Anytime we get into arguments or don’t like the way a situation is going, we tend to overthink, over-analyze and often times say things we don’t mean. As the Wizards head into Atlanta tonight to try and beat a Hawks team that just recently lost for the first time in the year 2015, we can’t help but notice the frustration of Wizards fans towards one head coach Randall Scott Wittman on social media.
Understanding that if we were to address every crazy thing we read on social media then we’d have a blog full of troll remarks and rebuttals, however, this particular sentiment seems to be gaining steam. The Wizards are losing, they look like a shell of the team they once were earlier in the season and, subsequently, #WizardsTwitter is asking for heads to roll and blood to be shed.
I’m not here to tell you that the Wizards are doing just fine and that they should proceed as they have been lately. Or that there should be no need for concern about the fact that the offense looks antiquated and predictable. Or even that the defense has regressed as Washington continuously finds itself fighting back from double digit deficits.
What I am here to say is that Randy Wittman does not deserve to be fired midseason for coaching the third best team in the Eastern Conference through 49 games. There are a myriad of reasons why this isn’t even an option and I’ll start with the politically correct rationale of, what message are you sending to a fraternity of coaches if you can be fired with a .633 winning percentage? Sure, someone will take the job. There are only so many in the world but it would be an awful look for an organization just becoming familiar with winning again.
How greedy we’ve become as fans, eh?
Do I believe Coach Wittman is to blame for the Wizards lack of success recently? Absolutely I do, as most coaches should be the blame for the performance of their players. But everyone seems to have gotten so caught up in the early season success of the Wizards that any sign of adversity means fans want to nuke the coaching staff.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or basketball aficionado to point out the deficiencies in the Wizards right now. The numbers do that for us as the p/game rankings below show:
Here are some simple fixes just from the numbers above that, in my opinion, can be addressed without having to overhaul a coaching staff.
Wizards have the 3rd best shooting percentage in the league from 3-point land but that number can be a little deceiving if we are going to compare apples to apples.
I too have been guilty of bragging about the Wizards 3-point shooting and my colleague, Abdullah, has gone to great lengths to point out the need for getting more 3’s up, particularly for one hungry panda. But are the Wizards third in the league because they don’t shoot it as much as the other league leaders? Only one way to find out – and I agree whole heartedly with Abdullah: give Beal the ball and let your shooters..shoot.
The next sets of numbers that jump out to me as fixable between coaches and players are the free throw percentage and the turnovers.
Free throws are just that, free attempts at points and if you are going to be considered an elite team trying to chase a championship, then you are going to need to figure out a way to get into the top half of the league at the charity line, not the bottom half. The list of teams that every fan wants their beloved Wizards to be mentioned with and their respective free throw ranking?
1. Blazers – .793 on 931 attempts
3. Bulls – .782 on 1306 attempts
5. Raptors – .781 on 1248 attempts
7. Warriors – .776 on 974 attempts
8. Hawks – .772 on 1098 attempts
13. Mavs – .758 on 1106 attempts
15. Cavs – .754 on 1217 attempts
23. Wizards – .741 on 1065 attempts
A focus on free throw shooting during practice and before and after games seems like it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to harp on if I was a member of this coaching staff. Oh hey Dave, nothing to see here, move along…
The second number to tackle here is the turnovers which, of late, have seemed to skyrocket. The turnovers, especially in the last three games and really the last month and a half, have seemed to increase and still cause me to scratch my head at times. They are simply careless mistakes that you can get away with if all other things are going well, but not for a team struggling with their identity right now.
Individually, what I also believe to be true of this Wizards team right now is the fact that their star player is not 100% right, yet still giving everything he can on the court.
I believe that his running mate, Bradley Beal, that guy they call #BigPanda needs to get more looks and keep shooting more of those sweet looking jumpers.
I believe that a certain center from Poland needs to step up his game the way he was at the beginning of the year and, more importantly, get back to pick and rolling with that speedy point guard of his.
I also think that the team needs to get back to playing with that passion and excitement of playing for each other like they were early on.
To summarize 900 words quickly, the answer right now for the Wizards is not to fire the coach, but instead to make subtle adjustments to what was a winning formula.
You’re in a funk? So what, adversity builds character.
One last thing with Wittman. Washington, despite its recent flaws, is still 13 games above .500, and this is the same coach whose coaching career arch in DC looks like this:
2011-12 – 18W 31L – .367%
2012-13 – 29W 53L – .354%
2013-14 – 44W 38L – .537%
2014-15 – 31W 18L – .633%
In any business venture, one of the primary things you look for from your staff is growth and development. It’s pretty hard to argue that Randy hasn’t done anything but a) improve as a coach during his tenure here, and b) direct the development of this young team.
Now is not the time to be demanding pink slips for anyone, especially for a coach who got a contract extension seven months ago and has a winning record, while erasing the stench that was the post Big 3 (Arenas, Butler, Jamison) years.
So, the next time you see a fellow Wizards fan screaming about firing the coach keep this post in mind.
Do I like the chances of beating Atlanta tonight? Absolutely not.
But the Wizards have rebounded from a losing streak of two or worse multiple times this season already and have a chance to get things right with games against the Hornets, Nets, Magic and Raptors before the All-Star break.
2014-15 is Randy Wittman’s year to show what he can do with a muscle car and speed. If you want to start talking about decisions beyond this year, that’s fine. But in the meantime, let’s give the Wizards some time to break out of this funk and start playing for this coach the way they were when they were 16 games above .500, and the way they were when people were wondering if he should be coaching in the All-Star game.