The zinger sent from his newest player drew a long, deep laugh when Randy Wittman heard about it. When guard Andre Miller met the Wizards reporters for the first time Thursday, not long after getting shipped over in a three-team trade, he reflected on playing for Wittman in Cleveland in the early years of this century. “Less gray hairs,” Miller said, by way of recollection.
On Saturday evening, less than two hours before Miller will make his Washington (26-28) debut against visiting New Orleans (23-31), Wittman spoke about the potential contributions someone like Miller can bring. A veteran presence, someone with playoff experience in each of the past six seasons. An on-court savvy, with an assist count that ranks ninth all-time. A measure of calmness, which the Wizards second unit could use.
Then Wittman was told about the “gray hairs” comment.
“That’s real funny,” Wittman said. “He might not play tonight.”
It has been 53 days since guard Andre Miller last played in an NBA basketball game, cast aside by the Nuggets after a bench spat with Coach Brian Shaw. He was pushed into purgatory after that, absent between the incident on New Years’ Day and the ultimate conclusion, this week’s trade to the Wizards, which offered a fresh start.
Miller drew positive reviews from Wittman and center Marcin Gortat for how seamlessly he integrated into the Wizards locker room. Both were impressed with his ability to internalize information after only two practices, though given Miller is in his 14th NBA season, it wasn’t too surprising.
Down the road, Wittman envisioned possibly playing Miller in the same unit alongside point guard John Wall, much like Miller and speedster Ty Lawson did sometimes in Denver. He also discussed posting up Miller to utilize his interior skills on offense, but emphasized that Saturday’s debut would be all about tossing Miller into the deep end.
“That’s what we have to see,” Wittman said. “We’ve got to see exactly where he is as we throw him out there. That’s how I am. I don’t pre-determine anything. We’ll have to see how he handles the minutes as they come then move forward from there. But we’re going to throw him right in there.”
** While Miller has been absent for nearly two months, almost double that duration has elapsed for Wizards forward Al Harrington. Right knee issues had sidelined Harrington since Nov. 12, first manifesting in soreness that eventually needed surgery. He began practicing again Monday and on Friday said he felt good enough to return to game action. Wittman was noncommittal after practice then, but during pregame availability said Harrington would be activated and sit on the bench.
“To have him on the bench, his ability to talk to guys during the game, that was all big when he was active at the start of the year,” Wittman said. “Not just his play on the floor. I’m activating him for that and we’ll see. If a situation presents itself, I’ve got to try to get him out there and see where he’s at as well. I don’t think he’s ready for a flurry of minutes.”
** New Orleans Coach Monty Williams was raised in Fredericksburg and attended high school at Potomac in Maryland. The hectic NBA schedule often precludes Williams from making the rounds – he can’t even see his grandmother, a 45-minute drive away – but said the emotions still swirled whenever he makes a homecoming.
“It’s always nice to come back and see my mom and a lot of people from high school, middle school, elementary school,” Williams said. “They all end up coming to the games. It does bring back a lot of memories, growing up 15, 20 minutes away on the southeast side. This is my home.”
** Any lane penetration from the Wizards will almost certainly be greeted by Anthony Davis, the second-year all-star center. Washington grades about league-average at attempts around the rim, shooting 58.36 percent at that location per NBA.com’s shot charts, but Davis leads the league with 3.1 blocks per game and opponents only attempt 6.2 field goals at the rim per game when he’s in.
“Well obviously he’s the best shot-blocker in the league,” Gortat said. “So we’ve got to give him different looks. But at the same time, it’s another challenge for me. He’s a rising star in this league. I’m not going to let him come in here and do his stuff.”
G- John Wall
G- Bradley Beal
F- Trevor Ariza
C- Marcin Gortat
G- Brian Roberts
G- Eric Gordon
F- Al-Farouq Aminu
F- Anthony Davis
C- Greg Stiemsma
(TV: Comcast SportsNet. Radio: The Fan-FM 106.7)
**Some pregame reading is below. Michael Lee has the night off.