Since training camp began in late September, Washington Wizards Coach Randy Wittman has made ball control one of his top priorities. The Wizards tied for 23rd in turnovers last season at 14.6 per game, which contributed to many of their offensive woes.
Wittman believes more points will come with more opportunities, but so far, the message hasn’t been getting through. The Wizards have had 43 turnovers to just 31 assists through their first two preseason games, both losses.
“I wish there was a magic wand, it’s just we’ve just got to” take care of the ball, Wittman said. “You’re not going to be a good offensive team, if that’s the case.”
Wittman pointed to the Wizards’ sluggish start in their 83-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday in Brazil – in which they had 20 turnovers and shot just 32.9 percent – as a glaring example of their problems.
The Wizards missed their first five shots and had a turnover before finally getting a Bradley Beal three-pointer to get on the scoreboard. They had three more turnovers and a missed field goal before getting their next field goal, again from Beal. By the time the Wizards made their third field of the first period, they had already committed nine turnovers and trailed 21-8.
“After that, we did a better job of taking care of it. But we had eight right away and that’s where you dig a hole,” Wittman said. “You dig a hole, 10, 12 down because you’re not getting shots.”
Point guard John Wall and backup big man Kevin Seraphin led the team with eight turnovers apiece, and backup point guard Eric Maynor, added last offseason to serve as a stabilizing back-court presence, was right behind them with six. Maynor said the problems have come from players getting acclimated with one another and their tendencies.
“We got new guys. I think it’s going to take time,” Maynor said. “That’s what preseason is for. We’re not going to hang our head on what happened in Brazil. Not going to hang our head on what happened in Brooklyn. We just got to keep getting better in here, that’s all. … I’m feeling more and more comfortable with this offense, just feeling more and more comfortable with these guys and I’m going to get better as time goes.”
Wall had four turnovers in the first quarter against the Bulls, including a double dribble and an offensive foul. Maynor replaced him and the offense began to come back with the second unit, led by Martell Webster, leading the rally. In the preseason opener against Brooklyn, the starters played well but the Wizards suffered a drop-off when the bench entered the game.
“Kind of a flip-flop,” Wittman said of his two units. “We didn’t have any ball movement. A lot of one-pass, no-pass shots and contested shots. The luxury [reserves] have is they’re watching what’s not working, so I thought they did a good job. They got the ball moving and we scored. We got some shots that didn’t go down early.”
The Wizards have shot just 36.5 percent through the first two games, but Beal feels more passes will lead to better looks.
“We need to move the ball more. More than anything, we need to make shots. It all comes down to us making shots,” he said.