Jan Vesely’s bounce pass to A.J. Price was a tad too slow and a tad too low, allowing Toronto Raptors reserve Sebastian Telfair to knock away the ball and send Price scrambling. Price recovered the ball in the back court and kept his eyes on Vesely the entire time he dribbled back up the floor.
Vesely ran behind a screen from Bradley Beal and raised his left hand, signaling for a pass. Price, about 10 feet behind the three-point line, tossed up the lob and Vesely rammed the ball with two hands. Given a rare opportunity to play significant minutes with Nene out with a sore right knee and Emeka Okafor in early foul trouble, Vesely scored nine points and grabbed a season-high eight rebounds in the Wizards’ 109-92 win over the Raptors.
“He played great,” Price said of Vesely. “He’s so talented as a player, the only thing he lacks is confidence, so that’s my job as a point guard, to bring him with me and try to instill some confidence in him.”
On many occasions this season, Vesely has either run away from the ball or tried to quickly get rid of it – he had five field goal attempts in his previous three games. But the second-year forward wanted the ball in the first half and both Price and John Wall were looking for him. At the end of the second quarter, Vesely watched as the Raptors collapsed on Wall, waiting for him to penetrate, then dipped into the lane, where Wall found him for a layup.
“They look for me every time I step on the court,” Vesely said, “so that’s great.”
Vesely was part of a second unit that outscored the starters, 65-44. Beal carried most of the scoring load as he scored a team-high 24 points and made a career-high six three-pointers, but Kevin Seraphin, who has also struggled to find consistent minutes this season, added 13 points, with 11 coming in the first half.
“They held it down, definitely in the first half,” Price said of Vesely and Seraphin. “They played real well together and were aggressive. It’s pretty much the same thing with both of them, keeping them confident, keeping them aggressive, trying to score the ball. Sometimes, they overthink and want to pass too much. I just told them, score the ball, make it easy on yourself.”
Vesely, the sixth pick of the 2011 draft, matched his scoring total from his previous six appearances combined and scored the most points since he had a season-high 10 on Jan. 14 against Orlando. He could’ve had more if not for another wild free throw shooting adventure that saw him miss badly on three attempts before eventually getting his last shot to fall. But Vesely was just grateful for the opportunity, which has been spotty in recent weeks. He didn’t appear in either of the first two games in February as he was buried on the bench.
“He’s had an up and down year,” Coach Randy Wittman said of Vesely, who is averaging just 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds this season. “It’s been different. With the additions we have, with some of the vets that we have. Minutes are different. Rotations are different. So it’s been a different year for all those guys, [Trevor] Booker, him, Chris [Singleton]. Patience is something we’ve got to continue to have. He’s going to continue to work. As long as they continue to work, their opportunity is going to come from a standpoint of we still have a lot of trust in all those guys, Kevin included in that.”
Vesely’s hustle and aggressive play was critical in helping the Wizards build a 10-point lead heading into the locker room. Vesely forced Raptors forward Amir Johnson into a bad miss, grabbed the rebound and toss the ball out ahead to Wall, who found Ariza on the other end of an alley-oop layup.
“It’s tough, but you have to stay ready and when you get that chance, you have to do it the right way,” Vesely said. “It’s hard, but when you go on the court, just bring maximum effort and play hard on both ends.”