(Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

Similar to the end of last season, injuries to Nene and Trevor Booker have opened up an opportunity for Jan Vesely to start and play significant minutes for the Wizards. Vesely, however, hasn’t really responded with inspired play this preseason – with the exception of a solid outing in Cleveland.

Coach Randy Wittman implored the 7-foot, second-year forward this week that he is going to need more than what he saw in Brooklyn, where Vesely posted just five rebounds, five fouls, two assists and zero points in nearly 27 minutes

“I thought Jan slipped,” Wittman said.

Wittman wasn’t simply upset with the production, or lack thereof. He was focused more on Vesely’s effort and energy level, which was obviously lacking as he missed a point-blank dunk that he usually has no trouble throwing down. Vesely took just three shots and was reluctant to take those. He barely grazed the rim on a short jumper.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to play with confidence with energy. I don’t care if you miss shots, but you’ve got to take shots aggressively, like you want to take them,’ “ Wittman said. “I thought [in Brooklyn], he didn’t. He’s got to realize. It’s not about making and missing shots. It’s about how. Is he going into that shot as if he means it? I mean we all miss shots. But it’s how you miss them, that’s important.”

Vesely’s performance was more puzzling because it came only two days after he scored 13 points with five rebounds in a win over Cleveland. He took open jumpers, cut to the basket for layups and was far from a liability on offense. He also helped keep the Cavaliers’ front line from dominating as it did in the first half.

“As a coach, you never want to go into a game saying, ‘I wonder what so-and-so is going to give me.’ I want to know what I’m going to get from him,” Wittman said. “Then, that’s when you start moving in a positive direction… I talk about it. Young guys, it’s important to see who develop consistency. It’s based on your play. I watch you play. You might not have 13 points, but your play is pretty good. Consistency is important.”

As the Wizards got prepared for the Raptors on Wednesday, Vesely said he understood why Wittman pulled him aside to talk.

“I mean, sometimes, I feel like, I’m not focused in my game. I just need to play hard and put everything in the game. So, that was his point,” said Vesely, the sixth overall pick in 2011. “I’m going to try to do that. I’m happy that he’s talking to me. He let me know he trusts me. So I try to do my best to put it on the court.”

Vesely is averaging 4.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in the preseason in 27 minutes per game. Only rookie Bradley Beal has played more minutes, and he has come off the bench in two of those games. 

With Emeka Okafor already back, Booker returning against the Raptors and Nene getting closer, Vesely will have a more difficult time getting on the floor in upcoming weeks. Wittman doesn’t want Vesely to make the job of spreading minutes too easy for him.

“He just tell me to play with confidence. And to step on the court every time, to be focused on the things that I should do. To be aggressive defensively and of course, offensively,” Vesely said. “I’m going to try to do that.”