WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Newly extended Wizards head coach Randy Wittman gave a veritable Wizards state of the union in his interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Lavar and Dukes on Wednesday.
He addressed what it meant for his young club to make the playoffs, the first such appearance for the franchise in six seasons, which concluded with a 2nd-round elimination by the hand of the Indianapolis Pacers.
“There was a lot of anxiety and nervousness in Game 1, in Chicago, but as I told those guys, individually, I said, ‘You know what? If you’re not nervous, something’s wrong with you.’ But the way they responded was something special, because you don’t know how they’re gonna respond,” Wittman said.
Immediately following their playoff elimination, Wittman described a grim scene inside the Wizards locker room, which he says was a positive sign of the hunger he wants them to carry into next season.
“When I walked in the locker room after we lost Game 6, they were down, because they felt that they could have done more,” Wittman said. “And so, that meant a lot to me, showing that these guys, coming into the playoffs — a lot of them for the first time, and hey, listen, a lot of them haven’t gotten out of the first round. Andre Miller’s a 15-year vet who’s been in the playoffs 10, 11 times, and never got out of the first round until this year — it meant a lot to see those guys despondent knowing that maybe they could have done more. And so, in moving forward as a coach, that meant a lot to me.”
Considering the abrupt nature of how a playoff run ends, especially a run that far exceeded expectations — both of the organization and its fans — it’s difficult not to imagine what could have been.
“I really believed, if we could have got through Indiana, as a coach, you want to believe that, you know what, you got a chance to go in and do something against Miami,” Wittman said. “But there’s got to be a lot of respect there, too, because of what they did to Indiana.”
Wittman divulged some of his staff’s plans to continue to develop John Wall as a star in the offseason.
“He’s got to continue to add to his game,” he said. “And, whatever that is. See, I think he can become, because of his size at the point guard position, become more maybe of a guy that can post up a little bit more, against certain teams.
“We had a guy here, obviously, in Andre Miller that kind of flourished in that — his ability to post different point guards up and make them pay from a standpoint. I think John can evolve into that. It’s about improving your game, and when you’re talking about John and Bradley Beal, adding something to your game.
“It’s gonna be an important summer for those two guys, and for our coaching staff to be in the gym with them, and to add something to their game.”
The Wizards have a string of veterans scheduled to hit free agency: Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza and Drew Gooden, to name a few, and will have to make some difficult decisions about who to retain, while not disrupting the chemistry that helped propel the mix of young and old to such a deep playoff run.
“I think as we move forward, we can’t lose sight of who we need to move forward with, and then keeping that veteran– you know, we had a great mix of veterans and young guys this year, and that was instrumental in us in doing what we did this year, and it’s important that we keep that focus in line,” Wittman said. “Every year your team changes somewhat, and we gotta make sure we keep that balance.”
Listen to the full interview below.