Wizards coach Wittman rips his team for being too soft

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The volume of Randy Wittman's voice rose right along with his anger.

The coach's Washington Wizards had just lost their third consecutive game, offering up little in the way of defensive resistance each time, and he had a point to make.

"We don't defend. Guys drive by us at will. We don't have any toughness. We don't hit anybody and rebound the ball. We've got guys that play 27 minutes and get one defensive rebound," an animated Wittman, a former NBA player, said at his postgame news conference. "I can get a rebound, I guarantee you. If you give me 27 minutes on a Saturday, I'll get you a rebound. And that's what it boils down to — 50-50 balls; the dirty stuff.

"We don't get dirty. And that's on me. We've got three days to find the guys that'll play that way."

Until the Wizards' next game, on Saturday against the visiting Orlando Magic, there will be one main topic of conversation for Wittman's club: defense.

"You score 100 points in this league, you think you can win those games," All-Star point guard John Wall said Tuesday night after a 125-101 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, whose star forward Kevin Durant left at halftime with a strained left hamstring. "But if you're giving up almost 130, you have no chance."

During the current losing streak, the Wizards — whose foundation for success during playoff runs the last two seasons was their defense — are giving up 119 points per game.

"If we're not communicating and talking out there, there's going to be breakdowns, and that's when we're giving teams uncontested layups," Wall said. "We're just giving guys easy freedom to run and flow anything they want to on offense."

It was the lopsided loss to Oklahoma City that got Wittman all riled up.

The Thunder scored 37 points in the first quarter, 68 in the first half.

They made 51.2 percent of their field-goal attempts, including 65.2 percent on 3-pointers (15 of 23).

They outrebounded the Wizards 53-41, including 43-29 at the defensive end.

"We're just too soft of a team right now. I might as well stick four guards and a center out there and play, because we're getting beat on the boards with my supposed big men out there," Wittman said. "We let teams take it to us the last three games."

None of his starters had more than five rebounds Tuesday, when shooting guard Bradley Beal sat out with a sore left shoulder and backup forward Nene was sidelined by a bad back. Only one of Oklahoma City's starters had fewer than six rebounds.

Washington center Marcin Gortat was the one whose specific stats Wittman mocked: 27 minutes, one defensive rebound.

"It's definitely my fault. I've got to take the blame," Gortat said. "It's my part of the game, where I have to rebound and take that challenge. I've got no explanation. I just wasn't in a good position."

The Wizards came into this season with aspirations of reaching 50 wins and getting to the Eastern Conference finals after bowing out in the second round each of the past two years.

They're 3-4 right now.

"The last few years, we haven't been a great offensive team, but we've been able to defend. This season, offensively, we've been able to score points at times, but defensively, we've taken a few steps back," guard Garrett Temple said, "and that's something that we've got to change in order to be what we want to be."

Wall dismissed as an "excuse" the notion that Washington's increased emphasis on up-tempo, small-ball play this season is leading to the problems on "D."

"It's early in the season," Wall said, "but you've got to fix these problems now."