Before Nene returned to good health and John Wall made his season debut, the Washington Wizards were a hopeless collection of mismatched parts that couldn’t win, no matter how hard they tried; and then they became a bad luck, injury-plagued team that couldn’t field much more than patchwork lineup.

Coach Randy Wittman handled the challenges with the appropriate humor, desperation and disappointment, as he offered up jokes about seeking help from the waiver wire, begged for an exorcist to cure the spell of injuries, and even apologized to fans and ownership after a humiliating loss in Detroit.

Members of Wittman’s coaching staff know that he would often sit in his office, struggling to find ways to keep players motivated through the hardships, but inevitably, the same words kept rolling from his mouth.

“Just stay with it,” rookie Bradley Beal said, explaining Wittman’s message. “It’s annoying because he always says the same thing, ‘It’s close. It’s close.’ He always tells us, ‘Stay with it and it’s going to come’ . . . and it’s starting to come.”