There was a lot that went wrong in the Wizards' 24 point loss to the Thunder on Tuesday, but chief among the issues was Washington's struggles on the glass against the Thunder. It was bad enough that Wizards coach Randy Wittman called out the effort of the team's big men, particularly Marcin Gortat, who only pulled in one defensive rebound in 27 minutes of action.
Wittman was so disgusted with the effort he made a pretty striking claim, according to Jorge Castillo:
"We don’t hit anybody and rebound the ball," Wittman said after the Wizards’125-101 loss at Verizon Center. "We got guys that play 27 minutes and get one defensive rebound. I can get a rebound. I guarantee you. You give me 27 minutes on Saturday, I’ll get you a rebound."
Scott Allen ran the calculations based on Wittman's NBA numbers and determined, if nothing else, Wittman could probably luck into a rebound if you gave him that much time to hit the glass. While that argument seems to make sense and is probably best left as a hypothetical, there's only one way to really know if Randy Wittman could actually still grab a rebound in an NBA game, and that's to put him in NBA 2K16 and see what happens.
Creating Virtual Randy
Thankfully, Randy Wittman is already in NBA 2K16 as a member of the historic Atlanta Hawks squad led by Dominique Wilkins that pushed Larry Bird and the Celtics to the brink in the 1988 playoffs. So it wasn't hard to modify the roster to get Randy Wittman on the team he currently coaches. But how do you modify a 28-year-old NBA athlete into a 56-year-old regular man?
- First, we made Wittman 20 pounds heavier. No one here is trying to say Wittman is overweight, but you can't expect a man at his age in a high-stress position to keep the same physique he kept as a 28-year-old man. It just can't be done.
- All of Wittman's mental and skill-based attributes the same, because he still knows the game. At the same time, all of his physical attributes have been dropped to 25, the lowest 2K will let you drop them. If you think it seems cruel that Randy Wittman has a mind that can still work on an NBA level but a body that won't let him do what he wants, keep in mind this is what happens to all of us as we age. This experiment is no more cruel than life itself.
- I upped Wittman's aggression to 100 because you know he's going to be furious that he has to suit and bang with players at his age just to prove a point about rebounding.
- Unfortunately, 2K would not allow me to alter Wittman's appearance, but we can assure this is an old man trapped in a young man's body.
Now that Virtual Randy has been adequately aged, it was important to create the correct atmosphere. Wittman may have been a shooting guard during his NBA career, but since he called out the big men, he must suit up at center for the Wizards here. Wittman will hold down the pivot alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Kris Humphries as they take on Saturday's opponent, the Orlando Magic.
The game was set up with 7 minute quarters to give Virtual Randy exactly 28 minutes (one more than he said he needed) to prove his point. To keep things fair, the CPU is controlling both sides in this game. But don't worry, the simulation was set up so that coach Randy Wittman could not sub out player Randy Wittman, no matter how bad things got.
Virtual Randy vs. the Magic
Randy Wittman didn't do himself any favors by saying he could do this on Saturday against a team like the Magic. Yes, Orlando is a fairly average rebounding team, but they're definitely built to run a 56-year-old man into the ground. They're loaded with young players who love to get up and down the court and they've got Nikola Vucevic, who is hard enough to guard in the low post with an athletic big man, much less a 6'6" man who is eligible for AARP. Still, a promise is a promise.
Offensively, Wittman is a bit of a mess. At 56, the man still has enough grit in his system to set a good screen, but really can't do anything afterwards. Instead of a pick and roll, it's more like a pick and LOL. More times than not, Wittman winds up setting off-ball screens for players because when he sets an on-ball screen the Magic just blitz the ballhandler since Wittman can't even get open when he's uncovered. It's pretty bad.
Defensively, the Magic waste no time trying to exploit his Vucevic against virtual Randy, as you'd expect. The Magic post up Vucevic on Wittman on the first two possessions and pick up two easy buckets. Coach Wittman, for reasons unknown, decides to leave Virtual Randy out on an island against Vucevic. Is he afraid if the Wizards will give up easy threes instead of easy two if they double? Is he a glutton for watching himself suffer from a third-person perspective? It's hard to say.
After running two plays for Vucevic for four quick points, the Magic decide to stray away from the "Post up the 56 year old man down low" strategy to try to get the rest of the team involved. This led to some negative consequences for Orlando. The Magic's lost their offensive rhythm and Vucevic, unclear why he was suddenly being shut out, started to disengage on both ends. Once that happened, Wittman saw his opportunity and snatched it with two hands:
Pay special attention to Randy's face as he snags that ball. That's the look of a man who just realized no big man in the NBA can ever question his authority again. It must feel great.
It shouldn't come as a surprise Wittman tried to get the rebound he needed early. The longer he plays, the more it's going to look like he's a 56-year-old man, so the first five minutes of the game were always going to be his best shot, and he took advantage of it.
Less than a minute after grabbing a board, Wittman also got on the scoreboard after Vucevic left Wittman open for a jumper. Near the end of the first quarter, Wittman scored again to help the Wizards out to an early lead.
On his second bucket, he actually benefited from being slow. The Wizards were headed up court for a possession when Victor Oladipo stole the ball and pushed it the other way for the Magic, but before they could get a shot up John Wall stole the ball back and zipped a pass up court to Wittman, who was still in the process of turning around to get back on defense. Virtual Randy gets the ball in the bucket before Orlando can recover to finish the quarter with four points and a rebound. The Wizards are up 16-10 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Wittman quiets down on the offensive end, and is spared on the defensive side after Nikola Vucevic gets into some foul trouble. However, Dewayne Dedmon brought a spark off the bench to help get the Magic back in the game, bringing the Magic within 2 before John Wall buried a long two at the buzzer to give the Wizards a 31-27 lead at the half.
While it's impossible to know what happens at halftime of a video game, it's probably safe to guess Scott Skiles said something to the extent of, "YOU'RE LOSING TO SOMEONE WHO HASN'T PLAYED AN NBA GAME SINCE 1992! DON'T YOU DARE MAKE ME SUIT UP TOO!" Whatever he said, it worked as the Magic scored the first five points of the third quarter to take the lead.
After losing the lead, Virtual Randy sensed the team needed a spark, so he went out and snagged another rebound:
Wittman's second board of the night doesn't have the desired effect, as the Magic continue their run. By the time it's all said and done, the Magic have gone on a 17-5 run to take an eight point lead that forces Coach Randy to call a timeout.
The timeout does the trick as the Wizards start to claw their way back into the game. Even Virtual Randy was fired up. He managed to earn a trip to the free throw line, to the embarrassment of everyone who has ever worn a Magic jersey, present or past.
Washington entered the fourth quarter down by four and in desperate need of something to change the tempo of the game. Once again, they turned to Wittman, who grabbed his third rebound of the game. As a reward, John Wall gave him an opportunity to post up Channing Frye. It got weird.
Exhausted after trying to teach Frye the art of the post up, the Magic start to exploit the Vucevic-Wittman matchup in the post. After logging 20 minutes, Virtual Randy's age is beginning to show:
Solid defense here by Randy. pic.twitter.com/bk1PTWtvTt— Jake Whitacre (@jakewhitacre) November 12, 2015
But the Wizards press on. John Wall and Bradley Beal get hot to keep the Wizards in the game, despite their defensive issues, as the game moves to crunch time. With less than a minute to go, the Pick and LOL play finally works as intended as Wittman springs John Wall for a dunk off of this beautiful screen on Elfrid Payton:
Problem is, even when he makes it look easy on offense, Virtual Randy make it look even easier on defense. The Magic wasted no time getting those two points back on the next possesion:
Such intensity pic.twitter.com/zv1szgAo10— Jake Whitacre (@jakewhitacre) November 12, 2015
But even still, some John Wall heroics allow the Wizards to tie it back up with just seconds left, giving the Magic a final chance to win the game in regulation. Everyone in the arena knows the Magic are going to give the ball to Vucevic, who just hit a game-winner in real life on Wednesday night. Would the Wizards change their strategy on the final possession to force OT? Here's how it played out.
Somehow, Coach Wittman's gamble to leave Wittman one-on-one in the post against Vucevic paid off as Wittman forced the miss to send the game to overtime. Basketball is a weird game.
[NOTE: As this point we could have easily stopped chronicling the game, because Wittman proved his point. But we're not going to do that. We're going to tell you what happened in overtime because we know if you're still reading at this point, you're invested and you want to know. At this point, you're the one with a problem, not us.]
As overtime progressed, Wittman stepped up his defense on the block as he realized Orlando was going to be running just about everything through Vucevic. Unfortunately, his body wouldn't comply with his internal demands. Watch what happens as he tries to corral this rebound after forcing Vucevic into a miss:
This is what a man looks like when he has been broken by athletic competition. He doesn't even know how to use his hands. He gave it his all, but sometimes you just can't grit your way to victory, even if you grit your joints for 31 minutes to make it happen.
The Magic walked away with the win in overtime, but there was only one true winner in this contest.