When John Wall returned to the lineup after missing the start of last season with an injury, the Washington Wizards looked like an entirely different team. The Wizards finished the year 24-25 after starting 5-28, and while that may not be great, the improved play has increased expectations heading into this season.
Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Randy Wittman are both heading into the final year of their contracts, and the duo spoke to the media on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming year. Wittman said he understands the pressure that comes along with working in the final year of a deal, and he and the team welcome the higher expectations, according to Michael Lee of The Washington Post:
"Well, that's what we want. We want to get to the playoffs. Do you think this is the first time I've been on a one-year contract? No. It doesn't mean anything. Thirty years of being in this - and it's just about going out and doing your job and doing it the best you can, and I feel if we do that, everything else takes care of itself."
Grunfeld echoed Wittman's thoughts and said that after how last season ended, the ultimate goal for this year is to make the postseason:
"We're excited about the upcoming season. We finished last year off strong. Obviously, our young players have worked hard in the offseason. They've shown improvement and we want to build on what we started to establish last year. Obviously, our initial goal is to be a playoff contender and ultimately, by the end of the year, make the playoffs."
The Eastern Conference is improved this year, so reaching the postseason will be no easy chore for Washington. And like last year, the Wizards are again dealing with some injury problems to start the season. Emeka Okafor is out indefinitely with a neck injury and Chris Singleton could be out for up to two months with a broken foot.
However, with Wall healthy heading into the season and young talent like Bradley Beal among others in place, the Wizards are better prepared to withstand these setbacks.