A lot has been said and written about the "direction" of the Washington Wizards since the start of last season's lockout shortened campaign. Is this team ready to grow and embrace the "youth" movement that has seemingly been going on forever? Will John Wall emerge as one of the elite guards in the game? Will Burger King ever tell Andray Blatche that he simply just can't "have it his way?" (Sorry, I just couldn't resist. It's been 4 weeks since my last Andray Blatche reference)
We may never know, but as newly retained head coach Randy Wittman put it so eloquently when discussing this teams future while on the radio with Chad and Lavar: "We're about to find out."
As the door in the media swung open, a very cheerful and upbeat Randy Wittman sat to the right of general manager Ernie Grunfeld and talked about the progress of the Washington Wizards under Wittman. Grunfeld told the media that he was extremely proud of the way the team was able to "compete" and thought that they played "much better defense under Randy's leadership." For the most part, Ernie stayed out of the limelight and let his head coach address the media as he answered questions on the off season direction, the upcoming summer league and what the team plans to do in the draft.
One thing you can't deny about coach Wittman: The dude is a GREAT sound bite. Speaking from a media perspective, he's probably one of the more entertaining sports figures we have in this city. The guy approaches the game with a very serious and "in-your-face" attitude that has been answered with productivity on the court. Aside from the team winning 8 of its last 10 and 6 in a row to finish out the season, you see the improvement of a lot of the young players as the season came to an end.
I think it's pretty evident to see how guys like Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin and Jordan Crawford directly benefited from coach Wittman's atttude and coaching style. Is part of that progression just part of the natural development of a young NBA player? Sure, but how many times have we seen young, highly touted draft picks come in here and squander away opportunities that were given to them because of a lack of leadership and discipline?
If there's one thing that coach Wittman brings to the table, it's discipline. Something that a young team desperately needed. In fact, they needed it so much that they went out and traded away two of their best offensive players to get a 9 year veteran who's played in multiple playoff series, a western conference final and is an all-star center when healthy. Multiple times throughout the course of the season we saw guys like JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Chris Singleton and countless other players been shown to the bench because of their inability to maintain discipline on the court. If I had a dollar for every time I heard Randy Wittman say "Guys were playing too much 1 on 1 basketball" in the first 25 games of his coaching stint, I wouldn't have to work full time. But eventually, guys got the hint and that growth and level of maturity seemed to be what Ernie Grunfeld and the rest of the Wizards brain trust seemed to appreciate the most out of Randy. "There's a level of familiarity there with the young guys. He knows their strengths and weaknesses" -Ernie Grunfeld.
When asked about the draft: Neither coach Wittman or Grunfeld talked about who they were targeting in. They both insisted that the players available in this draft are going to be guys who can come in immediately and make an impact. When asked about whether or not they plan on trading the number 3 overall pick, Grunfeld replied with, "We do what our owner says." After a quick chuckle out of the small media crowd that gathered, Grunfeld explained that the guy they're going to be able to draft at number 3 was someone that they plan on having on their team for a very long. Grunfeld was just reiterating what Ted Leonsis said earlier this week when he told members of the media that the team had no intention of trading the pick.
When asked about the most important part of John Wall's off season: "We have to get him to be more confident shooting his jump shot." I couldn't agree more. If Wall is able to take all his talent, attributes, and skill and then add a jump shot to that…watch out Rajon Rondo cause the best guard in the east might just end up being on the Washington Wizards.
Finally, the last question that was asked about Andray Blatche and the team's direction moving forward with him: Wittman went on for about 50 seconds about getting everyone on the mindset of playing "team basketball" and doing all the right things in the off season to get yourself "in shape" to play a full NBA season. Needless to say, Andray Blatche's name was not mentioned ONCE by Randy Wittman when giving his answer.
Randy Wittman's Entire Press Conference