Wizards Coach Randy Wittman perhaps put Jan Vesely in the starting lineup a bit prematurely, as his can’t-measure-him-by-the-box-score contributions couldn’t compare to the actual production of Trevor Booker, who has been on a tear since replacing Vesely with the first five.
In five starts for the Wizards, Vesely’s scoring and shooting percentages were slightly worse, while his assists and steals were slightly better than what he has done while coming off the bench. But no matter whether he comes off the bench or starts, Vesely is assured to keep hustling.
“He’s an energy guy,” Wittman said. “He’s got to play the same way whether he’s a starter or a guy coming off the bench, or whatever. That’s what he is and he can’t be anybody else but that.”On Sunday against Detroit, however, Vesely actually gave a little bit more. He had his best game as a pro, as he came off the bench to score 10 points, grab eight rebounds and block three shots – all career highs. He also had two steals and offered a reminder of why Wizards officials were so high on the 7-foot forward from the Czech Republic when they selected him sixth overall last June.
Vesely had been relatively quiet through the first six games, as he had a total of just 13 points (with two scoreless games) and 10 rebounds (with two games with no rebounds). When asked what led to his possible breakout game, Vesely said, “I think defense. I try to play hard defense and I think I did well.”
Vesely was extremely active and combined with JaVale McGee to protect the rim, alter shots and record five rejections. Vesely proved he could affect the game with his energy in his second game, when he had five steals and helped ignite an impressive win over Toronto.
But he was able to get going offensively against the Pistons because John Wall was looking for him. All four of Vesely’s field goals were from Wall assists.
“I think he enjoyed it and I enjoy too, to play with him,” Vesely said of Wall. “He find me on a couple of nice passes. It was real fun to play. It’s hard, but we try to work hard every day to be better team and better teammates. I think it’s going pretty well.
“You know, we don’t have a star so we need to play team basketball and I think we are able to win some games,” he said.
Vesely also had two assists, finding Lewis and Young for three-pointers in the fourth quarter. “He gives a guy that can make plays in the halfcourt,” Wittman said of Vesely. “Not just scoring, but making plays and running, which we want to do and when he and JaVale are running the floor like they are together, it puts the pressure on the other team to get back.”
The most surprising part of Vesely’s career night was that he made both of his free throw attempts to raise his average to 38.5 percent (5-13) from the line this season. Vesely famously shot an airball from the free throw line on his first career attempt, which he blamed on jitters.
Wittman will stick with Booker in the starting lineup and expects to see the same production from Vesely no matter what role he is asked to serve. Vesely isn’t sure which he prefers to start or come off the bench at this stage in his career.
“I can’t say. I don’t know. I like to play basketball,” said Vesely, who is averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. “So, it doesn’t matter if I come off the bench or start. It’s tough to start for me, after EuroLeague and coming to the NBA, but I think I did pretty well.”
And Wittman would concur after Vesely’s performance against the Pistons. “He’s gaining confidence and he’s playing with that,” Wittman said. “He’s making plays with the ball, which he’s capable of. Obviously, he’s running the floor and blocking some shots. With everybody, when you play with confidence, your performance goes up and I think he’s falling in.”