Coach Randy Wittman's no-nonsense, straightforward approach resonated with Wizards' players after he took over as interim coach and ensured that he would have a chance to continue to lead the Washington Wizards through a crucial period in franchise history. The improvements and changes that the team underwent during the season, and in the offseason are no secret.
Now that Wittman no longer wears the interim tag around his neck, his assignment is to build on that process and teach his players what it will take to continue to improve.
"I don't want to surprise anybody," Wittman said. "I just want us to believe in ourselves. That's what we have to do. We have to believe we can do this, that we can make that next step. But I'm not worried about surprising or sneaking up on anybody else. I think teams saw the change in us."
Wittman didn't particularly like the situation but always wanted an opportunity to lead. He increased his chances when the Wizards won eight of their last 10 games, including the last six in a row, to finish 20-46. The addition of Nene up front after a deadline trade was crucial, as was the improvement of second-year players Kevin Seraphin and John Wall. Veterans (Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor) and a top draft choice (Bradley Beal) have since been added, but Wittman's philosophy remains unchanged.
"It ain't going to change," Wittman said. "We're going to be an up tempo team with the ability to play inside out. I think all of our bigs have the ability to get up and down the floor. ...As long as we have John here, we have to take advantage. You know, I'm a firm believer in fitting what I want to the talent I have instead of sometimes the other way around."
The locker room has also been cleansed of the disruptive personalities of JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche.
When training camp opened yesterday at George Mason University, Wittman was excited to get the 2012-13 Wizards journey underway as he implemented his self-professed old-school style.
"This team hasn't created any highlights is the way that I look at it," Wittman said. "Now it's up to us as a group. Let's create some highlights that maybe next year at this time I can have a highlight film for them to show to kick off training camp."