After fleeing Hurricane Sandy, Wizards ready to start season

October 30, 2012

Let’s get it started in here. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Hurricane Sandy forced the Wizards to leave a few hours earlier than expected, but considering the damage that the storm has brought to the region, Coach Randy Wittman was thankful that the team was able to get out, and get to Cleveland, when it did.

The Wizards didn’t exactly escape the superstorm, since its effects were felt in Northeast Ohio, where homes and businesses were without power and Interstate 90 near downtown was shut down because of waves from Lake Erie. After catching a 7 a.m. flight on Monday, the Wizards practiced at Quicken Loans about five hours later and will play the Cavaliers in Tuesday’s season opener at Quicken Loans Arena.

“Obviously wasn’t an ideal situation, but it worked out fine,” Wittman said before shootaround. “We got in here. Got a good, crisp workout in and got done in plenty of time. They got their rest and they’re ready to go. I’m glad we did make the decision, because I didn’t want to bus here.”

With Nene and John Wall both on the shelf, Wittman used the entire preseason to tinker with combinations and utilized a different starting lineup for each game. The experimentation led him to decide on a starting lineup that features rookie Bradley Beal, A.J. Price, Emeka Okafor and the two Trevors (Ariza and Booker). He expects that group to establish a defensive presence from the start, then plans to bring Jordan Crawford and Martell Webster off the bench to provide an offensive boost.

“I just think it gives us a good balance of starting the game off,” Wittman said. “I liked those combinations when I saw them in the preseason and we’ll see how it works now.”

Kevin Seraphin stayed behind in Washington, but Nene and Wall are both with the team. Wittman said Seraphin, who has been out since straining his right calf on Oct. 13 in Cleveland, “will probably obviously be the first guy” to return to the floor.

“He’s making steps to start maybe getting on the court at some time coming up here,” Wittman said. 

Nene and Wall both did exercises with resistance bands while their teammates warmed up on the court. Wittman said there is still no timetable for their return.

“Nene is moving in the right direction and doing increased activities, but to sit here and tell you it’s going to be 10 days, I can’t do that,” Wittman said. “He’s part of this team and he can still be a big part of this team, talking to these guys. It’s different sitting over there watching and you see it differently than players do. I wanted him to be able to grab guys at timeouts. Coming off the floor, substitutions, and saying things to them. Both him and John. I think it’s still important having those guys being vocal and helping our guys.”

The Wizards decided to keep newcomers Jannero Pargo and Earl Barron over Shelvin Mack and Brian Cook for their final two roster spots and Wittman explained how circumstances surrounding Wall and Nene contributed to those choices.

“They earned the spots, for their play through the month,” Wittman said of Barron and Pargo. “It was tough, now. But this is the group that I believe in, and we’re moving forward with. It wasn’t easy. Obviously, injuries change a little bit, our thinking, as we moved forward. That’s the thing about this business. You never know. As I talked most of this preseason, guys had opportunities and took advantage of them. And they are here.

“You never know what’s going to happen moving forward with both those guys – Cook and Shelvin – that were with me before, and it’s hard,” he continued. “No question, that was not a fun day.”

Wittman is just ready to get going, with his first full season as head coach of the Wizards.  

“If you’re not excited for opening night, you’re in trouble,” Wittman said with a laugh.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · October 30, 2012