The Washington Wizards — with a healthy John Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene — are poised to make a leap next season, to be in the mix for one of the playoff spots in the East next season.
But can coach Randy Wittman get them there?
While some people around the league have their doubts, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis gave Wittman a big vote of confidence, in speaking with Ben Standig at CSNWashington.com.
“Randy and the system,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said following Wall’s contract extension press conference last week when asked about his belief in the coach. …
What does he like about Wittman? The focus on defense. Through all of their issues last season the Wizards had the eighth best defense in the NBA last season (in points allowed per possession, which was 101.8, the league median was 103).
“When you add that a team that plays committed team defense and has individual, very, very good defenders, I think those are good, good signs that make you kind of put some distance between you and the rest of the teams,” Leonsis said. “So yeah, I would say Randy’s emphasis on defense and his ability to make the players accountable – I sit on the floor. Randy’s not shy. He’s ecumenical in his wrath to all of the players. it’s mostly about, ‘ you didn’t box out, how did you let that guy get to the loose ball, why didn’t you get that rebound’. It’s not about ‘you missed the shot.’
“Culturally, that’s such a change for us, that accountability to each other and the coach to play good defense I think is another very positive step for us.”
That sounds great, but if the losses pile up, that accountability could catch up with Wittman.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.