“That’s why I think this group is playing the way that it is. No give up in them right now,” Wittman said in Milwaukee.
After second-year forward Jan Vesely went scoreless and took three halfhearted shots in a loss against Brooklyn, Wittman pulled him aside and implored him to give the team more aggressive play and offensive production. The next game, Vesely responded with 11 points, including two impressive alley-oop dunks.
“I wish I had that kind of magic,” Wittman said when asked if his pep talk helped.
Vesely admitted that it meant a lot to have Wittman speak to him. “He let me know he trusts me. So I try to do my best to put it on the court,” Vesely said.
Wall and Nene remain sidelined, but both were very supportive of the Wizards retaining Wittman, his no-nonsense style connecting with them.
Wittman will also use humor to make a point. During training camp, Wittman started a drill and asked Vesely and Kevin Seraphin to line up on the free throw line. Noticing that Seraphin and Vesely — two young players whose professional careers began in Europe — were standing behind him at the three-point line, Wittman pointed ahead and said: “No, down there. What? They don’t have free throws over there” in Europe?
“I really like his style,” said eight-year veteran Emeka Okafor, who arrived in the trade with Ariza. “A real straightforward guy. He has an interesting sense of humor. He’s funny. He’s very methodical. He knows we have a young team, so he’s really gone through all the stats, really breaking everything down by detail.”
Near the end of the first half in a loss to Toronto, Shelvin Mack missed a defensive assignment and Wittman cursed to get his attention. He called Mack over for an explanation, then made him understand where he went wrong. Asked later about what happened during the exchange, Wittman responded, “That’s what I call, ‘coaching,’ ” Wittman said.
“It’s the little things. Things that we can control in the game,” Wittman said. “There are some things in the game you can’t control, making or missing shots. Doing the small things — setting screens to get good shots, taking good shots, running back in transition. Those are the things that you can control and I want them to focus on what we can control. And that usually leads to good things.”