The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wizards’ Randy Wittman will listen to player complaints — but not during the game

Coach Randy Wittman has shown considerable flexibility – and rigidity – when it comes to doling out playing time, with several players going through extended periods in and out of the rotation.

Chris Singleton recently climbed back into playing regular minutes after being on the outside looking in for much of January but said players have the chance to discuss their situation.

“Coach has an open door policy,” Singleton said. “If you want to go talk to him, go talk to him. It’s on you.”

But Singleton added, “It’s not something you do during a game.”

After the Wizards lost to Detroit, 96-95, on Wednesday, Wittman blasted his players for complaining about minutes and shots during the loss, believing they showed more concern about individual performances than the success of the team.

“Till the earth stops spinning, there’s guys going to be concerned about minutes,” Wittman said. “That’s the nature of our business, but there’s a time and a place to be concerned and to have that questions about minutes, and it’s not during game. If there’s a question after the game, come into my office the next day after practice, we can sit and talk about those things. In the midst of the game, it’s got to be a focus on the game, not what’s transpiring for me. And then you win or lose that game, you deal with those kind of things after the fact.”

John Wall spent as many minutes sitting as playing for the second game in a row. Trevor Booker started in place of the injured Nene (right shoulder) and played just 17 minutes – none in the fourth quarter. Kevin Seraphin had his most efficient game in weeks, scoring 12 points in just 17 minutes but was yanked for the final five minutes after committing his only turnover of the game. And Martell Webster played just 23 minutes, his second-fewest in February.

Wittman didn’t name any players by name, but Webster admitted that he didn’t handle the situation well.

“We got caught up in the emotions,” Webster said. “Me, myself, I kind of got caught up in the game a little bit. As a veteran on this team, I have to do a better job of making sure, as a team and a unit, that we manage those and don’t let them get the best of us. I was a victim of it.”

Singleton scored six point and had a season-high eight rebounds in 25 minutes against the Pistons and has taken advantage after being reinserted into the lineup. He had received DNP-Coach’s Decisions in 11 of 13 games but said Wittman’s rotation is based on merit more than anything.  Wittman went with reserves A.J. Price, Trevor Ariza, Singleton and Seraphin during critical portions of the loss to Detroit.

“If you’re not playing up to par, he’s trying to wake you up, trying to get you to play better,” Singleton said. “He’s in a tough spot right now, but whatever is the best position for us to win, I feel comfortable with the decisions coach makes. We just got to go out there and just play.”

Wittman may again have to alter his rotation, depending on forward Nene’s availability. Nene didn’t participate in Thursday’s light practice, and Wittman said he likely would be a game-time decision Friday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks.

“Feeling better, he said,” Wittman said.

The Wizards’ defense had some slippage without Nene communicating, making plays and working in tandem with Emeka Okafor. The Pistons shot 54.2 percent from the field, and Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe combined to score 58 points.

“What he can do on the floor, passing, scoring, we missed his basketball IQ, ability to make plays on both ends of the floor,” Wittman said, “but it was not something we couldn’t make up for with the guys we had.”

No matter which players Wittman has available, or utilizes against the Knicks, the coach just wants his players to find the appropriate time to express themselves.

“At some point there’s going to be guys that’s going to have questions about role, minutes, shots, whatever the case may be,” Wittman said. “I’m not upset with that. I’m upset with allowing it to affect that game.”