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Wizards eye return to playoffs after 5 years out

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WASHINGTON (AP)

Asked whether he feels any extra pressure to reach the postseason, Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman fiddled with his eyeglasses on the table in front of him and looked straight ahead.

''Well, that's what we want: We want to get to the playoffs,'' Wittman said. ''Do you think this is the first time I've been on a one-year contract? No. It doesn't mean anything.''

Wittman and team President Ernie Grunfeld - both men have deals that end after the upcoming season - held a joint news conference Wednesday and made pretty clear what the aim should be for point guard John Wall and the rest of the Wizards.

''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,'' Grunfeld said.

Washington went 29-53 last season, missing out on the postseason for the fifth consecutive year.

Since their last trip to the playoffs - in 2007-08, when Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were still on the roster - the Wizards haven't even won 30 games in a season once. They had a low of 19 wins in 2008-09.

A year ago, Wall missed the start of the season, when the Wizards opened by going 5-28. With the No. 1 overall pick from the 2010 NBA draft in the lineup, though, they managed to be close to a .500 team, going 24-25.

Wall was given an $80 million, five-year contract extension, the biggest offseason move for a club that drafted Otto Porter Jr. and added Al Harrington and Eric Maynor.

The team's first training camp practice is Saturday, and that's when Wittman will begin the real work of figuring out his starting lineup and how to compensate for the loss of injured starting center Emeka Okafor. He's sidelined indefinitely with a herniated disc, but Wittman said that would not alter his expectations for the Wizards.

Washington also is expected to be without reserve forward Chris Singleton until at least the end of October with a broken bone in his left foot.

''Listen, we want to make the playoffs. I've never, even on good teams, been a guy that can tell you, `We're going to win 48 1/2 games.' I don't know how people do that,'' Wittman said. ''But I think, obviously, if we can continue to grow as a team like we did last year, when we had healthy pieces, that that should be our goal. And there's no reason why we can't.''

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Tagged: Wizards, Al Harrington, John Wall

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