In the 35th anniversary season of the team that brought Washington its only NBA championship, a collection of misfit role players and underdeveloped talent has taken the organization to its lowest state to ever open a season.
After a 96-89 loss on Monday to the Indiana Pacers at Verizon Center, the Wizards are a franchise-worst 0-9, breaking the previous mark for futility set last season, when they lost eight in a row. Coach Randy Wittman is struggling to find a rotation that works and the words to explain why they have been so awful.
“I believe these guys can win. I don’t have doubts. I come in here every day, thinking: ‘This is the night. I feel good,’ ” Wittman said, before pausing. “I might be dumb.”
Through this unbearable start, Wittman has said that he wants to instill that belief in his players but the challenge only gets harder with each defeat. And, it had to be hard for his players to keep the faith when they trailed by 19 points only nine minutes into the game and fell back behind by 20 in the third quarter.
But with a recently benched rookie, a point guard who was unemployed and training in Florida last week, and some other scrappy reserves, the Wizards wouldn’t go down easily. They rallied back within one point when Chris Singleton got fouled on a jumper with 3 minutes 30 seconds left.
Forward David West made back-to-back jumpers to help the Pacers hold on and the Wizards had to once again discuss coming up short in a game that they could’ve won if not for a poor execution down the stretch and an even poorer start.
“Always the same story,” Kevin Seraphin said after scoring 13 points off the bench. “We have to fight all the game to come back. But that’s difficult. We play some good teams. This is the NBA. That’s a league with no mercy. If you don’t start right, you already lost the game.”
Rookie Bradley Beal scored a game-high 18 points and Shaun Livingston, in his second game with the team, had 10 points and four assists. But Wittman was unable to get much production from his starters, who combined to shoot 8 for 37 from field and barely outscored West, 31-30.
“It comes down to us. We can’t keep putting our team in the hole right now. For whatever reason, our first five is not getting it done,” point guard A.J. Price said.
As a team, the Wizards shot just 35.6 percent, the second game in a row that they failed to shoot above 40 percent. West was 10 for 14 from the field, responding to every rally with a pull-up jumper, tip-in or bank shot. West also had the support of former Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, who broke out of a season-long slump with his most productive game of the season. Hibbert had 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting and added 12 rebounds in the arena he called home for four seasons.