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Wizards' Wittman offers no excuses for feeble start

Washington Wizards' head coach Randy Wittman directs his team against the Miami Heat in the second half of their NBA basketball game in Miam
Washington Wizards' head coach Randy Wittman directs his team against the Miami Heat in the second half of their NBA basketball game in Miam

By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman refuses to use injuries to his two best players, John Wall and Nene, as the reason for his team's feeble start to the NBA season.

The second-year coach of the once-proud franchise also does not want to hear about a young roster or bad luck down the stretch for the Wizards' 0-8 record.

"We're not going to use excuses," Wittman told Reuters on Monday. "We've got to learn how to do it, have confidence in doing it, and go out and do it. That's what it boils down to.

"You can't hope it happens. You have to make it happen. That's where we have to get."

The Wizards were booed mercilessly Saturday during an 83-76 loss to the Utah Jazz when they became the second NBA franchise ever to open consecutive seasons with eight straight losses.

They look to avoid setting a franchise record for season-opening losses when they host the Indiana Pacers (4-7) later Monday at the Verizon Center.

Wittman has shuffled his line-up in hopes of finding a winning combination but there are no easy answers. The team seems to wilt late in the game as five of Washington's losses have been by seven points or fewer.

"We've got to go out and take the win that last two minutes of the game," said the 53-year-old Wittman, who previously coached the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

"We're going to execute. We're going to do what we have to do. Sometimes we hope we win the game instead of putting your stamp on it as an individual and as a team and getting it done."

BEAL BENCHED

Rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Florida, opened the season as a starter but is now coming off the bench.

"We're not off to a good start but at the same time we can't be too upset about our effort," said Beal, who is averaging 10.9 points a game while shooting just 33 percent from the floor.

"We're competing every game. It's just a matter of a few points, getting a few stops. We're really beating ourselves."

Wall, the Wizards' leading scorer and playmaker last season, has a knee injury and is yet to play this season. Nene, a 10-year veteran and the team's top post presence, also has yet to see action as he recovers from a foot injury.

There is no timetable for either player's return.

In the meantime, the Wizards, despite playing a forgiving early season schedule, are the only NBA team still searching for a victory.

One of the NBA's model franchises in the 1970s, the Wizards have advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs just once since the 1981-82 season.

"It's obvious we need a win," said forward Trevor Ariza, acquired in a June trade with New Orleans. "We've been playing too good not to get a win. We're upbeat, we're optimistic.

"We've just got to find a way to close out the tight games."

(Editing by Julian Linden)

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