With a pair of key players sidelined to start the season, the Washington Wizards got off to one of the worst starts in franchise history.
With a new coach, they’ll now see if they can do any better.
In the first game after the firing of Eddie Jordan, interim coach Ed Tapscott will try to help the Wizards end a five-game losing streak on Tuesday night against the visiting Golden State Warriors, who will have their own new addition on display as Jamal Crawford makes his debut with the club.
Washington was still a playoff team despite playing without oft-injured guard Gilbert Arenas for most of last season, but with Arenas and starting center Brendan Haywood out to start 2008-09, the Wizards are 1-10 for the first time since 1966, when the franchise played in Baltimore and was called the Bullets.
“That’s an unacceptable record, obviously,” team president Ernie Grunfeld said. “We had to do something. The way we’re losing games was unacceptable.”
Saturday night’s 122-117 loss at New York was especially ugly, considering the Knicks had only seven active players due to injuries and trades. Each of New York’s starters played more than 40 minutes, but the Knicks still outscored Washington 31-28 in the final quarter.
That turned out to be Jordan’s last game as coach. In his sixth season, Jordan had been the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference, but he was replaced on Monday by Tapscott, who is also the team’s director of player development. Also fired was associate head coach Mike O’Koren.
“This is not the end of the season. This is not the end of the world,” Wizards forwards Antawn Jamison said. “We’ve got to move forward.”
Grunfeld is hoping a change of leadership can help spark a team that has made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons. But Arenas is likely out until at least New Year’s Day, while Haywood may be out even longer.
With both Jamison and Caron Butler averaging more than 20 points, offense hasn’t been the biggest problem for the Wizards, but Tapscott will immediately try to address the team’s defense.
Washington has allowed 103.5 points per game, while opponents are shooting 47.5 percent against the Wizards, with both marks among the NBA’s worst.
“We’ve been a little sieve-like, letting people go down the lane,” Tapscott said. “Our philosophy will be: ‘Protect the rim and the lane.’”
They’ll start with a defensive challenge against one of the league’s highest-scoring teams. Golden State has won three straight games against the Wizards, averaging 126.0 points in those games.
Coach Don Nelson’s run-and-gun Warriors (5-8) both scored and allowed more points than another team last season, and they’re again near the top in both categories this fall. But they lost a rare defensive struggle 89-81 in Philadelphia on Sunday despite holding the 76ers to 32 second-half points.
“It’s all part of getting better and learning,” second-year forward Brandan Wright said. “It’s no excuse, but we’re not going to get down on ourselves.”
Golden State will have a new weapon as it tries to bounce back. The team gave up Al Harrington to acquire Crawford from the Knicks on Friday, and the trigger-happy guard will make his first appearance with his new team at the Verizon Center.
Crawford was averaging 19.6 points for the Knicks, shooting a career-best 45.5 percent from 3-point range. He and Jackson will give the Warriors two of the most frequent 3-point shooters in the NBA, with both ranking among the top five in 3-point attempts per game.
“I am really excited and energized about this opportunity,” Crawford said. “The Warriors have been one of the most entertaining and fun teams in the league the last few years, and I think my abilities are very conducive with their style and their needs.”
Crawford could also help fill in at point guard for Golden State until Monta Ellis returns from injury and suspension in late December.