Throughout the past month, Wittman has used most of the 17 available players on his roster and allowed them to state their cases. But now he has until Monday to inform four players that they will need to seek employment elsewhere and until Tuesday to determine a starting five and a rotation for a team that will open the season in Cleveland without John Wall, Nene and Kevin Seraphin.
“That’s the worst thing I hate about this job,” Wittman said. “If there is one thing I could get rid of, it would be that, in all honesty. We got guys that come in here for a month, bust their tails. Each guy on this team has had a spot where they’ve come in and done a nice job. That’s the hard thing, to make those decisions.”
The picture has become clearer, but the decisions remain difficult, especially with the Wizards ending the preseason in essentially the same position as when training camp began.
A.J. Price has emerged as the front-runner for the starting point guard position with Wall out the first month of the regular season, but Jannero Pargo and Mack — players on partially guaranteed contacts — have had their moments in practices and games. With the Wizards unlikely to retain four point guards for the whole season, a job is at stake, not just a spot in the rotation.
Trevor Ariza started the most games at small forward, but Martell Webster was the more consistent option offensively through the preseason. Webster has knocked down three-pointers, blocked a few shots and flashed the athleticism that he has regained after struggling with injuries the past few seasons.
Webster also has had the two most productive scoring outings of the preseason, posting 18 points in the opener against Charlotte and 23 in Wednesday’s win over defending champion Miami. In both instances, Webster came off the bench.
“When we’re all competing, we bring the best out of each other. Guys have been stepping up,” he said. “And in practice we go at it. We go at it — to make each other better.”
Ariza didn't shoot or score particularly well, but grew more comfortable within the offense and started in three of the games that the Wizards topped triple digits.
Wittman used rookie Bradley Beal as a reserve at the start of the preseason but had a tough time keeping him out of the starting lineup because he was so consistent — he scored in double figures in the first six games — and found a way to influence the game even when he wasn’t making shots.
“He’s been good,” Wittman said of Beal. “A very poised young man. You can’t tell if he’s scored 20 or he’s scored two. He goes out and plays in a right manner and an aggressive manner. I don’t have a lot of complaints [but] he’s still got a lot to learn.”