Just one of the six top players in the Wizards' season finale, returned for the season-opener against New Jersey four months ago. With the exception of John Wall, all the other players were new.
Jordan Crawford was injured. Rashard Lewis and Andray Blatche were benched. JaVale McGee had been traded, and sixth man, Ronny Turiaf, finished the season Thursday at Verizon Center as a member of the Miami Heat.
So the Wizards played rookies Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely, second-year player Kevin Seraphin, and Cartier Martin -- who was on a 10-day contract. They crushed one of the NBA title contenders, 104-70 – albeit minus Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh – padding the team's longest winning streak since 2007. It was the Wizards' biggest margin of victory since November 11, 2006, when they beat Seattle 137-96.
"I'm proud of those guys. They've gone through a difficult time," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said before the game.
In spite of the win over the Heat (46-20), the Wizards (20-46) finished the season with the second worst record in the league. The six-game winning streak didn't stop Washington from becoming the first team since the 1970-71 San Diego Rockets to win at least six games in a row to end the year and still miss the playoffs.
The Wizards' season began poorly and continued to go downhill. Washington squandered a 21-point lead in a December game against the Nets. Following that game, Blatche complained about his role under then-coach Flip Saunders, who was fired when the Wizards started the year with two wins and 15 losses. Wittman was elevated from assistant coach to head coach in the interim, but it wasn't until the trade deadline that the franchise was transformed. At that time,Nene became a Wizard while McGee and Nick Young departed.
It was obvious in Thursday's final game, where the Brazilian center had 15 points, the equivalent output of Seraphin, who had double-digit scoring in his 15th straight start. Wall tallied 12 assists in the Wizards' second victory over Miami in six days, supporting Wittman's case that he should be next season's head coach, and that we should put an end to all speculation that he could be replaced.