Chris Singleton saw all-star point guard Deron Williams casually dribbling the ball up the court late in the first quarter of the Wizards’ 90-84 loss to the New Jersey Nets and immediately attacked. He swiped away the ball, and started reaching to gain possession.
When the ball began to roll back, Singleton lunged underneath Williams in pursuit. A stunned Williams toppled over him.
Singleton knocked the ball out of bounds, unable to get the steal, but tenacious ball-hawking let it be known that the rookie wasn’t awe of the situation. And, after the Wizards disheartening collapse, Singleton made it clear that he wasn’t going to accept being a part of a losing team.
“I don’t want it to be a recurring thing,” he said after Tuesday’s practice. “I want to change this culture. There’s too much losing the last couple of years. Some people might just like that. I’m not used to it and I’m not trying to get used to it.”
The player who loves to hustle hates to lose. Singleton was disappointed that the Wizards blew a 21-point first-half lead and an eight-point fourth-quarter lead to the Nets. He went on Twitter shortly after the game to write, “This losing stuff is for the birds and I ain’t trying to be apart of it.”
Singleton made just one shot, catching a pass from John Wall and making a three-pointer in the third quarter, but he had two rebounds and two steals, providing hard-nosed defense during his 22 minutes off the bench. Shortly after entering the game, Singleton just snatched the ball away from Nets forward Shawne Williams.
“That’s what he does,” Coach Flip Saunders said. “He gave good energy. He made a big three to put us up [five] at the time or whatever. He did some positive things for a young rookie.”
Williams scored 10 of his game-high 23 in third quarter and Saunders put the athletic, 6-foot-9 Singleton on him in the fourth quarter. Singleton helped limit him to just five points on 1 for 5 shooting and also had a clean steal against him.
“He was just picking us apart, especially in the second half. He got in the groove . . . then we started helping on him and he started to find shooters, scorers and all that,” Singleton said of Williams. “It’s a privilege to go up against him, but that’s my role right now. I’m going to just stick to it, go out everyday and play hard.”
With Jan Vesely still unable to practice with a sore right hip, and Shelvin Mack fighting for minutes behind Wall and Jordan Crawford, Singleton is the rookie who will most likely get the most opportunity to contribute this season. “I’m just part of the second wave,” said Singleton, the 18th pick of last June’s draft. “Whatever I can do to be a part of the team, I’m going to do it. I mean, I just hope everybody jumps on the bandwagon.”
A native of Canton, Ga., Singleton will have a homecoming in his second NBA game, when the Wizards take on the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Singleton expects to have a few supporters at Philips Arena and got plenty of positive feedback from his family and friends after his NBA debut.
“They were excited to see me out there on the court,” Singleton said. “But we didn’t get the win. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”