Since when has the league’s worst team been the most newsworthy? Meet the Washington Wizards. A hectic week saw the firing of head coach Flip Saunders, another change to the starting lineup and the team’s first road win of the season. The AFRO recaps a wild week for the Washington Wizards.
Jan. 22: Boston Celtics 100, Wizards 94
After a string of close games, fans filled the Verizon Center expecting a tooth-and-nail battle with the visiting Celtics, and they got their money’s worth.
Washington barely missed a chance to steal one from Boston despite a massive 27-point, 10-rebound and seven-assist game from guard John Wall. Washington was tied with Boston 75-75 late in the fourth quarter, but Boston’s Paul Pierce scored 10 straight points as part of to a 34-point explosion by the veteran. Pierce also added 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Jan. 23: Philadelphia 76ers 103, Wizards 83
The game that broke the camel’s back. A lack of effort, heart and passion equaled a 30-point halftime deficit for the visiting Wizards. Less than 24 hours later, head coach Flip Saunders was out after two seasons. Assistant coach Randy Wittman was named interim coach for the remainder of the season the following day, thanks in large part to the performance displayed against the 76ers. Washington shot 0-for-7 from long range and trailed by as many as 34 points against a team they’ve played against five times already this season. Including the preseason, Philadelphia has beaten Washington five consecutive times by an average of 19.2 points per contest. Reserve guard Jordan Crawford led the Wizards with 17 points.
Jan. 25: Washington Wizards 92, Charlotte Bobcats 75
Thankfully, Wittman was able to make his NBA coaching debut against perhaps the only team worse than the Wizards, the Charlotte Bobcats, at the Verizon Center. Washington outscored Charlotte 31-17 in the opening quarter and never looked back. Forward Andray Blatche shook off what’s become a routine round of boos by the home crowd to pace the Wizards with 17 points and 10 rebounds. It started well and ended even better for the Wizards, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Jan. 27: Houston Rockets 103, Wizards 76
Because of his strong play in limited minutes in previous games, rookie Jan Vesely was granted a start against Houston on the road. Things were looking promising when Washington led by four points after the first quarter. From there, it was all Houston. Reserve Rocket swingman Chase Budinger nailed four three-pointers as Houston outscored Washington by 31 points over the ensuing quarters. Only two players (Wall and guard Nick Young) scored in double figures for the Wizards as they looked like the same club that got Saunders fired just days ago. Wall led a disappointing team showing with 17 points.
Jan. 28: Wizards 102, Charlotte Bobcats 99
It’s too bad the Washington Wizards can’t play the Charlotte Bobcats every night. Days after knocking off the Bobcats at the Verizon Center, the Wizards recorded their first road win of the season in a rematch with Charlotte. The Wizards led by 10 points at halftime after forward Rashard Lewis nailed a buzzer-beating three pointer, but the team nearly buckled in the end after two missed free throws from center JaVale McGee left the Bobcats down just three points with five seconds left. Charlotte’s tying three-pointer fell just short of the rim and the Wizards held on to finish the week with an overall record of 4-16. Last season, Washington didn’t record its first road victory until February, more than 100 days into the season. Despite the missed free throws, McGee still managed to lead the Wizards with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Six players scored in double figures for Washington,
Between Saunders’ firing, Vesely’s start and the team’s first road win of the year, it’s been a busy week inside Washington’s locker room. Saunders’ release was approaching elephant-in-the-room status, as it had been widely speculated even dating back to last season. Wittman is now 2-1 as a coach for the Wizards, a .666 percentage that easily trumps the 51-130 (.392) record that Saunders laid in his time in the District. The Wizards will return to the Verizon Center to host the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 30 in a game that will be broadcasted nationally. The last time Washington hosted a conference-leading team, they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 18.