Flip Saunders absent from morning shoot-around (Updated)
Updated 4:28 p.m.: Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld has announced that Flip Saunders will miss tonight's game against Indiana due to a family emergency involving his mother. Assistant Coach Randy Wittman will serve as head coach for tonight's game.
Original post: Washington Wizards Coach Flip Saunders was absent from this morning's shoot-around because of a family emergency involving his mother, and it appears unlikely at this point that he will coach the team in tonight's game against the Indiana Pacers at Verizon Center.
"I haven't heard much," guard Kirk Hinrich said. "Just that he wasn't here this morning, and I hope everything is all right with his family and everything."
Assistant coach Randy Wittman conducted the shoot-around in place of Saunders, who is in his second season as Wizards coach.
As to whether Saunders's absence would impact how the team prepares for and plays tonight, Hinrich said: "It shouldn't. We just have to focus on the task at hand. I think go out there as a group and play hard. We need a win, so we can't allow that to be a distraction."
Saunders is in his 15th season as an NBA coach, with a career record of 620-474, including 33-78 with the Wizards. Washington currently is in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 7-22 record, and only Sacramento has a worst winning percentage in the NBA.
If Saunders is unable to coach tonight, Wittman becomes the most likely candidate to fill in, considering he was the head coach for Minnesota from Jan. 23, 2007 to Dec. 2008 and in Cleveland from 1999 to 2001. No other assistant on the Wizards staff has NBA head coaching experience.
The Wizards have lost two straight, both on the road, and 10 of 11 overall. Washington has won just two games this month and is the only team in the league without a road victory. Its most recent loss was on Monday to Houston, 100-93, when the Wizards blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, continuing a trend of not being able to close out opponents.
"You have to realize when you get down to big stretches of games teams are going to ratchet it up a couple notches, and we have to be able to raise our level as well," Hinrich said. "We haven't been able to do that. I don't like to use it as an excuse, but for a young team to make that next step, we've been playing hard every night. Now we need to execute down the stretch."
| December 29, 2010; 12:15 PM ET
Categories: Flip Saunders
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