WASHINGTON (AP) - Randy Wittman didn't sleep on Tuesday night. Excited and nervous about his debut as Washington Wizards coach, Wittman couldn't wait to get started.
His players couldn't wait, either.
The Wizards led throughout the game and blew out the woeful Charlotte Bobcats 92-75 on Wednesday night.
Washington is still just 3-15, but after the Wizards quickly built a 20-point lead and didn't blow it, Wittman was eager to talk about the win.
Replacing his old friend Flip Saunders, who was fired Tuesday morning, wasn't his choice. Given a contract to coach only through the end of the season by team president Ernie Grunfeld, Wittman said there was no magic in the win.
``There's nothing to critique tonight,' Wittman said. ``This is tough - the things we've gone through - this is tough.'
Nick Young scored 20 points, and Andray Blatche had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards, who didn't have the benefit of a practice. Saunders' lead assistant has been an NBA coach twice - with Minnesota and Cleveland. His career record improved to 101-207.
He didn't change the starting lineup.
``All these guys get a clean slate with me,' Wittman said before the game.
When Grunfeld fired Saunders, he explained that the team needed ``a new voice.'
Blatche, who had clashed with Saunders on numerous occasions, tried to be conciliatory toward both the old and new coach.
``I can't honestly say we needed a new voice,' Blatche said. ``We just needed somebody to actually check us - like Wittman did. That's what we needed.'
JaVale McGee, whose showboat dunk on Jan. 16 caused a huge rift between he and Saunders, was reluctant to say the team needed a new coach.
``That's Ernie's opinion, and I'm going to let it be Ernie's opinion,' McGee said.
Wittman likened his team's fight against mistakes to a smoker trying to quit.
``I've got to help them kick some of those bad habits. That's all it is - we've just fallen into a way that's not conducive to us to win, so when I see them pull out a cigarette, I have to take it out of their mouth,' Wittman said.
Washington started off brilliantly against a team with even more problems. The Bobcats, who have lost six straight, are now 3-16 and were missing their top two scorers: Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin.
Matt Carroll scored 17 points and rookie Cory Higgins had a season-high 13 for the Bobcats. Tyrus Thomas also had 13 points and blocked nine shots - one short of a team record.
``Talent is what's most important in this league. If you don't have the talent, it's very difficult to win, it's very difficult to execute, it's very difficult to do anything,' Charlotte coach Paul Silas said. ``Right now, we just don't have that. As I said last night, take three or four of your best players off any team, and you're not gonna play well. Our scorers, our two leading scorers are not playing, how are we gonna score?'
John Wall scored 12 points for the Wizards, who broke a three-game losing streak. Washington had a 31-17 advantage after one. The second quarter was even worse for Charlotte. The Bobcats missed their first seven shots of the quarter and finished 5 for 20 in the period, scoring just 11 points and trailing 48-28 at halftime.
The Bobcats used a 9-0 run early in the third to cut the lead to 50-37, but Washington soon pushed the lead to 25 and led 71-49 heading into the fourth.
NOTES: Henderson was a late scratch with a bruised lower back. Earlier in the day, the team exercised its fourth-year option on him. Carroll started in Henderson's place. Henderson said that he decided not to play after he warmed up. .. Augustin will miss at least three more games with an inflamed right big toe. Silas isn't sure how long Augustin will be out. ``It's difficult to know, but the one thing we were concerned about is a fracture and he doesn't have that. So we'll just have to wait and see how long it's gonna take him,' Silas said. ... Wizards F/C Ronny Turiaf says he's still a few weeks away from returning after breaking his left hand on Jan. 1. ... Washington hired a new assistant coach, Joe Connelly. ... The Wizards (23) and Charlotte (22) both tied season highs for turnovers.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved