INDIANAPOLIS – Washington Wizards Coach Randy Wittman glanced at the box score after the Wizards defeated the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday and started scratching the back of his head. He then chuckled and rhetorically asked himself why he decided to let Chris Singleton get a minute of game action the first day he was on the active list.
Singleton has been sidelined for nearly two months after suffering a Jones fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during a voluntary workout at Verizon Center. But Singleton had worked so diligently that he didn’t struggle with his conditioning on Monday when he practiced for the first time this season.
The dollop of playing time was essentially Wittman’s reward to Singleton for being dedicated throughout his rehabilitation.
“For me, I’m always in shape, so it’s something I don’t have to worry about,” Singleton said. “I guess it’s genetics. I’m always going to be able to run. If I stay off my legs a month or two, I always come back in shape.”
Singleton didn’t appear in the Wizards’ win over Milwaukee the next night, but whenever Wittman calls on him again — preferably for a longer stretch of action — Singleton already has a decent idea of what’s expected.
“Just rebound, defense, make open shots,” Singleton said with a shrug. “Same as always.”
With Otto Porter Jr. slowly working his way back into game shape after missing time with a strained right hip flexor and Al Harrington hoping to return some time in the next week or two, the competition to get on the floor with be tougher than even last season. Wittman has relied mostly on a tight, nine-man rotation.
The additions of Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza forced Singleton to spend extended stretches of his sophomore campaign as a healthy scratch. He averaged 4.1 points and 3.2 rebounds in 57 games and was asked to participate in summer league in Las Vegas last July to gain more experience.
Singleton, the 18th overall in the 2011 draft, has been used at both forward positions in Washington but has earned his minutes mostly by providing hustle and intensity on the defensive end. He shot just 19.4 percent from three-point range last season.
The Wizards declined Singleton’s fourth-year option worth $2.5 million and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The decision was made while Singleton was recovering from injury, so he never had the chance to make a case during training camp or the preseason.
During his rehabilitation, Singleton was limited mostly to riding a bike to stay in shape and he didn’t start pushing off his foot until two weeks ago.
“It’s been hard, definitely,” Singleton said of the road back from injury. “But I had time to get my shot right and look back see our team and see what we’re all about.”