From John Wall to Bradley Beal to Otto Porter Jr. and even from injured players such as Chris Singleton, the Washington Wizards almost to a man talked openly and confidently about making a playoff push this season during the team’s media day at Verizon Center on Friday afternoon.
Work toward the club’s first playoff appearance since 2007-08 begins in earnest Saturday with the start of training camp at George Mason University, where Wall and Beal will have plenty of time to get in tune following limited court time together last season. The two played in just 25 games with each other after Wall began the season with a stress injury and before Beal dealt with a stress injury of his own and was shut down for the final seven games of the regular season.
Wall and Beal begin thist season healthy with largely the same cast from a year ago. The most notable addition is that of Porter, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft who played two seasons at Georgetown. Porter is part of a young nucleus around which the team is building for the long haul, and Wall indicated that with the infusion of new players combined with impact veterans from last season, missing the playoffs would be unacceptable.
“Then that’s the biggest disappointment I think I would have since I’ve been in the NBA,” said Wall, who signed a five-year contract extension worth $80 million during the offseason. “I think it would be just a waste of a season to be honest.”
Apart from continuing to emphasize defense, ball security and unselfish play, remaining healthy is among the top priorities for the Wizards. By the time Wall came back last season, Washington had a 5-28 record, but his presence clearly energized the team to play with added effort.
Without Wall, the Wizards lost their first 12 games to begin last season, and any talk of playoffs this season includes avoiding a lethargic start.
“That’s definitely our ultimate goal, something that we’re striving for,” Beal said of making the playoffs. “We definitely have the assets, all the guys on this team to be able to do something.”
The only mildly dissenting voice regarding the playoffs came from center Nene, whose importance is magnified given the loss of Emeka Okafor. The starting center is out indefinitely with a herniated disk in his neck, the team revealed last week.
Also out to start the season is backup forward Chris Singleton. The third-year player had surgery last week to repair a Jones fracture to his fifth metatarsal suffered during a voluntary workout Sept. 17.
The Wizards did add Al Harrington for depth in the front court, and they’ll have veterans Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely and Trevor Booker in the mix to try to alleviate some pressure off Nene.
“I’m not singer. I don’t like to work with my mouth,” Nene said of the Wizards’ postseason chances. “I work with my action. I hope the team will work the same thing because when you say something, you don’t know. There is still 82 games to play. If you say something before that happens, you need to prove, you need to own your words. We have a great team, we have a good team, we have a competitive team, but still must work hard to deserve that position.”