Wizards Coach Randy Wittman’s ‘search’ leads him back to Jan Vesely

November 18, 2013
I've been waiting. (Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports)
I’ve been waiting. (Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports)

With the Wizards’ heavy road schedule and a secure spot outside Coach Randy Wittman’s rotation early in the season, Jan Vesely had to wait almost three weeks to make his home debut.

But it didn’t take long for Vesely to win over the fans at Verizon Center with his hustle, as he intercepted an inbounds near half court, tossed the ball out to Glen Rice Jr. – his fellow DNP-CD buddy through the first six games – and caught a lob for a one-handed jam that gave the Wizards a seven-point lead after one period. Vesely got another steal in the third quarter, dribbled the ball up the court and threw down a break away jam to put the Wizards ahead by nine.

Vesely scored four points with seven rebounds and three steals in the Wizards’ 103-96 overtime loss, providing the high-energy production that the team has rarely received from the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft.

“Sometimes, it’s tough to stay consistent but I will do my best to be ready,” Vesely said. “The last couple of weeks, I try to stay ready, work on my game and just stay in shape and wait for my chance. The chance came and I want to grab it and keep playing like that.”

Wittman was all but forced into giving Vesely some playing time after Al Harrington went down with a sore right knee and Kevin Seraphin went down with a series of poor performances this season. Vesely play 79 seconds of garbage time in Dallas, then was the first big man off the bench in San Antonio, where he had two points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.

“I was happy that he finally get an opportunity to play,” Marcin Gortat said. “I know he is working hard. I was actually surprised when I came here. He’s here in the morning getting up shots, working on his game. In the afternoon, he’s coming back and getting his shots and getting his work done. With this guy it’s all about opportunity and he finally got his opportunity.”

Never much of a scorer, and a gruesome free throw shooter, Vesely will only more opportunities with his ability to get deflections, force turnovers and rebounding. Wittman felt Vesely answered the call against Cleveland.

“I thought Jan played good,” he said. “I thought he rebounded the ball good. I thought he was active defensively. I thought Jan gave some good minutes.”

Wittman kept Seraphin on the bench for the entire second half and also didn’t play Eric Maynor at all in the loss to Cleveland, electing to go with Garrett Temple instead.

“I’m searching [for] guys,” he said. “I’ve got to find a consistent group that’s going to go out there and produce. I thought Garrett gave us some pressure as the backup. Something we haven’t had that Eric’s got to learn to do. I’m still playing around with that.”

Vesely has tried to stay positive despite his limited chances and the Wizards’ recent decision to decline his fourth-year option. He brought his former coach in Slovenia, Miro Alilovic, to live with him this season and has worked diligently on his own. “I didn’t play for a lot of games. My focus was to stay ready and I think I did my job,” he said. “I try to play aggressive. I try to play hard. Too bad when [we] didn’t get the win with this one.”

The addition of Gortat has also given Vesely a teammate who had a similar experience coming over from Europe. Vesely said the two can exchange a few words in Serbian since Gortat had some former teammates who spoke the language. They communicated in a different language in the locker room in Dallas.

Gortat became aware of Vesely’s talent last summer, when the 7-foot big man had a solid performance at the European championships. Vesely had one of his better games against Gortat’s team from Poland, scoring 23 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in 69-68 victory for the Czech Republic.

“He played well against me in Euro Basket and I realized he is capable of playing in this league,” Gortat said. “I told him a few days ago, listen, at some point, you just have to say ‘Screw it. I’m going to go out there and do it. I’ve got to do it hard and try to take advantage of every situation.’ He was more aggressive, he was playing smart and he had a lot of energy. And if he can continue playing like that, he’s going to help us out.”

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