes. Guy goes to the basket, we’re not going to block the shot. We’re staying home. We’ll give up the two. We get the ball and they’ve got to foul. Play the foul game.”

Wall was dismissive when asked about Wittman’s criticisms of the team, though the coach never called him out by name. In fact, he gave virtually the same answer to every question: “First half, we didn’t play good but the second half we had a chance to win it. The last 40 seconds we didn’t execute what we were supposed to do defensively to get stops.”

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