WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — In being eliminated from the NBA Playoffs 4-2 by the Pacers Thursday night, the Washington Wizards may have fallen short of their goal to make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1979, but there’s plenty to celebrate in a season that far surpassed fan expectation.
As the future of Randy Wittman, who’s contract is expiring, with the franchise remains uncertain, let’s get some perspective on how far he’s brought the team in the least three seasons.
While his 91-122 overall record may not seem a success by numbers, consider the Wizards year-to-year improvement under Wittman, which culminated with a 2014 playoff berth, noting he assumed the reigns 17 games into the 66-game lockout-shortened 2011 season.
Wittman emoted the type of strong sense of pride and connection to his players that would typically match the type of growth seen above, in his post-game presser after the game.
“Tough. Got a bunch of guys in there that are really disappointed,” Wittman said. “I think we all felt we had an opportunity here to do more than we did, and that’s a good feeling for those guys. They’re hurting in there, and when you hurt, that means you care. And I couldn’t be more proud a group of guys than I am of these guys. They gave me their heart and soul this year; let me ride them; let me love them; the whole gambit of everything, and I really appreciate what they gave me. They gave their heart and soul this year, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
John Wall addressed media, niece and nephew in tow, speaking of the young Wizards team’s growth specifically through the playoffs, alongside teammate Bradley Beal.
“Nobody expected us to be here,” Wall said. “I just want to thank God for giving us an opportunity to be here and compete as a team. I think we got a lot of effort from a lot of teams. I think a lot of teams respect us now. We definitely made Indiana earn it. We give them a lot of credit for coming out and just giving us a lot of experience and know what it takes to win, and compete and close out games and get to the next level. We just want to say thanks to everyone that supported us, and our family, friends, the organization and definitely our fans.”
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel:
“I have so much respect for this [Wizards] basketball team,” he said. “To watch what they did to Chicago, who we obviously have tremendous respect for, that was scary, for us coming in here. And to see John and Bradley, in particular, so young and playing at such a high level on such a big stage. I had the opportunity to meet John at the All-Star game, work with him, and he’s a special guy, and Bradley Beal is too.
“Look at what they did with their front court, the style of play that their coaching staff implemented; I mean that’s a style of play that wins for you in the playoffs. Obviously their future is very, very bright.”
Bradley Beal’s magnificent Game 1 performance earned him high praise from Pacers guard Paul George, who at the time called him “a superstar in this league.”
George caught up with Beal on the court after the game.
What George Said to Beal:
“I told him, man, I’ve been through this four years now being in the playoffs.” George said. “I know he was worn out as well, and I just told him, man, ‘You’re gonna have to really push yourself this summer,’ you know, working on his conditioning, just for these moment when he’s gonna need that extra energy, and just relive it. Relive this whole playoff experiment going into the summer.”
What Game 6 lacked in continuation of the Wizards playoff experience, it somewhat made up for in humorous moments to be captured on video.
In the fourth quarter, Bradley Beal, all 6-foot-5 of him, ripped a rebound from the hands of 7-foot-2, 290-pound giant Roy Hibbert.
When Wizards fans goaded Paul George into a sideline jawing match.
D.C.-based rapper Wale had a little fun playing sideline correspondent after the game, interviewing Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, with whom he sat courtside all game long.
Wale: I will be your correspondent for the day. My name is Wale Folarin. I’m here on behalf of the Washington Wizards. I’m here interviewing Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. How you doing Mr. Griffin?
RGIII: Doing great. Doing great. How you doing?
Wale: Um. Did you enjoy the final game of the season tonight?
RGIII: The Wizards would have loved to get a win, but I think this city did a good job of coming together to support them throughout this whole playoff run.
Wale: I think the refs were playing us a little bit 50-50, but that’s just my opinion.
The video’s worth watching through the end, just to see Wale struggle to remember the outlet for which he’s reporting.