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Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

Floundering Wizards fire coach Saunders, promote Wittman


WASHINGTON — Flip Saunders was fired Tuesday as coach of the NBA-worst Washington Wizards and replaced by assistant Randy Wittman, who has the job for the rest of the season.

News photo
Disappearing act: Washington coach Flip Saunders was fired Tuesday, a day after the Wizards fell to 2-15 this season with a 20-point loss to the Sixers. AP

The Wizards fell to 2-15 this season, including 0-7 on the road, with a 20-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. Washington's next game is at home Wednesday against the Charlotte Bobcats.

"We felt the team had become unresponsive, and we will look to Randy to provide a different voice and a change in philosophy moving forward," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement released by the team. "We have been transparent in how we would evaluate our team this season and we were disappointed in the lack of development of our players at this point in our rebuilding plan."

Saunders was in his third season with the Wizards, going 51-130. When he was hired, the roster featured All-Stars Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, but the franchise is now rebuilding around point guard John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft.

But there is not a lot of help for Wall, and the Wizards have been prone to inconsistent play, often failing to even be competitive this season. On Monday, they walked down the court for offensive possessions, never hustled after loose balls and couldn't convert the easiest of buckets, missing eight of nine shots in the paint in the first quarter.

After one string of sloppy plays, Saunders took a knee in front of the scorer's table, bowed his head and rubbed his temples.

After the game, Wall said: "Whoever got the ball just took a shot. Guys are holding their heads down, and we're not fighting or competing."

Back in December, before the lockout-shortened season began, Saunders tried to look on the bright side, saying he could envision how the young Wizards could improve on their 23-59 record from 2010-11.

"I want to compete for the playoffs," the coach said then.

But Washington got off to a franchise-worst 0-8 start — half of the losses were by at least 18 points — before beating the Toronto Raptors. Curiously, the Wizards' only other victory came against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Heat hold off Cavaliers


MIAMI — Chris Bosh scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, LeBron James added 18 and the Miami Heat survived another shaky offensive night to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 92-85 on Tuesday night.

Bosh made 10 of 16 shots and reached the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season for Miami, which improved to 4-1 against Cleveland since James joined the Heat. The 35 points matched Bosh's high since joining Miami.

Magic 102, Pacers 83

In Indianapolis, Ryan Anderson had 24 points and eight rebounds to help Orlando cruise past Indiana.

Knicks 111, Bobcats 78

In Charlotte, Tyson Chandler had 20 points and 17 rebounds as New York snapped a six-game losing streak and handed the Bobcats their fifth straight defeat.

Raptors 99, Suns 96

In Phoenix, Andrea Bargnani returned after missing six games with a left calf strain to score 27 of his 36 points in the second half, and the Raptors snapped an eight-game losing streak.

Trail Blazers 97, Grizzlies 84

In Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 23 points and Marcus Camby grabbed a season-high 22 rebounds as the Trail Blazers beat Memphis, snapping the Grizzlies' seven-game winning streak.

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