James Singleton watched the video on his Blackberry before a game in Cleveland and grew incensed. Charlotte Bobcats forward Tyrus Thomas struck him in the face with an errant elbow during a Wizards win and Singleton heard an ESPN announcer call him out for flopping.
Singleton handed his phone over to his teammates to watch and they wouldn’t let the incident go without having a little fun with him. Jan Vesely shook his head and questioned Singleton’s acting skills. “You need to stop flopping, man,” Shelvin Mack said as he handed back the phone.
“I don’t flop,” Singleton shouted. “I don’t flop!”
Singleton was adamant. And as it relates to the Wizards’ surprising late-season push, Singleton definitely didn’t flop in his second stint with the team. He flourished.
Nene justifiably got credit for helping to change the professionalism within the locker room upon his arrival, but Singleton was another late-season veteran arrival whose presence made a difference for the Wizards. Singleton was initially signed to a 10-day contract but he quickly proved that he would be around until the finish.
He played 12 games, the Wizards won eight of them and three of those wins were without Nene in the lineup. And if given a pass for his first two games – since he had been in the country only four days after arriving from China – the Wizards were 8-2 when Singleton actually had a chance to contribute.
“The first game [in Detroit], I was just coming back, I didn’t know what was going on, but after New Jersey it looked to me like, what’s going on, who is this guy who just came back,” Singleton said. “They were adjusting to each other when I first came in. Once things started progressing, guys started getting used to each other, things started going uphill from there. It felt good to actually be with a group of guys who enjoy playing together and get along together and they listen to coach… The guys allowed him to coach them, and that’s really, really important.”
When Nene and Trevor Booker both went down with plantar fasciitis in their left feet at the end of March, the Wizards were in need of some frontcourt help and they went to a familiar face in Singleton, who played the final 32 games of the 2009-10 season after arriving from Dallas at the trade deadline. Singleton spent the next two seasons in China but he returned to the NBA a much better player.
Singleton averaged 8.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and shot 54.7 percent from the field. And, after relying mostly on hustle and energy, Singleton also showed an ability to step out and shoot. Before the season finale, Andray Blatche joked with Singleton about the newest addition to his game.
“He went all the way to China and came back with a jumper,” Blatche said. “You can buy anything in China.”
Singleton laughed, because the 30-year-old heard similar comments from his younger teammates.
“They teased me sometimes but everyone knows that I’m not the kind of guys that’s going to decline, you know. Every year I get better,” Singleton said. “I just worked on my game. I spent more than an hour, an hour and a half a day working on my jump shot with the coach that was over there, just working of different parts of my game because China is different than the NBA. Over there, it’s a lot more physical, a lot more dirty play, and they pack the lane over there. I used to be a slasher, so I had to develop a jump shot to be able to do more things. Once that opened up for me, everything just became easy. Right now the NBA is easy to me.”
Singleton brought some enthusiasm and defensive intensity to the Wizards, failing to let them give in or back down. When he heard that the Miami Heat wasn’t going to play LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Singleton said, “They’re disrespecting us again.”
He felt that the Wizards had talent, but just needed some help on the floor. “Every team starts young at some point in time,” he said. “But you surround them with a group of vets that’s played the game, that understands the game and helps your own players out.”
The Wizards have interest in bringing Singleton back – just as they did two years ago – and John Wall has already vouched for his return. But Singleton said that he “would love to come back to the Wizards next seasons and thereafter,” he will be focused on another priority when the free agency period begins.
“I get married in July, go on my honeymoon, relax, just have fun. Going to Bora Bora. Get married on the 6th, Bora Bora on the 7th.”