MILWAUKEE — The ice pack strapped across Chris Singleton’s right shoulder protruded so much from under his T-shirt that it looked as if he had the padding needed to practice for the Washington Redskins, rather than the Wizards.
Singleton hasn’t switched sports — only positions — and the occupational hazards of moving from small forward to power forward often involve tussling down low and taking shots from players who are taller, bigger and stronger.
But the right shoulder injury that cost Singleton two games this preseason was the result of a collision that could’ve occurred no matter what position he plays — and Singleton actually had the size advantage when Charlotte Bobcats point guard Ramon Sessions bumped him in the preseason opener.
“It wasn’t like I had a [power forward] or [center] in a wrestling match. It was actually a guard that hit me,” Singleton said. “Just a freak play. It just got banged up.”
When Singleton arrived for training camp nearly three weeks ago at George Mason, he was expecting to engage in a battle with veterans Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster for the starting small forward spot he held for 57 games as a rookie last season. But with the Wizards missing Nene, Trevor Booker and Emeka Okafor early on, Coach Randy Wittman made the 6-foot-9 Singleton a part of his big man rotation.
Booker and Okafor returned in the past week but Kevin Seraphin’s right calf injury kept Singleton in the same role as the Wizards took on the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night at Bradley Center.
“He’s still going to have to [play big] with where we’re at, with injuries. He’s given us great rebounding. And that’s what he’s got to continue to do,” Wittman said before Saturday’s game of Singleton, who grabbed 16 rebounds and scored 17 points in his first two games off the bench.
Singleton had eight points and two rebounds in the Wizards’ 102-94 exhibition victory over the Bucks. Booker led all players with 22 points and Jordan Crawford and A.J. Price both had 17 for the Wizards (2-4), with Price adding a game-high 11 assists.
The Wizards drafted Singleton 18th overall out of Florida State in 2011 primarily because he had the versatility and the strength to play multiple positions, especially on the defensive end. Both those qualities have already been put to the test in practice and the preseason.
Singleton kept playing despite the bruised shoulder in the opener but a few more taps while scrapping for position in a loss to New York forced him to take some rest and let it heal. His shoulder remains “a little stiff,” he said. “Still banged up, but I can get through it. Just have to get back into the swing of things.”
The dangers of being in a relentless pursuit of the ball won’t keep him from playing with the same aggressive style that earned him a starting job last season, Singleton said, though Wittman has urged him to stop committing silly fouls.
Singleton will, however, have to make a few adjustments this season, with most of his offseason preparation back home in Atlanta and in Tallahassee made insignificant until he returns to playing small forward.
“Coming into the season I worked on my post game — but not as much as much as I worked on my three[-point shooting] game, obviously,” Singleton said. “But that’s cool, just takes me back to Florida State. I’ve got the tools. I just have to go back out there and do it. We’re a little banged up, but I just have to do what I can. I’m getting minutes, that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Singleton lost weight over the summer so that he would be “more lean now, more fit,” but he added, “I’m still strong like I was last year.”
Wittman had already considered using Singleton at power forward in possible small-ball lineups. Preferring playing time to a position, Singleton has an advantage in some areas by making the change to backup power forward, given his speed, quickness and ability to put the ball on the floor. Singleton’s three-point shooting could also help provide better spacing on the offensive end.
“Once I get full range of motion in my arms, just to stretch the floor, stretch four,” Singleton said, when asked about his role this season. “I’m still working on my three game, so whenever they need me there I’m just going to step up and do that.”
Singleton connected on 34.6 percent from beyond the three-point line last season, but Wittman will be there to remind Singleton that he can’t make those shots if he doesn’t take them. In his return against Toronto, Singleton was hesitant when he got the ball and twice passed up clean looks to dribble into a more difficult shot for himself and his teammates. He got an earful from Wittman both times.
“Can’t turn down open shots,” Wittman said. “He’s worked this summer, on getting to the rim, getting to the foul line more. Not being strictly a spot-up shooter and those are the things I’m looking for.”
Singleton was put on alert with the Wizards’ additions at small forward but the team has maintained its commitment to him for at least one more year after picking up his third-year option and keeping him under contract through 2013-14. This season, Singleton is looking for his number to get called, wherever that may be.
“I just want to get in the game,” Singleton said, “help the team as much as possible.”