The lane was too clear; the temptation, too strong to hold back. When Rajon Rondo bit on his pump fake and Brandon Bass scrambled to get Bradley Beal in the corner, Kevin Garnett was the only impediment for Chris Singleton.
Singleton attacked the basket with such force, Garnett had to move out of the way before getting posterized.
“I just went in there,” Singleton said of the dunk that tied the score with 9.4 seconds remaining in regulation. “The first time I went in during the fourth quarter, I went to the basket and just laid it up pretty soft and I missed the layup. I was like, ‘If that happens again I’m gonna try to put it on his head.’ Then he was standing over the rim. Same scenario, but just other side of the court.”
And with a much different, more thunderous result. The Wizards still lost, 100-94, in overtime, but Singleton officially introduced himself to the regular season with 14 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists in 25 minutes.
“It was well-needed,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “He was able to space the floor a little bit. That last play that tied the game, we had the floor spread and got them into rotations and Chris made a good decision of taking it to the rim off of the rotations and not settling for a contested shot there.”
As Wittman continues to shuffle lineups, trying to find a group that can play together, some players fall through the colander. Singleton was among those forgotten in the Wizards’ first loss to Boston last Saturday, when he appeared for a total of 18 seconds, which is actually probably worse than an DNP-Coach’s Decision considering what a trillion (a stat line of all zeros) does to season averages.
In the rematch two days ago, Singleton was the last player Wittman called off the bench but arguably most responsible for helping the team to force overtime as he scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, helping the team rally back from a 10-point deficit with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
“I treat myself as a professional,” Singleton said. “That’s my job, so I just got to be ready any time and just go out there and take advantage of opportunities that I get.”
The 6-foot-9 Singleton started 57 games at small forward as a rookie, but he has been used a backup power forward this season. But Singleton hasn’t let having diminished or different responsibilities get him down.
“My role changes every day,” Singleton said. “I don’t have a problem with it. I did the same thing in college, same thing in high school, AAU. So I don’t have a problem with it. I’m just going to do what I’m told to do.”
Wittman was pleased with Singleton’s response after playing very little in the previous game, because he has yet to figure out the best way to utilize the talent on the roster after just three games. The rotation will get more complicated when Nene and John Wall return from injuries.
“Hey, I can’t play everybody,” Wittman said. “We’ve got to be ready. We haven’t gotten into a good rhythm yet of a certain core group of first and second units. I’ve been at times searching.”
Singleton said the uncertainty on minutes and the rotations has forced the players to be prepared for any situation.
“Nothing’s going to be given to us,” Singleton said. “Like I said many times, I think we’re one of the deepest teams. I think our second unit definitely gives us a lift, and I think our second unit is maybe one of the best out there. Just go out there and play with energy and play the game right is going to put us above everybody.”
The Wizards (0-3) have to start winning games for outsiders to start believing, and Singleton says that can start Friday against Milwaukee.
“Just to get that first win and then get over the hump is going to be great for us,” Singleton said. “But we got to go out there and execute. We just got to play hard.”