WASHINGTON (AP) — As the coach of the only NBA team without a victory this season, Randy Wittman is struggling to pick a starting lineup for the Washington Wizards. Can't even zero in on a nine-man rotation, actually.
All the while, he needs to buoy his own flagging spirits and try to prevent his players from getting too down on themselves after a franchise-worst 0-9 start.
"This isn't fun. You don't sleep very good. You don't eat very good. The bowl of pasta doesn't taste (good) right now," Wittman said after practice Tuesday, before the Wizards' flight to Atlanta for a game against the Hawks on Wednesday night.
"'Hey, if I don't stay upbeat, how am I going to keep them upbeat?' is the way I've always looked at it," he said. "I've got to be the leader of being upbeat, if that makes any sense to you. I can't go in there and be down: 'Lost again.' I've got to be: 'Hey, we did lose again. We lost for these reasons. But look what we did.'"
A loss against the Hawks (5-4) would make the Wizards the 13th team in NBA history to begin a season with a 10-game losing streak, according to STATS LLC.
The worst start was 0-18, by the New Jersey Nets in 2009-10.
"We really need this win," forward Chris Singleton said.
With the notable exception of a 16-point loss at the Charlotte Bobcats last week — which made Washington's record 0-6 — the Wizards generally have managed to stay close to opponents, with an average margin of defeat of 7.7 points.
In Monday's 96-89 setback against the visiting Indiana Pacers, the Wizards trailed by as many as 20 points. But they pulled within one at 86-85 with 3½ minutes left as Singleton headed to the line with a chance to complete a three-point play to tie the score. He missed the free throw, and Indiana pulled away.
"Again," Singleton said Tuesday, "we couldn't get over the hump."
It hasn't helped matters that Washington's two best players, point guard John Wall and center Nene, have yet to appear in a game this season because of injuries. While Wittman has been satisfied with the team's play at the defensive end of the court, the offense is where there have been significant problems.