The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Short-handed Wizards make sizable changes to their lineups

Jared Dudley, who’s 6-foot-7, has recently played center for the Wizards. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Through the first 19 games of the season, the Wizards, be it because of strategy or injury, have rolled out some interesting lineups as they try to figure out the formula that will get them on a consistent winning run.

With center Marcin Gortat absent for personal reasons and Drew Gooden and Nene both dealing with calf injuries, Washington is trotting out a Lilliputian lineup that takes advantage of speed, not size, to keep opponents off balance.

“I mean, that’s where we’re at,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “I told them if it was a 6-foot-5-and-under league, we would be pretty good.”

Without a true man in the middle, Wittman and his staff have gotten creative — using heavy guard lineups and placing 6-7 forward Jared Dudley at “center” to give off the vaguest notions of a traditional NBA unit.

Surprisingly, it has worked at times. The Wizards confounded Cleveland with the look, won a track meet against a like-minded Phoenix squad and neutralized Miami’s size down the stretch of Monday’s victory.

“We definitely miss our bigs but you know whenever it’s a matchup of guards it’s always fun,” guard Bradley Beal said. “It’s who’s going to get the most rebounds, who’s going to want it the most because there’s no excuses about height or size because we’re all the same size. It’s just a matter of us having a will to win.”

The lack of size does hurt Washington against teams that possess a deft big man and can move the ball, like Dallas. The Mavericks took advantage of Washington having to collapse on 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki by finding open shooters in a 116-104 win Sunday.

Washington isn’t completely bereft of options in the paint. Kris Humphries returned after missing time with an ankle injury, but the Wizards would prefer to use him as a stretch shooter. Newly acquired Ryan Hollins and DeJuan Blair can spend some time in the middle, but they aren’t go-to options.

The Wizards, who host the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night (7 p.m., CSN), will have to weather the storm until they’re fully healthy, but the lineup adjustments have opened up intriguing options on how to attack certain opponents.

“Given the injuries and what we’ve been through so far, it’s not as bad as people think it is,” Beal said. “We’re not where we want to be, but we’re still competitive and competing, there is still a lot of games to be played.”