There's plenty of concern this preseason in D.C. Part of that's tradition, agonizing over how the team 'should' be performing with respect to this matchup or that reputation. The injury toll before opening night has garnered plenty of ink. With major holes in the ideal lineup card, Randy Wittman is treating the rotation like a DJ who got handed someone else's set, like he doesn't know what he has on his hands. And instead of just playing the hits, he trying out all the tracks and seeing what fits together like some kind of...meritocracy.
This seemingly chaotic approach to preseason is something I'd hoped to see with Randy, but the decision to write about is brought to mind by the puff piece (thanks, Jeff) written about JaVale McGee:
"Andre [Iguodala] works so hard," says Ujiri, "that you look stupid if you're not doing the same thing." Says McGee, "There's definitely more motivation here than there was in Washington."
Changing a culture is like pulling teeth and the process has certainly been as enjoyable. Part of me understands that a lack of veteran leadership plaguing the Wizards is a likely a key component of McGee's statement. Even when Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison were running the locker room, Gilbert Arenas was being Gil when and however he felt like it. You can't have more than one head cook in the kitchen (or message in the locker room) and the chaos of the Wizards did little to give the lie to that pithy truism.
Reading JaVale's quote, I found myself frustrated. This team has been rebuilding the right way for the last several years and is fielding a factory-new lineup despite giving roughly the same amount of salary to Arenas and Andray Blatche in 2008 and 2010 that the Brooklyn Nets committed to in Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace. Things are looking the best they have for the team's long-term prospects since, well ... a long time. It is simply hard to hear a former Wizards player disparaging a team he wouldn't recognize as his own. The team JaVale McGee knew is dead and due in no small part to his absence.
In this new era of Wizards basketball, Randy Wittman's approach is starting fresh. The minutes are spread around, the lineups are unorthodox because he's seeing what everyone can do, where they belong on the depth chart. I've got this feeling like everyone has an equal opportunity to earn the coach's trust and the best players are going to play. If it feels like chaos, it's the chaos that brings new order.
So while Randy plays mad scientist on the sideline in the preseason, seemingly unconcerned with incoherent play, have faith. There are a lot of new parts to integrate and a lot of progress from a lot of young players to judge when considering the new rotation. Further tinkering will be needed as John Wall, Nene Hilario and Kevin Seraphin return from injury. This team may or may not make the playoffs. I believe they absolutely can, but any way things turn out, this is the year Washington figures it out.
Randy Wittman is the coach to help them do it, and these are not the same old Wizards.