While the Wizards were practicing on the main court at Verizon Center on Friday, Otto Porter Jr. was on one baseline stretching and loosening his sore right hip with elastic bands. Trevor Booker was on the other baseline doing lunges and lifting weights above his head. The exercises have been routine for Porter and Booker through the first week of training camp, but there was one minor difference as the Wizards’ open practice and scrimmage continued.
When the Wizards went to non-contact five-on-none drills, Porter remained on the sideline but Booker was in the mix, running plays and moving around on his sore right knee. Booker went back to being a spectator when the players began to work five-on-five half court and scrimmaged but Coach Randy Wittman is optimistic that Booker is getting closer to a return.
“Trevor did some today, some non-contact stuff. Running up and down, shooting,” Wittman said afterward. “That was a step he hadn’t taken. I anticipate maybe Book being here [Saturday] or the next day. Otto? I don’t know, tell me when he can play.”
Wittman gave his players a day off on Thursday following five days of workouts at George Mason University but they were back to work with a few hundred fans in attendance. With the exception of an airball three-pointer from the left corner, John Wall’s improved jumper was on display for most of the practice as he buried three consecutive shots from beyond 18 feet, connecting without hesitation.
“He was that way at the end of last year, that stretch of play that he had,” Wittman said of Wall. “It’s confidence. Like I said, it doenst matter if I’m talking about Jan Vesely or John Wall or Nene or anybody else. You’ve got to play with confidence to be good at a certain thing. Got to have confidence in doing that. And he’s showing that, no doubt about it and I want him to continue that, to continue to believe and continue to work at, which he’s done. Not only since we started, but this summer, and continuing to improve it.”
With Emeka Okafor down, Vesely has been getting most of the time in the front court alongside Nene in the early going, and he is being active and involved on both ends. During the scrimmage, Vesely got the ball near the top of the key, put the ball on the floor and drove down the middle for an impressive dunk.
“He can do those things, as long as he’s confident in doing them. I don’t want to take that away from him,” Wittman said of Vesely. “He’s got to play with that. He’s got to feel comfortable in his play and when you do, you play with renewed energy and enthusiasm. That’s what he’s got to continue to do.”
Wittman believes that the Wizards have the athleticism up front to be an aggressive, ball-hawking defense that can force turnovers and get out on the run. “I think we can be a team, even more so with Emek out, of a team that can fly around. Nene is aplayer, as a big man, he’s got good feet. Quick feet, can move, can cover ground, as well as Kevin, in terms of talking bigs. And Jan and Al Harrington and Book if he gets in there, we have the ability to fly around defensively. That’s what I want and they’ve done a good job of that. Being able to run guys off the three-point line and make them score over the top of you.”
Wittman won’t rush back Porter, but he said he is anxious to get him involved in the action. “I’m frustrated for him. Not me. I’m not frustrated. As I did last year, I’ve got to deal with what cards I’ve got to put out there, so that’s all I worry about. I’m frustrated for him, because these are valuable, valuable days that we’re looking at here, that he’s missing.”