Wizards’ Randy Wittman utilizing nine-man rotation for “pretty effective” results


Don’t look over there. Those guys aren’t playing right now. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

DALLAS — The training facility at American Airlines Center was the place for some usual sightings on Monday after the Wizards concluded practice. On that floor, in the bowels of the place the Dallas Mavericks call home, Kevin Seraphin brought the ball up the court and initiated the offense, Trevor Booker worked on his crossover dribble and Jan Vesely shot — and made — a handful of three-pointers.

Coach Randy Wittman had already departed, but strength and conditioning coach Drew Cleary put Seraphin, Booker, Vesely, Glen Rice Jr., Garrett Temple and Martell Webster through several three-on-three full-court games. Seraphin, Vesely and Rice went up against Webster, Temple and Booker in an exercise that keeps players fresh and prepared for whenever the chance comes to play in an actual game.

Seraphin and Webster were the only players who have received regular playing time, and Booker started the first three games, but the rest have mostly been left to being spectators this season.

When the Wizards take on the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, Seraphin, Booker and Vesely won’t be utilized in the same way as they were after practice. And based on the past three games, Booker and Vesely would be lucky to get utilized at all.

Wittman has tightened his rotation, relying primarily on nine players since Nene returned from a strained left calf.

The Wizards have played in back-to-back overtime games, but Garrett Temple is the only player outside of the regular nine to get time – and he received 55 seconds. Wittman has relied on Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza and Webster to take all of the minutes at the wing positions, with Nene, Marcin Gortat, Seraphin and Al Harrington rotating up front. John Wall and Eric Maynor have received all of the point guard minutes.

“I’ve been kind of playing it that way,” Wittman said, “and I think it’s been pretty effective, so that’s kind of what we’re doing.”

In the past three games, the Wizards have gone 2-1, outscored opponents by an average of 111-105.3, shot 45.3 percent from the field and 46.5 percent from three-point range, and had a assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.02-to-1. In their first three losses, the Wizards were outscored by an average of 108.3-99, shot 43.3 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from the floor, and had an assist to turnover ratio of 1.21-to-1.

Wittman has used 19 lineups for his nine-man rotation in the last three games and has had considerable success with his starting unit with Wall, Beal, Nene, Ariza and Marcin Gortat. That quintet has outscored opponents by 13.7 points per game. No other group has a positive plus-minus.

The Wizards have three players in the top 10 in minutes played: Beal is tied with Carmelo Anthony for first at 40.3 minutes per game. John Wall is sixth (38.3) and Trevor Ariza is ninth (37.8).

Wittman used 11 of his 13 available players in the Wizards’ season-opening loss to Detroit. But since then, only nine players have received at least five minutes in each game.

Booker dislocated his left finger in the Wizards’ loss to the Miami Heat but has been healthy and available ever since he had it taped up. Though he is second on the team behind Gortat in rebounds per-36 minutes at 9.6, Booker still hasn’t left the bench (The Wizards have been outrebounded 49.6-39 in their past three games).

Vesely and Rice have yet to play this season, while Temple has received an occasional crumb, receiving a total of seven minutes in his four appearances.

Last season, Wittman wanted to have a shorter rotation but could never find a reliable, consistent group. He appears to have found a group that he can trust. “It’s been that way, since everybody has been back healthy,” Wittman said. “So that’s kind of what we’re doing. That’s something we were going to do, we just haven’t had the healthy guys to do it.”

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

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Michael Lee · November 12, 2013