Yes, basketball is finally on its way back! Now that training camp has started, we have a chance to think about what the season and beyond will hold for our beloved Wizards basketball team.
One of the things that I pondered about was this team's effort to show Kevin Durant that they should be a viable option for him to consider in his upcoming free agency period next year and then it donned on me, Randy Wittman is still our coach.
Isn't it interesting when we looked back on this magical journey of KD2DC, many of us, myself included, assumed that if we got Durant, Wittman would be long gone, especially after watching the team get into a horrible stretch in the middle of the season when they were losing to the likes of the Timberwolves and the 76ers. It seemed pretty clear that he wasn't going to be part of this team's future and he might not even finish the season.
But he was able to finish the season and the team had a relatively impressive postseason sweeping the Toronto Raptors in four games and playing a competitive series against #1 seeded Atlanta Hawks, despite losing their best player for most of the series. It was pretty clear -- and to his credit -- Wittman did just what he needed to do to give himself another year.
So now we move on to this year, where the expectations seem to be pretty light for this team, relatively speaking. Last year, this team was considered to be one of the top teams in the East with a chance of challenging Cleveland and Chicago for the top two spots in the conference (of course this was before Atlanta caught fire). This year, it's much different.
Many pundits around the country aren't quite as bold to declare the Wizards a contender in the East. Perhaps some of them have jumped off the bandwagon due to the departure of Paul Pierce, which if you ask anybody who regularly watched the team, probably isn't as big of a deal as it's being made to be.
With that said, the expectations are far lighter with several teams looking poised to possibly leap in front of the Wizards (MIlwaukee?, Miami?, Boston?). Would another 2nd round defeat cost Wittman his job? I doubt it. I doubt a 1st round playoff loss would cost him his job unless the team looks as bad as the Raptors did last year.
Outside of missing the playoffs -- which would be very detrimental to the push to get Kevin Durant -- Wittman seems likely to be the coach next year in a time where you want to place your best options forward with a chance to compete for a championship if you are somehow able to get Kevin Durant. Does that make sense though?
The Wizards need to think deeply about their coaching situation and decide if Wittman is the man that they expect to lead this team into contention. His contract extension was for three years, with the third year (next year) being a team option.
Does it make sense for a team to try to attract big time free agents with a lame duck coach? Does it make sense to try to get a new coach with a new system when the Wizards are trying to attract free agents and convince them that they are an up and coming franchise?
The only thing that could possibly make sense to bring some stability to this situation is to give Wittman a long-term extension. Outside of that, this team may have missed is window to move on from Wittman if that was a consideration at any point. The reality is that his ability to improve as a coach could be the difference between a perennial playoff team and a contender with a superstar free agent arriving to help this team take the next step.