With roughly five minutes to play in the third quarter, Washington Wizards forward Jan Vesely collected a pass from Jordan Crawford and approached the basket for what appeared a routine layup. Except the No. 6 overall pick in last year’s draft missed on his way to finishing 1 for 3 from the field and four personal fouls in Thursday’s 108-101 preseason loss to the New York Knicks at Verizon Center.
Vesely’s showing underscored the collective tribulations among the first unit, which not including Crawford shot 8 for 24. Crawford, meantime, continued to make a strong case to remain a starter after collecting a team-high 17 points in 22 minutes.
Starting small forward Trevor Ariza, in his first season with the Wizards, stood out by missing 6 of 7 shots, including 3 of 4 three-pointers in nearly 20 minutes. The starting front court combined to shoot 6 for 19.
“It’s a function of not passing the ball to an open man,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said of his starters’ performance. “It’s a simple game. It really is. I’m not going to fool you with anything else. Trust me. That’s all it was. We didn’t run separate plays for the second unit that we didn’t run for the first unit. We’ve got to learn.”
Acquired along with Emeka Okafor from the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for Rashard Lewis and the No. 46 pick, Ariza is 3 for 15 in two preseason games. He’s had two assists and seven turnovers and made 2 of 8 from three-point range.
Vesely is shooting 2 for 8 in the preseason with nine personal fouls. Center Kevin Seraphin was the only starter other than Crawford in double figures against the Knicks with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting. He also had four rebounds, which were tied for the most among the starters.
“We’ve had some struggles,” Crawford said of the first group. “But we’re getting better each game. Coaches are preaching to us and telling us each others’ role, and we’re learning.”
At the top of the Wizards’ to-do list in the preseason is to decide on which player will start at point guard while John Wall heals from a stress injury to his left patella. The No. 1 overall pick in 2010 is scheduled to miss the first month of the season, and A.J. Price, Jannero Pargo and Shelvin Mack are competing for the starting job until Wall returns to the lineup.
Wall was among the starters who did not play against the Knicks. Also out were Nene (plantar fasciitis) and Okafor (stomach virus) as well as Trevor Booker (left hamstring strain), who is in the mix to start at power forward.
Price has started both preseason games and has scored 16 points while making 5 of 15 shots. He’s also had six turnovers and four assists.
“We’ve got to do a better job,” said Price, who signed with the Wizards in July after three seasons with Indiana. “I think that goes without saying. Last two games, we’ve been down, put the team in a hole, and the second unit has come in and brought us right back.”