The Wizards players came through on their end of the bargain. Now, they are waiting on Coach Randy Wittman to deliver on his promise to attempt a dunk if the Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls in the first round.
Wittman had a reputation as a shooter during his playing days, letting his former teammates like Dominique Wilkins provide the highlight dunks. So, the Wizards aren’t expecting Wittman to hurdle G-Man and throw down a double-clutch reverse jam like resident slam dunk champion John Wall. But the idea of the bow-legged, 54-year-old coach getting up for a slam was enough to get his players excited, even though they aren’t optimistic that it will actually happen (After all, they are still waiting for Wall to show up in his Florida pajama onesie to pay off a debt to Bradley Beal).
“You think that’s possible? You’d think that’s even possible?” Drew Gooden said, when asked about Wittman’s pledge to dunk. “I’d like to see that. I’d definitely like to see that.”
Wittman has already proven a lot in his first postseason ride. He won his first career playoff series in just five games against the Bulls and has his team up one game to none in its Eastern Conference semifinal final series against the Indiana Pacers.
Washington’s 102-96 victory over Indiana in Game 1 put Wittman in some elite company with Pat Riley and Mike Dunleavy as the only coaches in NBA history to win their first four road playoff games. Game 2 is Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Wittman’s players are growing impatient.
“Witt got to be a man of his word,” Beal said of his coach’s planned dunk attempt. “He was supposed to do it last round. He had up until the first game to dunk. You know Witt, he needs a couple days to get stretched out. Hopefully he’ll do it. I think he can do it. Maybe.”
Beal didn’t sound very confident in Wittman’s above-the-rim skills but he certainly respects his ability to get the Wizards prepared and motivated to compete. “He’s been great, because one, he played the game. So it makes his job easier and my job easier. And he played the two, I played the two. And the way he coaches just gives you so much freedom and lets you make plays and at the same time he holds you responsible for the plays you make if it’s a bad one, he expects you to hold up to it. But he gives you that freedom, that confidence that you need to succeed.”
In parts of three seasons with the Wizards, Wittman has been able get his players to believe in their abilities and then believe that those talents can translate into wins. The result has been a team that was 2-15 when he took over has given the franchise its first playoff series victory since 1982.
“Once we got this thing going in that [right] direction, the belief of winning is what carried these guys on to the next part of it,” Wittman said. “We talk about winning on the road and winning on the road is a belief. You’ve got to believe you’re going to go into any gym and what if we do the things that we’re capable of doing, we’re going to win. A lot of times, before that, you could play your best game and not have a chance to win. That kind of all came together.”
As for the dunk, Marcin Gortat is still holding out hope that Wittman will try dunk when the Wizards return home from Indianapolis. Gortat said he isn’t sure if Wittman will have much success throwing down a slam, “but I know it’s going to be hilarious.”
Wall, the Wizards’ resident dunking expert, isn’t sure if Wittman and dunking would be a good idea.
“I don’t remember him saying that. That’s what Marc said. I wasn’t in on that bet,” Wall said, while expressing pessimism that his could actually do it. “No way. No way. I don’t even think he can touch the net, to be honest.”