Wizards still adjusting roles as regular season nears
By Katie Carrera,
Through six exhibition games, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman experimented with his lineup. He gave numerous players opportunity for significant game time, in roles to which they may or may not be accustomed. He didn’t worry about establishing a rotation.
As the Wizards embark on a two-game trip to conclude the preseason, Wittman says he intends to continue along that same path rather than offer a dress rehearsal of how things will look once the regular season begins in seven days.
With John Wall (left knee) out for the first month of the regular season, Nene (plantar fasciitis) likely to miss the opener and Kevin Seraphin (right calf) questionable as well, Wittman wants to know precisely which combinations work best as he continues to roll with the ever-changing injury report. And he’ll gladly use all the trial-and-error time he has.
“It’s a good thing for me, it gives me an opportunity to adjust our guys see what they can and can’t do,” Wittman said. “Put in this spot of injuries, sickness, foul trouble, who can I trust to move in a different spot? That’s been a good thing. For those guys too, to learn a different spot and see what it’s like at that spot and [understand] what I can and can’t do.
“Missing Kevin and Nene in particular,” Wittman said. “I’m still going to give these guys opportunity to showcase a little bit there.”
Wittman may have another absence to adjust for in Wednesday’s contest against the defending champion Miami Heat in Kansas City, Mo., as well. Rookie Bradley Beal might miss the game after twisting his left ankle Monday.
Beal, who would be playing in his home state with a crowd full of family and friends, was held out of Tuesday’s practice drills but took shots and was able to run a little on his own.
“I’ll just keep icing it and hopefully I’ll be ready to go,” said Beal, who has been competing with Jordan Crawford for the starting shooting guard spot and preparing for his first NBA season without knowing precisely what role he’ll be asked to serve.
The third overall pick in the 2012 draft pick has started three preseason games, come off the bench in three others and seen anywhere from 23 to 30 minutes each game. At this point, it’s unclear which role Wittman prefers him in but Beal doesn’t mind the uncertainty and said there’s little difference in how he handles either responsibility.
“I’m not sure how the regular season is going to be,” Beal said. “The only thing about coming off the bench is you get stiff and you have to be ready to play as soon as you get into the game. There was a time where I got in a game and I was wide open for a three — I had to shoot it: ‘Just can’t pass up a shot like this.’ [Being ready immediately is] tough but at the same time there’s no different mental approach to it. You still have to come in and play.”
On one hand, the competition for nearly every position upped intensity throughout the preseason and helped create challenging practices. But on the other, the lack of a set rotation could possibly prevent players, who will be asked to start in the regular season, from developing a strong chemistry with each other.
Forward Trevor Booker said developing familiarity between players is key with the regular season approaching. Booker added that he thinks the Wizards can manage to accomplish that goal regardless of whether preseason games mirror Wittman’s plans for the regular season.
“I definitely think so,” said Booker, who missed the first, four preseason games with a left hamstring injury. “He’s mixing things up right now, so you get a good feel for other players also, not just the starters.”
Shifting roles certainly won’t prevent the Wizards from working on other parts of their game prior to kicking off the regular season on Oct. 30 in Cleveland, either. Wittman wants to see more consistency, particularly when it comes to preventing turnovers, rebounding and overall team defense – elements players can focus on whether they’re in their long-term role or not.
“Guys are being very professional about how coach is approaching lineups and the guys that he’s playing,” forward Cartier Martin said. “We know he has a lot of guys, we have guys that can come in and play every position. It’s probably tough on him trying to get different guys in there and make adjustments. We just have to be professionals and be prepared when we’re called on.”
Wizards note: Washington is carrying 19 players on its roster, which must be trimmed to 15 by 5 p.m. on Oct. 29. Wittman said he doesn’t anticipate making any cuts before the Wizards wrap up their preseason schedule on Friday in San Antonio.