After three days to prepare, Wizards ready for home opener

November 2, 2012
Okay, guys. Whatever you were doing in Cleveland, don’t do it again. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The Wizards have had three days to remove the nerves, get back to basics, and return to the style of play that Coach Randy Wittman had grown accustomed to seeing before an unusually sloppy debut in Cleveland.

They will face a more talented team than the Cavaliers in their home opener Saturday against the Boston Celtics at Verizon Center, but the Wizards will likely have Kevin Seraphin back in the lineup after missing the past three weeks with a strained right calf. Wittman is hopeful that some of the uncharacteristic behavior that contributed to a 94-84 loss on Tuesday stays behind in Cleveland.

To wit: Forward Trevor Booker tried to put the ball on the floor and committed four turnovers. Point guard A.J. Price tied for the team lead with 13 field goal attempts and made just two. Emeka Okafor was unable to keep Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao off the glass. Bradley Beal vanished in the second half.

“Mindset, mainly,” Wittman said, when asked what he expects to be different at home against the Celtics. “Getting back to, individually, being who you need to be and being no more than that. And playing within ourselves. That’s really been the main focus these three days, getting back doing the things that we’ve been doing since [Oct. 2] and been pretty consistent doing that. We lost our consistency in Cleveland.”

Seraphin’s return won’t alleviate all problems, and probably will trigger another adjustment period, but he does give the Wizards a low-post presence to help them play the inside-out game that Wittman prefers. He came back a week earlier than expected and is eager to contribute after having some blood removed from his calf after Thursday’s practice.

“I’m ready to play tomorrow, so tomorrow I will play,” Seraphin said. “I don’t try to convince myself I’m ready, but my body and me, we know we’re ready.”

Wittman said Seraphin practiced for the second day without complications but would remain a game-time decision.

Okafor didn’t spend much time attempting to explain what happened in Cleveland, where the Wizards shot just 35.7 percent and were outrebounded, 54-39.

“Some games you just have to throw away,” Okafor said with a laugh. “You can look at it and try to get something out it. It might just be an outlier. It might just be, ‘OK, that wasn’t us.’ First game jitters, whatever the case, cause, that wasn’t us.”

Wittman is hoping that a return home to Verizon Center – where the team played just one of its preseason games more than three weeks ago – can get his players moving in the right direction. Newcomers Okafor, Beal, Price, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Jannero Pargo and Earl Barron will all be playing in front of a home crowd for the first time.

“It’s always fun playing opening night at home,” Wittman said. “Should be a great atmosphere with Boston coming in here and we should be excited. I anticipate that these guys will really be looking forward to it. I am.”

With consecutive games against the Celtics, an Eastern Conference finalist last season, the Wizards will have a better gauge of what they need to do to stay competitive until John Wall and Nene return.

“We’ve got to have good pace of the game,” Wittman said. “I thought our pace was up and down in Cleveland. When it was up, we were pretty good. When we walked the ball up and played five on five, it was a little hard, especially with the injuries we have. We’ve got to make sure we keep pace of the game, take care of the ball and rebound.”

Wittman will also have a reunion with Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, his good friend and former back court mate in Atlanta.

“I want to kick his [butt] and you can tell him that. Because I’m going to tell him that,” Wittman said. “We’re great friends. It’s always fun. Doc’s a great coach, obviously … We stay in contact, pretty much, once a week. See how everybody is doing, but were not talking this week.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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