The Wizards’ summer league finale against Milwaukee got off to a rough start when forward Jan Vesely drove inside, missed a layup and hobbled off the floor with a sprained right ankle within the first two minutes of the game. Vesely’s injury is considered minor, but he was taken out of the game as a precautionary measure.
Forced to overcome the absence of a starter and later a 16-point third-quarter deficit, the Wizards claimed a thrilling, 78-75 comeback victory and finished their time in Las Vegas with a record of 3-2. The Wizards ended the run of five games in six nights with two straight wins.
“If our guys play the right way, share the ball, rebound the ball, we can win basketball games,” Wizards assistant Sam Cassell told reporters at Cox Pavilion after the game. “The three games we won, we did them things. The two games we lost, we didn’t do them things.”
Rookie Bradley Beal led the team in scoring all five games and had 18 points while leading the second-half charge against Milwaukee. Beal shot the ball well against the Bucks, connecting on 7 of 13 shots from the field. Exploding to basket on drives, Beal switched direction and speeds and finished with layups and floaters in the lane. He also had six rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal.
“It was fun,” Beal told reporters, of the experience. “At the same time, it was a learning process. A lot of things, I did, and the whole team did, that were good and things we did bad. There were a lot of things we learned from this, and overall, it was a great experience. It was really what I expected. It was very physical. The speed was a lot faster and the game was a lot longer.”
Beal averaged a team-best 17.6 points with 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists in Las Vegas. He was steady throughout the week, never showing any frustration and maintaining the same demeanor regardless of the situation; an excellent quality for a kid who just turned 19.
Beal didn’t try to force the issue, picked his spots and proved capable of going for his own offense without stepping on toes. He also kept opponents off-balance with his ability to drive and set up teammates. His ability to blend also meant that he didn’t really distinguish himself or dominate the action enough. And, he still has to improve defensively, which should come under a better structured, regular season system than the free-willing summer league action.
The Wizards chose Beal third overall because they expect him to be a perimeter complement to John Wall, but he was disappointed with his accuracy. Beal only connected on 6 of 20 (30 percent) of his shots from long distance in summer league. He shot just 41.8 percent from the floor overall and 72.2 percent from the foul line. His form was solid, but his release looked a tad slow on his jumper.
“I’ve got to improve on everything. I could’ve shot the ball a lot better,” Beal said. “I definitely got to work on that, and my defense, more than anything. The working doesn’t stop. I always have to get better. I was happy and unhappy with my performance. I can always get better and make my team better.”
Chris Singleton had 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots against Milwaukee, moving over to power forward in the absence of Vesely. With an opportunity to get extended playing time, Singleton had a chance to display his versatility.
The 6-foot-9 Singleton was second on the team in scoring (12.4 points) and rebounds (6.8), led in steals (2.4) and blocks (1.4) and followed Cassell’s orders to push the ball up the floor after getting rebounds. He still needs to develop a more consistent jumper – he shot just 41.3 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from long distance – and more decisiveness when he puts the ball on the floor.
He also has to settle into a position. Singleton was given the starting small forward job last season and didn’t always play with the energy level than the Wizards expected when they selected him 18th overall in the 2011 NBA draft. Trevor Ariza is the likely starter when the season begins, but his acquistion may have been just what Singleton needed to give a more inspired effort.
Shelvin Mack had the most at stake in Las Vegas, with the Wizards looking to fill out their roster with a veteran point guard. Mack had his moments – such as his nine-point third quarter to help the Wizards rally back against Milwaukee. He averaged 11 points and was at his best when he was aggressive offensively. His scoring opened up opportunities for his teammates and allowed him to get more comfortable running the team.
But he often struggled with his decision-making as the primary ball-handler and didn’t handle trapping defenses very well. Mack committed more turnovers (17) than assists (12). He rebounded from a five-turnover performance against Memphis to only have one miscue on Wednesday, but he also didn’t have any assists. Signing a backup for Wall remains a priority for the Wizards after Mack’s uneven performance.
Before an ankle injury ended his time in Las Vegas, Vesely showed that he might be more than just a dunker. His jumper has certainly improved and he also has the confidence to take the midrange shot. He also has been working on his low post moves, pulling off a nifty spin move and layup on Tuesday against the Grizzlies.
Vesely missed more dunks than usual in the first two games, which may be attributed his added bulk, but that can be tolerated if he continues to improve in other areas. He is listed as forward for now, but if he continues to get bigger, you have to wonder if he eventually becomes a center in the NBA. At 6-11, he is already the tallest player on the roster.
Vesely was active as expected, but he had trouble keeping his hands to himself and was repeatedly caught setting illegal screens. Though Vesely had the experience of starting the final month of the regular season, he rarely looked comfortable and in control against summer league competition. He scored 37 points but also committed 27 fouls in roughly four games.
Fellow Czech Tomas Satoransky, the No. 32 pick, is expected to stay in Spain next season, and the 20-year-old didn’t appear to be ready to handle an immediate move to the NBA. He is a good athlete who can make the occasional flashy play, but he struggled handling the speed and rhythm of the summer league. The 6-7 Satoransky, 20, plays point guard in Europe, but he may have to be more of a playmaking small forward if he is unable to make better decisions with the ball. More seasoning wouldn’t hurt.
Shavlik Randolph was severely heckled by some Wizards fans in attendance on Saturday, but he may have earned himself a training camp invite after averaging 7.4 points and 7.8 rebounds in four games. Point guards Steven Gray and Earl Calloway also played well enough to warrant a possible second look in the fall.
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