The teams may have been scrambled a bit, the roles for most remain under construction and the chemistry is still developing, but with a few hundred season ticket holders looking on at George Mason’s Patriot Center on Thursday, the Wizards finally got down to scrimmaging five-on-five.
Randy Wittman continues to contend that he has not settled on a starting five, and not to make much of the player combinations in practice, but Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza have consistently been together this week for what often appears to be the top group, with three players rotating around them.
Okafor and Ariza were on the white team, which also included Trevor Booker, Bradley Beal and A.J. Price, at the start of Thursday’s scrimmage. Jordan Crawford, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton and Martell Webster started for the blue team. Jannero Pargo was in a blue uniform but forced to sit out after getting hit in the ribs.
“This is really the first time extended minutes we got out. We’re looking at different things” Wittman said after the white team defeated the blue team, 32-14, in a game that featured two five-minute periods. “We mixed them up. We changed guys back and forth between teams.”
The white team actually outscored the blue team, 16-7, in each period. It dominated the first frame because of the aggressive defense of Okafor and Booker and the second frame because of the hot shooting of Cartier Martin, who hit two three-pointers and outscored the opposing team with eight points.
“As a shooter, I’m always confident,” Martin said. “Earlier, a couple hadn’t been going down for me, but the main thing for me is to keep shooting and trust in my shot. These guys have confidence in me that I can shoot the ball, and I go out there and shoot it.”
Ariza got the scoring started with a driving layup around Singleton, Webster answered with a pull-up jumper over Beal, then the White team went on a 12-2 run. Okafor hit a short jumper, then deflected a post entry pass to Beal, who dribbled the length of the floor past Crawford and converted a three-point play.
Price was an effective floor leader, as he quickly got his teammates into sets, and always kept talking. He had a sweet drop pass to Okafor for a three-point play. Jan Vesely attempted to take a charge on Beal late in the period, but Beal dropped off a pass to Ariza for a dunk as Vesely fell on his backside. Vesely looked around at the officials seeking a whistle but Price back pedaled and shouted, “None of that!”
Crawford was thrust into point guard duty because of Pargo’s injury but Wittman said he expects to use him in a similar role this season, especially with John Wall out with an injury. Crawford wasn’t comfortable in the position during the scrimmage but he displayed his passing skills in an earlier controlled drill, as he drove into the lane and zipped a no-look pass to Seraphin for a layup.
“He played a little point,” Wittman said of Crawford. “Any time he gets the rebound or anything, we want Jordan to push the ball, be the point guard to get out and run.”
Crawford didn’t start taking shots until the blue team starting falling behind. He made a three-pointer but the offense was jagged with the white team’s swarming defense. Booker trapped full-court, Okafor kept Seraphin from getting the ball inside and the long-armed Ariza was deflecting passes in his vicinity.
“That’s the best way to get in basketball shape, is to play basketball,” Martin said. “So getting up and down a little bit is definitely good for our legs, helping us get our rhythm. Looking forward to playing the preseason game coming up.”
The Wizards will play in Charlotte on Sunday but Martin said he believes the team needs a few more practices before going up against another opponent. “Of course we want to go out there and play now. But I think we need a few more days to clean up some things, but we’re getting there. We’re working hard, and guys are competing, and it’s looking real good right now for us.”