Wizards are not as young as they look

May 8, 2014

Wizards center Marcin Gortat, left, and forward Nene each have more than 40 career playoff games under their belts. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

The Wizards have been labeled the young, inexperienced team in the playoffs by the NBA cognoscenti, based primarily on two things — they haven’t played in the postseason in forever and the team is fronted by guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.

But the Wizards have a veteran group with plenty of playoff experience, including a great deal of it in their starting lineup.

Washington has six players on its roster — Nene, Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat, Al Harrington, Andre Miller and Drew Gooden — with more than 40 games of playoff experience each under their belts heading into Friday night’s

Game 3 against Indiana at Verizon Center, and that has paid countless dividends during the team’s surprising playoff run.

“If you look at the starters out there on the court, those guys have a Western Conference finals appearance, two of them have NBA Finals experience and one of them has a championship ring,” said Gooden, who went to the finals in 2007 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. “I don’t know how young that really is. Besides Bradley and John, we’re not a young team.”

Ariza and Gortat faced off against each other in the 2009 NBA Finals as members of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic, respectively, while Nene went on several playoff runs with the Denver Nuggets.

Those three members of the Wizards’ starting lineup have played in 151 postseason games — not a far cry from the Pacers’ starting five, which checks in at 241 playoff contests. So it’s not as much of a mismatch as it might seem.

“Their experience has helped us, there’s no question,” coach Randy Wittman said. “That’s kind of what we envisioned moving forward into this year, bringing some veterans in to help our younger guys in situations like that, and it’s been beneficial.”

Wittman points to Harrington, a 15-year NBA vet, as one of the prime examples. Even though Harrington’s been a glorified cheerleader during the games — he’s played seven minutes in three playoff appearances — behind the scenes, he’s been a critical source of information and knowledge.

“He was very valuable for us in practice, in the locker room and talking on the bench with these guys,” Wittman said. “That’s invaluable, so we’re pleased with that.”

The Wizards’ veterans have made a huge impact on the court as well, with Ariza, Gooden and Gortat all playing major roles in the Game 1 victory, helping to pick up the slack when Wall and Beal have struggled.

“These guys have meshed in so well along the way,” Beal said. “It’s crazy because whenever you add new pieces you think it’s going to be totally different and you have to start all over again to get them up to base, but everybody we’ve added has definitely contributed tremendously. We haven’t changed anything.”

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Seth Vertelney · May 8, 2014