That play where JaVale McGee ran back on defense while his team was still playing offense has gotten a good bit of traction around the Internet on Tuesday, with a goodly number of people gently poking fun at the Wizards center. Myself included.
And when interim coach Randy Wittman called into 106.7 The Fan’s Mike Wise Show Tuesday afternoon, wouldn’t you know that was the first question in the queue. Specifically, Wise asked Wittman whether he was laughing or furious when he saw McGee head off in the wrong direction.
Wittman laughed. Several times.
“Um, I think I probably had a little bit of both,” the coach said, and laughed again. “I mean, at first pretty upset with the [shot]. And then when I saw him running the other way, I liked [it], because that’s one thing we’ve preached to him, transition defense. But the problem with that was we had the ball. So at least I know he’s listening.”
After much laughter, Holden Kushner then asked for a real explanation of the strange sequence.
“You know what, as with any player in this league — it doesn’t matter what team you’re on — you go through a period of time in every season — and it can be a couple times — of ...some bad play. JaVale has gone through probably here a tough three- or four-game period. He has not played very well.
“And the thing I told him today at practice, I said everybody goes through this. Hey, LeBron James goes through a bad streak. The great ones go through a bad streak. I said the only way to get yourself out of it is to work your way out of it.
“And you don’t accept it, you don’t feel sorry for yourself, all right? You’ve got to go out there and just bust your tail and work your way out of it. And all of the sudden, boom, you’re back on track and you’re playing again at the level that we need you to play. I mean, we need JaVale to play at a high level, there’s no question about that. He isn’t right now, and it’s my job also to help him out of that lull and have him keep his head up.”
Then Wise, being an old-school YMCA type, said that his biggest objection to the whole sequence was that McGee didn’t take the ball strong to the hoop before the missed
“Hey, it’s a process,” Wittman said. “And it’s [something] that we work with him every day on the low box. You know, I’ve mentioned it many times in the two weeks that I’ve taken over: there’s been a lot of bad habits that we have fallen into.
“And basketball bad habits are just like any bad habits that we have in our personal lives. You might be able to stop smoking for a week, but then you relapse and stick a cigarette in your mouth, and that’s what we do, sometimes we reach for that cigarette and go to some bad habits that we have. We’re breaking some of them. Have we broken them all? No. Do we have a lot of work in terms of trying to break more? Yeah. And JaVale, one of his is his move across the lane; instead of it being strong and to the basket, it’s away from the basket.”
Eventually, Wise asked Wittman if he ever calls Flip Saunders to ask, sheesh, what have I gotten myself into here. Wittman chuckled again. And sighed.
“Hey, this hasn’t been fun for anybody,” he said. “When you replace a coach, a guy loses his job, a good man, a good coach, you know, hey, I don’t want this job. I didn’t come here to be the head coach of the Wizards. I came here to help Flip and help these young players become better players. And yeah, trust me, there are times — as you mentioned the Clippers game — [where you think] what in the world have I gotten myself into.
“But they’ve been great, too, guys. I’m gonna tell you. I’ve asked them to change some things, attitude, work ethic. I don’t have any miracle dust here. By me taking over its not gonna change. You guys have to change. And we’re gonna change. ”
And then Wittman talked about the insane number of players on his roster on their rookie contract. And eventually he started talking about cigarettes again.
“Now, we had a couple of relapses the two prior games to last night. Like I said, we pulled that cigarette out and stuck it in our mouth and started smoking, and I had to grab it and throw it away and say no. But we bounced back [Tuesday] night.”
Note: Some quotes have been corrected and a few words changed after listening to the audio again. None of the meaning of the quotes was altered.
(Note: Due to me not being able to find my tape recorder, this is a rush transcription, which might contain a few minor discrepancies with the real thing. Will update as necessary.)