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POSTED January 24, 2012 5:06 p.m.

WIZARDS FIRE COACH SAUNDERS, PROMOTE WITTMAN: WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking different strategies at both ends of the court and improvement from a roster filled with young players such as John Wall, the NBA-worst Washington Wizards fired coach Flip Saunders on Tuesday after a 2-15 start and replaced him with assistant Randy Wittman.

"I'm not the miracle-maker here," said Wittman, who was given the top job through the end of the season. "We've got to change our outlook on how we play. Sometimes, when you have such a young team, players get a little confused, I think, when the word 'development' is used; that they're going to be able to develop just playing. Development has to happen on the practice floor."

The Wizards fell to 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.

A 25-minute news conference Tuesday with Wittman and team president Ernie Grunfeld ended with Grunfeld answering a question by saying: "Just because you're losing, you're not a loser."

It began with him explaining the coaching switch.

"I felt like at this time, our players were not responding, and I think we needed a different voice. This doesn't change our overall plan, which always has been very transparent for us, which is to build through the draft, get salary-cap space going forward and develop our young players," Grunfeld said. "They probably haven't developed as quickly as we'd like for them to develop. That's something we need to continue to work on."

CLOCK RUNNING ON LOVE, TIMBERWOLVES: MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Love stepped to the free throw line late in the game against Houston and a fan shouted "four more years! Four more years!"

Love is hoping for five more, actually, and it won't be long before what has been a season-long story line for the All-Star power forward and the Minnesota Timberwolves reaches a conclusion, for better or worse.

The deadline for players from the 2008 draft class to sign an extension is 11 p.m. Central time Wednesday. If the Wolves and Love do not come to agreement, the new face of the franchise will become a restricted free agent this summer.

Timberwolves president David Kahn has remained confident that a deal will be completed and Love has done nothing to discount that stance. Coach Rick Adelman said Tuesday that he doesn't think it's been a distraction to the team, but did say he can tell it is on his best player's mind.

"I'm sure it is for him," Adelman said. "It's a big deal. Something's obviously going to have to happen by (Wednesday), so we'll see."

Love — who ranks fifth in the league with 24.9 points per game, second with 13.9 rebounds and first with 39.4 minutes — declined to comment after practice, clearly tired of answering questions about a situation that he has been discussing for most of the season.

 

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