Earl Barron and Jannero Pargo didn’t find out that they had secured the Wizards’ final two roster spots until about 12 hours before the team boarded a flight for Cleveland for the season opener.
But after surviving the agonizing and often stressful uncertainty of trying to make the squad, Barron and Pargo helped justify Randy Wittman’s decision to select them over Brian Cook and Shelvin Mack by leading a spirited fourth-quarter rally against the Cavaliers.
Barron and Pargo played the fewest minutes – a little over 16 apiece – of any Wizards during their 94-84 loss to the Cavaliers, but they were the most productive in their time on the floor. Barron had eight points and a team-high eight rebounds. Pargo had seven points and three assists and the Wizards outscored Cleveland by seven points with him on the floor.
The duo helped the Wizards come back from a 12-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, using a 14-0 run to take a 76-74 lead when Pargo buried a corner three-pointer with 8 minutes, 12 seconds remaining.
“We got stops. We rebounded the ball. Got back on the break and got some easy looks. We were able to knock them down and get into a rhythm,” Pargo said. “But it all started with our defense.”
It also started with Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao sitting on the bench. Irving destroyed the Wizards with shooting and penetration to the basket and Varejao grabbed nearly every rebound but Washington took advantage of their absence with a lineup that included Barron, Pargo, Martell Webster, Jordan Crawford and Chris Singleton.
Coach Byron Scott eventually rushed Varejao back into the floor, but with Barron matching his activity, the mop-haired Brazilian center was limited to grabbing just two of his career-high 23 rebounds in the fourth quarter.
“Got to put a body on him. He’s one of those energy guys. You have to match his energy or exceed his energy, because if you go out there and try to play cool, he’s all over the floor. He never stops moving. He’s trying to get every ball. That’s what he does. I was trying to put a body on him and go to him before he came to me and keep him off the glass.”
The 7-foot Barron played so well, that Wittman left him on the floor in favor of starter Emeka Okafor, who had 10 points and seven rebounds.
“I think we needed some energy. I knew somebody had to come in and give us a spark. I was hoping it would be me. Coach gave me a shot and I was able to go in there,” said Barron. “It feels good. I’ve been working hard this summer. Happy to get an opportunity to play. Blessed to make the team. To be able to have an impact this early in the season is just as much a blessing.”
Barron signed a non-guaranteed training camp deal and had long odds of making the team, but with the Wizards dealing with injuries to Nene and Kevin Seraphin, the team had more of a need for size. Cook ended the season and Washington and perhaps would’ve been a better fit with the team at full strength, but Barron competed and earned his spot.
“I was really happy,” Barron said, when asked his reaction to making the team. “My chance here was kind of slim, but I knew deep down if I showed up every day in practice, showed up every day in training camp, play hard in the preseason, I’d give myself a chance to make the team and I did that.”
Pargo didn’t feel that he gave his best performance during the preseason, but the veteran backup point guard with a reputation for going on scoring sprees was grateful that the Wizards decided to keep him.
“Whenever you can play in this league, it’s an honor. It’s something I don’t take lightly,” Pargo said. “I’ve been around for long time but I’ve also been in positions when I didn’t make teams and it’s just good to be valued. I’m going to do what I can to take advantage of this opportunity. Whatever the team needs from me, I’m going to provide that and work as hard as I can, in order to be a leader on this team.”