When Wizards Coach Randy Wittman decided to spend the first week of training camp focused almost exclusively on implementing his defensive schemes, he knew that the offense would lag behind. With the regular season set to begin on Oct. 30, the Wizards don’t have much time to catch up.
The Wizards want to be an uptempo, running team with John Wall driving and kicking to open shooters along the wings and the corners. But through the first five games, the Wizards have been unable to consistently produce points because of their inability to hit three-pointers and hold on to the basketball.
Washington is shooting just 27.8 percent from beyond the three-point line (including a horrific 5 of 31 outing against New York) and committing an average of 21.6 turnovers (including an incredible 28 turnovers against New Orleans). It has just two more preseason games – Tuesday against Detroit and Wednesday against Cleveland in Cincinnati – to reverse those troubling trends.
“We’ve got to get better there,” Wittman said of the Wizards’ offensive output. “I knew it would kind of be that way. Always is, if you’re concentrating as I said we were going to do from a defensive standpoint, laying our foundation. Again, you’re concerned. We’re going to have nights where we’re not shooting the ball well. I guarantee you, but our defense has got to win those games for us.”
But the Wizards are 1-4 this preseason because they haven’t been able to match those quality defensive efforts with adequate scoring. Although they have reached triple-digits twice – including an overtime loss to Brooklyn – the Wizards have failed to reach 90 in their other three games.
“I mean it’s preseason right now and those are the things you work on and get your kinks out,” said John Wall, who has still been able to average eight assists per game. “I think we’re doing a great job, just have to be more consistent as a team.”
Bradley Beal and Martell Webster have been the only players to connect on more than a third of their three-point attempts. Beal has also been the Wizards’ best shooter from the field (51.3 percent) and long distance (44.4), but the rest of the team is connecting on just 37 percent from the field (121 of 327) and 23 percent from beyond the three-point line (23 of 99).
“I think we’re getting open shots,” Trevor Ariza said. “I think we’re getting open looks at the basket. They’re just not falling down. It’s nothing to that. I’m sure they’re going to start pretty soon. Can’t worry about that. Just have to shoot every time you’re open.”
Wittman believes that the team will eventually knock down shots, but he is more concerned about ball control, which has been a problem throughout the preseason. He continues to marvel over the Wizards’ miscues in their four-point loss to the Pelicans at Rupp Arena.
“If you told me we were going to have 28 turnovers, I would’ve thought, ‘We would’ve got blown out,’ ” Wittman said. “We actually had 32 turnovers. We threw it to them four other times and they were so surprised that we threw it to them, that they gave it right back to us. It could’ve been worse, I guess. That’s the positive way of looking at it.
“We had 28 turnovers, but our defense forced” 25, Wittman continued. “That’s the thing I got to get those guys to understand, you bust your butt defensively like you did. If you force 25 turnovers, that’s got to be a win in this league, for us.”
The Pistons swept the Wizards in four games last season but Wittman isn’t focused on trying to send a message in advance of their game next week. “We’re worried about us. Where we need to improve, we’ve got to improve offensively, our execution, our turnovers, that’s what I’m worried about. We won’t scheme this game like we will come the 30th. We’re going to play our standard. Just like it’s a practice down here. I just want to see us improve in areas we need to improve.”