Nearly two months away from running his first training camp as head coach of the Washington Wizards, Randy Wittman was at a high school gym in Fairfax, talking to a group of kids about his journey through basketball and the sacrifices he had to make in order to be successful.
He later showed a group of kids how to dribble and the proper shooting form, turning the lessons into competitions in which the losing teams were forced to do push-ups. As kids dropped to the floor and gave him five, it was evident that Wittman doesn’t just reserve the discipline for the millionaire athletes.
The Wizards have made several moves since signing Wittman to a two-year extension in early June. And, after signing autographs and taking photographs for the children, Wittman addressed the trade for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the selection of Bradley Beal, the signing of A.J. Price and the waiving of Andray Blatche, among other topics..
Wittman has been watching Nene and Kevin Seraphin closely in the Olympics and said he doesn’t have much concern that Nene is still dealing with plantar fasciitis. He added that he is still considering making another “tweak” to the coaching staff after signing Don Newman from San Antonio and hinted that the team might save a roster spot or two heading into training camp.
Here is more of what he had to say:
On being excited about the direction of the team: I am, yeah. I’m looking forward to camp. It’s going to be competitive. With our youth and the development that needs to be done, that’s how you accelerate it. When you’re going against somebody everyday that’s going to push you, that’s going to make you better, I think that’s…I’m excited about that. What we’ve done looks good, now we’ve got to go out there and obviously play together. And we’ve got a lot of new faces. A lot of new faces that we’ve all got to learn how to play together with that we didn’t have here last year.
On owner Ted Leonsis’s desires to have a more competitive team: That’s what you want. We want to take the next step and what we kind of did as the year progressed and Nene coming over here at the trade deadline and our improvement from the defensive standpoint. That’s got to be a main focus for us to get better and better defensively. I think that’s why we showed the improvement that we did, because we became a better defensive team. With the additions that we have. Trevor can get out and defend. Emeka, that’s what he’s known for. I like what I saw with Bradley and his ability to move his feet defensively in summer league. That’s what we’ve got to make sure is still a focus of ours.
On playoff possibilities: You always want to believe in the playoffs. I think, you’re always striving for that. We’ve got to go out and we’ve got a tough start to the schedule and that’s going to be one of my main emphases with our guys is going into camp and understanding that, when we come out, we’re going to go on the road a lot and we’ve got to be ready for that. We’ve got to be ready for a good start and keep that momentum that we have.
On John Wall’s statement that he wants to be “the savior” to lead the franchise back to the playoffs: I hope. I mean, this is a big year for John. It’s his third year. He knows the ins and outs. He’s played an 82-game schedule and a 66-game schedule that probably felt like 102 games. John knows, I think, what is expected of him. The thing I like is, he’s embraced it and I think he wants it. Now, it’s a matter of him taking that next step in his game. And he’s put a lot of hard work in thus far and I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen in what he’s been doing. You always want your leader to want to step up to the plate and make that next move. Like I said, we see it on paper we’re taking about it, but we’ve got to do it right now.
On why the team decided to amnesty Andray Blatche: It’s happened. It just became, I think a situation where, I mean, Dray is a talented player and I wish him nothing but the best. I really do. It didn’t work out here. We can sit here and talk about reasons why and you might have a different reason than what I have. That doesn’t really matter. What has happened is what I think we had to do in trying to move forward and the direction that we’re trying to take this team into. I hope and wish the best for Dray. And maybe this can be the best thing for him in turning his career back around and being the player I think we all think he can be.
On signing A.J. Price: We wanted to get another guy in here, from a point guard standpoint. Last year, in terms of, I’m always a firm believer in trying to carry three point guards. Because I put so much pressure on these guys being an extension of me. Luckily last year, Shelvin doesn’t get hurt or John doesn’t get hurt, where you’re forced to put in somebody that probably should not be playing that position having to play it. I think what we’ve looked to do, through the draft, through the trades, through picking A.J. up is the competition at positions. We got pretty much now good competition across the board and I always think that makes you a better player. A.J. is going to be able to do that. I think he’s going to be able to help Shelvin, to help John, become better players by going against each other every day.
On the shooting guard battle between Jordan Crawford and Bradley Beal: Those things are going to be shown to me. Obviously, I know Jordan, right now and who he is. Working with Bradley this summer has been good. I have an understanding. But you’ve got to earn things. I’m a firm believer in that. Guys that are going to start, guys that are going to play, they’ll earn that.
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